Art, Arts & Entertainment

PHI’s newest exhibit imagines post-pandemic human connection

Five artists, each with their own unique artistic methods, mediums, and backgrounds unite in the exhibition …And Room in the Bag of Stars currently on display at the PHI Foundation for Contemporary Art. Curated by Daniel Fiset and inspired by science-fiction author Ursula K. Le Guin’s 1986 short essay The Carrier Bag Theory of Fiction, the art builds upon Le Guin’s ideas about prioritizing human community and unity over secession and violence. 

Le Guin’s essay proposes that humanity’s first tool was a receptacle rather than a spear, suggesting that humans were collectors and artists before they were hunters. …And Room in the Bag of Stars is a simulacrum of Le Guin’s ideas, imagining a world where people connect and share with each other, rather than engage in violence. kimura byol-nathalie lemoine, Salima Punjani, Dominique Sirois, Santiago Tamayo Soler, and Karen Trask all contributed their individually distinctive artworks to this cohesive exhibition. Exploring themes of social isolation, sexism, cultural diversity, and technological advancements, …And Room in a Bag of Stars brings to light Le Guin’s ideas and leaves behind the narrative of glorified—typically male—heroic archetypes. 

Applying the same technique used to tie knots in fishing nets, Trask’s sculpture Hanging by a Thread intricately weaves together pages torn from encyclopedias and dictionaries. In the room’s centre stands a masculine humanoid effigy, his cape trailing behind him and a single thread connecting him to the ceiling. This phantom figure’s fragility is dissimilar to the unstoppable hero to which myth and story are so accustomed; instead, its ghostly form symbolizes the fading of patriarchal ideals and the flaws in society’s consistent search for epic heroes. 

Will you pass the salt by Salima Punjani draws viewers into a multi-sensory experience. The project invites the spectator to sit at a dining room table set with dishes and cutlery, immersing them in the familiar sounds of friendly chatter, laughter, and clattering dishware. The audio’s noises come from 10 different Montreal households, recreating a snapshot of life before the COVID-19 pandemic. 

In Saekdong색동Diaspora, kimura byol-nathalie lemoine incorporates Le Guin’s theme of humans-as-collectors by using natural materials, such as bamboo, iris, and lotus, amassed from places the artist has lived. From here, the artist creates an assortment of multifaceted representations of containers, ranging from mason jars to pouches. The title refers to saekdongot, a type of vibrantly striped traditional Korean cloth that lemoine incorporates into the piece. lemoine’s precise placement and symbolic use of materials present create a strong sense of zer communal identity, mediated through art.

Along with Dominique Sirois’ Alliance #14 and Santiago Tamayo Soler’s Retornar, these five artists gather a meticulous and intriguing understanding of the human condition. …And Room in the Bag of Stars reimagines a world where humans can reconnect through art, drawing one’s attention away from the individual and toward a collective experience of healing. 

‘…And Room in the Bag of Stars’ exhibition continues until January 9, 2022, at the PHI Foundation for Contemporary Art (451 & 465 Saint-Jean Street, Montréal). Book in advance. Free admission. 

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  1. Great art sculpture

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