“Massive Change” exhibition

Image Gallery – Actual photograph of installation in the Vancouver Art Gallery
Photo: Robert Keziere/Vancouver Art Gallery

I finally made it last week to the Vancouver Art Gallery’s blockbuster exhibition Massive Change. (I’m embarrassed to admit that I left it this late – it ends on January 3rd.)

Massive Change: The Future of Global Design is an exhibition by Bruce Mau Design and the The Institute without Boundaries. It was commissioned and organized by, and premiered at, the VAG. Accompanying this traveling exhibition is an extensive website and a monograph.

This is a huge and impressive exhibition. It is not an art show, and not strictly a design show, yet it is about design. Mau states,”We are not interested in the visual. We are focused on design capacity – what design makes possible.”

“The exhibition unfolds in a series of eleven general themes that address the fundamental role of design in all aspects of human life, from manufacturing and transportation to health and the military. In each area, visitors will encounter the objects, images, ideas and people that are reshaping the role of the world of design.”

The installations reveal a tremendous amount of work, and much of it looks like it may not be moveable to the next exhibition site. One room, on the theme of Image Economies, has the walls, floor, and box seats, covered in photographic images that are sealed to their surfaces (see the above photo).

The statement here: “The human nervous system evolved in an environment where seeing change – the slightest difference in the surrounding environment – could mean the difference between life and death, so it is not surprising that our most developed cultural forms are practices of the visual… Now we can see beyond with radio waves, infrared, x-rays, gamma radiation and cosmic rays.”

There is an immense amount of reading with large walls of text (and I’d read a lot beforehand) so that at times it felt too overwhelming, even if very fascinating – information overload, if you will, like in a science and technology museum. One elderly lady near me expressed the same overwhelming feeling and said “It seems like the wheel was just invented yesterday.” It seemed also that the younger visitors were less impressed because they grew up in this era of “massive change” and do not know how different the world was just a few short decades ago! It was very noteworthy and gratifying to see the crowds here, people of all ages. We came early and when we left after three hours, the lineup was out the door!

My main criticism of the whole concept is of the little recognition given to a basic human need to feel some connnection to the earth, to the natural world. I wrote many pages of notes as I viewed everything, but I believe the website for Massive Change, and some of the related links below, will do a better job of information sharing than I can. It’s a very thought-provoking topic and well worth the time!

Reviews and announcements:
the Straight
CBC Arts
Art Daily

Massive Change will be showing next at the Art Gallery of Ontario March 11 – May 29, 2005.
Massive Change, the book, is available at Abe Books

January 1, 2005 in Art Exhibitions, Concepts, Tools and technology by Marja-Leena