Edmonton Journal

Worthy Works

What to check out at The Works Art & Design Festival.

- Fish Griwkowsky

Works Art & Design Festival Where: 33 venues throughout the city When: Through July 1 Admission: free

As far as gigantic circuses of unrelated art go, The Works Art & Design Festival feels a bit small and reserved this year, despite being in its 30th year, with 63 exhibits and more than 700 works of art.

At its nucleus, Churchill Square — which acts as The Works’ headquarte­rs — has less political punch than earlier incarnatio­ns, Alexandra Bischoff’s evocative menstrual-panties-washing performanc­e and the creepy-smart surveillan­ce video of Chris Oakley aside. While Susanna Barlow’s message of renewal in the garden of potatoes in front of City Hall is important, human spuds passed out on beanbag chairs surrounded by potato plants sends mixed messages of inactivity and couch potatoes — perhaps part of the point.

Because The Works sets up in independen­t galleries, a number of shows were either inaccessib­le most of the week due to limited gallery hours — such as at Bleeding Heart Arts Space and Creative Practices Institute — and some were not even mounted halfway through the festival at a couple spots. In the case of the no-show at Canada Place, the art wasn’t there at all — but boy do they have flags.

“These things do happen, it’s the reality of the game,” explains Amber Rooke, the festival’s executive artistic director.

“Ideally we would have everything open for two whole weeks, but obviously there are a lot of schedules to consider. We just had an internatio­nal shipment come in a week late, so there are these unexpected things that pop up and happen. There’s a benefit of having a 13-day festival rather than a oneor three-day festival, where there’s a lot of pressure to have it all happen at the same time. But certainly it can be inconvenie­nt for people who are hoping to do all of their festing in one day.”

Greg Swain’s survey show at the Unit B pop-up gallery is a hopefully-not last chance to see the dearly departed Edmonton artist’s wild and serious collection of urges on a proper scale — including a wonderful skeleton painting that used to hang in the Sidetrack Cafe car before that complex was converted to condos. In terms of usefulness to the public, the Kobot design team giving out website advice to strangers was a rare instance of the Design side in the festival’s title being activated. And the music’s also been great so far, including Edmonton singer-songwriter John Guliak’s “championsh­ip” banter about the weather, as well as a hilarious dad-daughter moment between singer-comedian Wes Borg and Anna Irwin-Borg.

A lot of the best exhibits are pre-existing — head to Latitude 53, the Drawing Room, Nina Haggerty and SNAP Gallery any time, as ever. And as much as we may long to defy the “gatekeeper” authority of institutio­ns that control who gets to show art, there’s still nothing like a perfect gallery, such as University of Alberta Museums gallery at Enterprise Square — when it’s actually open (in this case just Thursdays through Saturdays).

No one with a brain ever said art was easy, and both Kirsty Templeton Davidge’s amazing paintings at Scotia Place and the U of A student show at Epcor Tower manage to make magnificen­t use of their environmen­ts. And definitely go see the miniature environmen­ts photograph­ed by Brandon A. Dalmer at Parade Gallery on 101st Street between the two halves of City Centre Mall.

 ?? Fish Griwkowsky ?? Susanna Barlow’s The Potato Project off Churchill Square is part of the Works Art & Design Festival, running through July 1. The festival includes more than 700 works of art.
Fish Griwkowsky Susanna Barlow’s The Potato Project off Churchill Square is part of the Works Art & Design Festival, running through July 1. The festival includes more than 700 works of art.
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