Artists de­sign bub­ble gum with help from school­child­ren in time for Hal­loween

The Province - - FRONT PAGE - KEVIN GRIF­FIN kev­in­grif­fin@post­

Some lucky trick or treaters in Van­cou­ver will score a spe­cial tasty treat this Hal­loween.

Among their haul of candy could be QA Chew’s Bub­ble Trou­ble, an artist-edi­tion gum de­signed in col­lab­o­ra­tion with Grade 6 and 7 stu­dents at Queen Alexan­dra El­e­men­tary.

Artists He­len Reed and Han­nah Jick­ling spent a year with a class at the school re­search­ing, de­vel­op­ing and pro­to­typ­ing the gum. The fi­nal flavour was cho­sen by stu­dents in a vote.

The gum’s dis­tinc­tive mauve pack­ag­ing de­scribes the gum in sev­eral dif­fer­ent ways, in­clud­ing “Hello Kitty bub­ble bath,” “tastes like cof­fee pow­der,” and “zigzag sap high­way.”

The pack­ag­ing also has re­flec­tive let­ter­ing that acts like se­cret writ­ing that can only be read at the right an­gle. It has phrases such as “Par­ents weren’t happy,” “Con­tro­ver­sial in­gre­di­ents,” and “Peo­ple stick it on things.”

Inside, the gum comes in eight seg­ments in a wrap­per: four are grey and made with a nat­u­ral base of chi­clé, the la­tex of the sapodilla tree; four are pur­ple with white bits and made with a syn­thetic gum base.

When Post­media tasted the gum, both the nat­u­ral and ar­ti­fi­cial seg­ments tasted fruity with­out be­ing a spe­cific fruit. Adding the nat­u­ral and ar­ti­fi­cial gums to­gether cre­ated a smooth mouth feel.

Al­to­gether, the gum tasted much, much bet­ter than ex­pected.

QA Chew’s Bub­ble Trou­ble is a project that was funded through the City of Van­cou­ver pub­lic-art pro­gram.

Reed ac­knowl­edged that gum prob­a­bly doesn’t fit most peo­ple’s ideas of pub­lic art as mon­u­men­tal out­door struc­tures. Reed said she and Jick­ling think of pub­lic art in an ex­panded way to in­clude an In­sta­gram feed or the way a mu­sic al­bum moves through a com­mu­nity.

The two artists are also in­ter­ested in the tra­di­tion of artist mul­ti­ples where there is more than one work that cir­cu­lates among peo­ple.

The gum project also crosses into par­tic­i­pa­tory art where artists work with peo­ple who may or may not iden­tify as artists to “ex­plore es­thetic ter­rain.”

“It’s some­where in be­tween those two things — of think­ing of cre­at­ing art­works in col­lab­o­ra­tion and also think­ing of artis­tic mul­ti­ples as a medium that’s dis­persed,” Reed said.

A big part of the pub­lic part of the QA Chew’s Bub­ble Trou­ble is the work the two artists did with the 11- to 13-year-old stu­dents at Queen Alexan­dra school. The re­search and de­vel­op­ment started with an af­ter­noon a week which in­creased in fre­quency as pro­duc­tion neared.

Stu­dents filled note­books and work sheets with draw­ings and results of taste and flavour ex­per­i­ments. Flavour was rated along a scale from kin­der­garten to adult. Some of the re­search comments in­cluded “It looks like dog food” and “Why does this pack­ag­ing look like cheese?”

Reed and Jick­ling’s artist res­i­dency at the school is called Big Rock Candy Mountain, which takes its name from the chil­dren’s song. In the res­i­dency, the artis­tic duo pre­vi­ously looked at the his­tory of choco­late with stu­dents and pro­duced the artist’s edi­tion choco­late bar called Sour vs. Sour.

QA Chew’s Bub­ble Trou­ble is on dis­play as part of the ex­hi­bi­tion Mouth­feel, which opens at 5 p.m. on Hal­loween at Western Front. Trick or treaters who show up at Western Front that night will get boxes of QA Chew’s Bub­ble Trou­ble. Twenty fam­i­lies in East Van­cou­ver will also be giv­ing boxes of the gum away to trick or treaters.

The ex­hi­bi­tion Mouth­feel in­cludes other ex­am­ples of art involving the mouth such as Salt Licks. They are the biomor­phic forms made by cows and sheep lick­ing blocks of salt which are shown in the an­nual Great Salt Lick Con­test or­ga­nized by Whit Deschner in Ore­gon.

Mouth­feel con­tin­ues at Western Front un­til Dec. 15.

Once the artists work out de­tails re­gard­ing re­tail sales, QA Chew’s Bub­ble Trou­ble gum will be avail­able for $2.99 plus tax.


He­len Reed watches Han­nah Jick­ling blow a bub­ble with their gum. The artists have made the gum, called QA Chew’s Bub­ble Trou­ble, as a pub­lic art­work project.

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