Arts + Culture » Visual Art

Review: Atmospheric Events is brutally soft

The Dalhousie Art Gallery’s contribution to RESPONSIVE: International Light Art Project Halifax balances the building itself.

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JAMES GEURTS FATHOM
  • James Geurts Fathom

Atmospheric Events
Daily to Nov 24
Dalhousie Art Gallery


It's hard to love a brute—at least, hard to love a Brutalist building. Severe concrete structures like the one that makes up the Dalhousie Arts Centre—home to the University's art gallery—have fallen out of fashion. They are seen as ugly remnants of misguided 20th century socialist optimism.

But, artwork like the ones in Atmospheric Events can help demonstrate that these Brutalist structures—ones that make up so many universities, art galleries, and government buildings across the world—are willing canvases worthy of our consideration.

When you descend the staircase from the Rebecca Cohn lobby into the subterranean exhibition space, it immediately feels as though you have been transported under the sea (rather than under University Avenue). In a large-scale commissioned work, artist Christine Sciulli has softened the strict, high walls of the gallery with tulle, bunched and piled as though it has blossomed through the cracks in cement. White rings of light are then projected onto these shapes, ebbing and flowing like waves or a heartbeat.

James Guerts' glitch video work FATHOM I: Wilkinson's Point shows the effect of industrial waste in a river in Tasmania, exposing the circuitry of his camera to the atmosphere there and capturing magnetic anomalies that read in the projected video like breaks, inverted colours, and over-saturation.

In Andrea Schmid's Lichtungen (Clearings), tall fluorescent tubes in pink, white, apple green and turquoise seem to grow out of a rock patch. The tubes change in intensity and colour, like clouds moving quickly across the sky. They are placed well within this concrete structure, the harshness of the fluorescence somehow working to curb the harshness of cement.

In a moment where museums are filling their walls with art well-suited for visitors' selfies, it is refreshing to spend time with something ephemeral: Light art that resists documentation, in a gallery many wouldn't consider worthy of the same. It is these strange qualities that make this show so enjoyable: The robotic heart of the ocean, florescent sunsets and the deep, dark concrete walls of the Dalhousie Art Gallery.

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