Wednesday, December 1, 2010

“i’m not finished yet” is not finished yet (a review)

this is a review of the exhibit i had at naess gallery in the summer (images can be found here). i know -- a little late, but still...

“i’m not finished yet” is not finished yet

You still have this weekend to catch Edward van Vliet’s installation at the NAESS Gallery in Edmonton. And so you should.

Van Vliet has returned to the medium he developed for recipes for kneeling, grafting in imagery from his piece at last year’s “Whisper” art show. Van Vliet creates book-based light boxes, creating a space where light illuminates the image from within the belly of the book, creating modern day miniature stained glass vignettes. The entire work is closed up behind the cover of the book, requiring interaction on the part of the viewer who then opens the book to explore its contents.

It’s a thin metaphor, to my mind, of what a book does in reality. Sitting on a shelf it is at best useful as a prop to other books or a decorative piece. Sitting on a table it may provide height or a decent paperweight. It is only through the engagement of the reader that the book gains real value. As we open the book, we are welcomed into a new world. This theme was literally realized in the best-selling Myst video game years ago, where ancient books magically written would take travelers to new “ages”, or worlds within the game. But this is also what books actually do in real life. The best books transport us out of ourselves into another place and time. They carve out a “space in time”, as Michael Card tells us all good art should do in Scribbling In The Sand. Every lover of good books will get this metaphor instantly from Edward’s work at NAESS.

While van Vliet’s piece takes Marshall McLuhan’s adage, “the medium is the message” to its extremes, it goes beyond that meaning with its content. Within each book you will discover reflections on the enormity of the universe and our place in it, through little thoughts and tiny moments. Each image contains a celestial background overlaid with short, poignant reflections in simple black text.

One piece proclaims that “you have lost the power of astonishment at your own actions”. Like any good book or piece of art, this statement will take on new meaning with each reader. For me, it is a reminder to keep going and to keep dreaming. It is a prodding away from false humility in the guise of self-deprecation, on towards completing the tasks I was created for. The explosive pink interstellar imagery behind the words points to possibility. This is simply one of the several books included in the installation, and yet if I were to stop and soak in it, I could find many more significant connections to my own journey.

What Edward van Vliet does with i’m not finished yet is offer us “Worlds Within Words“. The fact that these pregnant phrases are packed between two covers of metaphor, then illuminated in a very literal way, helps us get the point. One gets the sense that each phrase really has as much to offer as if it were an entire book, and deserves our time and attention.

Visit Edward van Vliet’s “worlds within words” while you still can.

review by dave von bieker


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