Art in the Open installations, and crows, to take over downtown Charlottetown

·3 min read
A work by Island artist Gerald Beaulieu in the midst of being assembled for Art in the Open. Organizers have promised a mechanical dinosaur drinking fossil fuels will be among the installations. (Shane Hennessy/CBC - image credit)
A work by Island artist Gerald Beaulieu in the midst of being assembled for Art in the Open. Organizers have promised a mechanical dinosaur drinking fossil fuels will be among the installations. (Shane Hennessy/CBC - image credit)

The streets of Charlottetown will be taken over by art this weekend — and the audience will be a big part of it.

Installations for the 11th annual edition of Art in the Open will be placed in outdoor spaces around the city's downtown core.

Saturday's free arts event features more than 30 projects by artists from P.E.I. and across Canada. But they're not the only ones featured.

"For this iteration, I was really interested in performance and installation and work that socially engaged, that implicates and brings in the audience — involves them in a procession, for instance, or dance," said Amish Morell, curator of this year's event.

"I was looking for artists who could engage with the public, who could engage with the issues and in the lives of people in Charlottetown and P.E.I."

Interwoven themes

Some of the installations this year include a solar-powered mobile recording studio, a mechanical dinosaur drinking fossil fuels, and a screening of a documentary about plants with audio descriptions instead of visuals.

Shane Hennessy/CBC
Shane Hennessy/CBC

Other projects will ask the audience to dance in a silent disco, or lie in the grass and look at clouds. People can also grab a costume representing their favourite corvid and participate in the annual March of the Crows.

Morell said this year's artwork offers many overarching themes.

"A lot of the artists are dealing with land, ecology, climate change, ... treaty issues," he said.

"We have artists working with soil, artists working with histories of apple orchards in Atlantic Canada. There's artists dealing with trade and human-animal relations. There's also artists who are making community: Art in the Open is a public event and ... the audience is as much a part of this as the artists are."

The audience isn't neutral

B.C. dance artist Kemi Craig hosted a series of dance workshops ahead of her performance. Bearing Witness is a multi-sensory installation that's meant to show that an audience is never neutral.

"The performers and the people that are there bearing witness, we have a relationship in that moment and we're affecting each other. And I think that's why I was drawn toward learning how to use sensory technology so that I could amplify that relationship," she said.

"There will be some of us dancing, anywhere between three and six of us dancing.... Mostly, what you all will see will be lights, and what audience members are able to do is affect the lights in the performance that we're going to be wearing."

Open to interpretation

Bill Burns said his performance, The Salt, the Donkey, the Goats, the Milk, the Honey, will feature "donkeys and goats and farmers, and a beekeeper and a brass band."

The beekeeper will show the audience how to make honey from a frame. Burns said he didn't like to suggest people how should interpret his work, but mentions taking inspiration from his youth.

Art in the Open/ Facebook
Art in the Open/ Facebook

"I grew up in Saskatchewan," Burns said. "My relationship with animals was always important. And now I see people, you know, sort of deprived of this experience.

"So I want to bring animals to urban situations, so people can understand a little bit more, because I think ... if we want to continue with this world, we have to have a relationship with animals."

And yes, the audience does gets to interact with the animals.

More details about the event, including performance schedules, can be found on the Art in the Open website.