The Art of Feeling

Concordia Fibres Student Association Brings Multisensory Art Via the FEELS Exhibition

  • Textile based sculpture by Veronique Tremblay, to be shown at the FEELS exhibition (Click to enlarge). Photo courtesy of Veronique Tremblay

In our culture, art is to be looked at, not touched. Traditional curation is careful to enforce this.

The traditional sensory hierarchy in Western culture focuses primarily on sight. The other senses—hearing, smell, taste and touch—follow in that order and are given much less attention. The importance of vision and hearing in our culture is most evident in common expressions such as “I see what you mean” and “I hear what you’re saying,” which are mirrored in the way art is experienced.

The Fibres Student Association at Concordia, however, feels differently about how to “look at” art, and each year they put on the FEELS exhibition as an alternative to this sensory hierarchy.

“It’s an exhibition that doesn’t focus explicitly on the visual in art,” says Rebecca Smyth, who is part of the FSA and one of the exhibition’s artists.

The exhibition’s untraditional nature may come from the fact that it’s organized by undergraduate students. This may allow for a lot of creative thinking, but doesn’t come without challenges.

“We’re all in school, so I guess it’s a learning curve for everybody to figure out the best way to assemble this,” Smyth said.

The FEELS exhibition is part of the festival En Avril… fibre, textile, art—a month-long event that focuses on displaying textile and fibre arts from Quebec artists. Taking place at the YellowFishArt Gallery from April 2 to April 8, Smyth’s own artwork will be showcased in the exhibition, along with the works of April Mertin, Hope Phillips, Isabel Prado Caro and Veronique Tremblay.

The selected pieces will engage exhibition-goers with aural, olfactory, tactile, spatial and other participatory elements.

“Most of the work can be touched, some are scent-based or meant to be walked around,” Smyth explained when describing the variety of sensorial stimulation included in the art works.

“Texture is just one of many senses that gives us information about the world around us, so the goal of the exhibition is to expand on the definition of what texture can be to include works that have scent or sound elements, or that are participatory, that you have to engage with, or that are very spatially based.”

The beauty of this exhibition is how involved the audience is with the art through their senses. By being able to explore the art pieces through different senses, the art becomes an experience. Exhibition goers “feel” the art and interpret it as well.

FEELing the Inner Animal

One of the exhibition’s artists, Veronique Tremblay, is a visual art media student at the Université du Québec à Montréal who is currently taking courses at Concordia. Mainly interested in sculpture art, Tremblay was committed to including fibre in her art in a three-dimensional way.

Her work being shown at the exhibition is a mixture of pieces that symbolize animality, the desire of prey, violence and instincts. Along with her work, she tells a French legend with the expectation that viewers will experience how all the different elements of her artwork tie into this story.

“It consists of different pieces and it surrounds the idea of animality,” she said. “It’s pieces that include a lot of fur, a metal grid, fabric and wax.”

Using old fur coats she found in local thrift shops, Tremblay places the fur behind a metal grid, symbolizing a caged animal. The caged animal represents the human subconscious and internal desires.

She says, “it’s hidden and we don’t know what exactly. But there’s a force inside of us, something that wants to emerge.”

Her artwork lies in layers of symbolism represented through the “caged animal.”

“The big art piece takes the shape of a world map and it’s also a maquette of the landscape,” she said.

She told The Link that the separation of different states on the world map emphasizes the confined animal. Moreover, the fur is strategically shaped like a body lying in bed. In her comparison, Tremblay interconnects the instincts caged inside the body to the animal caged in the landscape. Viewers experience Tremblay’s art through vision and touch.

In a culture where it is seen as bad etiquette to touch artworks, or many other things for that matter, humans often restrict themselves from using many of their senses.

By engaging with multi-sensory art, you will really feel the art and have a clearer understanding of how limited you normally are in feeling art when you can only use your vision.

Tremblay explained that FEELS is all about “art that engages more than just one sense.”

“In a way you’re probably more in the experience of the piece,” she said. “The more senses used, the more you are in contact with the piece of art the artist did. The more senses it uses, the more intimate the audience’s experience is with the art work.”

FEELS // Vernissage // April 5 // Yellow Fish Art Gallery (3623 St. Laurent Blvd.) // 5 p.m. // Free Admission

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