How many holes are there in a straw? You might find an answer to this controversial question in artist Vanessa Brown’s upcoming Richmond Art Gallery (RAG) exhibition.
That Other Hunger exhibit will kick-start RAG’s fall season with an immersive audiovisual experience featuring Brown’s delicate metal sculptures, sounds by Michelle Helene Mackenzie, as well as video projections and textiles.
Using holes as a point of departure, Brown hopes to explore human desire, the relativity of time and our place in the galaxy.
“I tend to have an interest in liminal spaces, in between states, that kind of thing. And when I started to try and think of what can represent that, I just started thinking about holes,” she explained.
One hole in particular – the portable hole from Looney Tunes – has intrigued Brown since her childhood.
“I always was so excited by this idea that you could pick up a hole, like it would be kind of solid in certain contexts, and then slapped onto the side of a building, and you could go through it,” she said.
As soon as Brown started her research in 2019, she began seeing holes everywhere – a “hole-verdose,” if you will – and her inspirations expanded to black holes and even camera apertures. She was particularly intrigued by the first image of a black hole, which was captured using the Event Horizon Telescope.
“Camera technology is really based on apertures, which are a kind of hole as well. So we were using a hole to record a hole, and that just felt really thrilling as an idea,” she explained.
But rest assured, as the exhibition is not intended to be a lecture on the infinite possibilities of holes. Rather, she is sharing her enthusiasm about the subject through an immersive experience where one can make their own connections.
“I make work knowing that where the attention that I put into it, what motivates e to make it, might not ever fully, completely translate… And I kind of don’t think art always should do that anyway,” she explained.
“I think that I’m presenting a series of experiences and connections, and I just hope that people will find the exhibition compelling to them for whatever reason.”
From Richmond, for Richmond
And That Other Hunger is truly an installation created specifically for Richmond.
“Richmond’s kind of special to me,” said Brown, who is currently based in Europe.
“I grew up in Richmond, and I used to swim at Minoru Pool next door to where this exhibition is. So for me, It’s just really wonderful and exciting to get to be back in this area.”
While distilling her research into the exhibition, Brown was especially inspired by RAG’s architecture.
“In my research, I was also looking at this idea of pupils and eyes as kind of like an aperture… and how vision is connected through holes.
“If you look at the floor plan of the Richmond Art Gallery… it has this almost like – from a bird’s eye view – an interesting layout that reminds me of a vision diagram,” she explained.
Drawing inspiration from the unique architecture and with the help of lighting and screens, Brown’s exhibition aims to engage with the space in an innovative way that.. is different from other RAG exhibitions.
And what does Brown, an expert in holes of all sorts, think is the answer to the straw question?
“I’ve been taught to think… there’s a positive space and a negative space within an image, you know,” she said.
But she has since found a new perspective through her research into holes.
“I think that conceptually, I just sort of thought of some things as empty and some things as full, but I think of everything as kind of full now. So I’m like, maybe there’s no hole [in a straw].”
Her final verdict? “A straw has no hole. It’s just two volumes.”
That Other Hunger will run from Sept. 9 to Nov. 6, 2022. A special opening reception will be held on Saturday, Sept. 10 from 2 to 5 p.m. at the gallery and the event is free for all to drop in.
Other opportunities to learn more about the exhibition include a free in-person tour will be led by Brown on Saturday, Sept. 17 at 2 p.m. and onsite tours in English and Chinese will also be available on a first-come-first-serve basis on the Culture Days weekend from Sept. 24 to 25.
RAG will also be hosting an artist salon with Brown on Wednesday, Sept. 28. More information about the exhibition and related events are available on RAG’s website.