Artists Gorellaume, left, and Michel Gignac play with the light switch that is part of their art installation at Yukonstruct in Whitehorse on April 24. The wires running along the wall behind the artists are also part of the project. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)

Yukonstruct gets an artistic touch-up

The space held an event April 30 to celebrate new art installations in its Whitehorse building.

Yukonstruct has been decorating the interior of its downtown Whitehorse building, and it wants you to come check it out at the end of the month.

Part maker space, part co-working space, part Yukon College and a few more things in-between, the former grocery store building on Second Avenue was transformed last year into a place where Yukoners can come together to brainstorm and create.

While fully functional, most of the walls in the facility were blank, something that Yukonstruct has been working on changing since it opened in September, the organization’s director of marketing and development, Julie Nielsen, said in an interview April 24.

The work began with surveying Yukonstruct members, asking them what kind of art they wanted to see in their spaces.

The answer came as a bit of a surprise, Nielsen said, with members gravitating towards more familiar forms of visual art than pieces decked out with high-tech bells and whistles.

“It was clear from the members that they wanted to see the Yukon on the walls and landscapes and the community,” she said.

“… It’s funny because I thought that they would to install, like, innovative technologies and creative new kinds of art with screens, but no, on the survey it was clear that they wanted to see the Yukon and the colours and the community.”

Yukonstruct did a call-out for artists in November, and ended up picking five big projects to permanently live in its space. Among them are a vibrant, 12-metre-long mural entitled Indigenous Innovations, painted by Kaitlyn Charlie, Lianne Marie Leda Charlie, Teya Rear, Courtney Terriah and Julia Veidt, with the help of more than 30 Kwanlin Dün First Nation and Whitehorse citizens; and Remote Sensibility IX, a photo installation that harnesses the power of classic red-and-blue 3D glasses, by Marten Berkman, Ken Anderson, Leslie Leong, Jayden Soroka and Willow Berkman.

The first of the five that visitors will come across when entering through Yukonstruct’s main doors though is Through the Thought Process, a massive work that’s part interactive, part sculpture, part painting and the collaborative brainchild of artists Michel Gignac and Gorellaume.

It starts off simple and mundane enough that if you don’t know what you’re looking for, it simply blends into the background — a light switch attached to a thin post near the cafe in the main lobby, with a single black wire running out of the switch and up the post.

If you follow the wire though, it snakes up and over to join a small section of wall above the cafe, where another wire begins to intertwine with it as two black-and-white weasels, painted with painstaking detail, that appear to scamper and play on the wires.

More and more wires join — some thicker, some shorter, a rainbow of colours — and create a form that twists and undulates up and down to the next wall, into the next room. Familiar Yukon creatures appear to play and “interact” with the wires, including a coyote looking over its shoulder, a suspicious look on its face; a groundhog popping up on a “hill” formed by the wire; a little bat hanging upside down, tucked away into a small corner.

The wires, now collectively the width of a tree, “dive” into a wall, emerging again from another wall around the corner before dramatically petering out to a lone black wire again, with a single, unusually-spherical light bulb dangling off it.

For all its complexities, the inspiration behind it was simple.

“The original concept was, well, we’re all kind of familiar with the light bulb turning on for, like representing or symbolizing … that spark of an idea,” Gignac said. “But we were kind of interested in, okay, you have that idea, but how did you get to that idea? What is the line, like the thought process that got you there?”

Although that’s the obvious symbolism, the pair — Gignac, working with the wire, and Gorellaume, bringing the fauna to life — say there are also other, more subtle messages tucked into the work too. For example, there’s a sense of playful tension and contrast between the herbivores and carnivores frollicking around and along the wire, with each animal also representing a different emotion or attitude.

That there are only animals, and no humans, in the piece was a conscious choice, too.

“You can put whatever you want into an animal,” Gorellaume explained.

“We don’t know what they think, we don’t know what they feel. But the human mind has a tendency to recognize itself (in) an animal … So while drawing an animal, you make a reference the nature that is surrounding us, but also, it can appeal to basically everybody no matter where you come from.”

There’s meaning in the wire itself, too. It was all salvaged, originally all destined for the garbage can or recycling bin; that meant spending more time cleaning and organizing the wire than if they had just bought it new, Gignac said, but the pair wanted to make a point about consumption and consumerism with the piece too.

There’s also something poetic about having an installation mounted in a space so focused and dedicated to technology that’s made of junk created by technology, Gorellaume added.

“It’s still trash,” he said, “but at least it looks pretty.”

Yukonstruct’s art launch reception takes place April 30 from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. More information is available at facebook.com/events/1199791253504064/

Contact Jackie Hong at jackie.hong@yukon-news.com

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