The New Flaneurs: Contemporary Urban Practice and the Picturesque
The title of the show was The New Flaneurs: Contemporary Urban Practice and the Picturesque. It featured a collaborative video-installation by Situationist-inspired artist Don Gill and dancer Sarah Williams (formerly with La La La Human Steps). With special attention to social history, Gill roots his work in photographic recording and psychogeographic walking. The polydisciplinary collaboration was the centerpiece in a hybrid ensemble of picturesque artworks, many culled from the vaults of the AGA. These included a suite of 18th century etchings of ruins by Thomas Bewick, documentary photographs by George Weber depicting abandoned sweat lodges on the Blood Reserve, Edward Burtynsky’s Oil Fields #22 and a rhizomatic sculpture by Kim Adams among others. The exhibition was inspired by new urban practices like parkour, urban exploration and older unsanctioned arts like graffiti. The aesthetics of the picturesque linked the sensibilities of these seemingly disparate practices which together, re-imagined the city as a more supple, beautiful and available place.
Parkour was an inspiration for the show and became a model for a new kind of spectator who would not be polite, and might bend over or jump a wall for optimal vantages. If traceurs (parkour enthusiasts) understood the designed city as a series of “obstacles” to be surmounted, then the exhibition design would treat the gallery likewise. Walls, ramps and low, floor-hugging pedestals were built to mount the work.
The curatorial essay extended the 18th century concept of the picturesque as a radically open and hybrid model of the world and drew threads of connection between the ruin, the flaneur, the Situationist dérive and new urban practices.