December 12, 2021 will mark the 50th anniversary of the opening of MSVU Art Gallery in its dedicated space in Seton Academic Center on the campus of Mount Saint Vincent University. To celebrate and reflect, the Gallery will spend this year exploring and interrogating its past. A major part in this endeavor is a new exhibition, 50 Bits and Pieces: an MSVU Art Gallery Retrospective. With the support of an Arts Nova Scotia Commission Grant, Lisa Bouraly and David Clark, two collaborators invested in archives and digitization, were invited to scour the MSVU Art Gallery archives—media holdings, exhibition files, catalogue collections, collections, and other historical records—to find out what was reflected about the Gallery’s history. Culled from more than 700 exhibitions, 1000 workshops, and 800 objects in the collection, 50 Bits and Pieces presents 50 unique yet illustrative moments from MSVU Art Gallery’s past. The original exhibition was to open in 2020, however, the global COVID-19 pandemic forced a change in plans. The installation was moved to the fall of 2021 and this extended timeline presented an opportunity for new ways to engage with the archival material. The result is an online interface, created by David, that offers a preview of “bits and pieces” selected by Lisa from the archive. Each month until October 2021, five moments from MSVU Art Gallery’s history will be added to the interface in the form of digital collages, including passages and excerpts from documents, speeches, research notes, exhibition installation photographs, videos, and media coverage. In November, the culmination of these 50 moments and their corresponding archival material will be adapted into an immersive installation at the Gallery, commemorating its 50th anniversary.
50 Bits and Pieces: an MSVU Art Gallery Retrospective
To what extent does an art gallery’s exhibition and collection history live up to its stated objectives of representing and supporting artists, especially women artists? Celebrating a 50-year history (1971-2021), MSVU Art Gallery’s anniversary represents a unique opportunity to attempt to answer this question. During a year-long collaboration, we worked with visual and textual archives from MSVU Art Gallery to produce an online interface designed to make our findings breathe new life into the Gallery’s history. Drawing from dispersed and fragmented archives, a selection of 50 representative moments has been curated to encapsulate the Gallery’s 50-year history. This interface is an invitation to explore and revisit an institution which has devoted a significant part of its activities to the representation of women as cultural subjects and producers. The interface itself works as a navigation system and as an artistic and alternative database, offering a constellation of 50 activities that encompasses the Gallery’s mission, its work with surrounding communities, and its support to artists from Atlantic Canada. Navigation of the interface is neither chronological nor thematic: the serendipitous discovery of Bits and Pieces content is punctuated by digital and animated collages that weave and layer sound, video, and other multimedia elements. This interactive navigation is meant to enable visitors to create their own connections, impressions, and interpretations of the Gallery’s archives.
This project would not have been possible without the invaluable support of the Gallery team: David Dahms, Claire Dykhuis, Laura Ritchie, and Traci Steylen. We are also very grateful to Faiza Abdulle, Adrian Fish, Susan Gibson Garvey, Ingrid Jenkner, Connor Mackinnon, Lori Mombourquette, Kaya Panthier, and Wiebke Schroeder for their contributions to this project.
– Lisa Bouraly and David Clark
About the Curator
Lisa Bouraly is a researcher in Museum studies and a curator of contemporary art. From 2013-2017, she served as curator and administrator at the Guido Molinari Foundation in Montreal, QC, where she co-created exhibitions and residencies involving multidisciplinary artists, writers, musicians, and performers. More recently, she has served as a collection assistant at the Anna Leonowens Gallery at NSCAD University (2018) and MSVU Art Gallery (2019). In 2020, she curated a research-exhibition project entitled The Impossible Museum at Thomas McCulloch Museum (Dalhousie University) in collaboration with the artist-run centre Eyelevel Gallery. She is currently pursuing a joint PhD in Museum studies in Montreal (UQAM) and Paris (Université Paris 8). Her research explores how contemporary museums are reshaping the permanent exhibition through an emerging repertoire of curatorial strategies and practices.
About the Artist
David Clark was born in Calgary, Alberta. He has studied at NSCAD (BFA ‘85), The School of the Art Institute of Chicago (MFA in Sculpture 1989), the Whitney Program in New York, the Canadian Film Centre in Toronto and the ITP Program in New York. His internet and video work has been shown at Sundance, SIGGRAPH, Transmediale, the European Media Arts Festival, Images in Toronto, and the Museum of the Moving Image in New York. His works have won the top awards at the FILE Festival, Sao Paulo, SXSW Interactive in Austin, Texas, Cinema Tous Ecrans in Switzerland, the Atlantic Film Festival in Halifax, Pixxelpoint in Slovenia, and the Tokyo International Video Festival. In 2011 his work 88 Constellations for Wittgenstein won the $25,000 Lieutenant Governor of Nova Scotia Masterworks Award. He taught at the University of Western Ontario and is currently a Professor of Expanded Media at NSCAD University.