February 6, 2023


Hands-on isn’t a term that you would usually associate with an art exhibition. And for good reason. Works of art are easily damaged from fingernails, negligence, oily or sweaty palms or deliberate vandalism. At the current exhibition at Waterloo’s Clay and Glass Museum, entitled Archive Fever!, the idea is to buck that trend and put the show into your hands.

Admission is free for the exhibit, which runs through Jan. 4, 2015, and is curated by Krista Blake, a veteran curator of 20 years. Blake’s inspiration came from Andy Warhol’s Time Capsules and Jorge Luis Borges’s short story The Library of Babel.
The exhibit consists of many different boxes. Blake contacted artists, musicians, authors and scientists and asked if they would be willing to fill their boxes with whatever they wanted. The idea is to select a box at random and catalogue its contents in your mind through hands-on discovery. Sometimes a telling clue will give away the box-filler, but many times Blake will have to provide an answer as to whose belongings you’re rummaging through.

“I like working with different people and changing the status quo of what you expect from an art show,” Blake said.

Some of the boxes contain favourite records or books usually identifiable as formative teenage forays that helped mould an artist or scientist. The stuffed head of a real wolf can be found in one. Another box, the only one of its kind, featured some erotic art which set it apart from the grey, spartan uniformity of the rest. Several others featured the first book published by the box-filler, giving away their identity.

When asked which box was her favourite Blake simply shook her head. “I love them all. Some are very simple and get right to the point. Others are very elegant or personal.”

As visitors work their way through the various archives they’re being archived as well. A time machine sculpture by Pascal Dufaux centres the exhibition room. It’s a closed-circuit television camera on a rotating table that displays what was filmed 45 seconds earlier onto a projector screen. It’s surreal to see yourself on film but not have it react to your current movements. All of this combines to make the show an expression of how we perceive time and information.

“You’re spellbound for a second. I call it the Houdini moment, you don’t know what you’re going to get and then you find out. The small space in between those moments is perfect,” Blake said, describing her favourite moment.

Leave a Reply