Go see it now, because it won’t last forever.
While that sentiment is true of most art exhibitions, The Secret Map Flees by local artists Eric Moschopedis, Mia Rushton and Sharon Stevens is premised on the idea of ephemera and conveying an artistic snapshot of this place and time — whether it’s by collecting the DNA of practising artists, cataloguing reactions to the whole Calgary 2012 thing, or displaying voluntarily submitted portraits from politicians.
“A lot of these projects are mapping projects — it is actually quantifiable information that we’re collecting for the most part,” explains Moschopedis. “Sometimes we created quantifiable data and sometimes we took quantifiable data and broke it down.”
Some elements of the show were produced individually, but the centrepiece of the main floor at Pith Gallery is the result of a collaborative project called the “Council of Community Conveyors.” First presented at the Magnetic North Theatre Festival, the artists trained about 15 Community Conveyors who went door-to-door like census-takers in three Calgary communities. However, instead of gathering regular census data, they offered to take a message from one neighbour to the next.
“People were usually kind of perplexed at our presence,” says Rushton. “They would see three people standing at their doorsteps with a sash on and clipboard, [but] they would roll with it usually. People were surprisingly positive; not a lot of people had very negative things to say and very few people refused to participate.”
The exhibition itself shows maps of the canvassed neighbourhoods as well as documentation from the project, detailing a few neighbourly messages that the conveyors passed along (for example: “You make good wine.”)
On the upper floor you’ll find Stevens’ “The Legend of 2013,” a cleverly segmented poster that forms the number “2013” and on which visitors are invited to pin flags on different sections to mark the nature of their involvement with Calgary as the Cultural Capital.
While each project in The Secret Map Flees is quirky and unique (you’ll also find a quilt, MPs being uncharacteristically creative, hair in jars, Marxist propaganda posters and pie), when I ask what the artists are hoping Calgarians will take away from the exhibition on the whole, the artists are pretty unanimous.
“A laugh,” says Stevens immediately. Rushton agrees, adding that because their art “has some serious ideas and some politics to it sometimes, it’s important to have that playful attitude so that it’s not so serious.”
Moschopedis picks up the thread: “Otherwise it’s difficult to engage.”