I don’t now art, but…

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By Ian C. Daffern

“We’re reaching critical mass here!” Or so said Don Snyder, the mastermind behind Ryerson’s art gallery, last Friday night at the 10th anniversary of the school’s art space.

Most people don’t even know Ryerson has a gallery because… well, it’s nowhere near Ryerson actually, but that’s beside the point. The gallery squats in a large industrial building packed with other compact art installations somewhere in the fashion district, south of Spadina Ave. and Queen St.

So, why would anyone else know this? Or, say, even go there? Okay, check this. Art galleries plus students equal free booze. There. Now you know. It also doesn’t hurt when their work ain’t half-bad either. On a Friday night — Jan. 19 — 80 students from Ryerson’s second-year new media and photography program had an opening for their collective works. And the buzzword for the opening is claustrophobic — as in packed — in a very good way.

The inside of the gallery is roughly smaller than a couple of double-parked yellow school busses. That Friday, the bus was busting at the seams. Eighty crazy kids, their families, friends and admirers — all dizzied up on excitement, alcohol and lack of oxygen — spilled out into the hallways, taking drinks with them.

The new media and photography students had a reason to party — the entire exhibition was fully theirs from the works to the installation, right down to the catering.

In the moments when I managed to push through the rush hour crush and actually check out the pictures and er, sculptures and er, televisions … um, there was some really neat stuff. The works ranged from traditional photojournalism style exposés to more experimental installation pieces. Some — okay many — of the latter types, I just don’t get it. Especially the multimedia pieces. A suitcase with a television in it, a blue paper-mâché breastplate plastered with biohazard symbols. Hanging frames from wires liven up the space, maybe to accommodate all the students. A lot of the new media works had a Radiohead/technophobe kind of quality to them. For example, Ben Bogart’s work reminds me of OK Computer’s liner notes, which is okay because he’s never seen them until now.

One of the most original pieces, by Luke Lukman, had scraps of negatives or slides hanging down from individual wire fragments of images of junk, which someone’s kid kept coming up to grab and pull on, and hold them up to the light to see what they were. Which, as the artists explained, was kind of the point.

“I went and photographed a whole bunch of stuff that has marks on it and it’s kind of a record of the life of those objects,” Lukman said. “So I want people to touch it and leave marks on the slides as kind of a conceptual thing, because it’s evolving like the objects in the photographs have over their lifetime.”

This work, and many others in the gallery, provoked and intrigued.

In addition to being the second-year students’ show, it was also the 10th anniversary of the gallery itself.

In honour of this, a special plaque was presented to Don Snyder “in recognition for outstanding contributions to the Ryerson Gallery.”

I got swept up in all this celebration, not only in signing the plaque, but also in appearing in one of the three polaroids attached to it to mark the occasion. Serves them right to snap them in front of the drinks table. Snyder, a man who appeared to be the soul of the gallery, radiated an aura of humility and generosity.

“There’s about 80 people in new media — it’s their work on the walls,” Snyder said. “I just want to say thank you to everyone who came and everyone who participated.”

For such a minuscule gallery, the second year students’ show managed to cram in not only an impressive amount of admirers, but an equally impressive range and breadth of material.

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