Exhibit transcends the body

Glynis Humphrey’s new installation looks at the female body and what it might look like in another kind of space.

And that’s just what she has to show her art in as the Doris McCarthy Gallery in the University of Toronto Scarborough is, after a summer of work, just that – a new kind of space.

A UTSC student experience's Glynis Humphrey's innovative exhibit, Breathing Under Water.
A UTSC student experience’s Glynis Humphrey’s innovative exhibit, Breathing Under Water.

Humphrey’s exhibit, Breathing Under Water, is a multi-media installation with two videos of the artist under water. There are also speakers emitting the sounds of her breathing and heartbeat, which travel through large white weather balloons.

Humphrey, who in 2007 was the recipient of the Lieutenant Governor of Nova Scotia Masterworks Arts Award for this installation, said it took eight years to create.

“It’s quite complex and it took a lot of starts of various kinds to find out what I really needed to do and finally that came along.”

The exhibition engages all of the senses because it is not only meant to be seen, but to be heard and felt as well.

“This work is about the body and the body is a physical thing,” Humphrey said. “I’m trying to work with the idea of allowing the body to be important in this work and for us to be aware of our bodies through these sounds, through hearing them, but more importantly feeling them.”

Ann MacDonald, curator and director of the Doris McCarthy Gallery, said Breathing Under Water is more engaging than other art shows because the people who come to the gallery are participants in the exhibition.

“Normally people feel a bit uncomfortable in an art gallery because they can’t touch, but with this exhibition they’re encouraged to be touching things,” she said. “You can feel the vibrations of the heartbeats and the breathing through the balloons.”

This different kind of experience with art is new for the Doris McCarthy Gallery as well and MacDonald said it has drawn many more people into the newly renovated space.

The front entrance of the Doris McCarthy Gallery was renovated over the summer in hopes of making the gallery more inviting to the public.

MacDonald said the renovation was necessary because the old entrance was a problem in terms of visibility. She said people would walk past the gallery unaware they could go in.

“It’s our hope that this direct entrance is more welcoming and people will notice us more,” she said.

MacDonald also said the entrance had to be fixed because large pieces of artwork could not be navigated through a corner entry.

“For an art gallery it’s a bit of a problem if you can’t get the art inside,” she said.

Breathing Under Water also involves a performance in which UTSC students gently put bandages on those experiencing the artwork. MacDonald said these students wear black aprons with coloured bandages inside the pockets.

“The students walk through the exhibition and approach people and quietly will bandage a wrist or hand,” she said. “So there’s kind of a gentle interaction.”

The exhibition will run until Oct. 19 at the Doris McCarthy Gallery. For more information on Breathing Under Water, visit www.utsc.utoronto.ca/~dmg.