Outdoor art installations and crows take over downtown Charlottetown

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The streets of Charlottetown will be overrun with art this weekend – and the public will be a big part of it.

Installations for the 11th annual Art in the Open will be placed in outdoor spaces around the city’s downtown area.

Saturday’s free art event showcases over 30 projects from PEI artists. and from across Canada. But they are not the only ones to appear.

“For this iteration, I was really interested in performance, installation and socially engaged work, which engages and engages the audience – involves them in a procession, for example, or dancing,” said Amish Morell, curator of this year’s event.

“I was looking for artists who could engage with the public, who could involve themselves in the issues and in the lives of the people of Charlottetown and Prince Edward Island”

Interwoven themes

Some of this year’s installations include a mobile solar-powered recording studio, a mechanical dinosaur drinking fossil fuels, and a screening of a plant documentary with audio descriptions instead of visuals.

Another body part is added to the sculpture by Gérald Beaulieu in Victoria Park. (Shane Hennessy/CBC)

Other projects will ask the public to dance in a silent disco, or lie in the grass and watch the clouds. People can also grab a costume of their favorite crow and participate in the annual crow walk.

Morell said this year’s artwork features many overarching themes.

“A lot of artists deal with land, ecology, climate change, … treaty issues,” he said.

“We have artists who work with the soil, artists who work with the history of apple orchards in Atlantic Canada. There are artists who deal with trade and human-animal relationships. There are also artists who create a community: Art in the Open is a public event and … the public is as much a part of it as the artists.”

The public is not neutral

British Columbia dance artist Kemi Craig led a series of dance workshops before her performance. Bear witness is a multi-sensory installation intended to show that an audience is never neutral.

“The performers and the people who are there to testify, we have a relationship at that time and we affect each other. And I think that’s why I was drawn to learning about technology sensory so that we can amplify that relationship,” she says.

“Some of us will be dancing, between three and six of us dancing… Most of the time what you will all see will be lights, and what members of the public will be able to do is affect the lights in the performance that we’re going to wear.”

Open to interpretation

Bill Burns said his performance, Salt, donkey, goats, milk, honeywill feature “donkeys and goats and farmers, plus a beekeeper and a marching band”.

The beekeeper will show the public how to make honey from a frame. Burns said he doesn’t like suggesting people how to interpret his work, but mentions that he drew inspiration from his youth.

A scene from the 2017 March of the Crows, which gathered at the Confederation Center of the Arts and traveled to Victoria Park. (Open-air art/ Facebook)

“I grew up in Saskatchewan,” Burns said. “My relationship with animals has always been important. And now I see people, you know, kind of deprived of that experience.

“So I want to bring animals into urban situations, so people can understand a little bit more, because I think… if we’re going to continue with this world, we have to have a relationship with animals.”

And yes, the public can interact with the animals.

More details about the event, including performance times, can be found on the Art in the Open website.

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