Working Wood arrives, plus thoughts on MOV’s interest in local design

When we turned our frumpy orientation gallery into the MOV Studio this past June (backstory and images here), we envisioned a place where we could host a new slate of public programs and small, topical exhibits with an emphasis on design and local ideas. The first MOV Studio exhibit was a showing of Ian Wallace photographs capturing Vancouver pre-Expo ‘86. The second was Contexture’s Home Phone, an inventive nine-square-foot shelter created from a decommissioned telephone booth.

The third is Working Wood. Launched Thursday night, the exhibit showcases five pieces of wood furniture from five emerging Vancouver woodworkers. (Is “emerging” the right word there? Like other Vancouver artists, be they photo-conceptualists, painters, or ceramicists, these woodworkers are probably better known outside the city limits than they are within. Why is that? Does the city take a conservative approach to new work? Or does our creative class focus on promoting themselves to bigger, more lucrative markets back east and south of the border? The subject for another post, perhaps.)

Simply put, we’re thrilled to feature the work of Ben Burnett, Christian Woo, Derek Morton, Enrico Konig, and Kurt Dexel here. Of course, they each have a distinct style and viewpoint, but there’s also a common effort to highlight the qualities of the wood itself. A partnership with Interior Design Show West (IDSwest) got the show here, Darren Carcary of Resolve Design oversaw the exhibit design and install, and I’ve assembled interviews with each of the woodworkers that I’ll be rolling out on the blog in the coming days.

As we continue to develop our new direction at the MOV, capsule exhibits like this are something we plan to host again and again. At the opening event, noted woodworker Brent Comber said he loved seeing the pieces in a museum setting and the idea of furniture as museum-quality object. To us, that’s exactly what they are: heirloom-quality pieces, conceived and built here by hand—and capturing a familiar, local material in new and innovative ways.

Image credit: IDSwest

MOV’s not the only museum on the taxidermy beat these days


Last weekend, MOV participated at IDSwest and our booth featured animals from our upcoming exhibit Ravishing Beasts. Specifically: a vole, a snow owl, and a dog by the name of Lucky—all three of them taxidermied.

We’d prepped for possible blow back (”Displaying a stuffed dog? Are you out of your mind?!”), and while there was a bit of that, more often there were double takes followed by incredible conversations, ranging from animal rights to the Museum’s new vision and how Ravishing Beasts fits within it. What a time.

Guest curator Rachel Poliquin aptly describes the exhibit “as a question show.” Don’t come expecting tidy interpretations. Most of the animals displayed are part of the Museum’s natural-history collection, and most are shrouded in mystery. We know little about many of them except that they were donated by Vancouver residents. But more on all that after the show opens on October 22. (Tickets to the opening night party happening on the 21st are now available. Click here.)

We’ll leave you with this: One section of the show looks at taxidermy’s resurgence in art and design (something the crowd at IDSwest was well aware). Other museums are tracking this trend, too. Currently, the MAK art museum in Vienna is hosting Furniture as Trophy, which chronicles the use of animal materials in interior design. There are medieval antler chandeliers, Le Corbusier’s famous leopard-skin covered chaise, and contemporary art pieces, like sculptures by Micha Brendel that use organic materials to explore relationships between medicine, science, and art. Absurd? Surreal? Beautiful? Offensive? That’s for you to decide. Click here.


Image credit: MAK Art Museum

Welcome, Home Phone

While at Interior Design Show West last month, we were drawn to a project commissioned for the show called “Off the Hook.” The show’s organizers had obtained a number of discarded telephone booths and put out a call to local designers, challenging them to create something from the materials.

Contexture Design’s Nathan Lee and Trevor Coghill responded, their first thought going to who is most affected by the steady retreat and removal of phone booths from city streets: the homeless. “We really thought of the telephone booth as a public amenity that is being lost,” says Lee. “Their removal means one less service available to people living on the streets.”

Lee says Contexture’s design process often starts with used materials—their history, their provenance—and a focus on sustainability. One of their earliest designs was the “Coffee Cuff,” a piece of reclaimed wood veneer intended to replace disposable cardboard cuffs, or to be worn as a bracelet. Another project see old maps laser-cut into various objects, like migrating crows or homeward-bound salmon, and suspended in delicate mobiles. (Click here for details and images.)

With Home Phone, there’s even more layers, and more social commentary. The piece reimagines the telephone booth as a temporary shelter. The design addresses basic housing needs, incorporating electricity and running water, as well as liveability: the stowage ottoman offers dry storage while the door removes to form a platform bed. Construction-grade materials, finished to a high standard, are used to present a dignified respite from the street, despite the limitations of the nine-square-foot space.

It’s a concept piece as much as it is a critique of how street furniture is now being designed to shuffle people along and out of public spaces. Picture: dividers on low garden walls to prevent skateboarding and benches broken up into individual seats to prevent sleeping. Home Phone takes a very different approach, suggesting the street can be a place of welcome, rather than alienation.

The exhibit officially opens tomorrow night, in conjunction with the talk “Ending Homelessness,” and runs until October 25.

Image credit: Contexture Design

MOV featured at IDSwest this month

Mark your Outlook calendar or iPhone or whatever you’re using these days: Amanda Gibbs, MOV’s director of audience engagement, is speaking at the opening night event of the Interior Design Show West (better known as IDSwest). It’s happening Thursday, September 17 at the Vancouver Convention Centre. Doors open at 6 p.m., Gibbs talks shortly thereafter, and then there’s a special edition of Pecha Kucha happening at 7:15 p.m. The lineup includes Nancy and Niels Bendtsen of Inform Interiors and Bensen-furniture fame, architect Bruce Haden of Hotson Bakker Boniface Haden, and Todd MacAllen of Molo Design (MacAllen and design partner Stephanie Forsythe were the only Canadians featured in 10 X 10_2, Phaidon’s round up of the world’s most exceptional emerging architects). Tickets to the event go for $15 and can be purchased on the night of, or online here. Good deal.

IDSwest runs until September 20. Be sure to stop the MOV booth for a preview of Ravishing Beasts and to learn about our fall/winter program schedule.

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