Monday, September 1, 2014

On Serendipitous Discovery: How United Airlines Customer Hostility brought me into the Vancouver Art Gallery (again)

It's no secret that I loved -- and greatly miss -- the customer focused nature of Continental Airlines and loathe the open hostility that "pre merger" United Airlines (pmUA) employees openly display towards their customers, particularly at Chicago's O''Hare ("ex-Cons", on the other hand are still a pleasure to encounter -- when you can find them).

Such utter incompetence on the part of United Airlines staff in Chicago last year (before the two maintenance-related emergency landings, and three days of a four day trip to Richmond without my luggage among other complete service failures) lead me to miss a connection on my way back home to Cleveland.

Arriving at our connecting gate at precisely the same moment -- coming from a different flight, but also missing the connection due to causes within United's control -- was an artist.

While we were waiting for United to figure out how to get us both to Cleveland we chatted, and I started with my typical "What brings you to Cleveland?" The answer surprised me -- she was an artist heading to Cleveland because her work was on display at both the Cleveland Museum of Art and MoCA Cleveland. It turned out I was chatting with Janet Cardiff, and her work on display at CMA was Forty Part Motet, one of the most unique and stirring installations I've encountered, and certainly one you would have to hear to understand.

This brings me to today -- I'm back in Vancouver for the week, mixing business with pleasure and spent the day wandering around downtown. Without question I love this city on nearly the same level as I love London* -- both cities have a vibe that I don't pick up in the states --  and I hadn't planned in visiting the Vancouver Art Gallery again on this trip.

But fate intervened. My wanderings through downtown I walked past the entrance to the Art Gallery and I decided to head in. Thanks to having my CMA Donor card on me, the visit was free (excluding the hundred bucks I managed to spend in the gift shop). And the next few hours just kind of slipped by.

The lower floors, occupied by the Douglas Coupland everywhere is anywhere is anything is everything (closing today) had  pieces that piqued my interest -- including a Lego suburbia -- on a whole it failed to really move me... But as I moved up the building I found myself immersed in an entire floor of Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller's work via the exhibition Lost in the Memory Palace.

The below video does a far better job of explaining the exhibition than I ever could -- but it's worth noting that I was particularly captivating that the Experiment in F# Minor -- where the shadows of attendees trigger musical sounds -- in effect "playing the table". I was completely transfixed by the Opera for a Small Room -- a twenty minute looped presentation where (for the first time in as far as my recollection will allow me) I stood in the same place for the entire twenty minute loop without feeling the urge to move on.

The Killing Machine was a somewhat horrifying piece that I found to be one of the more thought provoking of my recent encounters -- revolving more or less on capital punishment -- and amplified by the fact that it takes a conscious act on the part of the viewer (pushing the "big red  button") to start the machine.


[*- However it is seeming extraordinarily unlikely I will have a work-related reason to visit London. If anyone knows anyone that needs Crestron programming done in the UK... hit me up ;)]