Exploring the AGA has always been a fantastic way for both art lovers, and those curious about what they might find within its ominous steel walls, to spend time (especially on cheap Wednesdays). The various interactive workshops hosted by the gallery showcase a weekly featured artist and their body of work. Through this, you are free to create as you please, so long as it is congruent with the artist’s theme. Having been to the gallery several times myself, it was an exciting opportunity to experience the interactive potential that a workshop might hold.
Our feature for the week, Hannah Doerksen’s exhibit A Story We Tell Ourselves About Ourselves, centered around the concept of using the things we find in close proximity in order to fill a void. Her technique is based on utilizing the temporary nature of installations and photographs – this was the crux of our shared experience at the AGA workshop.
Our instructor, Roger, started the night off with some light conversation pertaining to Doerksen’s work and discussing the elements of the workshop to the newcomers. Following this, we made our way up to the second floor of the gallery, which housed Doerksen’s exhibit. The room was quite beautiful, with walls covered in mirrored panelling, tables made of granite, and white plaster statues – reminiscent of an executive’s apartment from 1984.
I wouldn’t consider myself much of an artist at all, however, the experience of entering this shiny, almost future or dystopian space, provided plenty of the inspiration necessary to make a genuine attempt at creating something beautiful. My friend (an artist) who I had brought along for moral support also experienced a similar surge of motivation and, as such, we made our way back downstairs to start working on our pieces.
Between their two classroom studios, we were given free reign to raid their cache of art supplies. Large plastic tubs filled with various assortments of random items from old CD’s to pipe cleaners were at our disposal, and this only proved to make the experience far more fruitful. As we sculpted, Roger commented on each of our respective pieces – giving us insight into the showcase artist and ideas on unique directions in which we could take our projects.
Once our time limit was up, we took our sculptures through the gallery in order to photograph them in novel locations, as is thematic with Doerksen’s work. Having the opportunity to explore the still, nearly abandoned floors of the gallery enabled the feelings of desolation and impermanence that Doerksen chooses to express with her work.
Overall, the experience was extremely enjoyable. Although it wasn’t a hard-hitting educational workshop, the process of exploring the mindset of Doerksen and having the opportunity to engage with her exhibit allowed us to draw our own conclusions and connections to the body of work. All that aside, the class proved to be light, fun, and engaging. I plan on heading back myself and look forward to developing a relationship with the unique artistic mediums that these workshops provide.