Dazzling designs cover the walls and floor of the Campbell River Art Gallery. The exhibition is called Data Camouflage Strategies to Survive the Armageddon in Style. Photo by David Gordon Koch/Campbell River Mirror

VIDEO: Exploring virtual worlds and open oceans at the Campbell River Art Gallery

New exhibitions by Dominique Pétrin and Carly Butler on display until Nov. 10

Dazzling, layered designs cover the walls and floor of the Campbell River Art Gallery (CRAG), as part of a new exhibition by Montreal-based artist Dominique Pétrin that explores the line between real and virtual worlds.

It’s one of two shows that opened on Sept. 20 at the CRAG.

Pétrin’s installation, called Data Camouflage Strategies to Survive the Armageddon in Style, involved careful attention to the ways that colours and patterns interact, said Jenelle Pasiechnik, the gallery’s curator of contemporary art.

“The colours really buzz and move with each other,” said Pasiechnik.

Pétrin screen-printed the designs onto sheets of paper, and then painstakingly glued them onto the walls. Pétrin said she considers the patterns as data, while the installation represents the Internet.

“More and more the space became sort of an experience of what it would be to live in a virtual space, or in the Internet,” said Pétrin.

Detail from Dominique Pétrin’s large-scale paper collage installation at the Campbell River Art Gallery. Photo by David Gordon Koch/Campbell River Mirror

Recognizable objects are found among the patterns. Some appear to be symbols of comfortable west coast living, like an espresso machine or a book about yoga.

“Our living room is Facebook,” said Pétrin. “That’s where we expose ourselves, that’s where we feel comfortable, that’s where we tell our friends what’s going on in our lives.”

But domestic objects coexist with symbols that suggest anxiety.

In one collage, the Statue of Liberty appears as a small figurine next to a pair of towers, one of them rendered in a green military camouflage and capped with a smartphone.

Elsewhere, the words “Don’t even try” appear repeatedly near the floor.

Pétrin said themes of surveillance and control are important in her work.

“This experience we’re having, it’s not completely our own,” she said. “It’s tailored for us.”

This is meant to throw the beauty of the background designs into doubt, she said. The viewer is immersed in something false, a virtual space.

“It’s not science fiction,” said Pétrin. “It’s our reality.”

The show also includes two quilt-style collages created by Pétrin, and three others made by Campbell River youth as part of a workshop led by the artist.

“It’s a wonderful opportunity for local youth to have their work displayed, and they worked so hard,” said Pasiechnik. “It looks beautiful.”

In another workshop led by Pétrin, young people decorated poles outside the gallery, an event that Pasiechnik described as a kind of legal graffiti.

Adjacent show inspired by sailor adrift at sea

Pétrin’s show opened last Thursday alongside an exhibition by Carly Butler, an artist based in Ucluelet.

Her show, titled Anywhere Else, include piles of 1,000 bowline knots. The project was inspired by the book Adrift: 76 Days Lost at Sea by Steven Callahan, whose boat went adrift after his knot failed.

“It says in the book, ‘I must have tied that knot a thousand times, and that one time it failed,’” said Butler, who continuously tied bowline knots for more than three hours in a performance that generated the knotted red nautical rope.

Ucluelet-based artist Carly Butler’s nautical-themed works include piles of bowline knots, a project inspired by the story of a sailor who went adrift after his knot failed. Photo by David Gordon Koch/Campbell River Mirror

Butler’s display also includes letterpress prints with phrases drawn from texts about maritime weather, again pointing to themes of survival at sea.

One of them states: “Depressions, however, do not normally pass in such short times.”

The texts raise questions that go beyond the nautical, said Butler: “What can we learn about life from being on the sea?” she said.

The exhibition also includes a video installation that shows the artist dragging a life raft across the land – a work that conveys a kind of fruitless desire for freedom.

“It’s on land, it’s not very useful,” she said of the raft. “But then it’s this search for escape.”

Data Camouflage Strategies to Survive the Armageddon in Style and Anywhere Else run until Nov. 10 at the CRAG

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