By Darren Lum
Published July 13 2017
Artist John Notten invites the public to see the tent inan entirely new way when they come to see his show TheTent Project.
It’s the latest exhibition hosted by the Agnes JamiesonGallery in Minden and will be on until Aug. 26.
His paintings sketches interactive art installation pieces sculptures made from repurposed tent materials andsmall-scale tent models take visitors on a challengingjourney to explore the complicated relationship betweenhumanity and the tent.
The first thing to greet visitors as they pass through thedoors of the gallery is the Tent Wheel. Comprised of several small tents which were originally used as tent samplesthe wheel of nylon wood and plastic hangs on the wallrotating. Within seven holes of the wheel are keywords:retreat resilience resistance react revelation recreationand refuge.
Notten wants the public to think of thesethemes related to the tent as they go through the show.Explore what the tent means. The contrast between tentcity and a camping ground. The perspective of a homelessperson versus a person of wealth.
Notten a full-time Catholic high school art teacher isvery familiar with the wilds of the Highlands sleeping in atent. He spent 15 years leading scouts with the HaliburtonScout Reserve on camping trips in the woods and canoeingthe lakes of the county. Included in the exhibition is a collection of his sketches in pen and ink and colouring pencilsfrom his journaling framed behind glass hung on the walljust before the entrance.
A canvas tent entrance is the last image of familiarthemes for most Canadians. It stretches from floor to ceiling and has a musky smell. It is used as a portal to a newway of thinking he wants visitors to adopt when they come.
“I want the show to be a very immersive experience.I want it to be one that the viewer is engaged with notjust intellectually or emotionally but can actually physically engage in the work. They can push a button. Theycan crank a wheel” he said.
“When they leave behind thecozy memories of the romance of camping they enter into aworld which challenges them on more serious issues aboutthe tent so that’s why there is a threshold sort of beforeand after.”
Notten acknowledges the exhibition includes a great variety of pieces representing different media. So many thathe wouldn’t be surprised if people think there is more thanone artist who was responsible for creating everything.
The Toronto-based artist was invited to exhibit his workby the Agnes Jamieson Gallery curator Laurie Carmountmore than a year ago. She was fascinated by his work seeing him exhibit for years in Nuit Blanche Toronto. Nottenspent more than a year creating and assembling all of thepieces for this exhibition.
In the week leading up to his opening on Saturday July8 he slept in a tent at the back of the gallery on the MindenHills Cultural Centre property. He invited the public tojoin him Saturday night to have their own “immersivecamping experience” to create a tent city.
Notten said he has a heightened understanding of theprivilege he has as a middle-class white married hetero-sexual to sleep in a tent.
One his pieces a sculpture called Tether depicts hiscamping experience specifically how he loves to escapethe chaos of the world by going to Nellie Lake in KillarneyProvincial Park.
The sculpture is made using a typicalclassroom globe which has a collection of metal rods withred and yellow lights on the tips extending at differentlengths and angles. Off to the left and above connected bya twisted sheathed cable is a blue triangle-like structure on a platform representing his tent. It grabs viewers for itsaesthetic rawness and how the rate of light is responsive tosounds spoken shouted or yelled.