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Emmy Skensved & Grégoire Blunt @ ESP Gallery, Toronto

Emmy Skensved & Grégoire Blunt: APLHA BETA BEGINNING & END

Installation shot, Alpha Beta Beginning & End, 2014. Courtesy of ESP Gallery.

Emmy Skensved & Grégoire Blunt: APLHA BETA BEGINNING & END
ESP Gallery, Toronto
March 22 - April 12, 2014


On a bright spring day in Toronto, in the heart of the up-and-coming art district, artists Emmy Skensved and Grégoire Blunt transformed ESP Gallery into a dark, immersive space filled with contradictions in their newest exhibition titled ALPHA BETA BEGINNING & END. Most striking about the exhibition was the ingenious implementation of relational aesthetics infused with more traditional modes of art and new technology. These artists not only displayed what I would call avant-garde, forward thinking art but also displayed a fresh approach to media, blending old and new together to create a new type of art experience.

From the street, nothing seemed out of the ordinary. The exhibition was shielded from the outside, the windows covered with black vinyl, preventing passersby from peeking in. Upon entering the space however, viewers encountered a new strange world bathed in a monochrome blue hue, created by UV lights, mimicking an all-familiar nightclub environment. Drinks of gin and tonic were distributed throughout the opening, glowing a vibrant neon blue under the black lights and further extending the party ambience. As UV lights reference the highly social environments of raves and nightclubs, a contradiction was made implicit with the traditional notion that art is best appreciated in solitude, as a private and contemplative experience.

A sculptural installation made of Plexiglas with gin and tonic dripping down its surface extended the juxtaposition between the meditative and collective experience further. The sound of gently flowing liquid over the Plexiglas mimicked a babbling brook and the glowing tonic water created a sense of calmness and solitude- extenuating the party atmosphere.

Complimenting the gin and tonic installation were a series of wall works hung throughout the gallery. These acrylic paintings consisted of organic, curvilinear lines, reminiscent of forms seen throughout nature, referencing the tribal tattoos of ancient civilizations. The pieces, made from collaged acrylic paint, appeared all white in natural light but transformed under the UV light, becoming a vibrant blue and purple.

In addition to the sculpture and the paintings, Skensved and Blunt created an audio work called Survival Insight that for a brief moment isolated the viewer from the chaotic social environment of the opening. This work refers to tribal tendencies in contemporary post digital culture, epitomized in reality television shows such as “Big Brother”. Survival Insight not only brought this idea to the forefront with the audio sounds, but also allowed the viewer to maneuver through the loud environment of opening night by isolating oneself through listening.

The creativity of this exhibition excited me immensely for one major reason, and is why it is really an exhibition worth seeing; the implementation of theory twisted in a new way. Whether intentional or not, Skensved and Blunt investigate the idea coined by French curator Nicholas Bourriaud of relational aesthetics – a new mode (by new I mean a theory developed in 1990’s) in which art is no longer object-based, but where the relations of the viewer interacting with the work becomes the artwork itself. Skensved and Blunt implement this idea, however whilst still using object-based works. It is by emphasizing the environment of the art world (and in Skensved and Blunt’s case- the show itself) that the artists encourage the audience to create a new relationship with object-based works by emphasizing the social aspect of the art world to further highlight the objects themselves. ALPHA BETA BEGINNING & END, is a highly provocative show that created new modes of reflection on the art world, and the world we live in today.




Kayla Glasser


Bio: Kayla Glasser is a freelance writer and blogger for an international blog, http://culturehearts.com She graduated from Sotheby’s Art Institute with a Masters in Contemporary Art.


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