Meme Me delves into ‘screen culture’

A unique show that opened this week at the Sunshine Coast Arts Centre in Sechelt has some creative fun with the concept of “meme,” a new word describing a new pastime. Pronounced meem, the Oxford English Dictionary defines it as, “An image, video, piece of text, etc., typically humorous in nature, that is copied and spread rapidly by internet users, often with slight variations.” Any user of Facebook, which teems with memes, will get this right away.

The exhibition is called “Meme Me, an exploration of isolation and connection.” It’s a follow-up to a similar show last year entitled “The Space Between,” and is once again a collaboration by the Sunshine Coast Arts Council (which operates the Arts Centre), the Sechelt Arts Festival, and the team of Mieke Jay and Steve Wright, of the local production company Coast Streaming.

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Like the 2019 exhibit, it is an all-ages, immersive experience with large-scale installations, projections, and audio soundscapes. This version also features paintings by local artists, sculpture, dance, and more.

“Usually, you open the doors to a gallery and you see art on the wall. Here, you’re going to open the doors to the gallery and be in the art immediately,” Jay said in an interview. “It’s interesting that we picked this topic of mediated culture before we knew how much we were going to be mediating ourselves. It’s kind of an interesting play on last year’s show because now we talk so much about the space between everybody, staying six feet apart.”

Added Wright: “It’s pretty timely that we’re talking about screen culture. That’s a big component of this show. We’ve been forced to find new ways to connect during this time. And we’ve also been very isolated. But now we’re all doing Zoom meetings, people have figured out a way to be in a space together. People love being on Facebook and having their opinion and their voice be heard, although it’s this thing you kind of both love and hate.”

The producers expect visitors to the gallery will post photos and videos from the show online, reinforcing the theme that in contemporary culture, “the viewer becomes the viewed.”

Another feature of the exhibition will be a continuous screening of the 2010 Diego Samper movie, Panopticon. The 34-minute film is composed of photographs taken by Samper at a prison in Colombia constructed in a way that all inmates would be under surveillance 24 hours a day. The institution was designed in the 19th century, but it eerily speaks to us today, as the Arts Council noted in a release about the film: “The concept of the Panopticon has become a useful metaphor for the global loss of freedom itself, on a modern planet awash with technological surveillance at all levels of society.”

A live-streaming event and tour of the exhibition, with some added live features, will be staged on Thursday, Oct. 16 starting at 7 p.m. Link information is on the Coast Streaming website.

The gallery is open Tuesday through Sunday from noon to 4 p.m. During the Oct. 23-25 Art Crawl, the gallery hours will be 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

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