Vancouver Art Gallery – Ken Lum Photography and Art Exhibit

Among the Vancouver Art Gallery’s latest venture into psychological surrealism, Vancouver artist Ken Lum’s new exhibit has us all examining life in a new way. Placing contradictory ideas side by side in clever and (on the surface) humorous juxtapositions, he finds creative ways to cause us to reflect.

The entire idea of the Gallery seemed to center around an idea of realization, and once you walk up to the second floor, and turn to the left, you face the other, humbler cousin – surprise.

It starts with a fifteen-foot long wall of mirrors. Writing that can only be read when flipped in its reflection causes you to stare intently at the mirrors while you decipher it – you might hear an unexplained giggle.

You continue down a gradually darkening tunnel, lined with more mirrors, until you reach a hall almost completely in darkness… with a light at the end. As you break into this light you find a dimly lit room with a large wall-length window, or rather, the back of the wall of mirrors.

It was an incredible yet simple trick by Mr. Lum. You watch people stare fixedly at the mirrors when they are actually staring at you. Nothing is as it seems.

“I like it because it is unexpected,” Kristin Mozel, a Langley high-school student says, “I like the element of surprise, and the closing in the end room.”

It seemed Mr. Lum had an infatuation with the mirrors as he continued to play mind-games. A vast maze of your own reflections, entitled, “Mirror Maze with 12 signs of depression” gives you the eerie feeling of falling into your subconscious, and all the while, numbered phrases on the wall:

“#12 I think I might be crazy”

“#5 I feel like a failure”

“#1 I cry for no reason”

As you travel Ken Lum’s exhibit, you realize every work of art is a juxtaposition. A sign saying “Sandhu’s Maple Leaf 100% Canadian” and then its billboard with removable letters saying “Closing doors forever, drop dead Canada”.

It always seems to make you laugh, while easily conveying its psychological point.

It was Mr. Lum’s ability to combine a realistic and relatable humour with a deep psychological meaning that makes his exhibit effective and appealing to the mind. In the end it seems more humanity’s ability to create and decode a paradox, and realize the power of self-examination, which recognizes our intellectual potential.

Perhaps the exhibit’s purpose, and Mr. Lum’s purpose, was to prove Socrates right and to show that, indeed, the unexamined life is not worth living.

Ken Lum’s exhibit will be available for viewing until September 25

By Elizibeth Ashton

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