Big Ideas: $100,000


BRIEF: We are approaching the Aviva Insurance Community Fund to grant a Big Ideas award to STAGES, one of Plug In ICA’s most prominent exhibitions. STAGES is an ambitious public art exhibition that situates and commissions nine carefully considered, temporary public sculptures and performances in freely accessible public spaces. STAGES brings contemporary art into the public field, stimulating community engagement and togetherness through art.

DESCRIPTION: In 2017, Plug In launched the first STAGES public art biennial, in which Canadian and international artists were commissioned to produce temporary public sculptures and performances throughout downtown Winnipeg. These artworks, which considered the relation between sculpture, performance, architecture, city and audience, were mounted in public parks, shopping malls, concourses, a mobile flatbed truck and the roofs of buildings. All of the locations selected by the artists were freely accessible to the public, many of which were available 24 hours a day. For STAGES 2017, there was counted audience of 7500 for the performances and other related events, but the actual number of viewers who engaged with the works is more likely over 50,000.

We are in the advanced stages of planning for the 2019 iteration of STAGES. Curated by Plug In Executive Director Jenifer Papararo, STAGES 2019 has commissioned nine artists from Winnipeg and elsewhere to engage the public’s interest in contemporary art in ways that extend beyond the “white box” of the gallery and museum system. The invited artists are: Raymond Boisjoly (Vancouver), Daniel Buren (Paris, France), FASTWÜRMS (Toronto/Creemore), Kenneth Lavallee (Winnipeg), Cinthia Marcelle (Belo Horizonte, Brazil) (TBC), Joar Nango (Tromsø, Norway), Andrea Roberts (Winnipeg), Silke Otto-Knapp (Osnabrück/Los Angeles) and TITLE TK (NYC) (TBC). These artists represent a wide diversity of backgrounds and approaches, ranging from the well-established (Buren, FASTWÜRMS) to the up-and-coming (Lavallee, Roberts). Each of the artists will be invited in October/November 2018 for a week-long research session, during which they will select locations for their work and think of ways to respond to the history and contexts – aesthetic and social – of the chosen sites’ specificities. This research period concludes with each artist giving a public presentation about their work in general and their plans for STAGES. This series of public talks is not held in Plug In’s galleries, but is instead hosted in openly available public spaces that might lure the interests of passersby as well as our usual audiences. The artists return to Winnipeg to create and mount their artworks in public spaces during July/August, 2019, with the exhibition scheduled for the last two weeks in August. Through this exhibition, Plug In tries to infuse public space with new experiences of superlative contemporary art, inviting a plurality of audiences to respond in novel and potentially community-forming ways.

As can be seen, engagement with the community at large is a fundamental part of this complex project. The idea that art is not a separate sphere that must be quarantined in galleries and museums, but an integral part of the social life of the community, is one that Plug In continues to uphold with the STAGES biennial. By integrating large, significant works of art into community spaces through which people (who might not otherwise find themselves interested in contemporary art) travel on their ways to and from work, home, school, etc., we create situations in which the community might come to understand public space and the built environment not merely as neutral conduits, but as zones of possibility and engagement for all ages and backgrounds. STAGES 2019 is precisely designed to stimulate the sense of community spirit and togetherness that the Community Funds Big Ideas award is meant to support. We feel certain that the Aviva community will agree.

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Plug-In Inc. (Plug In Institute of Contemporary Art)

Location: Winnipeg