Worn out chairs make an artistic statement
Stacked high in an Okanagan Mission backyard, a collection of dysfunctional chairs pile up.
There’s a black one in there somewhere that was mine until mid-week.
I’ve carried it around from house to house, as you’ll soon hear if you go to see the next, and final, exhibit in the Dysfunctional Chairs Series at the Kelowna Art Gallery.
So far the series has given five artists a chance to build their interpretation of dysfunctional chairs, like Jasmine Reimer’s 1000 lbs. 3 Days, the current exhibit in the series exploring the relationship between our obesity epidemic and the office furniture foundations of our sedentary lifestyle.
Now local artist and UBCO fine arts grad Chad Pratch will take a different tac.
He has decided to create art out of this pile of rejected and abandoned—though technically usable—chairs, and he interviews those who donate to his cause to see why they want to get rid of their furnishings.
“I looked at the history of all the Dysfunctional Chair Series pieces and the artists were looking at the literal meaning of what is a dysfunctional chair,” said Pratch.
“I was thinking more of a spin, doing more of a psychological meaning, a meaning we create with our minds.”
Part of the exhibition will likely be audio recordings explaining what it is that makes each chair dysfunctional to the owner who is giving it away.
From a child’s pram to a toilet and, of course, my bedraggled kitchen clutter, Pratch has amassed quite the collection.
He says he fully understands this need we all have to part with our worn out, tattered or just plain out-of-date belongings, but thinks it’s worth a conversation on why our society deems certain things as rejects.
“I find that really interesting when you link that idea over to the conversation of fine arts, the aesthetic conversation, and how we have that discussion of what is bad and good art,” he said.
“It’s really a strange conversation because there isn’t any real, tangible explanation for why we will say something is bad or something is good.
“When we see somebody wearing ’70s clothes or ’80s hair, a lot of times we’ll laugh, but I wonder why we find that funny? It’s bizarre, but why is it funny?”
As one might suspect, Pratch is not exactly controversy-averse. While at UBCO, he had administrators begging him to shutdown a performance art piece on protesting in which he showed up on campus with blank placards offering to protest whatever anyone wrote on the signs.
“I was protesting white supremacy, rape, anti-women’s rights. These things are actually illegal. You can’t say these things in Canada,” he said, admitting it was a bit difficult to stomach.
Still, he would not give up on the project, refusing to forfeit his right to explore how people interact with protest and how they define what is and is not art.
“The main focus of all my art is to try and get people who would otherwise not be involved in art to be involved in the conversation of art,” said Pratch.
In fact, if you were to really break down his own story, Pratch himself is probably one of those people who might otherwise not be involved in art.
Heading to school on a basketball scholarship, he travelled around, moved to Calgary, tried his hand at early childhood education and generally lived the life of your average meandering confused twenty-something young guy—except for the early childhood education part.
Through it all, he kept sketching and when he applied to art school, he found where he fit.
Having graduated in 2009, the artist says he’s currently working as a cabinetmaker with his father, with the exception of this Dysfunctional Chairs exhibit and the sculpture he’s working on for the entrance of Kelowna General Hospital.
The KGH sculpture was commissioned by a coalition of local First Nations and Métis organizations interested in spurring reconnection between youth and their culture. It will be a three-dimensional depiction of a canoe with children holding it up on a bed of bricks and feathers—a work still in progress.
Meantime, Pratch says he still needs about 80 chairs to complete his KAG installation for the June 18 opening.
He’s tried advertising on Facebook and word of mouth, but said the best way he’s found to get someone to relinquish an ugly or unwanted chair is a simple, opportune knock at the door.
Like any good politician, he’s been cold-calling on doorsteps, asking people if they have a seat they’d like to hand over.
“I would say approximately 80 per cent of the people have said they’ve had a chair that they want to get rid of but they don’t want to give it away,” he said.
“They kind of need somebody to come and give them that extra push.”
Pratch’s Dysfunctional Chairs exhibit opens June 18 at the Kelowna Art Gallery. The title of the show is Inanimate Phenotype and information will be up on the Kelowna Art Gallery’s website, www.kelownaartgallery.com.
To give him your chairs, Pratch can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or 250-869-7249 or via the Kelowna Art Gallery through curator Liz Wylie at either email@example.com or 250-762-2226, ext. 303.