There’s been a lot of bytes spilled on the Blog lately about a review I wrote of the Terrance Houle show GIVN’R at the Dunlop Gallery, and the gallery’s subsequent decision, apparently based on that review, to cancel two previously booked ads with prairie dog.
Here’s what happened from my perspective.
The Houle show opened at the Dunlop on June 22. On July 5 I dropped by the gallery with some visiting family members to take in the show. A week or so later, I was at Central Library and stopped to see the show again. When I entered the gallery I discovered that four dehumidifiers had been installed in the space. There was a facilitator on duty, so I asked them what was up. This was six weeks ago, and I can’t remember exactly what they said, but it was something along the lines that the humid weather that we were then experiencing was causing the supports or mounts on some of the photographs to slip a bit so the dehumidifiers had been brought in.
Whatever the reason, I trust the decision to install the dehumidifiers wasn’t made lightly. As I observed in the review, when they were running, as they were during my entire visit that night, they rendered a very poignant audio work by Houle completely inaudible. As well, I was informed by another facilitator on a subsequent visit that the roar created by the dehumidifiers in the concrete-floored gallery was even loud enough to interfere with the ability of patrons to hear videos by Houle that were being screened with the aid of headphones at the back of the gallery.
During that third visit, the facilitator walked around to the dehumidifiers and turned them off. The gallery had previously been empty, and as we were standing there talking, maybe eight or so people suddenly trickled in. I don’t know if the facilitator has seen something similar before, but they did quip to me about how the moment the dehumidifiers were shut off people seemed more inclined to enter the gallery. One of the dehumidifiers was right by the door, and when all four were in operation it did render the gallery less than inviting. Really, you couldn’t even have a conversation without shouting.
My intention in the review was not to criticize the Dunlop administration. It was simply to point out that, in the very week that city and provincial powerbrokers were triumphantly announcing the construction of a new $300 million state-of-the-art football stadium, it would be nice if those same people could see their way clear to spend a bit of money to improve Central Library.
I don’t know how many of you have been to Central lately. I live downtown, so I’m usually in there once a week or so. When you enter off Lorne St., you’re often greeted by a sewer-type smell. The bathrooms in the basement and on the second floor, to my mind, are cramped and kind of gross (the male ones anyway). Most of this summer the elevator was out of service, so people with mobility issues who wanted to venture off the main floor to access library services were advised to visit another branch. I also remember being in the library in the spring of 2011 and finding buckets on tables along the north wall to catch snow melt that was leaking through the roof.
Central Library was built in 1962. Since then, I doubt it’s received much in the way of upgrades to the building envelope and the mechanical systems. The situation with the dehumidifiers in the Dunlop, to my mind, was just another example of the work that needs to be done. Other people are free to disagree, of course.
Oh, and one more thing. There is no justification for RPL Board Meetings to be held in private. From city council to the two school boards to the planning commission, every organization that exercises civic authority meets in public, and the RPL Board should too.