Brian Jungen’s “Vienna”

Taking up a four-month tenure at The Rooms on May 11 is B.C. artist Brian Jungen’s giant sculptural work “Vienna”—a life-size whale skeleton not unlike the one that used to hang from the ceiling of the old museum on Duckworth Street. The distinguishing feature is this one is constructed out of patio chairs—those white uniform plastic ones you come across in discount stores around the world. Jungen is known for making pointed juxtapositions of form and substance in his work. He famously collected and tore up a bunch of Air Jordans to use as the material for a beautiful series of painted Haida masks, making a commentary on the place of traditional Native arts in an age of manufactured goods. “Vienna” (named for the city in which it was constructed) likewise strikes the observer as both a practical joke and a meditation on destruction, a fanciful art-object as well as a memento mori. Plastic by-products are after all a notorious ocean pollutant, and this giant whale carcass made out of chairs seems to be enacting a quiet protest against the benumbed arseholes whose weight he once bore.

Brian Jungen’s “Vienna” is at The Rooms until September 16. A public reception will be held on Wednesday, May 30 at 9:00pm following the presentation of this year’s Excellence in Visual Arts awards. Brian Jungen: Vienna, 2003, white polypropylene chairs.

— J. Adams


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  1. Jeffrey Boone · March 13, 2012

    J. Adams seems to have missed the point on this one. The petroleum from which the plastic chairs are constructed is a source of fuel just as whale blubber was once a source of fuel.

    Objects that embody juxtaposing references to both traditional culture and those to contemporary, often consumer, culture is a frequent theme in Jungen’s work.

    The masks that were constructed from carefully dismantled and then reassembled Air Jordans draw a connection between the tribal origins of the masks and the tribal nature of contemporary urban culture.

    Sports corporations position their products as being reflective of who you, the consumer, are. They suggest that having and wearing these products will identify you with their tribe, as it were, or with their hero or celebrity endorser. Members of a tribe were also meant to identify with the spirits represented in the masks.

  2. Geoff · March 13, 2012

    I can’t wait to see it. I’ve seen photos before but never thought I’d get to see the thing in person. I like J Boone’s “fuel juxtaposition” interpretation but can’t help think that J Adams “quiet protest” concept has a place in there too. I’ll have to see for myself I guess.