One of my first memories of the Mendel Art Gallery was when I was in grade 5. Our teacher had a headache – possibly migraine, ice cream or hangover – and had instructed our class that we were to “have art” for the remainder of the day.
I had a headache too – mine was a bully named Curtis, or “Durty Curty” as he was known around the tire swing. I took the opportunity to squeeze out of class and hide in the library where I could draw hockey dudes with pencil crayons in peace.
The next day our teacher collected our artwork and displayed it on the wall. Within a few hours mine had been removed. Curty’s revenge? Nope, it was the grade 6 teacher, who had recently started banging the grade 8 teacher’s ex-husband.
My sketchy rendition of Eric Lindros – who recently started banging his teammate’s wives – had been spirited off to the Mendel where it was on display alongside other kids’ artwork.
It kind of sucked.
Thankfully my drawing didn’t stick out too much – a collective of uninspired elementary school babysitters had handpicked the entire installation. My piece was just another tepid dish in a smorgasbord of mediocrity.
Fast forward many years later…
Under the LUGO banner the Mendel Art Gallery is transformed from its traditionally staid battleship self into a well-heeled rave revue.
Local bands such as We Were Lovers and Father Figures rocked out with great aplomb, while individual musicians talented enough to provide amazing improvisations strummed with immense precision in the next room. Andrei Feheregyhazi’s video premiere for Slow Down Molasses’ song “Bodies” literally shook the walls. Actors soliloquized, and when The Gaff scratched we stretched and jigged around a pile of jackets and purses.
It was amazing, and at times overwhelming, to see so many beautiful people all gathered in one spot. Snacking on some of the delicious food – thanks for the vegetarian options, might I add – I wiped crumbs from my lips while attempting to chat up local babes and spy slyly on live-Tweeters. Beer line-ups went quickly, aided greatly by the winks and catcalls of the volunteer staff. And the roving bands of photographers stalked easily throughout the crowds in an attempt to document the mess for the morning after.
While it’s easy to give a lazy thumbs up to the performances, the true heroes of the evening were those who coordinated and steered the careening ship forward. LUGO is a remarkable vision for Saskatoon, an ideal for an increasingly progressive citizenry.
I suppose if there was one complaint to be had it would be the lack of visual artwork that normally frescoes any given gallery space. The giant crossword puzzle, infused with local themes, was fun but there were far too many blank walls for my wandery eyes.
I understand the need for the gallery to express itself as a vehicle for unconventional mediums – in this case music, dance and dramatic performances. But I have always been a fan of mixing up genres. Indie rock romances visual art and vice versa, and I long for more of these kinds of marriages. They are an art and they are proven to last.
Regardless, LUGO is easily and already one of the most successful events of the year – rumours say that over 1,000 people walked through the doors that night.
To all those involved, please take a bow, drink a beer in the shower and go back to bed for another hour. You earned it.