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'Promising Objects' offers interactive art in Victoria

Eerie sounds from vegetables and sculptures that look like happy caterpillars. Those are some of the "promising objects" you'll find in an exhibit of the same name. The show is at the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria and features the art of Alison MacTaggart.

MacTaggart likes creating art that has a familiar aspect to it but something unfamiliar as well. The results are quirky sculptures that are cheerful and noisy. They encourage all sorts of communication and show visitors her sense of humor.

Please wear the art

The artist wants people to pick up her creations, try them on and play them like instruments. Like the long rectangular hollow boxes with straps so you can wear them and play them like guitars. They’re amplified by small hollow gourds that look like pears with feet.

Then there are the wooden caterpillar-like creatures, about the size of dolls, that you can playfully tap and hit with accompanying mallets.

MacTaggart takes her interactive art one step further than some artists. She has a fascination with inventions and consulted The Canadian Guide to Patents as a jumping off point for her sculptures. In Canada, for an invention to be patentable, it must be novel, it has to perform a useful function, and it has to pass the test of “non-obviousness.”

Worthy of a Canadian patent

She designed work that met the Canadian patent office’s three criteria and created objects that are fresh, useable and definitely not obvious.

Perhaps the star of the exhibit is a giant pumpkin-shaped gourd wired to a Theremin. You only have to stand close to the strange looking sculpture for it to emit spooky noises. It can sound at times like an exploding creature or a creaking door.

At the exhibit opening, people made the gourd growl, the long wooden boxes twang and the caterpillar shaped objects sound like someone knocking on a door.

Have fun too

As one viewer observed, it’s unusual to have something that looks so inanimate make noises. That's exactly what Alison MacTaggart is after, using the familiar to produce the unfamiliar. And, in the process, she entices people to play with her art and have fun doing it.

"Promising Objects" runs through January 15th at the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria.

Artscape” is a weekly KPLU feature covering Northwest art, performances and artists. The feature is published here on Sundays and airs on KPLU 88.5 on Monday during Morning Edition, All Things Considered and on Weekend Saturday Edition.