Story by Adrian Brijbassi
KITCHENER, ONTARIO — David Marskell stands in front of one of the coolest displays of modern invention you’ll ever see and explains the future of art while reflected in a mirror that interprets movement into pixels. The Sketch Mirror is designed by Daniel Rozin, one of the artists represented in the Rethinking Art & Machine exhibit that runs to January 22 at TheMuseum in Kitchener.
The mirror isn’t a pure reflection. The computer that creates the image stylizes it, making individuals look like something out of an A-Ha video, except with lush colours. It brings an odd new dimension to Narcissism while also accomplishing exactly what modern art should: Adding fun and whimsicality to life.
“This is the future of art. People will have something like this in their homes in years ahead,” said Marskell, TheMuseum’s CEO and the man who has spearheaded the facility’s fantastic success since taking over five years ago.
Marskell is humble, emphasizing that he was fortunate to arrive at a time when TheMuseum was making a dedicated change in its focus. Yet, the results since he took over are undeniably impressive. TheMuseum draws more than 100,000 visitors annually, a five-fold increase from 2006, and the RAM exhibit has earned it tremendous accolades, including the opportunity to tour in China. Eric Shiner, the head of the Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh, said RAM “was unlike anything I’ve ever seen” following a visit earlier this year.
“We are a museum that punches way over our weight,” says Marskell, noting that Kitchener isn’t known for its art scene and that the facility itself is a modest 50,000 square feet, far less than Ottawa’s National Gallery of Canada (137,000 square feet) or the Art Gallery of Ontario (583,000 square feet) in Toronto.
What the Waterloo Region does have, as most know, is the nation’s most vibrant high-tech community. Donors from companies such as Research In Motion and Google have funded this little museum and helped make Marskell’s job easier. Five years ago, TheMuseum was struggling. It was founded by three mothers as a children’s museum, and remains child-like in the focus of its exhibits, Marskell says.
“We knew it had to be more than a children’s museum,” he adds, “but with children still at its core.”
In RAM, TheMuseum has achieved just that goal. Its exhibits make adults and kids laugh and play, marvelling at the level of inventiveness on display. Along with Rozin’s $25,000 pixel mirror, there is his Trash Mirror No. 3 that can be purchased for $140,000 and is made with recycled pieces of garbage from New York that mimic the movements of whoever is in front of it. Peter Vogel’s “Rhythmic Sounds” translates movement into music and other installations include playful gadgetry, and intricate and beautiful light shows.
After the RAM exhibit closes, TheMuseum will do quick work in preparing for what potentially could be an even more popular show: Arena, which will focus on hockey.
“We’re going to take a fresh look at the game and how it inspires art,” says Marskell.
As RAM winds down, though, TheMuseum should expect plenty of more visitors. With the holiday break upon us, this gem of a place in downtown Kitchener, about one hour from Toronto, needs to be near the top of the list for parents looking for a fun, educational family outing.
MORE ABOUT THEMUSEUM
Hours: Wednesday-Friday, 10 am to 4 pm; Saturday-Sunday, 10 am to 5 pm (check website for holiday hours and special hours)
Admission: $14.69 for adults; $11.30 for children 3-12 years old; under 3 free (all prices include taxes)
Location: 10 King Street West, Kitchener, ON. (519) 749-9387