In a large gallery, the gigantic skeleton of an unidentifiable marine mammal is suspended from the ceiling. The sharp edges of the “bones” reveal that they are made of pieces of plastic chairs.

Brian Jungen

(b. Fort St. John, British Columbia, 1970)

 

Vienna

2003

White polypropylene plastic chairs

125 x 850 x 130 cm

Purchased 2004 with the Joy Thomson Fund for the Acquisition of Art by Young Canadian Artists, National Gallery of Canada Foundation

National Gallery of Canada, 41341

© Brian Jungen. Photo: National Gallery of Canada


Vienna is the skeleton of an imaginary cetacean created from pieces of plastic carved out of garden chairs. While the work’s large size brings dinosaur skeletons to mind, the bonelike structure here also refers to bones as a material frequently used in Native art. Customarily exhibited in natural history and anthropology museums, animal skeleton and Aboriginal artifact come together in Vienna for display in an art museum. By replacing bones with plastic, Jungen offers a reflection on the environment and skews the idealistic discourse that tends to suffuse archaeological finds and traditional Aboriginal objects.


Although Vienna dates to 2003, it fittingly represents 1897 here. That year, the paleontologist Lawrence Lambe (1863-1919) made the first of his many important discoveries of dinosaur bones on the Canadian prairies. A century later, Brian Jungen, a member of the Dane-zaa Nation through his mother, found inspiration in archaeological finds to reflect on the way Aboriginal artifacts have been displayed throughout Canadian history. In some works, Jungen has subverted Aboriginal cultural symbols (masks, totems) by recreating them from consumer products (sports shoes, golf bags). His hybrid art, which raises museological, economic, ethnological and ecological questions, is exhibited around the world.

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