Cultural Mashup for the Masses

When was the last time you enjoyed going to a museum?

Like, really enjoyed it?

The new exhibit at the Vancouver Art Gallery (VAG), “MASHUP The Birth of Modern Culture” is amazing, there’s so much happening you are sure to find something for everyone in your group.  Just make sure to read the descriptions as they will tell you if you can take pictures of the pieces or not.


I went last week on a gray Vancouver afternoon where I started at the top, the “Early 20th Century: Collage, Montage, and Readymade at the Birth of Modern Culture,” and began working towards the present day. Stepping off the elevator the first artist I saw was Luigi Russo and his Intonarumori (noise machines) these pieces looked like megaphones on steroids. Reading the description they encouraged pulling off the levers and hearing what the machines do, but I was stopped by an uneducated volunteer who would not allow anyone to touch. Sad.

Here is a picture of the exhibit in his studio. Picture from the VAG Media File


Did you know Pablo Picasso is considered one of the founding fathers of our modern culture? I will be the first to admit I am not an expert in art history but I thought Picasso was one of the greats of the Renaissance era, anyway. Below is a picture I took of a collaboration from Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque, these two were the first to experiment with assembling objects and images to create a piece that would go beyond the limits of painting into realms of 3D objects on a 2D plane. Of course, now this method is now adopted all over the world and its influence can be seen in other art movements such as Cubism, Dadaism, and Surrealism. The first of many mashups.




What is art? Some say it is the expression of our imagination. The definition is so subjective and unique to everyone that not everyone will have the same opinion of a piece. I found this to be the case with Marcel Duchamp’s work, Fountain, this is just an old style men’s urinal pulled off the wall and placed on the ground, no more modifications. Duchamp rejected many of the traditional avenues of art by World War 1 adapting qualities of the Dada art movement and, according to Wikipedia, this piece was created to “shift the focus of art from physical craft to intellectual interpretation”. I’m sure everyone will interpret this differently.

Before you move on to the third floor take a listen to the sound poetry created by Brian Eno. I know how to read music but this sheet music was something out of this world, just like the sounds coming from the headset.


The third floor is “The Post-War: Cut, Copy, and Quotation in the Age of Mass Media”, works of screen-prints, video, music, standalone pieces. Works considered Avant-Garde which by definition is new and unusual or experimental ideas, especially in the arts or the people introducing them. This is where mass media started to take effect and show influence in the artist’s work. One of the more prominent artists on this floor is Andy Warhol, he was fascinated with the celebrity life before the mass media caught on now and society is obsessed with celebrity culture.

Below Marilyn Monroe, 1967, screen print.


Travel around the corner to the audio studio and you can listen to pioneers in music such as Lee “Scratch” Perry and King Tubby. Lee “Scratch” Perry began the movement of dubbing audio to change existing recordings into something new, making instrumental or vocal versions of current reggae tracks. King Tubby, some say the inventor of creating the remix, was also very influential in the development of dub music. This room had a great groove to it and I could have stayed much longer but still had half the museum to cover.

Around the corner from the Dubbing sound room you see multiple flat screens on the wall showing fan-created music videos which are called Vidding. These were fun to watch as it is a mashup of popular songs and clips from movies we recognize that match up with the lyrics of the song. I really enjoyed Starships by Bironic

Still on the third floor, there is a hands-on piece called the Revolver ll by Robert Rauschenberg which consists of five rotating colorful pieces of plexiglass that you can control one at a time. Very pretty but this piece is old as it rotates at a snail’s pace.



Onto the second floor “Late 20th Century: Splicing, Sampling and the Street in the Age of Appropriation.”  To my surprise, this is where I found my favorite piece from the exhibit Pink Panther by Jeff Koons. He is a troublemaker in the art world with his Banality series of sculptures.  He pushed the boundaries with many copyright infringements as he used the images of popular images like the Pink Panther and Michael Jackson, but was convicted of copyright infringements with his String of Puppies Status (not on display) where he copied the puppies from a photograph by Art Rogers.

Another statue that stood out to me was by Paul McCarthy’s Mutant. This disturbing figure was created with an armless child-size mannequin, a rubber laughing face mask and a Native American braided hairpiece.


One exhibit I was excited to see was by Brian Jungen. Being a local artist, and one with a Native American heritage, I had heard of him previously from local media coverage. Brian works in the movement of “Found Art” wherein he takes pieces we are familiar with and reworks them into art without concealing what the original material was. In the gallery, you will find Brian has used Nike shoes and human hair to create native masks of animals.


Now on the bottom floor, “The Digital Age: Hacking, Remix and the Archive in the Age of Post Production” where there’s so much to listen to, watch, and see as digital technology and techniques mashup. Ever wanted to be a DJ? You have the chance to play around with a mixer after you get some inspiration from Danger Mouse or DJ Spooky.

Moving on you will see a room designed by Stanley Wong. He has covered the entire room, floor to ceiling, with red, white, and blue striped plastic bags creating lighting pieces, furniture, and artwork. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.

Also, on the main floor is  a very popular video installation, Liquidity Inc., about economic loss, mixed martial arts and water with big comfy beanbag chairs, letting you get lost in the audio and visual.

My favorite video of the exhibit is Logorama by H5, they have animated over 2,500 logos including an armed Ronald McDonald terrorizing a city as he is chased by multiple Bibendum aka the Michelin Man.

This has been a very long trip to the museum but well worth the time as it excites so many senses, there is definitely something for everyone.


What is your favorite piece of art? Are you an artist? Tell me about your work!

Till next time Adventure/Hussle/Life


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