Imaginary Art

Every year the Art Gallery of Alberta presents a new exhibit “for children and their grown-ups” in the gallery space known as the BMO World of Creativity (what my family used to call “the kids room” at the gallery). This year, a brilliant young Edmonton designer named Gabe Wong was given the challenge of creating a new interactive, hands-on exhibit. His ambitious idea was to invent the art of an imaginary culture.

The results are stunning. As the AGA website puts it, “enter a place where geometric shapes and primary colours form the language, legends, and landscape of a new, imaginary culture. Move throughout the space to create performative compositions with sound and movement, construct mythological creatures in paper, decode cryptographic messages and develop new stories based on the immersive experience of method and madness!”

One of the walls in the exhibit contains a hidden message created out of shapes that are the alphabet of this imaginary culture. Kids (and grown-ups) can decode the message to get a very short story. Gabe and I had worked together on another project and so he asked me to write the story that would go up on the cryptography wall. The challenge was that I was only going to get about 40 words to work with! After much struggle I came up with a handful of ideas and Gabe chose one. I’m not going to tell you what the story is. You’ll have to visit the exhibit and puzzle it out yourself. When I visited the exhibit with my son, I realized I’d forgotten most of the story, so we ended up having to decode it anyhow.

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