Recently we enjoyed the art and drinks at Art and Drinks, the experimental venue on Dundas West featuring non-narrative video art in a lounge-like setting. Conceived as a hybrid pop-up space by artist John Oswald, Art and Drinks sets itself apart from the usual gallery/café scene by carefully foregrounding the exhibition and visual experience of the art over the comparatively unaesthetic business of eating and drinking. Presented salon style on all four walls (including the plate-glass window fronting on Dundas), video works by a changing roster of artists are displayed in a variety of projected and screen-based formats and sizes. Ambient music serves to modulate the sounds of conversation without detracting from the visual experience, while headphones hanging on the walls invite the viewer into further engagement with individual works. One might expect visual cacophany from such an arrangement, but the effect is surprisingly harmonious and coherent, a testament to the curatorial choices Oswald has made with regard to artworks and placement.

One work which caught our attention was Effleurer by Bettina Hoffmann. People assuming various positions in what appears to be a bland hotel room appear frozen together in space and time. A camera circles them slowly, creating the only movement in the piece. With each rotation, the viewer is able to take in more and more of the scene, but this only serves to intensify the mystery. Paradoxically, seeing more completely only leads to the realization of how much one cannot know. However, such limits to knowledge do not lessen the visual or emotional impact of the piece—indeed, the effect is to the contrary.

As a curatorial and artistic experiment, Art and Drinks was only supposed to be open for the last four months of 2011, but due to late-breaking good press and popular demand, it has extended its stay for the month of January. Artworks will be rotated daily, so repeat visits are encouraged. We’ll certainly be going back for more before it disappears from Dundas West for good.

Review of Art and Drinks in Canadian Art
Artist Bettina Hoffman’s website


image: Bettina Hoffmann, still from
Effleurer, HD, 2008
thanks: Michelle Gewurtz