Vancouver Art Gallery's latest FUSE
It was a warm, breezy and welcoming spring evening on Friday, May 3rd and Vancouver's Art Gallery was just opening its doors for the popular and much talked about FUSE night. I wasn't quite sure what to expect-an evening of local art, music, dance, live performance, improv and special events. I was definitely intrigued and from the looks of the eager line-up awaiting entry I knew something good was in store. I decided to start by making my way down to the aptly named FUSE lounge. Cool, modern and sophisticated defined the space. Classic elements like hand-painted paper-covered walls adorned with an ornate design added a unique and creative feel to the room and was reminiscent of old hotel decor. First time FUSE goer Maria Kritikos, founder and CEO of Ladies Who Lunch fit perfectly against the backdrop of the classic converged with modern atmosphere of the lounge and with the DJ pumping upbeat tunes, we settled into the relaxed mood, chatting and mingling with fellow FUSE attendees about the night's events and entertainment to follow. As I switched gears and headed upstairs to the first level to take in the various events and shows of the night there was definitely no shortage of entertainment to absorb and of course, plenty of watching to top it off. A buzz of excitement and interest circulated through the air as one of Vancouver's most iconic buildings was transformed into a happening hotspot showcasing local art, culture, music, live performances and diverse entertainment. Who knew? As a FUSE newbie I was impressed and pleasantly surprised by this unexpected treasure of fun on an otherwise unassuming Friday night in downtown Vancouver. With the night's agenda in hand I rushed along with the crowd vying to claim a spot upfront on the checkered ballroom of the Rotunda to catch one of the first highly lauded and not-t-be-missed events "The House of Venus", guided and orchestrated by Michael Venus. The House of Venus is a Warhol-influenced artist group celebrating the intermingling of the genres of art, music, fashion and gender over the years and the show certainly did not disappoint. A tribute performance by 'Venus Girl" Miss Cotton, who channelled Nico from the Velvet Underground(Warhol's film from the Chelsea Girls)and lip-synched to "All tomorrow's parties" while a striking procession of models in wearable art and fantasy wigs created by the House of Venus, David Ganshorne and Holt Renfrew Salon took to the stage. Mesmerizing music coupled with an equally hypnotic dance sequence tied the piece together. Joining the ensemble was Venus sister Carlotta Gurl, delivering a fiesty, fierce, high-octane, not-easily-forgotten rendition of Blondie's "Call Me" that had the crowd cheering, clapping and transfixed as she poured out her boundless energy bolting through the Rotunda. Still high off the Blondie experience, I wandered through the gallery waiting for the next hit of excitement. To my delight and surprise I was unexpectedly encircled by the regal-looking and elaborately dressed ladies of "House of Barnes". Fantastic and feminine in their high society splendour, the lovely ladies stopped graciously to chat, mingle and pose for photographs. A few contemplative moments followed as I reflected on one of the first levels current art exhibitions, Grand Hotel: Redesigning Modern Life. The exhibition explores the idea of the hotel in the context of contemporary life. It charts the evolution of the hotel in history from a remote utilitarian structure to a unique architectural and design phenomenon and a cultural symbol found everywhere in modern life. They say everyone has a hotel story-maybe one they've stayed in or one they've seen in a favourite film and so I reserved a few moments to personally explore the theme before transitioning to the next gallery space. Drawing a curious and engaged audience in the next space were animated comedians Riel Hahn and Devin Mackenzie serving up some serious live improv. Judging by the bursts of laughter from the spectators and performers I might add, this live improv inspired by hotel-themed films was clearly a hit and a hoot. My last stop for the night was home to the black leather clad, skimpily dressed men and women spotted around the gallery earlier in the night beckoning attendees to the top floor. Finally reaching the destination, I arrived at the fourth floor pavilion patio discovering a hip, high-spirited dance club zone. Designers Yuriko Iga and Yasuhiro Tomita of Blim, Rukus Designs and Studio Keiko presented Club New Fake, a one-night only dance party inspired by the legendary club nights of the 70's and 80's. After enjoying some time on the rooftop and taking in the fresh night air outside I felt satisfied with my first dose of FUSE. Not bad for a Friday night at the Vancouver Art Gallery I mused to myself as the night's sights and sounds danced in my head. If you're looking to experience something different than the usual, FUSE's diverse ambience, creative content and crowd will leave you lots to see, experience and consider. Those who have been are no doubt repeat visitors and big fans and for FUSE newbie's it's definitely an event worth devouring.
For more on the current happenings at the VAG go to: