Artists' Paradise

Cutting-edge art stays sharp nearly a decade after hitting the international big time.

From the outside, The Paradise Institute is an unobtrusive five-metre by 11-metre wood structure with two small sets of stairs leading up to doors on the side. Its interior is a life-sized balcony of velvet-lined seats fronted by a dimly lit model of a red-carpet lined classical theatre. Once viewers are inside, they are given a set of headphones and the sensory experience begins. A film noir plays at the front of the theatre as its soundtrack intermingles with rustles and coughs typically heard at a cinema. A woman whispers intimately, “Do you want some popcorn?” in the viewer’s ear as a gunfight scene plays on the screen. This cutting-edge Canadian work by Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller, easily two of Canada’s most internationally established, contemporary artists, is heading to Vancouver as part of the Vancouver 2010 Cultural Olympiad. Since unleashing their collaborative creative powers in the mid-1990s, the duo have exhibited their intelligent, high-tech installations in every major cultural centre on the map — including the Venice Biennale, where The Paradise Institute won the special jury prize in 2001. Cardiff and Miller, who are a couple as well as a creative team, currently split their time between Grinrod, a rural BC farming village that only has one post office and one general store, and Berlin, the hip cultural capital of Germany. Cardiff says this bi-national equation adds another level to their creativity. “We have different elements to our work,” she says. “Different places feed you in different ways.” Nearly a decade after they won at the Venice Biennale, Cardiff is still very proud of their award-winning piece, which is currently based at the Emily Carr University of Art and Design on Vancouver’s Granville Island as part of CODE Live. It’s currently on loan from the National Gallery of Canada. “We don’t get to see it much, so it’s always nice to go back and look at older work. Sometimes we get surprised and wonder how we thought of it,” says Cardiff from her BC home. “The last time I saw Paradise Institute, it still held up for me. Which was a good test because some artworks don’t. We were really pushing the edge and experimenting on a lot of different levels.” “The Paradise Institute” will be on display from February 4 to 21 at Emily Carr University of Art and Design; 1399 Johnston St, Vancouver; Open from 10:00 am to 8:00 pm daily. Free. More information about this and other CODE Live events

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