New Gallery showcasing new exhibition inspired by Google Maps

Contemporary, community art: Visitors explore and view Ahreum Lee’s work in The New Gallery in Calgary on Jan. 17. The New Gallery offers free admission to the public to all of its exhibitions. (Photo by Brandon Wong/The Press)

The New Gallery, a Calgary based art centre, will be hosting an exhibition titled Hopping for Hope by South Korean artist Ahreum Lee until Feb. 22.

Hopping for Hope features installations which combine Google’s mapping technology and contemporary art demonstrating how digital technology affects borders.

Lee’s work was chosen by a peer jury of seven people, a system The New Gallery has kept in place since 1975. It will be accessible to the public for free on the main show floor of the gallery, at 208 Centre Street South, in Chinatown.

Lee is an interdisciplinary artist born in Seoul, South Korea and now based in Montreal. He is currently pursuing a Master of Fine Arts degree at Concordia University.

Lee’s inspiration for Hopping for Hope comes from a personal experience she had when immigrating to Canada in 2016.

“I looked on Google Maps a lot and looked up Korea and my hometown. I noticed Google Maps represented border lines differently here,” Lee said.

“I found this interesting because depending on where you are, different border lines show up. It’s almost as if where you are determines your political thoughts.”

“Every year we open a call for submission to artists all over the world at any stage of their career,” Su Ying Strang, director of The New Gallery, said.

“Our mandate is to show work that is socially relevant or politically informed. The average number of submissions we receive a year is around 175.”

During an opening reception on Jan. 17, The New Gallery installed Lee’s pieces for the public to view.

The exhibition includes works such as an eight-foot vinyl piece laid out on the floor as a combination of Google Maps and Korean hopscotch, and a large projection of Google Street View combined with the video game Dance Dance Revolution.

Playful and political: Artwork by Ahreum Lee lies on the main show floor of The New Gallery on Jan. 17. This piece combines Google Maps with Korean hopscotch with overlapping borders representing border conflicts. (Photo by Brandon Wong/The Press)

The vinyl piece is interactive and visitors are allowed to stand and play on it if they choose. According to Lee, the piece is meant to portray the social and political issues surrounding border disputes.

“When you play hopscotch in Korea, you throw a rock behind you and wherever it lands becomes your territory. This means you’d have to defend your territory from other players,” Lee said.

The piece also raises the question of how borders are maintained as well as given form through the digital space but not in the physical world.

“Ahreum approaches a serious, political topic. The idea of borders in contemporary culture is huge, there are so many disputes,” Brittany Nickerson, programming co-ordinator of The New Gallery, said.

“Approaching it in an almost playful game manner with bright colourful aesthetics allows people to enter these serious topics in a different methodology.”

Strang said The New Gallery showcases exhibitions with a goal to reach out to the community to increase the conversation around contemporary art.

“We’re looking at how contemporary art practices teach people about the issues of our time,” Strang said.

“How can this medium be a vehicle for having some of these challenging conversations?”

“Alberta and especially Calgary has a very tenuous relationship with contemporary art,” Nickerson said.

“People seem to disregard it or see it as not as important as other sectors but what we do here is really crucial to the arts and culture community. Without art, what are we?”

Visual visionary: Ahreum Lee with one of her art pieces in The New Gallery on Jan. 17. Lee’s inspiration comes from an experience using Google Maps in Canada and seeing how borders change depending on geopolitical location. (Photo by Brandon Wong/The Press)