press release

A “living” table that follows your slightest movements, a metal dress that lights up and radiates heat as you approach, a panel with thousands of analog meters that begin to oscillate when they sense your presence – these are just some of the 17 large sculptural installations that the public will discover this fall in Caught in the Act: The Viewer as Performer, one of the largest exhibitions of contemporary art ever mounted by the National Gallery of Canada (NGC).

Caught in the Act, which opens on October 17 and continues until February 15, 2009, brings together works by 11 influential and established artists and collectives: Mowry Baden, Rebecca Belmore, BGL, Max Dean and Raffaello d’Andrea, Geoffrey Farmer, Massimo Guerrera, Glen Johnson, Rodney LaTourelle, Jennifer Marman and Daniel Borins, Kent Monkman, and Jana Sterbak. Most of the works in the exhibition come from the NGC’s permanent collection or are on loan from other institutions, while some were created specifically for the exhibition.

Viewers in the starring role Works in the exhibition, which combine performance, installation, environmental art, minimalist art, and body art, encourage exchanges, as visitors are invited to step beyond their traditional role as observers to interact with them. Through their movements and behaviours, they engage in a dialogue with the artworks, and this dynamic relationship becomes just as significant as the artworks themselves.

“This major exhibition testifies to the Gallery’s constant commitment to Canadian contemporary art,” noted the director of the NGC, Pierre Théberge. “Visitors will have an opportunity to establish a dialogue with the works in Caught in the Act, giving them an experience that will no doubt leave them with a better appreciation of Canadian contemporary art.”

Canadian artists “Caught in the Act distinguishes itself from previous exhibitions by focusing on the production of Canadian artists in the last decade,’’ explained the NGC Contemporary Art Curator and curator of the exhibition Josée Drouin-Brisebois. "It presents a framework for ‘’new practices’’ by featuring earlier influential works from the 1970s, 1980s and early 1990s, all the while considering how recent works might influence how we interpret these groundbreaking precedents."

The exhibition acknowledges the contexts of the production of the works, including concerns that stem from particularly relevant theoretical, literary and artistic influences, as well as those of their presentation and reception. The goal is not to construct a history of these so-called interactive sculptural and installation practices from the 1970s to the present, but rather to investigate connections between the production of the artists from the exhibition and to explore how the role of the viewer has shifted from objective contemplation to engaged performer.

Close Encounters with the Art Caught in the Act sets up a sequence of engagements into which viewers may choose to enter; as they move throughout the gallery, it is ultimately their decision as to how they will interact with the situations set up by these works of art. Each encounter will be unique, driven by the viewers’ choice to become personally, publicly or politically engaged. In Caught in the Act, art is open to be experienced as a collaborative process, a social experience, and ultimately, as an active negotiation, where the viewer always holds the potential to become the performer.

Web site To learn more, visit the site devoted to the exhibition at, where you will find, among other things, the artists’ biographies.

Catalogue A catalogue, offered in French and English versions, accompanies this exhibition. Published by the NGC, the 256-page hardcover book includes a preface by the director of the Gallery, Pierre Théberge; a disarming and humorous project by Winnipeg performance artist Glen Johnson; and insightful essays by art historians Anne-Marie Ninacs, Stephen Horne, Greg A. Hill, and Josée Drouin-Brisebois. Available at the NGC Bookstore at a cost of $44.95, plus GST, and at, the Gallery’s online boutique.

Admission and NGC hours Tickets are now on sale at $15 for adults, $12 for seniors and full-time students, $7 for youths aged 12 to 19 years, and $30 for families (two adults and three children). Admission is free of charge for children under 12 and for Friends of the Gallery. This includes admission to the NGC Collection. Tickets are available by telephone at 613-998-8888 or 1-888-541-8888 and at

The NGC is open Tuesday to Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Thursdays until 8 p.m. Open at noon on Remembrance Day, November 11, and Monday, December 29. Closed on December 25 and January 1, 2009.

Meet the artists On Sunday October 19, from 1 pm to 5 pm, the artists featured in Caught in the Act: The Viewer as Performer will be at the Gallery for a variety of performances, talks, workshops and activities. Included with Gallery admission.

As well, on Thursdays October 30, November 6, and December 11, from 5 pm to 8 pm, artist Massimo Guerrera will interact in his installation A Hyphen between the Visible and the Invisible (Darboral), 2000–2008 to meet with Gallery visitors. Dates may be subject to change. Registration and information: 613-990-1985.

Meet the curator On Friday, October 24, at 12:15 pm (in French) and on Friday, October 31, at the same time (in English) visit Caught in the Act: The Viewer as Performer with Josée Drouin-Brisebois, Curator of Contemporary Art and of the exhibition. A bilingual question period will follow each visit. Included with Gallery admission.