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Features / August 21, 2008

Samuel Roy-Bois and Max Dean: Built to Fall

Samuel Roy-Bois,
Let us, then, be up and doing,
With a heart for any fate;
Still achieving, still pursuing,
Learn to labor and to wait

2008 Installation view / photo Scott Massey

When Buckminster Fuller’s massive geodesic dome was unveiled as the American pavilion at Expo ‘67 in Montreal, it became an instant and lasting icon of the possibilities for future utopian living. Ironically, the realities of Fuller’s design proved to be more existential: his geodesic structures were full of unstoppable leaks, much of the interior space was essentially wasted and many domes were highly susceptible to collapse.

It is perhaps fitting then, to make comparisons between Fuller’s mixed geodesic building legacy and a new installation at Vancouver’s Contemporary Art Gallery by Quebec City–born, Vancouver-based artist Samuel Roy-Bois. Titled after a Henry Wadsworth Longfellow poem, Roy-Bois’s industrious installation, Let us then, be up and doing, / With a heart for any fate; / Still achieving, still pursuing, / Learn to labor and to wait, takes two forms. First, he completely obscures the CAG’s front windows with fibreglass insulation in a uniform gesture that at once reveals and conceals the constructs of structural/institutional design. Inside the gallery space, Roy-Bois takes up what Fuller coined as “Synergetic Geometry” in a room-sized sculptural design built in workman-like style from cardboard, duct tape and string. The result is more of a geodesic tent than dome but it’s structural presence still hints at a key Fulleresque notion of basically constructed, pre-fabricated future living systems. By design, Roy-Bois’s sculpture slowly deteriorates over the course of the exhibition and, with the addition of a Plexiglas diamond housed inside, it makes a clever criticism of the fantastic promise yet ultimate collapse inherent in the structures of utopian thinking.

On this issue of invention and collapse, also on view at the CAG is Max Dean’s automated kinetic sculpture Robotic Chair, which systematically falls apart, then rebuilds itself only to fall apart again in a classic case of existentialist anxiety. (555 Nelson St Vancouver BC)