Creative Minds

'I call it the tar sands of culture': Brian Jungen on the irony of making art about consumption

At AGO Creative Minds, Jungen spoke about how art can help us survive in a time of climate crisis.

At AGO Creative Minds, Jungen spoke about how art can help us survive in a time of climate crisis

(CBC Arts)

"The contemporary art market is kind of what nobody really wants to talk about."

At Monday's AGO Creative Minds, host Duncan McCue asked artist Brian Jungen — whose work combines consumer goods like Air Jordans into sculptures — about his thoughts on making physical art about consumption.

"I mean, I grew up like everyone else wanting the things I wanted on television."

Watch the video:

At AGO Creative Minds: Art and Survival, Brian Jungen reflected on the tension of creating physical art about consumption. 1:31

"It's a bit difficult because I make objects and those objects are commodities. They're artwork that's for sale. It's a bit tricky to steer around that."

"I mean, I'm tangled up in the art world — it's how I make my living. It's another beast that needs feeding."

"I call it the tar sands of culture," Jungen said about this awkward dynamic, dropping one of the most memorable lines of the night.

Installation view of Brian Jungen's Carapace sculpture at the Art Gallery of Alberta. (Courtesy of the artist)

But he has hope for these "art commodities," as he calls them, to provide a public good.

"Hopefully most of those land in museums where they become property of the public and don't get locked up in private collections."

Jungen was part of a panel of four alongside Robert F. Kennedy Jr. Jennifer Baichwal and Tanya Talaga at AGO Creative Minds, tackling the question: in the face of climate change, can art help us survive? Watch the full conversation below.