Big Rock Candy Mountain Bubble Gum Exhibition

Add a Comment by Rebecca Bollwitt

It’s art, it’s a public exhibition, it’s a fundraiser, it’s chewing gum developed with the help of local elementary school kids. Artists Helen Reed & Hannah Jickling will launch a new artwork commissioned by the City of Vancouver across top trick-or-treating neighbourhoods in time for Halloween.

Big Rock Candy Mountain

QA CHEW’S BUBBLE TROUBLE is a brand new gum named for Queen Alexandra Elementary School, the home of the artists’ ongoing residency called Big Rock Candy Mountain. The limited-run artist edition gum was developed over the past 2017–2018 academic year in collaboration with the toughest taste-testers of all: grade 6/7 students.

Developing the Gum

The gum was developed through a series of classroom workshops with students, teachers, support staff, and guest experts such as food scientist Kathrin Wallace. The research compared texture, natural and artificial flavours, and gum ingredients such as sorbitol and xylitol. Gum was explored as an art material, a confectionery, and even as a public nuisance in the sense of stale gum stuck underneath desks and on sidewalks. The resulting QA CHEW’S BUBBLE TROUBLE contains a uniquely abstract blend of both fruity and sweet notes, with some sharp and earthy tones. Students have variously described it as: “Hello Kitty bubble bath,” “pungent,” and “mysterious.”

Research-Turned-Art Exhibition

The release of the gum will coincide with the opening of the group exhibition Mouthfeel at Western Front, on display from November 1 to December 15, 2018. Mouthfeel will provide a contextual history to the commission, featuring several artworks that were shown to students during the gum’s research phase.

This includes Dina Danish’s Brass Replica of Stone Age Chewing Gum (2013), Diane Borsato’s Artifacts in my Mouth (2003), and a number of Salt Licks, abstract forms created by cows who lick whorls into 50-lb cubes of salt and minerals used to provide them with essential nutrients. These surprising sculptures are presented at Whit Deschner’s annual Great Salt Lick contest, and are on loan from ranchers in Oregon.

Try the Gum for Yourself

Visit Western Front (303 East 8th Ave, Vancouver) November 1–December 15, 2018 to experience Mouthfeel.

QA CHEW’S BUBBLE TROUBLE will be sold at the gallery; chewing gum in the exhibition is encouraged. On Halloween, the gum will be distributed at select East Vancouver locations, in addition to homes across Mount Pleasant, Commercial Drive, and the Hastings-Sunrise area. The Western Front will serve as the main distribution hub on October 31, 2018, from 5:00pm to 8:00pm. Further retail locations will be announced on the Big Rock Candy Mountain website.

All proceeds from QA CHEW’S BUBBLE TROUBLE will go towards future art programming at Queen Alexandra Elementary School. Big Rock Candy Mountain is a public and participatory artwork and residency, situated at Queen Alexandra Elementary School since 2015.

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