white polypropylene plastic chairs
145 x 660 x 132 cm
National Gallery of Canada (no. 40645)
Brian Jungen's sculpture "Shapeshifter" makes a statement about cultural hybridity and institutional displays of marine life in aquariums and natural history museums. Jungen, who investigates the intersections and fluid boundaries between Aboriginal and Western cultures, asks us to consider the skeleton of a whale, not an anatomically accurate whale, but a composite influenced by the forms of chairs and by actual whale species. With his choice of material - the ubiquitous monoblock plastic chairs found in discount stores around the world - the artist explores the potential for communication inherent in mass-produced objects in the context of a global economy.
Many societies are fascinated by whales and have endowed them with special significance. Aboriginal groups consider the whale to be an animal of great spiritual power, while whales in captivity are popular tourist attractions. The title "Shapeshifter" refers to the spiritual process of transformation from human to animal or vice versa.