Art Installation: The Ingenious Gentleman Don Quixote of La Mancha

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Toronto – The Canadian Opera Company showcases a quixotic suite of sculptures by Toronto-based new media artist Mitchell F. Chan this May at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts in honour of the company’s spring production of Massenet’s opera Don Quichotte, opening May 9 and running for seven performances until May 24, 2014.

Chan’s creation is entitled The Ingenious Gentleman Don Quixote of La Mancha and is now on display in the Isadore and Rosalie Sharp City Room, the glass-enclosed lobby of the Four Seasons Centre. The Ingenious Gentleman Don Quixote of La Mancha is available only to those patrons attending one of the remaining performances in the COC’s 2013/2014 season, including Roberto Devereux, which the COC is presenting in repertory with Don Quichotte.

The Ingenious Gentleman Don Quixote of La Mancha pays homage to the famous literary tale of the eccentric knight-errant of Cervantes’ Don Quixote, which inspired Massenet’s opera. Created by Chan in 2010, the installation is composed of three separate pieces: The Ingenious Gentleman, Portrait of the Artist as Cervantes and Don Quixote, which together produce a translation of Cervantes’ novel through the medium of water vapour.

The Ingenious Gentleman writes out, letter by letter, the entirety of Cervantes’ Don Quixote by using water vapour to emit columns of clouds to form the shape of a given letter. The letters appear as an arrangement of “cloud pixels,” scrolling upwards over time.

Portrait of the Artist as Cervantes is assembled from dehumidifier parts and pulls ambient water vapour from the air and deposits it onto blank paper sheets as water droplets. It’s assumed that this water vapour literally contains the content of the novel having originated from the letters created through The Ingenious Gentleman.

The final piece in the trio, Don Quixote, concludes the metamorphosis with a display of transubstantiated water on paper. The once blank pages from Portrait of the Artist as Cervantes have been bound into hardcover editions with the paper sheets now slightly deformed by absorbing the water droplets that make up the “content” of Cervantes’ book.

Mitchell F. Chan has exhibited in galleries across Canada and the United States. He made his American gallery debut in 2009, exhibiting alongside Robert Rauschenberg at the Alan Avery Art Company in Atlanta. In the same year, he was named a Trustee Scholar in the Art & Technology department of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. He is one of the co-founders of public art and design firm Studio F Minus.

Tickets to the COC’s productions of Don Quichotte and Roberto Devereux are $12 – $332 (includes applicable taxes), and are available online at, by calling 416-363-8231, or in person at the

Four Seasons Centre Box Office (145 Queen St. W.).

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