THE ART OF WAR (AND PEACE): Curator Magda Gonzalez-Mora at Fort York Toronto for Nuit Blanche 2014

Past history and present tense invoked with installations at Fort York, Toronto. 

Today we know of Fort York as the (barely visible) small patch of green space that buffers the expansive condo development that now grinds against the north and south sides of the Gardiner and barricades us from a view of the sky.

In 1793 the plan for a garrison was put into place by John Graves Simcoe. At the time, Niagara was the capital of the province but Simcoe felt that Toronto was a more suitable place for a naval base that would protect the area from the possibility of an American attack. Soon after, it was decided to move the base again – to Kingston – but a community had already developed around the area and by 1800 there was a residence built for the lieutenant-governor on the site.

In the spring of 1813 the Fort was attacked by the Americans. Both the Indigenous nations of the Mississaugas and the Ojibwa assisted Canadian and British forces to keep the Americans at bay but in the years the followed Fort York was continually attacked and occupied by American Forces. Eventually, due to the victory of the British in the War of 1812, Fort York became a more stabilized community that grew to become the settlement that was renamed Toronto in 1934, from the Kanienke’haka (Mohawk) word Tkaronto meaning “the place in the water where trees are standing.”

Two centuries of peace have passed but the site still remains to commemorate the battles and lives lost.

It has also become a great place to showcase dramatic and large scale art and performance.

Luminato does Fort York.

In 2012, as part of the commemoration of the 200 years since the war of 1812, Luminato staged a massive art install at the Fort called “The Encampment.”

Marking the bicentennial of the War of 1812, The Encampment is both a luminous large-scale art installation and a kind of metaphoric archaeological dig—one that unearths not physical artefacts but long-buried shards and strands of human experience. Conceived as a “temporal village,” the installation comprises 200 A-frame tents pitched on the grounds of Fort York, which fell to U.S. forces during the war. Each tent contains an installation by one of 200 artistic collaborators, selected via an open call for contributors. Each creates a visual representation of an aspect of the war’s civilian history, gleaned from research into real-life stories of family, love, loss, survival, patriotism, collaboration and betrayal. Visible at a distance from several downtown locations, the massive assemblage of tents presents a wondrously glowing sculptural landscape. Explored at close quarters and through social activations, it offers poignant insights into the lives of ordinary people swept up in the epic drama of history.” More info…

Kaha:wi Dance Theatre participates in remembering and honouring the lost lives.

In 2013 The City of Toronto commissioned Kaha:wi Dance Theatre to create a site-specific performance for Fort York that would also travel to Woodland Cultural Centre and Old Fort Erie.

The Honouring pays homage to First Nations warriors of the War of 1812, featuring Onkwehonwe families who sacrificed to protect Haudenosaunee sovereignty, culture and land.” More info..

Now in 2014, Nuit Blanche has put curator Magda Gonzalez-Mora (Before the Day Break Zone) in charge of creating a (safe) space that reflects on socio-politics, security, pluralism, and of course war.

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BODY OF WAR, 2010 by Isabel Rocamora (Edinburgh, UK)
Video Installation

“Body of War reflects on how man becomes a soldier through the relentless repetition of acts of violence. What happens to the psyche as it learns to transgress social principles and integrates the willingness to kill? Set in the geography of the Normandy Landings and punctuated by testimonies of retired and serving soldiers, a mis-en-scene of visceral hand-to-hand combat is gradually deconstructed. The viewer is invited to engage in the relationship between human intimacy and the brutality of war choreography.  

Body of War is as much an ode to the human inside the solider as a question of military structures.” More info…

Image from www.scotiabanknuitblanche.ca.

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CHIC POINT by Sharif Waked (Nazareth, Palestine / Israel)
Video Installation

Chic Point ponders, imagines, and interrogates “fashion for Israeli Checkpoints.”

Male models expose body parts – lower backs, chests, abdomens – peek through holes, materials and standard clothes are transformed into pieces that follow normative fashion standards while calling them into question. Chic Point bares the loaded politics of the gaze as it documents the thousands of moments in which Palestinians are forced to undress in the face of interrogation, as they attempt to move through the intricate and constantly expanding network of Israeli checkpoints.” More info…

Image from www.scotiabanknuitblanche.ca.

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ASCENDANT LINE, 2009 by Wilfredo Prieto (Havana, Cuba)
Installation

“The work is an attempt to explore world orders that defy geo-political definition. A red carpet-flag allows the audience to experience the glamour of walking down the catwalk, while unexpectedly being confronted with different political ideas regarding the fall of a totalitarian system.” More info…

Image from www.scotiabanknuitblanche.ca.

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MELTING POINT, 2014 by LeuWebb Projects (Toronto), Jeff Lee (Toronto), & Omar Khan (Toronto)
Light Installation

“Located on the original shore of Lake Ontario, Fort York was built for defense. Over time, the Fort has stood its ground against enemy advances, expressways and condos as the lake’s edge has pushed further away. Situated in this context of protection and resistance is Melting Point, a sound and light based installation. Melting Point stocks a pair of cannons with an artillery of glowing good feelings, in the form of sparkling tributaries of light pouring from the mouths of the old weapons. Accompanied by a chorus of rolling waves and trilling harps, the work lays a defense agsinst the swirling market forces beyond, countering hard with soft and dark with light and creating a safe space for Art.” More info…

Image from www.scotiabanknuitblanche.ca.

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Also on the Fort York site for the Before the Day Break zone is work by one of my favourite Toronto artists, Bruno Billio, whose piece Familia (seen above) was definitely my top choice for my Nuit Blanche 2013 experience.

FAMILIA 2013 

“Mismatched chairs are gathered from households for re-creation of the moment of a family function. Initiated by the audience, the movement of these objects creates the sounds of a family shuffling their chairs into position at the table.

The mirrored floor captures the physical reflections of the audience and the chairs, imbued with personal nostalgia, thus becoming the medium that retains and reflects private experience and memory.” More info…

BRIGHT BUNDLE 2014

“Bright Bundle is a light sculpture ablaze with pulsating light and sound representing the past and present of growth, prosperity, culture and the future. Set in the centre of Fort York, this 1000 metre ribbon of LED lights will glow and pulsate in a golden-white colour seen from a distance and beckon audiences from surrounding pathways towards it to bath in the glow of  its pulsating  lights and sound.” More info…

Wishing everyone a safe (and dry) night!

NOTE: Ascendant Line & Melting Point will continue to be on display until October 13.

Before Day Break contemplates a sensitive artistic practice. Evoking the complexity of life itself, artists from diverse regions will offer singular perspectives in an attempt to cover different angles of reality. Through these practices they enable the audience to turn the ordinary into extraordinary artistic memory. Like the pixels in a photograph, human relationships, religion, socio-political and cultural behaviour are among the themes used to present a deeper message that speaks to the universality of the human experience. Motivated to challenge and surprise the viewer’s expectations, this vibrant environment will invite reflection on contemporary history, while juxtaposing it to Canada’s quest for inclusion and plurality. All of this leads to satisfaction of the eye and the intellect.Before Day Break defends and trusts the restorative power of art.” More info…

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 All images above by Leah Snyder for Mixed Bag Mag unless otherwise noted. 

SCOTIABANK NUIT BLANCHE 2013: Let French Curator Ami Barak UpCycle Your Experience

Man smiling while speaking at a podium Image by Leah Snyder for Mixed Bag Mag.

Re-inventing the wheel – what Duchamp’s Ready-mades, Ai Weiwei and Toronto’s cyclists have in common.

Man smiling while standing at a podium “In 2013, we will celebrate the centenary of the Armory Show, the International Exhibition of Modern Art that was organized by the Association of American Painters and Sculptors in the vast spaces of U.S. National Guard armories, New York and is considered as a breaking point, crucial in the history of modernity. Among the scandalously radical works of art, pride of place goes to Marcel Duchamp’s cubist/futurist style Nude Descending a Staircase. The same year, Duchamp installed a Bicycle Wheel on a chair in his studio and this is considered as well as the starting point of the intrusion of “Ready-mades” (found objects which Duchamp chose and presented as art) in the art world. The idea was to question the very notion of Art and the artistic attitude towards objects. The objects found on the street, chosen by the artist, will take an aura of art object within the frame of the art institution. We now live in a century where objects exist in the museums and the exhibition spaces. If we take the objects back to the street in the context of an event like Nuit Blanche, while allowing the artists to treat and handle them as referenced works of art, we hope to close the loop and reconcile the public with the status of the ubiquity of the object. ~ Ami Barak, Visiting Curator for Nuit Blanche 2013 on “Off to a Flying Start”

While listening to French curator Ami Barak speak at this week’s Power Plant lecture regarding his curatorial choices for Nuit Blanche I couldn’t help but think of one of this city’s advocates for cyclists and how she’s probably excited for all the focus placed on bikes this year.

Taking it to the streets.

Woman with long hair sitting on bike that has a basket in front of brick wallYvonne Bambrick is a woman about town – on her bike. An Urban Cycling Consultant she has also worked in the capacity of Community Animator for the Centre for Social Innovation, the first coordinator for the Kensington Market BIA and is the current Coordinator of the Forest Hill Village BIA. She knows our community and our city’s streets well and can often be found quoted in the press about the problems Toronto faces as it expands without a clear course of action for the people in this city who choose bikes over cars.

“In addition to the significant lack of on-street bike infrastructure, one of the biggest issues for those riding bikes to get around the city is the condition of the roadways. Years-old utility cuts and potholes are a major hazard on some of the most heavily used routes. This terrible road surface is often found in the already difficult to navigate space between the doorzone and streetcar tracks on most of the East-West routes – this creates an even more dangerous scenario for even the most experienced riders.

Above image by Yvonne Bambrick for The Urban Country Magazine.

Toronto’s Arts Festivals seem to have a knack for intuitively selecting themes that are timely – Luminato’s choice for its 2011 production of 1001 Nights and that year’s focus on Arab performers and writers helped expand the dialogue around the Arab Spring immediately after it happened. Ami’s choice for installing Ai Weiwei’s Forever Bicycles at City Hall corresponds well with Ai Weiwei’s current exhibit at the AGO that speaks to human rights abuses by the Chinese government but perhaps unanticipated, although certainly important, is how Forever Bicycles speaks to Toronto’s recent issues and the rights of its citizens to have their concerns regarding cycling acknowledged by our government.

Speaking about Forever Bicycles Yvonne says “It’s such a thrill that it is on the doorstep of City Hall. I can’t think of a better place for it to be! Hopefully it sends a message and is not just seen as a structure made of bikes – that it resonates with people at city hall as relating to current issues.”

photograph framed in a bike wheel on wall with window to the street on the right Image by Leah Snyder for Mixed Bag Mag.

Deconstructing the object by displacement.

Also an artist, Yvonne’s own bike inspired and politically motivated work was on display recently at the Hashtag Gallery on Dundas Street West. Yvonne snaps the city at street level then uses deconstructed bike wheels as frames – an interesting way to open up dialogue around the issues.

A photograph of graffiti with words Fancy Eh and framed in a bike wheel  Image by Leah Snyder for Mixed Bag Mag.

Duchamp’s removal of an object from its familiar state and his presentation of it as an objet d’art was one of the actions of modernity that domino affected us into a century of change. The referential impact still reads as contemporary into the 21st Century as exemplified in works like Yvonne’s as well as those selected by Ami for Saturday’s big event. Thanks to Ami the dislocation of both objects of motion and objects of rest can be seen this year at Nuit Blanche – Toronto artist Bruno Brilo’s Familia, Garden Tower in Toronto by Tadashi Kawamata, Tortoise by Michel de Broin, Melik Ohanian’s El Agua de Niebla and Pascale Marthine Tayou’s stunning presentation efficiently titled Plastic Bags.

large sculpture made of many bicycles interconnected together with the two towers of Toronto City Hall in the backgroundAbove image by Yvonne Bambrick

The ubiquity of bikes.

For Ami, this idea of the “répétition du même objet” and how objects repeated over and over change the meaning is important. For Yvonne “speaking to this idea of repetition, I think that at this stage in Toronto it is too hard to ignore that so many people are choosing bicycles and that they are everywhere! You can’t ignore that much of the voting population and that how the city functions with regards to transportation includes bicycles.”

Woman and man each on their bikes with the Toronto City Hall in the backgroundAbove image by Yvonne Bambrick for Dandyhorse Magazine.

Come Full Cycle.

Ami’s choice of placing Ai Weiwei’s 3,000+ interconnected bicycles in front of City Hall may just become, for Toronto cyclists, a symbolicist act for contemporary Toronto.

For more information on how you can be a part of the movement to make Toronto a more bike-friendly city Yvonne recommends Cycle Toronto. “They are a city-wide cycling advocacy organization who are working year-round on improving conditions for people riding bikes in the city.”

More resources can be found on Yvonne’s website or follow her on Twitter @yvonnebambrick.

Image of a woman riding bike in city street in front of building with post-modern architecture. Family dressed up warm for fall weather in wet street standing with their bicycles

Young couple riding bikes during fall on city street Above 3 images by Yvonne Bambrick for Dandyhorse Magazine.

For more information on Ami’s curatorial statement for “Off to a Flying Start” check out the Consulate General of France’s initiative Paris-Toronto and Nuit Blanche.

FYI – If you missed Ami’s talk this past Monday you can hear him again Saturday afternoon at 2 pm at The Power Plant along with the other Nuit Blanche curators – Patrick Macaulay, Ivan Jurakic and Crystal Mowry.

Click here for more information on this event.

Every which way, by Kim Adams. Photo by Steven Martin, courtesy Museum London. (Image via Dandyhorse Magazine.)
Every which way, by Kim Adams. Courtesy of Diaz Contemporary. (Image via Dandyhorse Magazine.)

 

 

 

 

 


BEST IN SHOW? EVERYONE! Design Week in Toronto & The Growth of a Community

Detail of colourful paper sculpture by Tara Keens-Douglas

made the spaces in-between smash / process dictates form /  make art everyday / design create innovate think experiment play /  shiny pretty things loop /  embrace this space

After 6 days and 20+ events my mind is busy synthesizing all that I saw, everything I experienced and each person I interacted with.

Celebrating 15 yrs in partnership with IDS, Azure Magazine’s Trade Talks left me with more than enough food for thought and a satiated mind. Both Oki Sato and Philippe Malouin took the audience inside the head of a designer with regards to the important of process. True to Jerzsy Seymour’s reputation, his talk was full of surprises. Jurgen Mayer H., the German who has now become a sort of Starchitect for the Georgian Government spoke of the forward thinking with regards to institutional buildings in a country eager to emerge on the international scene as a destination of interest. The philosophy behind Jurgen’s design for the customs checkpoint at the border of Georgia and Turkey was to build a structure that would represent the meeting point of two countries rather than the dividing line between an “us” and a “them”. Watch for more of his work popping up on the landscape there!

And I have to agree with Jurgen’s comment to the ladies from ArtsCom on his way out the media lounge on Saturday. The show was well organized (and running on German Standard Time)!

I appreciated all the great conversations on architecture, design, and culture I had even if they were cut short because I was running off to the next event.  Thanks to Janet at Latitude 44, Ange-line and Michael of Imm-Living, Matt and Chris of Projector Design, Natalie and Kyle of Composite Angle as well as Laurie and Mania of Samare and Stanley and Ashley of Mason.  Also thanks to designers Tat Chao,Tahir Mahmood and Christopher Solar, the multi-talented Camal Pirbhai, visual artist Camille Turner and architect-slash-design-activist Zahra Ebrahim!

Design Week wouldn’t be as successful as it is without the vision and dedication of people like Gelareh Saadatpajouh, Programs Coordinator of Toronto Design Offsite. Gelareh facilitated an engaging Design With Dialogue session that got each of us to show the group how our design practice looks. With all the different approaches that we shared and our individual ways of finding a solution, one thing was made clear – the community is stronger when we uplift and collaborate.

Everyone contributed to making Design Week such an incredible time!

Plastic sign outside Made Design store
Drawings from group discussion that reads spaces in-between
Sign of Smash and Toronto Design Offsite on the glass window front of the store
Playing with dry ice at design workshop, designer Jerszy Seymour speaking at IDS with slide of drawing of volcano behind his head
Detail of install by Samare at IDS with samples of their felt rugs and the process
Designer Philippe Malouin speaking at IDS with screen behind him that says process dictates form
Window display with paper snowflakes and a poster that says Make Art Everyday
Window display with wooden lamp, chandilier with umbrella handle, and chandilier made with recycled stemware
White paper cloud like structures around modern furniture
Window in the front of gallery with shiny logo reflecting the buildings across the street
Room with mirrors on the floor and under the furniture reflecting the space in infinity, books piled high from floor to ceiling
Five panelists sitting with mics to talk about design in front of a brick wall
Colourful screen printed posters and image of black bricked storefront from street with sign saying Loop
A checkered building on colourful stilts suspended over older brick building with CN Tower in the background
Brick wall with painting across the side with the words Embrace this SpacePhotography by Leah Snyder for Mixed Bag Mag.

1. Detail of Tapestry by Tara Keens-Douglas for the Gladstone’s 10th Come Up To My Room
2. Sign outside MADE, Dundas West during DoDesign
3. Doodles from the Design with Dialogue group for Toronto Design Offsite
4. Sign outside SMASH, The Junction
5. Playing with design process at the Design with Dialogue group for Toronto Design Offsite
6. Designer Jerszy Seymour at IDS for Azure Magazine’s Trade Talks
7. Detail from Samare Design’s install at IDS for “How Do You Work?”
8. Designer Philippe Malouin speaking at IDS for Azure Magazine’s Trade Talks
9. Window display at ARTiculations, The Junction
10. Window display of Brothers Dressler’s  “Ash out of Quarantine Show” at ARTiculations
11. Up-cycled Stemware glass chandelier by Montreal designer Tat Chao at IDS
12. Chandelier with umbrella handle at LightForm at Toronto Design Offsite’s Opening Party
13. Mason Studio’s install at Pavilion for Toronto Design Offsite
14. Window at Cooper Cole Gallery, Dundas West for Shiny Pretty Things show
15. Bruno Billio’s install at the Gladstone’s 10th Come Up To My Room
16. Panel Discussion for Come Up To My Room 10th Anniversary at the Gladstone.  L to r – Andrea Carson Barker, Justin Langlois, Chrisina Zeidler, Zahra Ebrahim, & Pamila Matharu
17. Prints made in house at SMASH, The Junction
18. “Not Forkchops” exhibit at Loop Gallery on Dundas West, Toronto Design Offsite
19. View of OCAD University, McCaul Street
20. Outside wall of Student Gallery at OCAD University, McCaul Street