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. 

AS BLACK HISTORY MONTH ENDS: Reflecting on Wedge Curatorial Collective & Jon Blak @ The Gladstone

Jamall Brothers by Jon Blak courtesy of Wedge Curatorial Collective.

Looking back and forward at the Wedge Collection.

A few times a year Wedge Curatorial Collective produces shows that explore Black Identity from the perspective most often located in the Caribbean Diaspora.

Image by Dennis Morris

My earliest memory of Wedge is back sometime around the early part of the millennium. Wedge’s founder, Kenneth Montague, had set up an exhibit of British-Jamaican photographer Dennis Morris’ work in his home (the original gallery space for Wedge exhibits called Shift Gallery). I met Dennis, who was in attendance, and became interested in the work Ken was doing as he was one of the people working to fill in the gap between fact and fiction when the institutions of culture overlooked contemporary narratives of Blackness.

Fast forward a decade and Ken has turned Wedge Curatorial into something much more than exhibits of photography. Wedge has become about conversations – around race, identity, community and culture. And Wedge has certainly played a part in working towards closing that gap by providing the necessary insertion of Black Identity into cultural institutions like the ROM with exhibits such as Position As Desired / Exploring African Canadian Identity.

This year Wedge has partnered again with the Gladstone Hotel and TD Bank for the “Then & Now Black History Month Series” to present local photographer and youth educator / mentor Jon Blak. Titled HOME Jon’s work is about reaching back to his familial roots in Jamaica while dissecting what it means to be a product of a culture here in Canada, that because of its hybrid mix, can at times cause feelings of dislocation.

Wall of Fame by Jon Blak courtesy of Wedge Curatorial Collective.

Half of the exhibit was photographs of subjects located in Jon’s memories of Jamaica and contemporary youth culture. The other half of HOME spoke to the memories Jon has of the elders in the local Caribbean community who played a critical role in his own youth. There were several rooms full of warm and intimate images of tailors, shopkeepers, and barbers – all the enterprising individuals who added a new layer to Canadian identity while keeping strong ties to the cultural associations back home.

Oakwood by Jon Blak courtesy of Wedge Curatorial Collective.

One room was ‘stacked’ floor to ceiling with photographs that almost convince the viewer that the room is stocked with all the staples one needs to cook a satisfying meal. It’s the replication of the West Indian shop that speaks to the collective memory many of us have from growing up in suburban and urban Southwestern Ontario – a place where you could buy a ‘ting’ or two.

Image by Yannick Anton.

On the night of the opening the install was interactive with boxes of the staples come to life – scotch bonnets, plantain, and callaloo as well as loaves of hard do bread were handed out to the lucky guests while peppery corn soup was served hot and fresh by One Love Vegetarian Take-out.

Image by Yannick Anton.

The night was a reminder of how much the culture of the Caribbean has infused the culture of Canada. Maybe now the conversation about what is home will become less dislocating because of projects like Wedge that support emerging artists who document the facts of Blackness in Canada.

For more information on Wedge Curatorial Collective projects and shows visit their website or follow on Facebook and on twitter @Wedge_Toronto.

For more of Jon’s work visit www.jonblakfoto.com.

NOT WHAT YOU MIGHT THINK: Vodou Closing This Weekend at Museum of Civilization

“The public knows, on the whole, very little about Vodou…”

…It is a world weighed down by centuries of fabrication, most of it negative. Since the twentieth century, with the help of many literary works and films, numerous prejudices and clichés have been passed off as true: the omnipresence of black magic and zombies, the evil Vodou doll, etc. Such a context makes Vodou a dream subject for anyone who values a museum’s educational mission, since there is much to be done.”
~Curator, Mauro Peressini

As my friend and I walked into the last room in the Vodou Exhibition at the Museum of Civilization she commented that really, for all the division religion creates, there are always core elements in each that remain consistent – a code of ethics, respect for a higher power, belief in the afterlife as well as a faith that in this world we have the ability to call upon guides in the spiritual realm to intercede on our behalf.

Vodou is no different. “God is perceived as a general energy that is quite powerful and the lwa are the manifestations of that energy…the sparks of the Great Energy in the elements [earth, fire, sky, water].” Gran Mèt (The Great Master) is “an entity so absolute that one can neither imagine it nor communicate directly with it.”

The exhibit, upon first glance, may not seem to shift from stereotypes – there are skulls, dark creatures, videos of practitioners in trance – but this well curated exhibit is intersected every few feet with video stations where you can pause and have the mystery of what you are witnessing explained.

These videos are key in communicating what Voudoists would like you to take away from the exhibit. If you are willing to interact and take them in you will leave at the end of your journey through the exhibit with a profound insight into this rich and deeply layered spiritual practice.

3 figures with skulls on top and decorated with metal and beads

“The voices and perspectives of Vodouists have a special place in Vodou…”

“…That is one of the essential characteristics of the exhibition. When we consider a cultural or religious group that is different from our own, learning what its members have to say about their reality is a fundamental first step, is it not?”
~Curator, Mauro Peressini

What on the surface looks a preoccupation with death, skulls often represent the presence of our ancestors and the connection we have to them in this life as comrades in our daily battles.

The lwa can be understood as energy archetypes that when we are unbalanced or repressing what we don’t dare speak are accessible to us in order to seek comfort and regain emotional composure.

Mirrors “associated with the spirit world…are protective channels that connect that world with the world of humans”

Pe (altars) “The many objects assembled on our pe remind us of our collective past and present, as well as of the personal and spiritual history of those to whom they belong. The objects are the accumulated traces of our relationships with our ancestors and our lwa (spirits)…”


Exhibit space with sculptures that are part of Vodou traditions

“Recounting of Haiti’s harsh past reveals the extent to which the country’s long history of slavery….has shaped Vodou symbols and practises.”

A religion of revolt, Vodou was birthed from the conditions of chaos and oppression. It was a cosmology that gave order and empowerment to people suffering greatly. Ciboney and Taino, the Indigenous People of the island that is now Haiti, and the slaves brought over from Africa found a synthesis that not only allowed them a way to keep a spiritual practice despite being dislocated and uprooted but Vodou gave them a type of lingua franca that led to the  eventual overthrow of the colonists.

Statue of a woman warrior with words Guinea on her breast to represent Africa, one arm raised in a salut.

“The curators worked in close consultation with members of Haitian-Canadian communities to help ensure the authenticity of the exhibition. The result is an experience that brings museum-goers into direct contact with Vodou artifacts and the people who use them.”

What I appreciated most about the curatorial vision of this exhibit was how interactive technology was utilized in order to have the audience converse back with the practitioners who opened up their world. Upon leaving the exhibit through a circular room of large mirrors a small private area allows you to speak to a computer to leave a message of your impressions of the exhibit. You are also invited to stay and watch the previous messages. Quite amazing!

The exhibit contains over 300+ plus objects, part of the Lehmann Collection, the largest collection of its kind in the world. The curators of the Vodou, Mauro Peressini (Museum of Civilization), Didier Dominique and Rachel Beauvoir-Dominique, have done an incredible job in producing a provocative show that challenges and leaves one changed.

Vodou closes this Sunday at the Museum of Civilazation, Gatineau, Quebec.

More details on the website.

(Quotations sited from exhibit panels and text provided by Museum of Civilization)

Exhibit space with sculptures that are part of Vodou traditions
Embroidered tapestry with what looks like Moses holding 10 Commandments
woman with camera looking into large mirror with series of mirrors reflecting in mirror
Images by Leah Snyder for Mixed Bag Mag.

MAKE YOUR WORDS AS SWEET AS STRAWBERRIES: And Other Great Work at The ImagineNATIVE Art Crawl

Screen capture of thumbnail size images Âhasiw Maskegon-Iskwew, isi-pîkiskwêwin-ayapihkêsîsak (Speaking the Language of Spiders), Website, 1994, screen capture courtesy of ImagineNATIVE.

It’s a great feeling to be in a crowded room and seeing that you are surrounded by people whose passion is making this world a more equitable and empathetic place. This is the first year that ImagineNATIVE has included an Art Crawl as part of its programming and judging by the large turnout it was a good call! Partnering with some of the galleries and artist-run-centres at 401 Richmond (also where ImagineNATIVE is located) Friday’s event was about “featuring contemporary Aboriginal new media art, commissions and retrospectives and artist talks by curators and attending artists.”

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On left, curator Jimmy Elwood. On right, Executive Director of ImagineNATIVE Jason Ryle.

Love Sick Child at A Space

The crawl began at A Space with Love Sick Child curated by Jimmy Elwood and featuring the work of ÂhasiwMaskegon-Iskwew along with Cheryl L’Hirondelle, Adrian Stimson and Leslie McCue. Leslie’s work was particularly poignant. She explains that the piece was based around an Anishinaabe saying “Make your words as sweet as strawberries.” Poised above a rock secured behind plexi-glass is a funnel of strawberry juice that slowly drips over the stone the duration of the exhibit causing it to become the colour of berries / the colour of blood. The audience is invited to talk into a microphone and speak words to the rock. The words can be thoughtful or thoughtless, kind or angry. Leslie explains that the rock, like our bones, forever holds the energetic vibrations of the words. When asked how one can tell if people are speaking positive or negative words to the rock she says you can’t. The blood red juice drips regardless and like verbal abuse one won’t see the direct impact of the words.

Artist Leslie McCue in front of her work.

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Photography by Tyler Hagan courtesy of ImagineNATIVE.

In The Similkameen / Similkameen Crossroads at Gallery 44

Another moving work is “In The Similkameen / Similkameen Crossroads” by Tyler Hagen at Gallery 44. This exhibit is part of an NFB web documentary which can be viewed at nfb.ca/crossroads.

“It’s a highly personal undertaking for Hagan, who, since obtaining his Métis citizenship, has struggled to reconcile his suburban Christian upbringing with the blighted history of the church in Indigenous communities.”

Left to right artist Tyler Hagan, Noa Bronstein of Gallery 44 and Daniel Northway-Frank of ImagineNATIVE.

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Photography by Nigit’stil Norbert courtesy of ImagineNATIVE.

Trade Marks at Prefix

The show at Prefix is “Trade Marks” and includes more photographic and new media work by Keesic Douglas, Meryl McMaster, Nigit’stil Norbert and Bear Witness, curated by Betty Julian.

“Trade Marks presents a new generation of Indigenous artists who, through newly commissioned photographic, video and audio works, challenge working assumptions of who they are. The exhibition contributes to the recently revived conversation on what it is to be Indigenous in Canada today. It also considers how these artists have responded to the imposition of Western systems of classification on non-Western arts and how their artistic practices have been informed by methodologies of decolonization.”

Top image: artist Keesic Douglas speaking about his work. Bottom images: Curator Julie Nagam and artist Lisa Reihana. Artist Bear Witness at Prefix Gallery.

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Lisa Reihana speaking about her work “in Pursuit of Venus” at A Space Gallery.

in The Pursuit of Venus back at A Space

The finale of the Art Crawl was the incredible work “in Pursuit of Venus” by Maori artist Lisa Reihana and curated by Julie Nagam.

“The video is inspired by the colonial 19thcentury panoramic wallpaper Les sauvages de la merPacifique(1804­05) which features European impressions of Indigenous South Pacific Islanders from accounts from Captain Cook’s and Louis de Bougainville’s journals, and reworked engravings by Webber and Hodges. Reihana explains that Les sauvages claims to be historical and is presented as such, when in actuality the wallpaper’s creators harvested information from different historical moments and relocated the bodies into a fictional Tahitian landscape, removing these Pacific people from their cultural, historical and political reality. In this work Reihana has re­staged, re­imagined and reclaimed the panoramic wallpaper by altering its original presentation of print form to live­action video. She has brought each character alive with breathtaking precision of Maori and Pacific cultural practices and embodied knowledge. Each person on the screen resists the colonial misrepresentations of the past and present encounters with Indigenous people across the globe. Reihana’sin Pursuit of Venus is a live-action masterwork that unbinds the shackles of colonialism by producing a highly refined and dynamic video that brings forth visual poetics of Maori and Pacific cultures and knowledge.”


“in Pursuit of Venus” by Lisa Reihana courtesy of ImagineNATIVE.

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If you missed out on last night you can still see these important shows tomorrow, ImagineNATIVE’s last day as well as in the weeks to come.

Love Sick Child @ A Space
Exhibition runs until October 26

In The Similkameen / Similkameen Crossroads @ Gallery 44
Exhibition runs until November 23

Trade Marks @ Prefix
Exhibition runs until November 23

in Pursuit of Venus @ A Space
Exhibition runs until October 24

Banner for ImagineNATIVE film festival done in comic book style

Click here for ImagineNATIVE’s Full 2013 Programming Schedule

You can also follow along on their Facebook Page or Twitter @imagineNATIVE.

Unless otherwise noted all above images by Leah Snyder for Mixed Bag Mag.

ONE DAY GET AWAY FROM THE GTA: Edward Burtynsky @ The McMichael & Land|Slide @ The Museum of Markham

A mirror set in grass that reflects the country like scene around it and has the words WONDER.
Land|Slide Possible Futures exhibit at the Museum of Markham. Work by IAIN BAXTER&.

Tomorrow’s forecast in Toronto? Perfect Weather with possibility of plenty of art!

Lots of trees with clearing where there is a sculpture, a path and a group of children walking byMIXED BAG MAG recommends heading North of the city this weekend for 2 important shows that speak to our expanding urban centres / suburbs and promote dialogue around how to be more intentional around our future growth.

Due to popular demand Canadian photographer Edward Burtynsky’s The Landscape that We Change is held over until Thanksgiving Monday at The McMichael in picturesque Kleinburg, Ontario.

“Burtynsky does not seek to position his images into the realm of political polemic. The artist has stated that they “are what they are.” His photographs engage the observer through what the artist refers to as a “duality” in the viewing process. In Burtynsky’s aesthetic interpretation, his images render the subject most often in rich colour, detail, and textural qualities. Simultaneously, the observer is made aware of the devastation and altered state of nature that is portrayed. The tension generated by mediating the dual nature of the individual’s response to the image is intended to provoke a thoughtful dialogue about the environment and societal attitudes.” Read more…

For more information on planning your visit to The McMichael click here.

Stone carving on large boulder with wood cabin and trees in the background
The grounds at The McMichael Museum in Kleinburg, Ontario.
Image of mirror in grass with words REFLECT on it and barn and trees in the background
IAIN BAXTER&’s “Markhamaze” at the Land|Slide Possible Futures exhibit.

Over in Markham is the much talked about Land|Slide Possible Futures exhibit that includes a large group of national and international artists covering the 25 acre grounds of the Markham Museum. Taking art of out the gallery space and plunking it into the perfect autumn setting of changing leaves, grass and blue skies was a pretty brilliant idea! Tomorrow will be my 4th visit. Green space + public art = My Idea of a Day Well Spent!

“Land|Slide Possible Futures is a groundbreaking large-scale public art exhibition which responds to a world in transition where the past, present and future collide. The landscape of Markham will be transformed by the work of over 30 national and international artists to explore themes of multiculturalism, sustainability, and community.” Read more…

 

FYI – FREE SHUTTLE SERVICE on Saturday from MOCCA & CSI Bathurst. Below info from Land|Slide’s Facebook page.

The Performance Bus ( Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art (MOCCA) – Varley Art Gallery – Markham Museum):

MOCCA to Varley Art Gallery: 2PM
Varley Art Gallery to Markham Museum: 5PM

Regular Bus:
MOCCA to Markham Museum: 4PM, 6:30PM & 8:30PM
Markham Museum return to MOCCA: 7:30PM & 10PM

And NEWLY ADDED: An Urban Planning bus coming up from the Centre for Social Innovation at Bathurst and Bloor (720 Bathurst St) at 1PM.

This will take you up just in time for a talk by urban planners/artists Department of Unusual Certainties at 2:30PM, and a planning tour led by Land|Slide planning experts Lisa Hosale, Sara Udow and Katherine Perrott.



All above images by Leah Snyder for Mixed Bag Mag.

Art work from top to bottom:
Inside the wigwam of Julie Nagam’s “singing our bones home” install
Close up at video for Camille Turner’s AfroFuturist performance “Time Warp”
Architect Frank Haverman’s install “Untitled” (I call it “Brilliant”)
IAIN BAXTER&’s “Markhamaze” at the Land|Slide Possible Futures exhibit.

Don’t miss these two really important exhibits!

Follow The McMichael on Facebook & twitter @LandSlide2013
Follow Land|Slide Possible Futures on Facebook & twitter @mcacgallery

WHERE MY LADIES AT: The Creative Women I Know & Their Vision for Nuit Blanche 2013

Logo for Nuit Blanche

I know a lot of talented people – people who inspire me with their insight, challenge my perceptions, and expand my mind.

Some of the those people are these four women – artist Christine Kim, curator Crystal Mowry, designer Gelareh Saadatpajouh and architect Talayeh Hamidya. I have walked away from every conversation with these women with some golden nugget and so it goes without saying that when I found out that each of them were adding their talent to Nuit Blanche 2013 they all got added to my must-see list (along with everything Ami Barak curated!).


CHRISTINE KIM & PAPER ORBS

“Paper Orbs begins the night as a massive origami sculpture which dissolves into thousands of paper helmets worn by visitors as they parade down University Avenue. As both a lantern and a center of gravity, the paper float pulls visitors in and encourages them to return throughout the night to experience the dissolution of the paper sculpture. The accumulated paper helmets disperse into scattered constellations that float along the street. The helmets also resonate with notions of patterned order and militaristic armor.” More info…

Where: University Ave & Armour St. View Map

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CRYSTAL MOWRY WITH IVAN JURAKIC & ROMANCING THE ANTHROPOCENE

“Curators Ivan Jurakic and Crystal Mowry invite you to explore the age of man and its effect on our environment along King Street west of Yonge Street and Bay Street south of Richmond Street West…The Anthropocene, or age of man, is a term proposed by geologists and ecologists as a replacement for the Holocene, the current geological epoch that began over 10,000 years ago. The Anthropocene marks a distinct era after the advent of the Industrial Revolution, a period in which humanity has left an indelible mark on both the geological record and the ecosystem. At face value it acknowledges the triumph of science and human achievement but it also suggests a cautionary message regarding climate change, the destruction of natural habitat, resource depletion, and the extinction of plant and animal species.

Using the Anthropocene as our guiding principle, we want to address the complexities of this proposed new age within the context of the urban environment while addressing our enduring, and yet troubled relationship with the natural world.” More info…

Where: King Street west of Yonge Street & Bay Street south of Richmond Street West. View Map

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TALAYEH HAMIDYA & GELAREH SAADATPAJOUH (SOCIETY OF HOME LUDENS)  & YOU ARE IN THE LABYRINTH

‘You are in a labyrinth’ is a game designed by ‘Society of Homo Ludens’ and commissioned by Queen West BIA for the special event of Nuit Blanche 2013 Toronto.

“Every labyrinth is made of three defining elements: a starting point, a centre and a path in between that connects the dots. On October 5th, the city becomes your labyrinth, look for clues and signs along the path for direction. At the centre, a reward is awaiting you, where you will be given an insight into yourself and the world around you, only if you complete the path from the beginning to the end. But first you have to hum a secret to grant the entry into the labyrinth.” More info…

Where: Alex Wilson Parkett, 522 Richmond Street West. Look for arrows and signs around the city for direction. View Map

“A labyrinth is a symbolic journey…but it is a map we can really walk on, blurring the difference between map and world.”
~ Rebecca Solnit, Wanderlust: A History of Walking

 

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Also excited about THIRD CULTURE at the OCAD U Student Gallery.

“Third Culture is an exhibition of multi-media works that examine and interrogate the historical and ongoing dilemmas of multiculturalism. The artists featured use technological, sonic, and visual arts, and combine elements of science fiction, historical fiction, fantasy and magic-realism.” More info…

FEATURING WORK BY:

Andy Gavin Hicks (Andycapp) / Ayesha Mansur / Darcy Obokata / Hakili Don /Ingrid Mesquita / Kyle Hough / Liam Crockard / Matt Langdon / Minesh Mandoda / Nep Sidhu  / Rajni Perera / Sab Meynert / Sara Golish / Todd Westendorp

Join the Facebook Event Page

Where:OCAD U Student Gallery, 52 McCaul St. View Map

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Find out more about Nuit Blanche on the website or Facebook.
Follow along on twitter @sbnuitblancheTO & #snbTO

 

WRITTEN ON THE BODY/ POLITICS OF POETRY: Iranian Artists & the Power of Script Pt 2

Image of sculpture made from bubble wrap and words on wall behind it saying The Third Space

Curator Sanaz Mazinani’s show The Third Space is wrapping up this weekend at Toronto’s Harbourfront Centre. MIXED BAG MAG caught up with this busy and multi-talented woman whose career as an artist, educator and curator has her bifurcating herself between Toronto and San Francisco. In the second part (read Part 1 here) of MIXED BAG MAG’s look into the work of contemporary Iranian art Sanaz offers historical background to the contemporary foreground of some of the work included The Third Space and the symbolic and visual power of script.

 Classical Persian alphabet with Roman phonetics underneath

The History of Calligraphy in Persia

Persian Calligraphy has had a significant effect on the enhancement of Persian arts and culture. The various Iranian Calligraphic styles, such as Taliq, Nastaliq, Naskh, Thulth, Reqa, Towqi, Shekasteh, and Kufic each carry with them an emblem of an era of history. These decorative scripts allow the reader to visually enjoy the composition of the word, in a wholly new way, providing the viewer with multiple levels of engagement with the work of art.

Mother and son looking at images of art incorporating Farsi script
Artist Gita Hashemi‘s Book of Illuminations.

Contemporary use of calligraphy by Iranian artists

Many Iranian artists find inspiration in the traditional forms of Persian Calligraphy. However, few are able to successfully marry the traditional forms of calligraphy with a contemporary voice in new and successful ways. One of these artists is Gita Hashemi, whose recent project “The Book of Illuminations” is featured in “The Third Space” exhibition. In this work Hashemi explores the intersection between politics and the personal through calligraphic representations of culturally charged words. Her calligraphy paintings do not merely render poetic verses, but aim to unpack the meaning behind words that we use on a daily basis to symbolically question cultural in-tolerances. One example uses the word “غربتی” which is a derogatory term that comes from the root word “غربت” and means the longing for one’s homeland. But used as an offensive term, it takes on a new meaning and refers to that person as someone who does not belong, and does not fit into the norm. These terms shown here in proximity to the personal narration of the artist’s life writing speak to the expectations placed on us and the limitations of societal benchmarks. Hashemi’s The Book of Illuminations is a fresh approach to the long tradition of calligraphy from Iran and uses a feminist perspective to challenge this traditionally male-dominated, decorative practice by inserting the political into the equation.


Artist Gita Hashemi‘s Book of Illuminations.

In another project, Toronto based artist, Sona Safaei, uses the Farsi and English alphabet and essay writing styles  to uncover the differences in the two languages, which intern demonstrate alternative ways of thinking through a subject. Her process often engages with lost meanings in translations, as she questions the possibility of communications across cultures through looking at the self and the feelings associated with otherness. In The Third Space exhibition, Safaei-Sooreh two works respond to the meeting of two languages (English and Farsi). In Alphabet, the viewer finds herself in front of a split screen video as the camera tracks two alphabets being hand written in pencil – one in English, from left to right, and the other in Farsi, from right to left. A dense and textured sound enhances the experience of watching each gesture. The sounds from the left and right videos combine in a seamless collaboration. An amalgamation occurs precisely at the moment when the video loop comes to a close and both sets of alphabets have been written out tin their entirety. This charming momentary union marks an important occurrence, as the English alphabet includes 26 letters and the Persian alphabet 32, this serendipitous synchronicity signals a potential for cohesion of these two cultures. Safaei-Sooreh’s second work titled, Border is a dual channel video installation in which two sets of texts on the subject of art intersect at the corner of a room. The writing disappears on the borderline where adjacent walls meet, creating a unique experience for the viewer, as the piece examines the duality of experiences always at play in transcultural situations.


Artist Sona Safaei-Sooreh’s Alphabet.

CLOSING TOMORROW SUNDAY SEPT 15!
The Third Space is on at the Harbourfront Centre’s York Quay Gallery.

LOCATION
235 Queens Quay W.
Toronto, ON
M5J 2G8, Canada
HOURS
Saturday: Noon – 6 pm
Sunday: Noon – 6 pm
For more information visit the website.

All above images courtesy of curator Sanaz Mazinani’s.

 

TIME FOR RADICAL CHANGE: Sakahàn at the National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa

Group of children Tlingit / Aleut artist Nicholas Galanin (top right) with some of the kids of the Sakahàn Youth Camp.

Sowing the seeds of change in programming for youth.

All of us have a story or two about a moment that was magical and breathed life into the parts of our mind that weren’t aware that we could dream so big.

Ottawa based Anishinaabe artist Melody McKiver tells of her mother, as a teenager, meeting Daphne Odjig – one of Canada’s great artists. Her father had taken her to an exhibit in Dryden, in the mid-70s. That chance encounter, although short, was powerful and pivotal in her mother’s life because she never knew that a Native woman could aspire to what Daphne had become.

If you can’t locate yourself in the faces of the makers of culture it may be impossible for you to know that the light inside of you has the potential to shine bright. Which is why programs like Sakahàn Youth are so critical. We won’t understand the full generational impact of Sakahàn on the Canadian cultural landscape  for a long time but I don’t doubt it will be pivotal for this country.

Left to Right: Some of the members of the Junior Curator Program. Children from the Summer Camp Program all at the opening night of Nigi Mikan / I Found It: Indigenous Women’s Identity at Fall Down Gallery, Ottawa. Curated by the Junior Curators.

Sakahàn – meaning “to light [a fire]” in the language of the Algonquin peoples.

Artists working outside on rock carving with machines for cutting into stone. Tlingit / Aleut artist Nicholas Galanin and assistant working outside of the National Gallery on his piece “Nature Will Reclaim You” just one of the many outdoor works.

For Melody, also a co-organizer for Niigaan Treaty Workshops, it is the first time in her lifetime she has experienced Ottawa engaging with Aboriginal artists in such a meaningful way and she is encouraged by the positive change. The exhibit also engages the people of Ottawa as it extends out into the city in many different venues and events – inside / outside, Government institutions as well as artist-run centres, university campuses, & urban powwows. The exhibit even extends beyond the city to include Decolonize Me currently on at the Art Gallery of Windsor and shows like artist Jeff Kahm at Urban Shaman, Winnipeg.

Melody goes on to say that because of  “the way that Sakahàn is set up it commands a different level of thought and introspection than other exhibits of this scale.”

And it is this insertion and inclusion into so many spaces that repeats an important motif across the Nation’s Capital – that contemporary Canada includes strong Indigenous voices.

Woman standing in front of an art work at a gallery speaking to youth sitting around her on the floor.

Photo by Patrick Doyle of the Ottawa Citizen

Métis artist and the National Gallery’s Sakahàn Educator Jaime Koebel relates this story:

LARA – “She was a young girl who had participated in the Sakahàn summer camp tours. I explained to the youth about “Āniwaniwa” and how a building that the community had a special connection to was overtaken by a flood. This flood was created by industry people in New Zealand who needed a hydro-electric dam to produce energy for the diamond mine they were putting in. She cried because I related it to losing Wabano Centre for Aboriginal Health or the Odawa Native Friendship Centre and having love for a building. [The loss of that building would mean] not being able to practice your culture or traditions or have community gatherings anymore “because, what if the Ottawa River covered it all?” like the Waikato River in Hora Hora did? It was an example of how much this can affect our next generation. The very next visit, she was explaining to a new summer camp youth about Brett Graham’s “Āniwaniwa”  piece – she was confident and she wasn’t crying, she was participating and had learned a little piece of Indigenous history.”


Aniwaniwa
from Tony Clark on Vimeo.

Maori artist Brett Graham’s “Āniwaniwa”  is one of the moving installations at the National Gallery that communicates, in an aesthetically stunning way, a painful memory. I doubt that there is a single work included at Sakahàn that doesn’t touch on deep pain but with 150 pieces by over 80 Indigenous artists from 16 countries it is clear that there is a growing global movement to express and explore the best way to communicate the legacy of trauma to audiences of all backgrounds.

While visiting Ottawa from New Zealand Brett Graham had a chance to lead a workshop with the summer camp kids. With incredible experiences like this, where the youth are up-close and personal with some of the leading international artists of our time, they get the chance to have many magical moments.

The spark created by Sakahàn will give our youth the chance to go on to create a new cultural legacy for this country. It’s going to be amazing to see the artistic fruits that these children grow.

Can’t wait!

Logo for Sakahan Youth


Trailer by filmmaker Melody McKiver for Sakahàn Youth‘s Junior Curator project – Nigi Mikan / I Found It: Indigenous Women’s Identity

SAKAHAN CLOSES THIS LABOUR MONDAY, SEPT 2. DON’T MISS YOUR CHANCE TO SEE THIS GROUNDBREAKING EXHIBIT!

Sakahàn’s Youth Programs through the National Gallery include:

Youth Tours
Junior Curator Program
Sakahàn Youth Ambassadors
Our Ways; Our Stories
– a lecture workshop series

As well as partnership programs with the Ottawa Aboriginal Coalition:
Sakahàn Youth Summer Camps
Concentric Circles – Artists stay at 3 local reserves (Kitigan Zibi, Pikwàkanagàn, Akwesasne) for 1 week
Sakahan School Programs – this program will continue past Sakahan’s closing date of Sept 2 into the school year.

Follow  Sakahàn Youth on Facebook and twitter @Sakahan_Youth.

Also check out the CBC’s Waubgeshig Rice’s coverage of the Sakahàn Youth program
Teaching through aboriginal art camp: Children in Ottawa are learning about the First Nations culture through the Sakahàn camp”

Poster for Youth programming for Sakahan with image of a stone carving of two hands joined by a lock.

 

TIME FOR RADICAL CHANGE: “Edward Burtynsky: Oil” at the Museum of Nature, Ottawa

Poster for Edward Burtynsky: Oil at Museum of Nature with young man standing in front of beached oil tanker

QUESTION: “When we run out of oil, what will we lose? What will we gain?”

ANSWER: “We will lose what we know, what we are used to and comfortable with. We will gain the unknown, and the opportunity to create a new way of being.

“We will lose a mistake in history. We will gain a new beginning whether we like it or not.”

Anyone who has experienced Canadian photographer Edward Burtynsky’s work knows that it at once attracts and repels. He frames our modern condition of dependence on oil in such a way that despite the tragedy of the landscapes there is a grace in how it moves us to remember what was there before and what we have lost. That pain of loss hopefully compels us to protect what we still have.

Early bipedal footprints saved in volcanic rockLike the Australopithecus footprints in Olduvai Gorge, Tanzania the oil trapped in the Bengali men’s footprints speaks to our Home Erectus (de)evolution. Can we do better?

In their comment section, the Canadian Museum of Nature has collected some important thoughts that prove may be we can.

QUESTION: “Imagine that the last drop of oil was used up today. When you get up tomorrow morning, how would your life change?”

ANSWER: “In the beginning it would be mayhem on Earth, but adaptation would be necessary to survive and continue. The strongest and smartest will come out of this and learn much along the way.”

Image of a man's footprints solidified in sand with oil pooling into them.
Edward Burtynsky, Recycling #10, Chittagong, Bangladesh, 2001. Chromogenic color print. Photograph © Edward Burtynsky, courtesy Nicholas Metivier Gallery, Toronto / Howard Greenberg & Bryce Wolkowitz, New York

QUESTION: “What stands out as the most striking image in this exhibition? Why?”

ANSWER: “The images in Bangladesh – oil at the expense of the environment and the world’s poor.”

“Seeing barefoot workers cleaning up and dealing with our “oil mess” is a reminder that we are all connected, and nothing we do is without a result.”

QUESTION: “Future historians might call the 20th century the Century of Oil. What do you think the 21st century will be known for?”

ANSWER: “The century of consequences.”

Hopefully the 21st will also been known as the The Century of Change.

Edward Burtynsky: Oil
Canadian Museum of Nature
Ottawa, Canada
until Labour Day Monday, September 2, 2013.

Follow the Museum of Nature on Facebook & twitter @museumofnature.

Image of Edward Burtynsky, Shipbreaking #23, Chittagong, Bangladesh, 2000. Chromogenic color print. Photograph © Edward Burtynsky, courtesy Nicholas Metivier Gallery, Toronto / Howard Greenberg & Bryce Wolkowitz, New York

TIME FOR RADICAL CHANGE: Where to begin?

A line of penguins running off an iceberg plunging into the water.
Chinstrap penguins. South Sandwich Islands. 2009.  © Sebastião Salgado. Courtesy of Amazonas images.

Start with art.

More than several times a day my heartbreaks as I watch what comes through my Facebook feed, like today as more information regarding the children of Syria killed by chemical weapons punctuated a moment. In these Orwellian times when we discover that Big Brother is indeed watching the wonder of the internet and social media is that we are watching too. We participate in bearing witness.

The other stunning quality of social media is that for every story that crushes me and makes me weep there are double, even triple, stories of action and resistance that offer hope and inspiration.

For example, my feed also includes what’s happening right now at Canada’s major cultural institutions and auxiliary events and projects surrounding these exhibits.  We have amazing curatorial teams that have produced shows that challenge the Chinese Government’s position on Human Rights, Canada’s policies on Aboriginal issues and the Economy of Oil, and global attitudes regarding the Environment.

My concern – do we walk away from these shows changed at a deep core level? Do we return to our daily lives radically motivated to stop being part of the problem and act in service of social justice and environmental causes? Will we change our level of comfort for the sake of stopping someone else’s pain or the loss of natural resources?

I pray that all the illumination will indeed cause a spiritual shift towards a tipping point that will alter the world. I want to see civilizations that are socially and environmentally just because today as children’s lives are ended by chemical warfare in Syria in this country Aboriginal women are being sold into the sex trade and the land along with the women is being violated.

It’s time to get radical folks.

What we experience in these exhibits can be our entry points into living with intention.

RECOMMENDED SHOWS THAT WILL CHANGE PERSPECTIVES:

Sakahàn @ The National Gallery, Ottawa on until Sept 2

Indigenous and Urban @ The Museum of Civilization on until Sept 2

Sebastião Salgado’s Genesis @ The ROM, Toronto on until Sept 2

Edward Burtynsky: Oil @ Museum of Nature, Ottawa on until Sept 2

Decolonize Me @ Art Gallery of Windsor, Windsor on until Sept 15

Edward Burtynsky: The Landscape The We Change @ The McMichael, Kleinburg on until Sept 29

Ai Weiwei: According to What @ The AGO, Toronto on until Oct 27

& BIG FYI

Ghost Dance: Activism. Resitance. Art. @ Ryerson Image Centre, Toronto opening Sept 18 thru to Dec 15

“For centuries, colonialism has been the cause of suffering, oppression and violence perpetuated against Indigenous people in Canada and many other countries. But attributing the rise of resistance, activism and the associated art to colonialism itself is disingenuous. The destructive ideologies inherent in colonialism are manifest by the interactions of people. The events caused by these interactions change people and their societies. Indigenous art is not predicated on “colonialism,” but on the events that it causes…Ghost Dance examines the role of the artist as activist, as chronicler and as provocateur in the ongoing struggle for Indigenous rights and self-empowerment.” Steve Loft, more on RIC’s website

Series of ads for exhibits at Canada's major cultural institutions.