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.)

 

 

 

 

 


TIME FOR RADICAL CHANGE: Sebastião Salgado: Genesis at the Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto

A line of zebras drinking insync at a pond
© Sebastião Salgado Courtesy of Amazonas images

“Deserts that we made, that we provoked with our own hands.”

The beauty of Sebastião Salgado’s message in Genesis? That the solution really is so simple! It’s not without hard work but if we want to start to reverse the damage done it is doable and Sebastião has proven it with his own hands on his own land.

Upon inheriting his parent’s cattle ranch in Brasil, the rainforest that was already almost 50% gone when he was a child was now diminished to 0.5%. Experiencing the devastation of the deforestation that had occurred over the decades of living far away, the love of his life, his wife Lélia, dared him with a “crazy idea.”

“Why don’t you put back the rainforest that was here before. You told me you were born in paradise. Let’s build paradise again.”  And so began Instituto Terra.

The result?

From this…

Image of land that no longer has trees. In a valley a cluster of buildings stand.

To this!

The after shot of the land with no trees now completely covered with trees. In a valley a cluster of buildings stand.

GENESIS is a global call to action.

Steven Laurie, the Associate Project Manger at the ROM, recounts this story:

I was lucky enough to have a brief conversation with a visitor in the gallery a few days after Genesis opened to the public. The individual, who was in their mid 20’s, questioned Sebastião Salgado’s notion of untouched landscapes by presenting a compelling argument: “The landscapes, people and animals depicted in the photos cannot be removed or isolated from the environmental impacts experienced globally.”

While initially Salgado’s idea of untouched landscapes presented a problem for the visitor, it also provided a great starting point for a richer conservation. We discussed how Genesis, conceptually from title to the photos shown, communicates a desire to prospect a “truth” or in the least seek an “origin” from which to measure, map or index change. From this viewpoint, the visitor suggested the idea of Genesis possibly being a story created to incite environmental activism through an individual’s “revelation” and journey for “faith”.  He finished our chat by saying, “You can’t fault Salgado for trying!”   

“Curated by Lélia Wanick Salgado, GENESIS takes you on a journey to rediscover the far corners of the world and urges you to consider what is left of our planet, what is in peril and what is left to be saved.”

The images in the exhibit that moved me the most were the ones where human beings are wrapped in the intimacy of their relationship with their environment. I am in agreement that the people pictured in the images cannot be “removed or isolated” from the rest of the world and are part of the cumulative impact but what comes forth from their relationship to their environment is an understanding of how to innovate with design – design that is sustainable leaving the lightest of footprints.

A group of dark skin women stand with their backs to the camera. Long woven bags, like sacks, hang from their heads. Yali women. West Papua, Indonesia. 2010. © Sebastião Salgado. Courtesy of Amazonas images. 

The image above is of women in Indonesia with the ‘perfect bag’! These beautiful bags are hand woven with orchid fibers.

Groupd of dark skin men and women huddled close to each other making fire. San people make a fire. Botswana. 2008. © Sebastião Salgado. Courtesy of Amazonas images.

Despite what we may assume, the subsistence life of the San of Botswana leaves much time for leisure and days spent in the familiar company of family and friends.

Snow storm conditions with sun shining through the squalls. A woman in with sleighs and a hide tent pitched behind her.North of Ob River. Inside the Arctic Circle. Yamal Peninsula. Siberia. Russia. 2011. © Sebastião Salgado Courtesy of Amazonas images.

Sebastião’s images of the Nenets of Siberia show the lightness of being that comes with a nomadic culture that follows the seasons for the sake of their reindeer herds. Easy come. Easy go. The freedom of a sustainable lifestyle.

Important lessons for a post-modern world weighed down by the burdens of a lifestyle of accumulation.

GENESIS CLOSES THIS LABOUR MONDAY, SEPT 2. DON’T MISS YOUR CHANCE TO SEE THIS MOVING & BEAUTIFUL EXHIBIT!

Follow Genesis and the ROM on Facebook and twitter @ROMContemporary

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.

(un)HAPPY CANADA DAY: Time for Revision / Admission

Re-thinking Canada’s National Narrative

O Canada! Our home on native land!

The Europeans arrived to wide open spaces. Empty. Land to be cleared, cultivated and tamed into lots and plots. Roads carved and structures erected meant a civilization existed where none had before. Terra Nullius – “land belonging to no one” therefore it was reasonable that it should now be theirs to claim as their home and native land.

That is what is taught. That the first settlers came and inserted themselves into empty spaces that were just waiting to be filled by hard work, some elbow grease and a sense of adventure.

And it is that legacy of entitlement and the idea that the land is just there for the taking that has brought us to a point in this country’s history where things like Canada’s breaking with the of Kyoto Accord is actually a logical chapter in tale that has long been fraught with environmental abuse followed by overt denial of that abuse.

In spite of overwhelming evidence that the Alberta tar sands is an environmental disaster of epic proportions the Government continues to promote it as a new frontier that makes economic sense even if it is at the expense of people and land – when necessary, selective amnesia works best.

Visual artist Camille Turner refers to Canada as a “landscape of forgetting.”  Her work on projects like Miss Canadiana and Hush Harbour deal with Canada’s accepted / expected overlooking of the history Black Canadians. Canada’s need to separate itself from its aggressive American Cousin whose obsessive enthusiasm for Manifest Destiny is always a PR nightmare has encouraged the adoption of ‘colonial-lite’ – some amount of assimilation is necessary but in the Canadian Mosaic no one gets burned in the Melting Pot. The only problem is that the facts that don’t properly support the fiction get erased – like slavery and a system of apartheid. They drop below the surface but they don’t go away.

In the dynamics of a family we see how generations can go on to willingly participate in a lie. It’s a survival mechanism to ensure the endurance of the clan but as the sins of the fathers are revisited on the sons, like a hiccup in time, the memories come back up.

For Canada that time has come. The ancestors are speaking through the lips of the children born at a time when things looked bright but these souls were perceptive to the fact that things weren’t right. A new generation of spiritual archaeologists are uncovering our culture and exposing it for what it is – problematic and painful. They are accessing the genetic archives where the emotional memories still exist.

This process of digging down through layers has become a mechanism for healing.

Though our language is still awkward and our methods may lack sophistication in the act of uncovering we come together – First Peoples, Settlers and New Immigrants – to get to the bottom of it.

So although unhappy it’s not without hope that I write these words.

black stroke

MIXED BAG MAG recommends Cultivating Canada: Reconciliation Through the Lenses of Cultural Diversity.

Cultivating Canada is a collection of essays produced by the Aboriginal Healing Foundation

“…Because Canada is a nation of diverse cultures, its people drawn from every region of the world, any discussion of reconciliation must include the perspectives of those who have arrived in more recent days and those who trace their family histories beyond western European colonial states…Those who have arrived in Canada from places of colonization, war, genocide, and devastation will very likely have valuable insights into historical trauma; their perspectives should be considered also.”  Read more…

black stroke

And some other important perspectives…

This day in history: July 1, 1967
in The Vancouver Sun

Our home on Native land: The celebration of colonization in Canada by Susana Deranger for www.briarpatchmagazine.com

Genocide, racism and Canada Day: An Algonquin-Anishinaabekwe love letter by Lynn Gehl Gii-Zhigaate-Mnidoo-Kwe for www.rabble.ca

Why I don’t celebrate Canada Day and never have by Judy Rebick for www.rabble.ca

Bill McKibben and Naomi Klein to join Canada’s tar sands ‘healing walk’ by Stephen Leahy for The Guardian

Canadians increasingly reporting aboriginal identity by Gloria Galloway and Tavia Grant for The Globe & Mail

Happy Colonization Day? by Michael Redhead Champagne

FATHER’S WHO FIGHT FOR FREEDOM

Little girl sitting on her father's shoulders during a protest on Syria, holding a flag with message FREEDOM with more flags in backbround. Syrians protest against Assad in Toronto. Image by Leah Snyder for Mixed Bag Mag.

How many father’s actions are motivated by their dreams for their children?

Dreams of freedom. Dreams of safety.
Dreams of justice.

For every revolution resolved there are fathers to thank for the risks they took.

Large crowd of people walking down Istanbul city street waving the Turkish flag.

At protests in Turkey and uprisings in Syria fathers are fighting for their children and their grandchildren to have a life that respects their humanity.

Young woman from Soweto raises her hand with other students behind her holding a flag with words "Students and Parents let's be one. Kruger's boys have killed again."

Today, on June 16, as South Africa commemorates the 1976 Student Uprisings in Soweto, along with those courageous young people, we remember a father to a nation. Because of the sacrifice of Nelson Mandela, as well as the sacrifice of his own children who waited 27 years for their father’s freedom, we see a very different South Africa in the 21st Century.

And today in Canada, as we totter on the edge of environmental disaster of epic proportions, father’s from East to West, from all backgrounds, Indigenous and non-indigenous,  are fighting for Canadians to have a country where they can drink clean water, breathe in fresh air and live healthy lives for all the generations to come.

Let’s support all the fathers who are making this world better.

Older man raises his hand in peace symbol, young boys in behind him holding giant Syrian FREEDOM flag like a blanket.
Syrians protest against Assad in Toronto. Image by Leah Snyder for Mixed Bag Mag.