Tomorrow’s forecast in Toronto? Perfect Weather with possibility of plenty of art!
MIXED 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.
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.
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.
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.
“…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…
The day was divided into two panels moderated by independent curator and art consultant Betty Julian and The Power Plant’s new Artistic Director Gaëtane Verna. Each of the presenters shared how their curatorial practices began as intentional acts of defiance against issues regarding historical amnesia, nationhood, exclusion, gender and race.
When speaking about their show 28 Days: Reimagining Black History Month Pamela Edmonds & Sally Frater of Third Space Art Projects said that their motivation “arose from ambivalence that we had towards Black History Month and how it is usually disengaged from contemporary art. There is a typical [predicatable] aesthetic, the content usually reflecting on the subject of slavery.” Pamela and Sally also take issue with how Canada is often left out of the conversation on the Black Diaspora and 28 Days was a deliberate attempt to address this and bring Canada into the dialogue.
Vicky Moufawad-Paul, Artistic Director at A Space Gallery sees the gallery as a social laboratory and her curatorial practice is centred on the ability art has to communicate to its audiences and raise necessary questions. In “Blown Up: Gaming and War”, a provocative exhibit on war games, Vicky asks what happens when the subject finds that they are occupying a contradictory position. One of the works in the show, Weak by Mohammed Mohsen “is a poetic exploration of the architecture of gaming and its impact on a colonized subject who grew up playing these games. Having experienced one of the few ineffectually censored access points to western media in Saudi Arabia in the 1980s, Mohsen suggests ways in which video games were a troubling source of pleasure and political anxiety.” (cited from www.g101.ca)
For Gita it was the personal political that pushed her into curating. “I came to curating because there was a lack of Iranian women but there was a lot of talk about us but not by us.” As an artist, out of necessity, she began to self-curate and says that the “serious separation between artist and curator is a questionable proposition for me.” Is it time that we see more artists like Gita take up a hybridized role of artist / curator? Judging by the presentations of the panel this is already happening. Along with Gita, Camille Turner and Crystal Mowry, Senior Curator at Kitchener Waterloo Art Gallery, also spoke of how they move from artist to curator and back again depending on their project needs.
Camille opened her presentation by asking “why is Blackness still a surprise in Canada?” Good question. Her projects, regardless of the role she takes, are about “locating discarded narratives” as well as challenging our “Nation’s foundational narratives.” Camille’s project Hush Harbour arose from thinking about how space reveals and conceals.
“HUSH HARBOUR is a SonicWalk that incorporates sound, walking through space and listening through headphones to (re)imagine Toronto’s Black past and to remap Blackness onto the Toronto landscape. HUSH HARBOUR transforms the space that currently hides the Black presence and enables participants to travel back in time. Sound is recorded binaurally and creates an immersive three-dimensional world in which to explore the Black experience.” (cited from www.camilleturner.com)
Crossing borders with honest talk about settlers, migrants and Indigenous populations.
The entangled question of how settler / migrant / indigenous dynamics play out in reality against Canada’s well branded status as a progressive Multicultural society was raised by panel members. Srimoyee Mitra, current Curator of Contemporary Art at the Art Gallery of Windsor and former Program Coordinator at SAVAC (South Asian Visual Arts Centre) related that upon coming to Canada as an international student she was confronted with this clear fact – Canada’s “open” society had closed off and concealed narratives below the surface. In her current curatorial endeavour at AGW she explores the contested spaces that geographical borders can become and how in the context of North America’s Indigenous Peoples the creation of the US / Canadian Border fixed fluid populations to a static location / nation slicing through established communities and family lines.
“Taking place annually from 2013 – 2015, Border Cultures is an exhibition-in-progress, conceptualized as research-based platform for artists and cultural producers to explore and examine the border through different lenses: Border Cultures: Part One (homes, land) in 2013; Border Cultures: Part Two (work, labour) in 2014 and Border Cultures: Part Three (security, surveillance) in 2014. The objective of this series is to mobilize and connect the ongoing critical dialogues on national boundaries in Windsor, with multiple and diverse narratives and experiences of border contexts in different parts of the country and the world. Border Cultures: Part One (homes, land) brings together artists working locally and nationally with those exploring these issues in Ireland, Mexico, Palestine to list a few. Using drawing and printmaking, sculpture and photography, video and sound-based installations, artists in this exhibition develop nuanced critiques and perspectives on questions of nationhood, citizenship and identity in the border-lands” (cited from www.artgalleryofwindsor.com)
Putting theory into practice and walking the talk.
It’s not only the programming in the galleries that needs to be revisioned but also the programming in academic institutions. The discourse that occurs in educational settings can filter out into the practice of alumni to have tremendous impact. Programs like OCAD U’s Indigenous Visual Culture Program allow both Aboriginal and Non-Aboriginal students to benefit from the rich artistic history and core values of Aboriginal Peoples.
It is gatherings like these that allow us all to explore language and collaborate on stringing together the words that best express our ideas. It is also in these types of spaces where we are able to see how the cross-cultural nature of artistic expression in Canada has given us a visual legacy that is incredible in its depth. The presentations by curators Yan Wu of Gendai Gallery and Tamara Toledo of LACAP (Latin American-Canadian Art Projects) showcased wonderful portfolios of work by Asian Canadian and Latin-American Canadian artists but in the time allotted they only scratched the surface.
Softening the silos and creating more cross over communication.
Not just about cultural diversity, this event was also about encouraging a multiplicity of professional voices to be heard by softening silos within the institutions as well as igniting dialogue between all types of art spaces. Keynote speaker Dr. David Dibosa’s call to action was to “bring together your skills” as employees of institutions, community activists in artist-run-centres and independent curators, for it is in these overlapping perspectives we can locate the new directions and the right solutions. He also encouraged the audience to go even further outside the comfort of disciplinarily silos. “Don’t reach for solidarity [with your professional community], go beyond!” Part of the team who executed the research on the groundbreaking project Tate Encounters, Dr. Dibosa related that even the “intelligence of the cleaners and the guards” is important as they “have expertise on the exhibitions that is unique.” In other words, for cultural centres and curators to truly reflect the value of their public they must go broad in their inquiries. Dr. Dibosa feels that it is “only with this detailed knowledge we will ensure that the dialogue will reach and we will hear what needs to be said.”
An organization already doing this well is Manifesto, a not-for-profit community-based arts organization that believes in the transformational power of art. Manifesto’s Visual Art Director Ashley McKenzie-Barnes gave great ideas as to how get an audience engaged. Taking advantage of new technologies the Manifesto team encourages attendees to submit post-event digital evaluations. They also utilize low-tech traditional town hall meetings to get important feedback. By doing this Manifesto has been able to galvanize their audience, extend their brand and produce great programming relevant to their community.
Reflecting back on the entire day and the words of each presenter, MIXED BAG MAG was encouraged that in Canada we have a wealth of professionals who approach their practice with rigor and the intention to be self-reflexive, collaborative and inclusive. Quoting Dr. Dibosa “the challenge of democratization is how do we reflect the values of our audiences and [ensure] that their voices are continually heard?” Monday’s event demonstrated that Canada’s new breed of curators is up for that challenge!
Images of Dr. David Dibosa and Manifesto by Leah Snyder for Mixed Bag Mag.
Top: Farheen HaQ’s “Endless Tether” Bottom: Dana Claxton’s “On the Red Road”
“Not strictly about fashion, the exhibition explores the ways in which the subjectivities and identities of those living in Canada are expressed, deconstructed, and reconfigured, while raising some intriguing questions about the embodied Canadian subject.” (cited Julie Pine )
Thanks goes out to Mira Coviensky of Harbourfront for organizing this trip up to the McMichael. It was a very special way to spend the afternoon!
And thanks to Anna Stanisz of The McMichael for giving us an amazing tour of the FASHIONALITY exhibit. She expertly broke down the interwoven and often complex issues that each of the 23 artists explored using fashion to display on the outside what is being dealt with on the inside regarding nationality, gender and cultural hybridity.
Our way of dressing is our “code” for signifying who we are and what we stand for but sometimes the codes are misunderstood. They become reductive wrapping us in stereotypes influenced by historical fictions. Over time the real meaning gets lost in translation as though the truth has been purposefully misplaced so as not to interact with the humanity of the subject. This exhibit is about calling up the past and challenging our current assumptions – ultimately restoring that humanity.
Curator Julie Pine successfully gathered together a diverse group of artists that used the accessibility of fashion, tongue-in-cheek humour and texture to beautifully explore the dimensionality of this land we call home.
On until September MIXED BAG MAG highly recommends FASHIONALITY: Dress & Identity in Contemporary Canadian Art – worth the trip to Kleinberg!