As part of the exhibition a conversation with curator Pamela Edmonds and the artists David Ofori Zapparoli and Yannick Anton will be moderated by Kwende Kefentse (aka DJ Memetic) tomorrow evening.
WHEN: Tuesday, February 27 @ 7 pm WHERE: Carleton University Art Gallery (CUAG), St. Patrick’s Building, Carleton University, Ottawa
More on the Outside These Walls:
“This exhibition brings together photographic works by Toronto-based artists Yannick Anton and David Ofori Zapparoli whose respective imagery share a community-focused and collaborative approach to documenting urban life and its people. Zapparoli has represented the visual history of Canadian cities for over 30 years, the majority of his work is informed by a strong social realist approach. Until 1999, he had focused on the public housing development of Regent Park, putting a human face on the stigmatized and transitional community of which he had been a part of since his teens.Anton’s candid and energetic photographs draw stylistic inspiration from the youthful, street, fashion, music and queer-positive cultures that he captures. Together both artists’ compelling works present unique and unapologetic insights into diverse landscapes and lives, addressing the systemic barriers that they expose and refute, while re-imagining regimes of the image away from fixed inscriptions of race, gender, class and corporeality.” (more info…)
Theaster Gates moderated by Pamela Edmonds of Third Space Art Projects
Whenever I bring up the “Urban Field Series” with my Toronto artist, designer and curator friends everyone remembers a talk they went to that was phenomenal. This annual series brings to Toronto cultural provocateurs from around the world to discuss how culture grafts its expressions onto the urban space.
This Thursday Prefix welcomes Theaster Gates to Toronto.
“[Theaster Gates] the award-winning artist and director of the Arts and Public Life initiative, University of Chicago, speaks about his extraordinary community projects that critically engage with the public, including Dorchester Projects, a cluster of abandoned buildings on Chicago’s South Side that has been transformed into a vibrant cultural locus. Moderated by Pamela Edmonds, independent curator. Presented by Prefix and Third Space Art Projects.”
Prefix Institute of Contemporary Art
401 Richmond Street West, Suite 124
Toronto, M5V 3A8
Doors Open at 7 pm. Tickets can be purchased at the door.
$8 Prefix Photo subscribers, students & seniors
While in Ottawa this summer to cover Sakahàn at the National Gallery I discovered a lot about this city that I love so I decided I needed to spend more than a weekend and more than a week – why not an entire month?!
Turns out I came at a great time! Despite the dull November sky there are some vibrant events happening this week.
“Bounty is a solo exhibition of recent work by artist Chikonzero (Chiko) Chazunguza exploring his subversive take on the ongoing inequalities of exchange between contemporary Africa and the Western world. This installation brings together a series of paintings, photographic images as well as a performative work that reflects on the artist’s experiences living and working across three continents (Africa, Europe and Canada).”
THURS @ OTTAWA ART GALLERY
“Aboriginal scholar, poet and writer, Armand Garnet Ruffo previews his forthcoming book based on the life and art of Norval Morrisseau! The book combines the mythic world of Ojibway storytelling with evocative realism to tell the amazing story of the artist’s life. The reading will be accompanied by a visual presentation of the artist’s paintings.”
Single screenings: $5 / Biennial all-access pass: $15
“Now in its fifth edition, the Art Star Video Art Biennial is a unique platform for artists and curators working with moving images to connect and exchange in the national capital. Under the theme of Witness and Testify, Art Star highlights practices rooted in place, intimacy, and broader questions of social movements and collective histories. Over four days, SAW hosts screenings, social events, and masterclasses with video artists from around the planet, and curators culled from our vibrant local milieu. We’re thrilled to be partnering this year with the Media Arts Network of Ontario for their national conference, Evolve or Perish, which will add a special contingent of media artists, programmers, and theorists to the mix. Join us as we celebrate art’s potential to effect social change and challenge our assumptions of the world around us.”
“World-class, award-winning, and Oscar-submitted films from 27 countries across the European Union!
Special guests welcomed this year include Tahar Rahim, lead actor from the Cannes-selected Grand Central (France), as well as Matthias Drescher, producer of the acclaimed drama Shifting the Blame (Germany).
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.
Perhaps the most obvious comparison one might make upon seeing Chiko Chazunguza’s paintings would be to the work of Jean-Michel Basquiat. But to stop there would be like experiencing a Wifredo Lam painting in the Cubist style and expecting that its inspiration followed the same trajectory to creation as a painting by Picasso. Like these masters of Cubism, Chiko and Jean-Michel punctuate the compositional conversation with some shared visual shorthand and technique but the point from which they leap off of is, like Lam and Picasso, individually unique and located within their own cultural specificity.
Originally from just outside Harare, Zimbabwe, Chiko spent seven years in Sofia, Bulgaria on an art scholarship. While in Sofia he “was trained in the classical modes of printmaking, drawing and painting”. Upon arriving home though Chiko realized that in order to expand as an artist he would have to enter back into the culture of his youth so he could find a visual language that would be his true to his way of scripting a story.
“I wanted to pick a language I could use that was compatible to my history, my tradition.”
Human walls by Chiko Chazunguza.
Finding a New Visual Language
The inspiration of mis-registration, the effect given by the areas that overlap and bleed out in screen-printing, seemed appropriate for this cultural provocateur. It was Chiko’s experience as a printmaker that made him “approach painting with an attitude of non-conformity”, to shift the paint just outside the lines. This overlapping and layering, inherent in the process of screen printing, spoke to the layers of culture – traditional tribal, leftover colonial, urban contemporary – that blanketed Zimbabwe in repression upon Chiko’s return.
“It was like being in Sofia during the breakdown of the old regime. Communism was kicking its last kicks was a dying horse and the political condition that I arrived home to was much the same.”
But it was not until another move, another cultural relocation, that Chiko began the collection and style of paintings showcased at the B.A.N.D Gallery for his show SHIFT.
Upon moving to Canada this artist, who is known back home for his installations that poke and prod at the socio-political contentions of a country in flux, picked up a pop can then oddly enough was inspired to paint.
Nursery 2 (detail) by Chiko Chazunguza.
It was the omnipresence of aluminum soda cans in Canada and their ease of acquisition that made them fitting as a symbol for consumer culture. Along with being ubiquitous they were durable – omni-persistent!
Nursery 2 by Chiko Chazunguza.
It was the “generousity of Canadians” who upon hearing he was an artist stocked him up with paint that got him started in combining the two materials to continue his theme of “reflecting on the traditional in transition.”
“Here food is always being advertised. It is at your doorstep, in your mailbox. Pop is a drink that is not necessary but it is always in front of you.”
Juxtaposed with hard memories of scarcity back in Zimbabwe, where people had to line-up single file into endless rows for basic staples, a vision was realized for a new body of work.
“Line-ups and people waiting in suspense for something to come, that was my inspiration…these line-ups look beautiful in their own way and you can almost forget the struggle…When there is a crisis, a shortage of basic commodities people behave differently and visually this informs.”
Passage by Chiko Chazunguza.
Shifting our Ideas of Who We Are
Many of the paintings in the SHIFT show come with pop cans, liquor labels and food advertisements cutting through the canvas like interruptions. They are then woven over, around and through deconstructed figures, busy heading nowhere in never-ending cues for food, for water, for life. Urbanization in Zimbabwe led to the inability for one to produce his or her own food which had been the previous traditional practice. A population of producers turned into a population of dependent consumers enmeshed (like the cans in Chiko’s work) in the ebb and flow of changing regimes.
“The figures are multi-faced; the disfiguration is because one’s face may change into all sorts of faces in that queue.”
While waiting in line with a stranger one can “start chatting, become friends, fall in love.” But by the end of the line the friend becomes the enemy and the lover a foe if one gets the last ration with nothing left for the one behind.
Nursery 1 by Chiko Chazunguza
Although the painted experience in Chiko’s work is intimately personal the anonymous quality of the figures in his paintings let them become the every(wo)man, no longer a “them” but an “us” as together, in this contemporary context, we face a future of scarcity on a global scale.
Following in the tradition of artists like the aforementioned Wifredo Lam we can see that Chiko, for his inspiration and call to action as an artist, draws from the common experiences of humanity in transition.
“Through art, I reflect upon how issues such as spirituality, disposition, denied access and interference with basic commodities, and the painful evolution of ancient cultural traditions into contemporary yet uncertain urbanized communities, all shape and shift our constructed notions of identity.”