Mixed Bag Mag joins Artists & Curators from Canada at the Venice Biennale.
Mixed Bag Mag has been invited by The Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery in Toronto to participate in the Creative Time Summit 2015 at the Venice Biennale. The Creative Time Summit’s theme this year is “Curriculum” and “throughout the Summit, conversations on curriculum will examine the social, infrastructural, administrative, and private conditions under which knowledge is produced and intertwined with social contracts.”
Mixed Bag Mag’s coverage will focus on how art has the potential to change the way we engage with social and political issues. With the appointment of Nigerian curator Okwui Enwezor as the head curator, this year’s Biennale has taken on a more political tone. He is the first African to be in this position. He has pushed the discussion around immigration and economy using the vehicle of art. I will be exploring his curatorial approach to engaging with the intersections of art, politics and commerce.
10 Artists from Canada will also be attending along with The Power Plant Delegation.
• Adrian Blackwell (Ontario)
• Deana Bowen (Ontario)
• Carole Condé and Karl Beveridge (Ontario)
• Jen Delos Reyes (Manitoba)
• Elle Flanders and Tamira Sawatzky, of Public Studio (Ontario)
• Justin Langlois (British Colombia)
• Duane Linklater (Ontario)
• Nadia Myre (Quebec)
Thank you to The Power Plant for this opportunity. Also thank you to each of organizations that made it possible for this trip to happen! Thanks to Galerie SAW Gallery in Ottawa for their support.
How one woman changed a community then went on to change the world.
So much of the way we think and act around neighbourhood, community and city building in the 21st Century is because of the ideas of a single woman – Jane Jacobs. If you need an example of how one human being can have huge impact, Jane is that inspiring person who walked her talk and went on to inspire an international movement. Her ideas of what a community should be resonated with many because it articulated what people already knew to be true as to why certain spaces become thriving communities.
Every year, to honour Jane’s legacy, cities world-wide hosts walks that allow people to discover some brilliant nuance of the place where they live that they may never have discovered otherwise. All of this is possible due to the thousands of volunteers who get out into their community and share their knowledge during Jane’s Walks.
I just discovered the above video highlighting a great walk I participated in a few years back. This walk, that featured the work of Toronto’s many street artists, had us meandering through the downtown core via the back alleys where a technicolour world awaited us. The tour was given by Jason of the Tour Guys, an organization in Toronto that specializes in giving offbeat tours of one of North America’s most interesting cities.
Women who are Indigenizing city spaces.
This year, in both Toronto and Ottawa, walks will be given that highlight the history of Indigenous Peoples.
“This walk will explore historic land use along Davenport Rd and the lands along the ridge while providing excellent views of the city. How did First Nations people get around? Who were some of the early movers and shakers? What was the origin of Wychwood Park?”
In Ottawa there is a newly launched initiative, Indigenous Walks, and IW’s tour guide, local Metis artist and educator Jaime Koebel, will be sharing her knowledge and passion for Indigenous history on Saturday and Sunday at 2pm each day. Jaime uses the experience of sight-seeing the beautiful monuments in the Capital city to allow people to experience the history of Ottawa, as well as the history of Canada, by walking in the shoes (or moccasins) of an Indigenous person. The tour starts at the Human Rights Monument at City Hall. More info can be found here.
And speaking of Indigenizing public spaces, artist Dana Claxton’s (Lakota) “Indian Candy” is part of CONTACT, Toronto’s annual festival celebrating the art of photography.
Each year CONTACT commissions work to be put up on billboards around the downtown core, activating what is normally a space reserved for spreading a message of commerce to instead spread messages on social issues.
Dana’s work “interrogates the presentation of Indigenous iconography through the digital archive in Indian Candy.
Working from found images of the “Wild West” sourced online, the artist focuses on those connected to Sitting Bull, the iconic tribal leader who led a resistance against government policies in the United States. As a descendant of Sitting Bull’s band who came to Canada, Claxton simultaneously mines her own personal family history and the legacy of racism. Her diverse range of images present aspects of Indigeneity in a new light; from the buffalo, which represents spirituality for Lakota people and was a main source of sustenance until their near annihilation, to signed souvenir cards from Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show. As a whole, Indian Candy uncovers truths and performs as a provisional archive of Aboriginal imagery seen through the lens of colonialism.”
For the month of May you will be able to see Dana’s billboards along Dundas St. West. For more information on the exhibit as well as a map click here.
Also part of CONTACT, some of MIXED BAG MAG’s favourite people, projects and art spaces!
And another favourite MIXED BAG MAG space for the arts, this time in Ottawa, is The National Arts Centre. This week “huff” has opened at the NAC and runs through until May 10. This provocative work has left everyone I know who has experienced it, changed. It’s not a piece of theatre that is easily digestible but despite the heavy subject matter, substance abuse among First Nations’ youth, people seem to walk away feeling that the experience of being uncomfortable witnessing Cliff Cardinal’s one man show was a positive one that includes a message of hope!
FYI- Be a part of the Samba Launch Party Procession Tonight at 6 pm. MIXED BAG MAG’ fave Zahra Ebrahim of archiTEXT will be one of the procession leaders of this walk that is all about PLAY! Details here.
WISHING EVERYONE A WEEKEND WHERE YOU LEARN SOMETHING NEW & HAVE FUN!
All above images of Jane’s Walk 2011 (Graffiti Tour & Samba Procession) by Leah Snyder for Mixed Bag Mag.
Polar opposites in the continuum of contemporary art.
Beat NationandOne, and Two, and More Than Two lie at the contradictory ends of Contemporary Canadian Art and within Micah Lexier’s One, and Two, and More Than Two show more contractions occur. In his video piece and Two refuse is moved around on a clean slate. This is Micah’s collection of cardboard cast-offs that he has curated based on similarities. He carefully choreographs the debris. This is my favourite work in the show. I will miss its precise impreciseness.
Image of Micah Lexier and Two courtesy The Power Plant.
In and More Than Two Micah has gathered together a slice of Toronto’s art community. He visited the studios of over 100 artists working in Toronto and took something from each place. The controversy with this collection is around the issue of whether it is a proper survey of Toronto’s current art scene as it is a selection of predominantly white artists. And More Than Two is the antithesis of how most people regard Toronto – the quintessential Multi Culti city. And for all the material diversity encased in the vitrines the process of categorization renders the work even more homogenous. And More Than Two seems less about diversity and collaboration and more about curation based on a chosen aesthetic. Regardless, the effect is stunning.
Micah’s way of organizing randomness carries over into his own solo work One where what seems like an arbitrary selection of his work notes becomes contained within the even flow of frames spaced without pause across four walls.
Without a doubt this entire show is visually impactful. It is ordered disorder, asymmetrical symmetry, and the visual polarization of black juxtaposed with an abundance of white space. The immediate evaluation tends to be that this exhibit reads as sterile but upon closer inspection it is anything but. What I notice about this show is it slows people down as they meander through the vitrines and then onto the other rooms all the while mesmerized. People stop to take a long look because as you walk through it you get the sense that each object, each page, each cardboard cutout has been chosen with reverence. And therein lies the warmth.
The content of Beat Nation (also at the Power Plant earlier this year) brings us to the intersection where the choice around aesthetics is motivated by agency – a re-mixing of the conscience soul of Hip Hop as applied to the right to embody one’s Indigeneity in a contemporary context.
“Beat Nation: Art, Hip Hop and Aboriginal Culture describes a generation of artists who juxtapose urban culture with Aboriginal identity to create innovative and unexpected new works that reflect the realities of Aboriginal peoples today.” read more…
This show is also about a multi-layered experience using music, dance, and mixed media to indigenize the white cube gallery space.
Beat Nation is an example of another beautiful show that challenges what is contemporary Canadian Art. Originally an online exhibition, it has been hugely successful as it has traveled back and forth across the country at various venues. Each iteration of the show brings in a new arrangement of artists with the MACM show including the following:
Both of these exhibits showcase how Canadian Art is coming into its own a powerful contemporary voice.
ONE, AND TWO, AND MORE THAN TWO
The Power Plant 231 Queens Quay W, Toronto, ON M5J 2G8
Tuesday–Sunday 10–5 PM
Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal
185 Rue Ste-Catherine Ouest, Montréal, QC, H2X 3X5
Tuesday to Sunday: from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
RECOMMENDED READING Museum Pieces: Toward the Indigenization of Canadian Museums
“Ruth Phillips argues that these practices are “indigenous” not only because they originate in Aboriginal activism but because they draw on a distinctively Canadian preference for compromise and tolerance for ambiguity. Phillips dissects seminal exhibitions of Indigenous art to show how changes in display, curatorial voice, and authority stem from broad social, economic, and political forces outside the museum and moves beyond Canadian institutions and practices to discuss historically interrelated developments and exhibitions in the United States, Britain, Australia, and elsewhere.” Read more…
Inside the White Cube: The Ideology of the Gallery Space
“….O’Doherty was the first to explicitly confront a particular crisis in postwar art as he sought to examine the assumptions on which the modern commercial and museum gallery was based. Concerned with the complex and sophisticated relationship between economics, social context, and aesthetics as represented in the contested space of the art gallery, he raises the question of how artists must construe their work in relation to the gallery space and system.” Read more…
Beat Nation artist Geronimo Inutiq (madeskimo), curator Candice Hopkins and Beat Nation artist Dylan Miner speak on moving between the past and the present in contemporary Indigenous art in Canada and America.
Re-inventing the wheel – what Duchamp’s Ready-mades, Ai Weiwei and Toronto’s cyclists have in common.
“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 2013on “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.
“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.“
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.”
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.
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 Nieblaand Pascale Marthine Tayou’s stunning presentation efficiently titled Plastic Bags.
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.”
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.”
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.
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.)
And just steps away is The Power Plant “Canada’s leading public gallery devoted exclusively to contemporary visual art” (cited www.thepowerplant.org)
Stunning Contemporary Chinese Dance.
Tonight and tomorrow Fleck features the Chinese dance troupe TAO Dance Theater. Reviews of their show Weight x3 & 2 have been amazing. Time to treat yourself, a little something for your soul!
A Mashup of Music, Art & Dance.
And also on tonight, as part of the programming for Beat Nation, the Power Plant hosts a dance battle bringing into the gallery “dancers representing moments in Aboriginal and hip-hop dance history to create a unique, interdisciplinary event…16 of Toronto’s best dance crews will compete for $1,000 cash prize in a 2-on-2 elimination battle format and time rounds. ” (cited www.thepowerplant.org)
The Beat Nation Exhibit will be open until 9 with the competition beginning at 8:30.
This weekend dance to the south east west north earth sky.
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.
“Bonnie Devine and Dylan Miner will discuss the emergence and significance of the artist/activist in historic and contemporary Indigenous aesthetic practice. Their conversation will address the convergence of art-making and political action to affect social change.” (cited from www.thepowerplant.org)