Is Toronto Burning?
1977 | 1978 | 1979
Three Years in the Making (and Unmaking) of the Toronto Art Scene
17 September – 7 December 2014
The late 1970s was a key period when the Toronto art scene was in formation and destruction—downtown, that is. In 1977, Toronto thought itself the country’s most important art centre, but history has shown that the nascent downtown art community, not the established uptown scene of commercial galleries, was where it was happening. Conflicts within the newly instituted artist-run system were coming to the fore with a “coup” at A Space and, with its advocacy of Red Brigade-style kneecapping, the Center for Experimental Art and Communication (CEAC) self-destructing.
It was a political period. Beyond the art politics, art itself was politicized in its contents and context. Art’s political dimension was continually polemically posed—or postured—by artists in these years. Beyond politics, posturing, in fact, was a constant presence as the community invented itself.
It was also a period rich in invention of new forms of art. Punk, semiotics, and fashion were equally influential, not to mention transgressive sexuality. It was the beginning of the photo-blowup allied to the deconstructed languages of advertising. Video and performance aligned in simulations of television production as the “underground” mimicked the models of the mainstream for its own satiric, critical purposes. With no dominant art form and the influence of New York in decline, there were no models and anything was possible: even the invention of the idea of an art community as a fictional creation.
Is Toronto Burning? features artworks by Susan Britton, David Buchan, Colin Campbell, Elizabeth Chitty, Carole Condé and Karl Beveridge, Judith Doyle, General Idea, Isobel Harry, Ross McLaren, Missing Associates (Peter Dudar & Lily Eng), Clive Robertson, Tom Sherman, and Rodney Werden alongside archival documents, with a room devoted to the Centre for Experimental Art and Communication (CEAC).
The exhibition is curated by AGYU Director Philip Monk.