Spring 2014 Newsletter
25th Anniversary Exhibition Year: Out There Pushing At The Seams
Camilla Singh: Uniforms for Non-Uniform Work
2 April – 15 June 2014
Opening Reception: Wednesday, April 2, 6 – 9 pm
How do we develop a practice around putting that practice into form? What does work look like, that is, its process not outcome? And how might we translate one work process to another by embodying different forms of production, from curating to art making, for instance? In 2009, when artist Camilla Singh left her curatorial position at the Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art (MOCCA), she began experimenting with materials, rhythm, and movement in order to explore the nature of work, in particular to reflect on the sedentary experience of labouring in an office for a decade. She wanted to visualize work-culture through another lens. Arguably, the first iteration of this exploration was in an exhibition she curated at MOCCA in 2008 entitled Dyed Roots: the new emergence of culture. As a curatorial intervention into her own exhibition, she relocated her office inside the entrance to the gallery space and transformed it into a birdcage (complete with live birds). Throughout the duration of the exhibition, Camilla inhabited her “cage” and went about her daily administrative tasks, thus becoming another cultural object on display alongside the exhibition’s other art works.
In various projects from 2009 onward, Camilla has isolated different aspects of the world-of-work and our relation to it—from the kinds of behavior expected in places of employment to the time spent commuting to and from the workplace—often turning mundane work processes and/or services into newly imagined choreographies of human agency. She has enthusiastically celebrated workers in their place of employment (firefighters, mechanics, butchers, etc.) by delivering a series of one-and-a-half minute ritualized cheerleading performances to thank each of them for the work that they do for their community (Enthusiasm, 2011). She has sectioned a 1969 Chevelle muscle car into pieces and replaced its parts (engine, seats, etc.) with an over-exaggerated drum kit and then commissioned twelve drummers to take turns “driving” it, their actions becoming the rhythmic and pulmonary life-force animating the body of the car for an all-night performance in the Financial District of downtown Toronto (Cardiac Combustion Chamber, 2011). In other instances, Camilla has created interventions in public space in order to symbolically re-associate various work situations toward new ends, as in …on the cusp of aggression, enthusiasm, defense and support (2011), where she staged a new kind of “car wash,” located in a Toronto street alley. Replacing the mechanical washing/drying devices with thirty-six dancers (using pompoms as props) whose choreographed movements went from aggression to contemplation to jubilant celebration, Camilla orchestrated the one-and-a-half minute scenario as if to clean the drivers emotional state rather than the outside of the car. She thus turned the idea of service work into an intense moment of human interconnectivity, one car at a time.
In 2010, Camilla began conducting a series of one-on-one conversations with Canadian curators about their individual curatorial practices as a form of socially engaged research. (Some of these were published on AGYU’s Studio Blog in 2011.) What types of curators are there? What was your entry point into curating? What does curating entail for you? What are your aims as a curator? How is knowledge produced? What do you think about the ability of an artwork to communicate directly? These are some of the initial questions Camilla sought to engage, and thereby capture an archive of the varied attitudes of a number of Canadian curators. The goal of this research was not to arrive at a concrete idea of what curating is, however, but rather to lead the ways in which Camilla would work through “the curatorial.” She sought to gain insight into processes related to this type of labour and then use these conversations as a conceptual framework for the creation of a new series of art works.
It is not through the analysis of curatorial practice but an immersion into the processes that encircle it (the notions of choice, responsibility, space, positionality, collaboration, support work, etc.) that has since propelled Camilla’s artistic experimentation. Acknowledging that the outcome of one’s work is only ever dependent on the choices made regarding one’s own strategies and approaches to it, Camilla began to develop a methodology through which she might explore what is at stake in contemporary curatorial practice. Then she put these “unseen” practices into tangible form. Uniforms, to be exact. That is, uniforms for the non-uniform work of curators: a curatorial sartorial, in fact.
In 2013, the AGYU and the Faculty of Fine Arts at York University teamed up to bring Camilla to York University as Visiting Artist In Sculpture under the guidance of AGYU’s Assistant Director/Curator Emelie Chhangur and Faculty of Fine Arts Professor Brandon Vickerd. As a curatorial strategy underpinning the exhibition’s thematic, the residency provided a work-context for Camilla to shape her research and work-process into three-dimensions and bring all of our varied forms of labour—from art making, to curating, to teaching—together in reciprocal exchange. During the 14-month residency, Camilla gave talks, attended advanced technical demonstrations, and had the opportunity to experiment with new materials and specific ways of working that were instrumental to the conception and development of this particular body of work. Camilla has engaged with students in discussions about putting a practice into form: exploring the curatorial considerations of art making and the artistic processes undertaken by curators, especially as they pertain to the application of sculpture to exhibition design, which is intrinsically linked to the show’s thematic.
Throughout, Camilla has sought to learn (or “train”) in oblique ways: learning how to execute the idea of curating as a performative gesture, then to translate this gesture into a symbolic sartorial form that “represents” different approaches to curating. By elaborating upon different ways to embody aspects of “the curatorial” through the development of analogous approaches to production within her own art practice, Camilla has created art works that take the shape of curating. Under the auspices of her fashion line, Filthy By Nature, she has (somewhat curatorially) produced a fashion line of clothing for curators, each element reflecting the conceptual and practice-based methodologies of the curators for whom these uniforms are intended. While still a work-in-process, her AGYU exhibition is a portrait of some of Canada’s curatorial workers at this specific moment in time. For viewers, it literally provides an image of contemporary art curating while proposing an alternative means by which to “study” it.
The exhibition is comprised of six “uniforms” for six specific Canadian curators. Each is situated within a series of mini installations embedded within the overall design of the exhibition in order to spatially manifest ideas related to each curator’s unique practice. Through the use of sculptural objects and “props” that are set in relation to these “uniforms,” or the creation of custom-designed support systems which literally hold them up, Camilla furthermore stages the behind-the-scenes “management” (from interns to institutions, etc.) on which all curatorial work depends. Taken as a whole, Uniforms for Non-Uniform Work implicitly acknowledges the embedded role of curating in exhibition-making and of art making in curatorial practice. Oh, and, of course, the importance of fashion to both….
Uniforms for Non-Uniform Work is curated by AGYU Assistant Director/Curator Emelie Chhangur. Camilla Singh would like to thank Roch Smith, Joel Wengle, and Mark-David Hosale for lending their expertise; Marvin and Dara Singer for their financial support; and Honest Eds for the lending of the mannequins. The artist gratefully acknowledges the support of the Chalmers Arts Fellowship program administered by the Ontario Arts Council.
Get on The Snack Bus !
Sick of being served healthy snacks at events? Tired of those stuffy wine and cheese receptions? Yearn for free snacks of the dirtier kind? Welcome to Snack Bus, the brain candy of Toronto artist Micah Lexier. See, Micah likes snacks and he knows you do, too—even if you’re too ashamed to admit to which ones. And you know the ones. You buy them at your local convenience store when no one is looking and then eat them in secret.
Hide no longer. With the newly minted Snack Money—issued by the bank of AGYU, designed by Toronto’s beloved Julie Voyce, and printed by the legendary Paper Pusher—you can purchase the equivalent of five Canadian dollars worth of your suppressed, mouth-watering, guilty pleasure and ride with pride! In fact, not only will you be given this money to spend with no strings attached, you will have the opportunity to taste and tell with other riders on The Performance Bus while travelling to Camilla Singh’s exhibition opening! (Where, alas, there will be wine and cheese).
The free Snack Bus departs the HASTY MARKET (300 Simcoe Street – the corner of Simcoe and Elm) at 6:15 pm sharp, en route to the AGYU and returns downtown at 9 pm. Please show up at 5:30 to receive your Snack Money and purchase your goods!
Jérôme Havre is French artist based in Toronto by way of Montreal, Paris, Spain, and Germany with a family history in Martinique. Central to his work is the investigation of ethnocentrism and the Black Diaspora through national and colonial cultural filters. His work interrogates issues of identity, territory, and community through the representation of nature.
Inspired by the production of natural history dioramas in museums and menageries, Havre utilizes similar enclosures in his work to encourage a careful reading of manufactured spaces. According to Havre, “nature is deliberately altered in order to deceive us and keep order.” For AGYU Vitrines, Havre creates a new installation that considers the three vitrines as kinds of cages, each containing a zoological experiment that puts our “second nature” on display.
Rewind & play it again! Marc Couroux (Associate Professor, Department of Visual Art & Art History) uses the Audio Out speaker to present the year-end compilation of the work of visual art students that challenges the orthodoxies of transmission and reception.
Back in 2009, the AGYU released the most comprehensive study of the socio-economic status of visual artists in Canada since Statistics Canada’s early 1990s Canadian Cultural Labour Force Survey. Our study, focusing on the 2007 calendar year, was intended to work in conjunction with Census data, and to provide a baseline for future studies of the kind. We knew we wanted to repeat the survey on a five-year cycle, and for the past few years have wondered what changes it would see. Alas, one of the main changes is the loss of the Census as a reliable indicator to compare to, so the work of Waging Culture is becoming even more important than ever.
Last summer we started data collection on the 2012 calendar year, and spent the fall inviting artists to complete the survey (some 1,500 invites were sent in total) and administering the data collection. In late December, we finally received enough responses (500 all told) to start data analysis.
If you’ve been following along on twitter (@wagingculture), you know that the results of our analysis are beginning to come out. If you aren’t a twitterati, however, you can find out more on our website, via here: www.theAGYUisOutThere.org/wagingculture. As we work our way through, we’ll continue to report on the findings as we find them.
The AGYU Artists’ Book of the Moment (ABotM)* is an occasional prize for the best in the artists’ book medium. A dedicated jury takes the submissions to the ABotM, and determines a short-list of those books that are deemed to be worthy of the designation ABotM. Then, they take it one step further, and decide which one of the short-list is indeed not just a ABotM but THE ABotM. This year, we were able to hoodwink John G. Hampton and Barbara Balfour into acting as our jurors, and they fretted and fretted over the slush pile. (For this, we thank them.) A decision had to be made, though, and decide they did. The honour of being the Fourth ABotM was handed to: Marie-Noëlle Hébert’s October, vol.110 (Autumn, 2004), pp.51-79 …
For the shortlist, and more details on past ABotMs, please see www.theAGYUisOutThere.org/abotm* as always, the A is silent
Contemporary Art Bus
Sunday, 27 April 2014, 12 – 5 pm | FREE
Tour starts at the Koffler Centre of the Arts at Artscape Young Place (180 Shaw Street) and then departs for Blackwood Gallery and AGYU, returning to Shaw Street at 5 pm. Seating is limited. Please RSVP by Friday, April 25 to Suzanne Carte at firstname.lastname@example.org or 416-736-2100 ext 44021
Artist in Residence: Marlon Griffith
AGYU @ World Pride!
AGYU queers it up with artist projects and thumping DJ performances programmed in partnership with the Trans, Bisexual, Lesbian, Gay Allies at York, the York Federation of Students, and the Centre for Human Rights at York University.
Is Toronto Burning?
1977 | 1978 | 1979: Three Years in the Making of the Toronto Art Scene
Marlon Griffith Residency
From January 24 – February 7, 2014, Trinidadian-born, Japan-based artist Marlon Griffithparticipated in the first of a series of residencies in preparation for a large-scale, participatory street procession he is developing in collaboration with individuals and groups in the Greater Toronto Area for the AGYU in summer 2015. Part of this residency included meeting a range of individuals in the city such as Capoeira masters, industrial design students from OCADU, scholars interested in ritual performance and Carnival, choreographers and dancers, and community leaders in Jane-Finch and Regent Park, just to name a few. We organized a “Community Forum” at the York Woods Library on January 28 as a way to showcase for Marlon the youth talent in the community so he could learn from their point of view. The evening featured food, spoken word performances, discussions, and poetry presented in a non-hierarchical and non-instrumentalizing way. Marlon, in turn, shared his work with the youth-participants. During the residency, Marlon also gave three public talks: (1) In partnership with OCADU, Marlon gave a talk to students of the Activating Communities class on January 29; (2) In partnership with The Theatre Centre, Marlon gave an artist talk at their Pop Up space on February 3; and (3) In partnership with the Centre for Research on Latin America and the Caribbean (CERLAC), Marlon participated in a conversation with Christopher Innes, a Carnival scholar and York professor (Department of English/Theatre) at York University on February 4. We also had an official meeting with the organizers of the Parapan Am Games, conducted studio visits with local artists, visited local galleries, and got down at the monthly Red Revue.
Heather Cassils Residency
From February 6 – 16, 2014, Los Angeles-based artist Heather Cassils participated in a research residency in preparation for AGYU’s new Creative Campaigning project that will launch in fall 2014. Creative Campaigning commissions work from artists in collaboration with student groups to further articulate their vision and message. It strives to activate participation campus-wide on sociopolitical issues, educational concerns, and the promotion of equality while generating opportunities for critical engagement. The inaugural artist in the series, Cassils met with various student associations, faculties, and departments relevant to the upcoming project along with representatives of the York Federation of Students; Trans, Bisexual, Lesbian, Gay Allies at York; the Centre for Human Rights; and the Sexual Assault Survivors’ Support Line & Leadership. Cassils’ work was presented at Women’s Empowerment Club’s annual conference, Inclusion Day Symposium (Debating Art, Safety, and Activism), and discussed through focus groups initiated by the Fundamentals of Social Work Research class at York.
Surrounded by concrete, I speak only to survive in these areas
So let’s talk about how I was raised in this area
I live with realism, but write to eternity
Pockets full of lint creates a hunger for a currency.
Life is but a line away,
So everything I write to say to the people,
Makes this road a little more peaceful. – Kareem Bennett (from the “If We Ruled the World” youth program, part of Centre for Incidental Activisms #2 @ AGYU)
Front and Centre: Jane-Finch Youth Enact Social Justice Theatre
This spring, AGYU and Clay and Paper Theater collaborate with Success Beyond Limits youth to design and develop a multidisciplinary theater program entitled Front and Centre: Jane-Finch Youth Enact Social Justice Theatre. Together we draw on an array of media including puppet construction, mask-making, script development, acting, spoken word poetry, and rap performances to create a visual and performative vocabulary that ultimately animates a theatrical play and procession taking place in the public space of the Jane-Finch community as the program’s finale. This artistic partnership explores how puppets, masks, and performance can be creatively mobilized to investigate and bring attention to youth-defined social justice concerns and priorities.
Delhi comes back to the AGYU in late April, when we release our catalogue/ten-year review of the Raqs Media Collective, Casebook. Covering 68 projects (all illustrated and annotated), five curatorial projects, and ten essays from a range of international authors, it covers almost as much ground as the Raqs do themselves. As usual, you can be one of the first to get a copy of this in our lobby, on our website bookstore, or through D.A.P.
That’s not all, though. In the summer, we’re going to be putting the finishing touches on the catalogue for Sara Angelucci’s exhibition last spring. Fittingly, it should arrive just in time for the 100th anniversary of the death of Martha, the very last of the Passenger Pigeons.