Desire Lines: Mapping the metadata of Toronto arts publishing

Speaker Series in coordination with Artexte and Spoken Web
February through May, 2021

The trajectory of arts magazine publishing in Toronto from the 1970s onward has always been a space criss-crossed by lines of desire. This speaker series takes an algorithmically produced network diagram of publishing metadata as a jumping off point for story-telling around personal memories. Can the metadata describing the people and organizations producing magazine issues work as a narrative prompt to uncover hidden connections? What stories can we tell by reading the nodes (the dots representing either people or single magazine issues) as nouns, and edges (the links between these nodes; the desire lines proper) as verbs?

Taken together, recent Toronto conferences (This is Paradise at U of T Art Centre in 2015, State of Blackness at OCAD in 2014, and The Ecology of an Art Scene: Paris-Toronto Series at the Canadian Art Foundation in 2013) and exhibitions (Form Follows Fiction at U of T Art Museum, 2016, Tributes + Tributaries at the AGO in 2016, Is Toronto Burning? at the AGYU in 2014, and Migrating the Margins at the AGYU in 2017) revealed a common narrative of creative practice in Toronto: that the refusal of a singular avant-garde (or dominant tradition) takes place through the simultaneous presentation of multiple histories, each predicated upon a premise of concealment, absence, or lacunae. At the same time, these events framed recent Toronto history through trajectories of key charismatic figures understood as foundational to the scene, attractors that brought together resources necessary to establish collectives and issue publications.

The Desire Lines series of talks, however, is premised on the belief that what is important is not canonical figures, but the network produced through a cumulative collectivity. It is the physical traces of this network that allows us to see that the scene was (and continues to emerge as) a network, not individuals. For instance, through this alternate framing, we see that the intern working at several magazines simultaneously may be more consistently significant to the cohesiveness of the scene than the “significant” names we are accustomed to hearing and reading about.

Over the course of the sessions, the series will underline how the practice of publishing has always been a networked structure, a nexus of social relations and artist organizing that continues today. Through this reframing will come a speculative promise to build the tools to tell our histories in a way that counters personality-driven charismatic histories.

Instead of a narrative of the scene and the parties, we hope to trace material modes of production through an inscribing of physical objects into an ephemeral archive. Each panel, described below, will respond to a series of material objects (books, magazines, video) that will act as ciphers to prompt memory recall. A visualization enabled by the structured data describing the material production of Fireweed, Fuse and Border/Lines will also serve as projective space for building narratives of place. Questions that will be addressed include: Does an imaginary space of community arise when people publish alongside each other multiple times? Does this print culture space of the past resonate with present-day sensations of community in virtual spaces? Does this shared social imaginary have a relationship to a real geographic space? What does it mean to think about a narrative of a city, such as Toronto, when this narrative process is displaced into Zoom seminars? What mythologies or histories resonate beyond the local? Which do not and why might that be?


Each panel runs Fridays, 2 to 3:30 pm EST on Zoom. Registration details are on each panel’s page, which will become available nearer to the dates.

Support documents:
Interactive network diagram:

February 26: Riddim an’ Resistance

March 26: Setting a Tone

April 30: Access to Print

August 6: Making a Network of Relations Visible

This series is organized by Felicity Tayler, Interim Head, Research Support (Arts and Special Collections) at the University of Ottawa Library and Michael Maranda, assistant curator. New generation respondents are curated by Faith Paré, made possible by an RA-ship from the SpokenWeb partnership. The background to the series comes out of a metadata analysis of three magazines from the seventies and eighties, Fuse, Border/Lines, and Fireweed, that Felicity put together with Tomasz Neugebauer of Concordia University. Graphics for the series were designed by Josie Spalla.

Video recordings of the series, transcripts of the speakers’ voices, and commissioned responses by the new generation writers will be published online, inscribing their depositions into the archives of local art histories. The series is functioning as a prequel of sorts for the physical exhibition Lignes de désire // Desire Lines: Displaced Narratives of Place, to be held at Artexte in Montreal. Because the exhibition is in perpetual pandemic delay, this speaker series will work as an engagement in the present, which simultaneously acknowledges a continual deferral.

We would like to offer thanks to the participants who are generously contributing to this program, which is deeply informed by the legacies of their practices.

Felicity Tayler, MILS, PhD is the Interim Head, Research Services (Arts and Special Collections) at the University of Ottawa. Here interests include art historical metadata modeling, data visualization, and the print culture of artistic community. This series grows out of a Fellowship in the Department of History of Art at the University of Toronto. It is informed by her work as co-applicant on the SSHRC-funded SpokenWeb partnership, which foregrounds a coordinated and collaborative approach to literary historical study and digital development, with diverse collections of spoken recordings from across Canada and beyond. Tayler’s critical and scholarly writing has been published widely and related exhibitions have taken place at Artexte and the National Gallery of Canada Library and Archives, among other venues.

Faith Paré is a poet and performer of Afro-Guyanese and Québécois ancestries. Her writing has previously appeared in Arc Poetry Magazine, GUTS, and Shameless Magazine, and is forthcoming in Carnation. She is a proud alum of Our Bodies, Our Stories, a mentorship for emerging artists who are queer and trans BIPOC led by Kama La Mackerel, and was the recipient of the Quebec Writers’ Federation’s 2020 Mairuth Sarsfield Mentorship under the guidance of Dr. Gillian Sze. She is a co-founder of VOLTA Collective with Meredith Marty-Dugas and Paige Keleher, addressing anti-carceral action and transformative justice through creative intervention. Find her @paretriarchy.

Artexte is supporting this series through research services and access to the physical and digital collection. Felicity Tayler’s investigation into the social, political, and geographical spaces of Canadian magazine publishing in the seventies and eighties charts new territories of knowledge within and around Artexte’s holdings. SpokenWeb has made the participation of Faith Paré possible, as well as provided necessary inspiration and methodological guidance in the process of putting this series together. We at the Gallery are grateful for the contributions of both of these institutions.

See also

Making a Network of Relations Visible

Making a Network of Relations Visible

6 Aug 2021
Access to Print

Access to Print

30 Apr 2021
Setting a Tone

Setting a Tone

26 Mar 2021
A Lit Fuse: Klive Walker

A Lit Fuse: Klive Walker

Desirelines Response
26 Feb 2021
Riddim an’ Resistance

Riddim an’ Resistance

26 Feb 2021




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