Fall 2009 Newsletter
Hello, Out There
The Art Gallery of York University Presents
The 1984 Miss General Idea Pavillion
15 September – 6 December 2009
An AGYU Founders presentation curated by Philip Monk
Tuesday, 15 September, 6–9 pm
The Hoarding …
The Hoarding of the 1984 Miss General Idea Pavillion, 1975, exhibited in Going Thru the Notionsat the Carmen Lamanna Gallery, October 18 – November 6, 1975.
Photo: Henk Visser, courtesy Carmen Lamanna Estate.
“Now that we’re defining the limits of the 1984 Miss General Idea Pavillion with the Hoarding, we’re really looking forward to clearing
the site …
“Plans have been finalized to the extent that we’ve decided to leave some decisions for the future. So we’ve left some gaps in the development on purpose. For example: the missing pieces in the Hoarding have been included so the general public can add their personal vision of the project while they see through what we’re trying to do. This section of Hoarding that we’ve erected is about all we’ll ever need, as it’s portable, and can be mobilized to encompass the far-flung site of the Pavillion…
“We never refer to the sites of the Pavillion. Only the site. It’s a singular site with multiple points of view. The fact that there are several locales where activity takes place only expands the centre. Our centre is defined by the circumference and the Hoarding is a sort of tool that allows us to expand the centre to any of its installations…
“Just as the Hoarding defines the limits of the site and the project in general, we’ve also attempted to utilize the media to the same end. We’ve expended just as much energy erecting the Hoarding in the media as we have on erecting it on real estate. It has to be real before they’ll report it, but it isn’t really real until they do. Basically we just want people to know that General Idea is on the job and that the Pavillion is going up and it doesn’t matter if they find this out by passing the Hoarding in the street or seeing it on the title page…
“With the Hoarding appearing in magazines and on TV and what-have-you, we also feel that the limits of the site have been expanded to include these vehicles. They become part of the centre. It is entirely possible that the site of the Miss General Idea Pavillion could include your TV or surface on your coffee table. If this, for instance, was ever published, we would see it as just another extension of the site-lines. The Pavillion is a very parasitic structure.”
From “Interview with Foreman Lamanna,” FILE Megazine, Summer 1978
Critic Recants on General Idea
Famous Canadian art critic changes his mind on General Idea, says he didn’t know they were being ironical. DUH!
Photo: Philip Monk by Jorge Zontal (1982)
Director Philip Monk thinks he can rewrite history with the AGYU’s new exhibition The 1984 Miss General Idea Pavillion. But our investigative reporters have found a smoking gun in his past writings. In 1982, Monk—then an art critic—delivered a lecture on General Idea at the Rivoli in front of the Toronto art community tout ensemble and subsequently published an over-the-top 20,000-word article on them in Parachute magazine (1983). It seems he was not always their supporter!
The Back Story
Listen to these lines penned by Mr. Monk in the glory days of the Queen Street art community General Idea did so much to found: “General Idea’s resort to ambiguity, the multiplicity of meanings, and an expanding system of verbal puns and paradoxes, all referenced to current theories of interpretation or textual reading and their own self-referencing system, reflect the form of capitalism they wish to criticize. In the end, do they accommodate us too readily to that reality without the means to show us what is real about it? Is this strategy of inhabitation then a critique of capitalism or a ruse of capitalism?” Those were heady days, indeed!
We tracked down an embarrassed Mr. Monk in his office at the AGYU where he came clean on his past. “Oh my god, you found out my shameful secret … You have to understand, I was young. I was a critic! And I thought, with Thatcher’s and Reagan’s neo-conservative retrenchment, that we had to take General Idea at their word in their flirtation with capitalism, especially when one of their Showcards read: ‘The 1984 Miss General Idea Pavillion was the first concrete manifestation of that uneasy union we now take for granted, the first project where fascism and anarchy could join forces to create a work of art.’ Now that that period is long over, we can look back and see what General Idea really accomplished and contributed to Canadian art and Toronto culture. Because it is huge.”
Queering the Art Community
It’s true. Toronto’s legendary artistic trio has had a large impact on the international art community, especially with younger artists interested in the collaborative nature of General Idea’s enterprise, their corporate identity, the range of their practices and diversity of media, their infiltrative methodology, as well as in the role of their publication FILE megazine, which they founded in 1972 and which was modelled on the format of LIFE magazine, likewise their founding of Art Metropole as an archive of The 1984 Miss General Idea Pavillion (and that continues to today), etc. Certainly, their tutorship of younger generations of Toronto artists, where there is a dynamic queer art community, is immeasurable.
Perhaps they were always too good at what they did, which some took as self-promotion-as-artwork. Perhaps they were too open and too disguised at the same time: it was all on the surface. “What is artificiality? We knew in order to be artists and to be glamourous artists we had to be artificial and we were. We knew in order to be artificial we had to affect a false nature, disguising ourselves ineffectually as natural objects: businessmen, beauty queens, even artists themselves.” As they themselves wrote, providing their own pre-emptive analysis and always producing the best copy, “What some find disturbing about General Idea is our resort to false nature, this imperative artificiality, this hunger for fake innocence, the constant posturing, our superabundance of significant forms and gestures. We hide our motivation behind ‘natural’ appearances.… We are obsessed with available form. We maneuver hungrily, conquering the uncontested territory of culture’s forgotten shells—beauty pageants, pavillions, picture magazines, and other contemporary corpses. Like parasites we animate these dead bodies and speak in alien tongues.” It was too camp for some people. Not serious enough for others.
Performative Fictionality — They said it, they did it.
At ELF!, we agree, in fact, to take General Idea at their word but now in another sense precisely as a fiction—a performative fiction. So let’s accept GI at their word when in 1975 they famously said, “This is the story of General Idea and the story of what we wanted. We wanted to be famous, glamourous and rich. That is to say we wanted to be artists and we knew that if we were famous and glamourous we could say we were artists and we would be. We never felt we had to produce great art to be great artists. We knew great art did not bring glamour and fame. We knew we had to keep a foot in the door of art and we were conscious of the importance of berets and paint brushes. We made public appearances in painters’ smocks. We knew that if we were famous and glamourous we could say we were artists and we would be. We did and we are. We are famous, glamourous artists.”
They said it, they did it!
We now know that their strategy was less ironical than it was performative. GI said, “We knew that in order to be glamourous we had to become plagiarists, intellectual parasites. We moved in on history and occupied images, emptying them of meaning, reducing them to shells.” But this move was accompanied by an enunciative act, which is language based, that effectuates the work. The format (i.e., “beauty pageants, pavillions, picture magazines”) and the inhabitation (GI’s recontextualizing act of their narrative fiction) come together in a new image-text relationship. Both the Showcards and FILE itself effectively play this role. General Idea’s 1975 exhibition Going Thru the Notions is an archive of these “notions” through which The 1984 Miss General Idea Pavillion ideally is constructed (or reconstructed now in 2009). The 1984 Miss General Idea Pavillion, like The 1984 Miss General Idea Pageant, is an inhabited shell—an ever expanding format that incorporates the ongoing transformations of GI’s content and concerns, structured as the Pavillion’s individual rooms.
General Idea and Me!
From all reports, it seems now that Mr. Monk has enlisted in the service of General Idea. What accounts for his change of heart … and mind? “Well, I’ve always been involved with General Idea as a curator, creating the collection of their work at the Art Gallery of Ontario, after all,” says Mr. Monk. “What’s different now, aside from rightfully acknowledging GI’s importance, is the recognition of the institutional affinities between General Idea and the AGYU: the AGYU is the perfect host to house The 1984 Miss General Idea Pavillion. The AGYU is a performative fiction, too. At the AGYU, we use all our institutional products—marketing, newsletters, press releases—as oblique interpretations of the art we are exhibiting, mimicking artists’ strategy in the process, such as here FILE megazine, and fabricating an overarching narrative that differs from the artists but that communicates in their spirit. In preparing the marketing for this exhibition we realized that a model was right in front of us all along, before us as our very own Canadian history. General Idea pioneered these strategies. We’ve been infected by the spirit of Miss General Idea!”
It seems that we’re all children of General Idea.
As for Mr. Monk, we reserve our judgement on his return to the fold until we read his book on General Idea. He told us, “In a text that influenced both GI’s work and my critique of it, Roland Barthes wrote, ‘no denunciation without an appropriate method of detailed analysis.’ I applied that ethos to my earlier critique of General Idea. I now, however, want to continue an analysis without the added value judgement of the past.” We’ll see. We’d like to know whether Mr. Monk’s forthcoming book will deal with how General Idea and FILE megazine contributed to the development of a transnational Canadian art movement in the early 1970s; with how FILEmetamorphosed, after the demise of correspondence art, Image Bank, and the Eternal Network, into The 1984 Miss General Idea Pavillion itself; with how GI’s fictive performative strategies helped bring an art community into existence in Toronto; with whether he is agile enough to invent a metacommentary that can operate behind the inventive metacommentary that is GI’s work itself, or adept enough to deal with their writing as a unique contribution to the tradition of the American literary avant-garde; indeed, whether he has a performative fiction up his sleeve.
Does anyone smell un hommage à General Idea? Get down Philip Monk!
From our Archives “It is their love affair with suffocating self-definition and their dallying with atmospheres of vaque fetid evil that is getting more arteriosclerotic and uninhabitable all the time. It’s a vein nobody can profitably mine any more. Someone has to tell them how long their train’s been gone.”
Gary Michael Dault, “3 trendy young men market themselves,” The Toronto Star (3 November 1975), review of General Idea’s Going Thru the Notions exhibition at Carmen Lamanna Gallery.
Critics Cry Fraud at this Art Folly
Lavish Pavillion to be Rebuilt with Public Funds
TORONTO, CANADA—Thirty-two years after a disastrous fire destroyed The 1984 Miss General Idea Pavillion in 1977, the Art Gallery of York University has set itself the heroic task of reconstructing the Pavillion along the lines of its original plans. The AGYU has combined resources with archaeologists, archivists, and the museums and collections that house its remnants to bring together material for public view as the first stage of restoring the Pavillion to the shell of its past glory.
“THE 1984 MISS GENERAL IDEA PAVILLION is basically this: a framing device for accommodation. A terminal in which to rest the case of open and closed frameworks. A superstructure of containment formats like walls framing the theatre of operations. Architecture playing the part of the Master of Ceremonies directing all eyes to this stage to perform the single point of view.” (General Idea)
The construction and destruction of The 1984 Miss General Idea Pavillion is documented at the AGYU by the recreation of two key exhibitions by Canada’s legendary artistic trio, General Idea. General Idea’s Going Thru the Notions and Reconstructing Futures were first exhibited at the Carmen Lamanna Gallery in 1975 and 1977 respectively. Contributing to the exhibition through loans are the Art Gallery of Ontario, the National Gallery of Canada, the Carmen Lamanna Estate, and General Idea.
Form Follows Fiction
Why the need to rebuild the Pavillion so many years after it burned down? Musing on this question in the past, General Idea said, “Back in the Seventies, a lot of people used to ask us if we actually intended to construct the 1984 Miss General Idea Pavillion, and the architect in us always answered ‘yes’. We always intended that the Pavillion would occupy as much space on real estate as it did in the media… Sometimes it seemed the only way we could get a fragment of the Pavillion built was to build it where we could, which was often in our studios or in galleries and museums. But that soon turned out to be a breakthrough for us, to realize that our Pavillion, like some sort of cultural parasite, could be erected in other people’s architecture… The Pavillion may well have burned down. The Pavillion may have been reconstructed from salvaged blueprints and rescued fragments. It may have been restored rather than started from scratch. With its foundation firmly rooted in the not-so-distant present, the erection of the Pavillion has penetrated both past and future. Burning the candle at both ends made General Idea realize their borderline careers as architects and archaeologists. Sandwiched somewhere inbetween stands the 1984 Miss General Idea Pavillion” (1977).
And why the precise recreations of these two exhibitions at the Art Gallery of York University? Reached for comment, AGYU Assistant Director/Curator Emelie Chhangur quickly retorted in the spirit of altered temporalities: “General Idea brought out the architect in us, too. We’re out there, re-building the future from found fragments of our Canadian cultural history, two exhibitions at a time.” Right on! Get down AGYU!
“Without waiting for flames to diminish we throw off our fireman’s drag and and rush into the ruins. Like archeologists collecting fetish objects we rebuild images for The Future from found fragments of our cultural environment. It’s always exciting when The Pavillion burns to the ground – It’s time for another rewrite.”
General Idea, 10 December 1977
All quotations by General Idea are from FILE Megazine, Autumn 1975—Glamour issue.
General Idea (1969 – 1994) are AA Bronson, Felix Partz (d. 1994), and Jorge Zontal (d. 1994).
Special thanks to Miss All-Things General Idea, Fern Bayer.
Get on the Performance Bus!
Don’t miss Madame Zsa Zsa strut her stuff this season on The Performance Bus! This psychic lady knows how to tell it like it is! Mme Zsa Zsa will give one-on-one sessions with riders as we go out there to the grand opening of The 1984 Miss General Idea Pavillion at AGYU. You two will hold hands and talk about the important things in your future. Sometime along the way, she will speak of her past and channel the spirit of the dearly departed Zsa Zsa Gallery , as we, collectively, celebrate this Queen Street legend, now legacy. The free Performance Bus departs OCAD (100 McCaul St.) at 6 pm sharp and returns downtown at 9 pm.
Andrew Harwood is an artist, curator, and writer currently based in Winnipeg where he is the Executive Director of Video Pool. He has exhibited across Canada and the United States. Harwood operated his own project gallery, Zsa Zsa, on Queen Street West in Toronto from 1998 to 2005 and is a founding member of the Toronto Alternative Art Fair. He is represented by Paul Petro Contemporary Art.
AGYU Artist Book of the Moment competition is coming soon … stay tuned:
Audio Out — Hear what’s new at the AGYU!
This year AGYU commissions a series of audio works by artists in our new series Audio Out. The series begins with Jessica Thompson , who relives her days at York University with an interactive sound installation that samples everyday noise from the busy hallways. Jon Sasaki , just getting warmed up, eavesdrops on AGYU’s neighbours as the source for his audio work, Gwen MacGregor and Lewis Nicholson patiently mark the passage of time with their new collaborative work, and Janice Gurney meditates on meditations. Wrapping it up in April, fourth year Fine Art students will produce a compilation of audio works directed by professor Marc Couroux .
Freight is expensive, artists less so.
AGYU participates at Art Toronto.
This October, AGYU is bringing the Buy-Sellf collective of Marseille to occupy our booth at Art Toronto (a.k.a. TIAF). Known for the Buy-Sellf mail order catalogues of contemporary art, the collective is taking a sampling of artists represented in their catalogues and constructing their work on-site in Toronto. With no customs brokers and no international shipping, the collective take up the role of manufacturer, creating a series of sculptures to the specifications of the artists. Part sweat-shop, part vertical market integration, Buy-Sellf does it all!
This project produced with the kind assistance of CulturesFrance and the Consulat Général de France à Toronto.
Art Toronto 2009 is held at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, Toronto from 22-26 October 2009.
Toronto artist Ulysses Castellanos is a jack-of-all-trades. His mission: to make art accessible to the masses while educating them about the fantastic cultural attractions and events the City of Toronto has to offer. And we’re not clowning around!
AGYU collaborates with Ulysses Castellanos, UpArt Fair , and Art Toronto to bring you a multi-part performance experience that takes you for a ride both on and off The Performance Bus! Come to the UpArt Fair Gala, Friday, October 23 from 7-10 pm and have your portrait made into a clown! Then get on The Performance Bus, departing from the Gladstone Hotel on Sunday, October 25 at 12:30 pm , as Superdirectional Man takes you on a bizarre tour of Toronto en route to the Convention Centre. Upon arrival at Art Toronto, Superdirectional Man will transform, once again, as we become witnesses to DIKKIE DEE’S BADAAASS RETURN and are given a tour of the art fair. Superdirectional Man and The Performance Bus returns to the Gladstone Hotel for 3:30 pm for one last look at the UpArt Fair.
DIKKIE DEE’S BADAAASS RETURN answers the question “can ice cream be art?” with a resounding “YOU BETCHA!!”
Toronto artist Ulysses Castellanos creates thought-provoking performances that engage directly with the public. He has exhibited nationally and internationally, and is committed to arts experimentation with everyday life, furthering his artistic vision and giving back to his community.
Stay tuned for upcoming information on the 2010 Power Tool Drag Racing Event:
Foreign Agent – studio blog’s new cultural attachés
The AGYU has developed a team of insightful cultural attachés with important information you’ll need to have before booking your next art vacation or tour. These newly appointed “diplomats” promote the culture of their homeland. Providing far reaching advice from the people who know, these agents will feature regions outside of the standard art meccas, exploring the art scenes, contemporary galleries, and hip happenings that make their city extraordinary – from an insider’s perspective. Look for our upcoming reports on India, Columbia, and Mexico at www.yorku.ca/studioblog.
Looking for curators and artists in Toronto, Montreal, and Winnipeg to participate in AGYU’s Studio Blog , our Internet resource alternative for artists and curators to conduct collaborative research, among other things. Visit http://www.yorku.ca/agyu/studioblog/ Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
YouTube – curated by Greg TobeyEvery single minute 20 hours of footage is uploaded to Youtube! How do we make sense of such a vast information database? Where do we start? With a selection of short videos ranging from how-to’s and tributes, to TV commercials and presidential addresses, I take you on a tour of YouTube with an online project that deconstructs history, spectacles, and American myths. Stay tuned for more details.
Transplanted from a southern suburb of Vancouver and thrust into the vibrant core of Toronto, I suddenly woke up one day and found myself in a shrub off Pond Road at York University. My name is Greg Tobey and I am the programming intern here at the AGYU, fulfilling one of my final courses for the Fine Art and Cultural Studies Program. And when I’m not covered in dirt and pulling leaves from my hair, I’m usually wandering, daydreaming, or reading a newspaper.
Humberto Vélez Artist’s talk
Wednesday, September 9, 6 PM
110 – 401 Richmond St W, Toronto
For the past decade international, UK-based Humberto Vélez (Panama, 1965) has lived in situations of permanent migration as a Latin American artist in Europe and sees himself as a “nomad with a difference: one obsessed with the local.” This is a rare opportunity to hear Humberto speak about his unique, participatory art practice, which has culminated in works and performances done in collaboration with others for the biennials of Lima (Peru, 2002), Havana (Cuba, 2003) Central America (2002 and 2004), Panama (2002, 2005 and 2008), Iasi (Romania, 2001), Shanghai (2004), and Liverpool (2006). He will also discuss The Fight, a project commissioned by Tate Modern in 2007, where he collaborated with members of the surrounding amateur boxing clubs, a choreographer, and musician, along with his upcoming projects for Casa Daros in Rio de Janeiro, the Pompidou Centre in Paris, and, of course, his research trip to Toronto in preparation for his AGYU project. AGYU thanks Victoria Moufawad-Paul and A Space for hosting this special off-site event.
Fall Contemporary Art Bus Tour
On Sunday, 27 September and 8 November, take a ride out there to the AGYU for a free, guided tour of General Idea! The tour begins at noon at the ROM (100 Queen’s Park, South Entrance) with the off-site Koffler Gallery and Institute for Contemporary Culture exhibition. The free bus tour departs the ROM at 12:30 en route to the AGYU, Blackwood Gallery, and Doris McCarthy Gallery exhibitions, returning to Queen’s Park at 5:00 pm. Seats are limited. Please contact Mona Filip at email@example.com or 416 638 1881 x4270 to reserve.
Out There: BZZZ BZZZ BZZZ
The AGYU has always been OUT THERE!
Gearing up for our Year of Queer, the AGYU showed its true colours during the Toronto PRIDE weekend. “Working it” at the York University booth and parade float to an audience of thousands, AGYU held its rainbow flag high, high, high. Marching to support the Trans Bisexual Lesbian Gays Allies at York we underscored that AGYU has always been a positive space out there for students, faculty, and staff.
Can’t Stop. Won’t Stop. AGYU.
Humberto Vélez /Elizabeth Matheson/Emelie Chhangur, artist & curator collaboration: Out there, in the neighborhoods and communities of Greater Toronto, AGYU was host to UK-based Panamanian artist Humberto Vélez and Regina-based independent curator Elizabeth Matheson for a month this summer. Following the unique participatory art practice of Vélez, we were researching the unprecedented diversity of Toronto. Our research and experiences this summer will form the basis of a long-term project with Vélez that will continue into 2011. A collaboration with individuals and groups in Toronto, the project will culminate next fall with a performance that kicks off a year-long experimental exhibition project that will turn the AGYU gallery into the Centre for Incidental Activisms (CIA). Stay tuned for more information as it develops. AGYU thanks Mia Neilson and The Drake Hotel for their support and generous hospitality during Humberto’s residency in Toronto.
Bojana Stancic + Alex Wolfson, artist residency: Out here, at AGYU this summer, these two Toronto-based experimental theatre folks tested the gallery waters in preparation for a multi-part project in Winter 2010. The residency was the first aspect of the project, which will continue this fall in Bolivia, and culminate in two live performances that bookend an installation-in-process at the AGYU from January until March.
Brendan Fernandes, artist-residency for newly commissioned work:
AGYU was delighted to spend time with NY/Toronto artist Brendan Fernandes this summer in preparation for his newly commissioned project for AGYU vitrines in Winter 2010.
AGYU @ Frosh ‘09
Igniting the fires of first year Fine Arts students AGYU joins in the fun with Spark! in partnership with the Creative Arts Student Association (CASA). Now with an artist-led project commissioned by the AGYU, this quintessential university-wide orientation event is bigger and better than last year! Returning to York to impart survival skills and campus wisdom to “froshers,” recent graduate Amanda McCavour’s interactive textile project elicits the support of the Fine Arts student body. Students and staff knit, pearl, and sew to invoke the 70’s retro craft sensibilities with prizes, giveaways, live local music and food! This is not your grandmother’s crochet party! The final piece will be presented in the Special Projects Space in the Centre for Fine Arts at York University in September.
On September 22, students take refuge with the AGYU as we provide shelter and sustenance during the Yorkfest’s Festival Village. The One Off Collective, comprised of recent York University Visual Arts graduates Stephanie Nicolo, Meiko Maruyama, Annie Tung and current students Maggie Flynn and Jessica Thalmann , build fallout shelters to insulate and protect York students from the evils of meal cards, sketchiness of dorm showers, and doldrums of residence living. Students roll up their sleeves to help pack, fold, stack, and mold a temporary shelter of recycled material and canned goods to hide from mounting OSAP loans and looming mid-terms.
The One Off Collective will be creating Take Shelter “2.0” in Zone C for this year’s all-night contemporary art thing, Nuit Blanche. AGYU is a proud supporter of student artists on campus and beyond.
Front Gallery: Oliver Husain
21 January – 14 March 2010
Opening reception: Thursday, January 21, 6 – 9 pm
Back Gallery: Alex Wolfson & Bojana Stancic
28 January – 14 March 2010
Opening reception: Thursday, January 28, 6 – 9 pm
Agyu Vitrines: Brendan Fernandes
21 January – 14 March 2010
8 – 21 February, The Department, 1389 Dundas Street West, Toronto
Oliver, Alex, and Bojana collaborate on a process based, organically developed installation modeled on the concept of the puppet theatre.
AGYU gives out Smart Cash for Good Writing!
Every year the AGYU gives cold cash for a review or essay based on our exhibitions. The writing award is open to all York University students and the competition is fierce. We are pleased to announce that this year’s writing award goes to Karolina Wisniewski for her essay on the exhibitions Carla Zaccagnini: no. it is opposition and Daniel Borins and Jennifer Marman: Project for a New American Century and to Eli Budd for his review of The Communism of Formsexhibition.
New Guy Hired by AGYU
We are pleased to announce the contract position of Steven Laurie who replaces Collections/Education Assistant Allyson Adley on maternity leave. Steven derives his collections experience from stints at the Royal Ontario Museum and Museumpros, amongst others, and his education experience from being a visiting artist in the Durham Region ArtsSmarts Program. He is also an artist who combines high and lowbrow cultural interests. His Mud Flap Project involved fitting 55 tractor-trailer trucks with functional artwork mud flaps. Go guy, go!
Bold, Smart, and Putting Ladies First!
Introducing the Artists and Writers of LADIES FIRST:
Muna Abdi, Sudi Abdul, Jennevia Walker, Lashawna Brooks, Tanya Campbell, Ashley Chin, Khaila Benaine, Britney Lindsay, Ashleigh Chambers, Christina Green, Stannette Lindsay, Dillonique Patrick.
On Thursday, June 18, 2009, the Art Gallery of York University and the Medina Collective launched Young Inspirations , an urban arts magazine featuring articles and art works by Ladies First, a group of young women from Brookview Middle School who took part in a collaborative after-school urban arts mentorship program from February to June 2009. The magazine launch also featured an exhibition of recent artwork, a commissioned mural by Ladies First, music by DJ L’Oqenz , and spoken word performances by Rita Nketiah and Keisha Monique Simpson .
An example of the Art Gallery of York University’s artist-led education programs, Ladies First was designed and led by Medina Collective Co-Directors, Tonika Morgan and Kemba King, and Toronto visual artist Sandra Brewster .
During the course of the after-school program Ladies First were introduced to the various streams of hip hop including: graffiti art, rap music, spoken word, deejaying, and emceeing which inspired them to write stories and produce artworks that are featured in the magazine. Collectively, Ladies First wrote three articles on hip hop as a cultural practice, the creative space and musical form of dance hall, and a step-by-step guide on how to break dance. Individual features were written on Black History, Finding Inspiration in the Jane/Finch Community, the life of American rapper Dolla, and the circumstances surrounding the physical and sexual abuse of young women. These emerging urban artists practiced their interview techniques and developed their journalistic skills by interviewing, videotaping, and photographing acclaimed choreographer and b-girl Lady Noyz, who is also featured in the magazine.
A major highlight of the program was a field trip to Chatelaine Magazine, where Ladies First met with Editor-in-Chief Maryam Sanati and got an insider’s look into what is involved in publishing Canada’s leading women’s interest magazine. Participants also had the opportunity to talk to Chatelaine’s Associate Editor Rachel Halushak, Health Editor Jacqueline Nunes, Copy Editor Vanessa Milne, Maclean’s journalist Kate Lunau, and Today’s Parent Associate Editor Dafna Izenberg.
Working with Toronto artist Sandra Brewster, Ladies First experimented with a gel medium transfer technique, producing compelling portraits of notable African-Canadian historical figures such as Harriet Tubman, Mary Ann Shadd, Rosemary Brown, and Marie-Joseph Angélique, among others. With Brewster’s guidance, these young artists collaboratively painted a hip-hop inspired mural in the AGYU gallery that was on view along with other artworks during the magazine launch.
The magazine launch and celebration at the AGYU drew an impressive crowd of family, friends, teachers, school administrators, and supporters who all came together to recognize the multidisciplinary talents of Ladies First. Towards the end of the evening, Brookview students danced and sang alongside DJ L’Oqenz as she shared her amazing skills on the turntables.
The project will extend into 2010 with a display of artworks by Ladies First at Brookview Middle School starting this fall. Copies of the Young Inspirations magazine will also be distributed to all Brookview students in September 2009.
Challenging and reversing the elision of women as active artistic agents within hip-hop, the magazine and the related urban arts program claims a space for young women in this highly contested cultural zone by recognizing female urban artists’ contributions to this burgeoning culture as well as the creative legacy that they pass onto a new generation of women. A lasting record of these emerging artists’ accomplishments, the magazine will also serve to facilitate a dialogue and connections with young hip-hop artists and enthusiasts from across the city.
The AGYU and the Medina Collective extend our gratitude to Brookview Middle School teacher Darlene Jones and Principal Karl Subban.
To hear more about The AGYU-Medina Urban Arts Mentorship program with Brookview students, check out the education section of our website to listen to CHRY journalist Sasha Allison (a.k.a. Lady Loxx) interview Allyson Adley and Kemba King (short cut here).