Fall 2018 Newsletter Give-On-And-With

The Beyond, Beyond

The middle of every narrative represents a moment of uncertainty before an arrival or change. Artists and curators know this productive process is also purgatory because arrival and change are also ruptures. But what if one used the time-before-the-arrival to shape the change-about-to-happen? We shall see.

For 2018, we proposed The Beyond, Beyond as a way to speculatively consider this interstitial awakening … and in true AGYU style to experiment with artists in order to explore where this thinking together might lead us. If we learn anything from the artists we are hosting this year, it’s a kind of circular nomadism: a movement full of detours, interludes, and delays; a multiplicity inspired almost entirely by the “toute monde” of the Americas. As Martiniquan poet and philosopher Édouard Glissant reminds us: the Americas make the multiplicities of the world comprehensible. But that doesn’t mean they are necessarily knowable.

“Borders” and “thresholds” are concepts necessary to think through The Beyond, Beyond. And so are migration, survival, and connection to place—be that land or locality. Our 2018 program has crisscrossed the Americas: to the USA with Postcommodity this past winter; to Brazil with Bárbara Wagner and Benjamin de Burca this past spring; and now to Mexico with Betsabeé Romero. It has been quite an adventure.

These artists’ works engage real borders, thresholds, and (aesthetic) frontiers to liberate our positions and perspectives-in-relation to each other and to the world. Primarily AGYU commissions, their projects are propositions for opaque alliances. For Glissant, opacity produces movement that opens new and unforeseen configurations; for AGYU, alliances are relations manifested through our capacity to write with, not about, culture.

For Betsabeé Romero, culture is always in movement. Perhaps this is why the vehicle, and, in particular the tire—with its socio-economic and material traces—plays such a key metaphorical role in her practice. Traces are the evidence of errantry: of movement making manifest culture’s trajectory as a force of shared knowledge across time and space. For Romero, this shared knowledge is a form of kinship, and her Toronto commission (a collaboration with the Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation and produced this past summer with students in the L.L. Odette Artist-in-Residency Program), is a kind of force that gathers traces: traditions across the Americas, but also the knowledges that give-on-and-with the networks her work here outlines.

How we (i.e., AGYU) move with culture as it changes is a political matter of curatorial concern. In the Poetics of Relation, Glissant compels us to “[l]et our understanding prefer the gesture of giving-on-and-with.” Such thought guides our means and methodologies to cultivate an ethics for engaging in collective projects. To give-on-and-with is to yield, rather than to grasp—to follow the artists and their projects and thus change with them accordingly.

To give-on-and-with might then be a performative form of negotiation that cultivates opacity. Could opacity be an operative aesthetic that in turn negotiates the borderlines of Indigenous and Settler content and contexts when constituted through the production of contemporary art projects? The challenge is not to recognize difference from a singular framework of intelligibility. It is to complicate and, in fact, proliferate to whose “own” one frames difference from. Ownership is related to transparency and frames frame desired points of view.*

And, so, we depart 2018 wondering whether the contemporary art institution can ever truly move beyond the unwieldy tendencies of generalizing universals on which its foundation is based. If the productiveness of opacity evades any complete comprehension (and thus control) sought in the reductive reasoning of transparent knowability (think the art world’s commitment to verbs such as “explore, investigate, expose, reveal, reflect, illustrate, comment,” etc.), then to practice an ethics of opacity means we must continuously reconsider what we thought we knew and reject the impulse to pin things down.

It goes without saying that one never knows what will come next, certainly not in these times of uncertainty. Can uncertain times mean new kinds of arrivals, new sorts of ruptures? At the AGYU, we, too, wonder, now with the understanding that change is neither predetermined nor easily understandable. And to this, we yield.

– Emelie Chhangur, Interim Director/Curator

* “Errant, he challenges and discards the universal—this generalizing edict that summarized the world as something obvious and transparent, claiming for it one presupposed sense and one destiny. He plunges into the opacities of that part of the world to which he has access. Generalization is totalitarian: from the world it chooses one side of the reports, one set of ideas, which it sets apart from others and tries to impose by exporting it as a model. The thinking of errantry conceives of totality but willingly renounces any claims to sum it up or to possess it.” Glissant, Poetics of Relation, 20-21.

Braided Roots / Trenzando raíces

Betsabeé Romero

13 September – 2 December 2018
Opening Reception: Thursday, September 13, 6 – 9 pm

Mexican artist Betsabeé Romero is known internationally for her large-scale public works and unconventional approaches to trace-making. Her work incorporates materials and techniques from vernacular tradition and popular arts as modes of cultural resistance and as forms of festive celebration. Romero engages themes ranging from the megalopolis of Mexico City to pollution, border culture, migration, and movement in contemporary life by recycling mass produced objects—such as cars and tires—that act as cultural vehicles, capitalizing on their material and metaphoric import. She enacts anti-modern gestures (through collective handmade labour techniques, for instance) that operate against the mechanization of industrial processes to decolonize materials, such as rubber or chewing gum. Romero is interested in how the mixing of cultural influences can be a form of dialogue in post-colonial contexts, particularly in the Americas. Conjuring the global-ancestral to explore the borders between the local and transnational, the individual and social, and the elitist and popular, Romero’s work can be viewed as symbolic action that enlists culture as the receptacle of deep-time, reinvesting in knowledge that is slow and cyclical.

Braided Roots / Trenzando raíces is shaped by the experiences, encounters, and exchanges Romero experienced during her initial research visit to Toronto and New Credit in May 2017 as well as further research developed over the past year—particularly in the aftermath of the Mexico City earthquake—into Canada and its mining practices in the Americas. The site-specific work is developed through workshops with the Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation and experimentation with materials and techniques in the sculpture studio at the School of the Arts, Media, Performance & Design (AMPD) at York University through the L.L. Odette Sculptor-in-Residency Program.*

The exhibition uses the AGYU’s three gallery spaces as a structuring device to engage entangled relationships of land, culture, and communication. It looks at these relationships through the lens of shared symbols, materials, and traditions that overlap and persist in Indigenous cultures across the Americas. Comprised of five monumental works—in cast-bronze, carved-wood, cut-vinyl, tractor-tire rubber, deer-hide, feathers, and video—the exhibition performs as a kind of cultural ouroboros, folding back on itself as it comes full circle. Bookended by a post-apocalyptic landscape of “lost” marker trees pointing in all directions and an invitation to commune under a Quetzalcoatl (feathered serpent; the Aztec god of wind and learning) reinterpreted as a series of inter-connected plumes suspended from the ceiling, Braided Roots / Trenzando raíces weaves together a sophisticated story of strength, solidarity, and wisdom.

– Emelie Chhangur

Our indigenous origins tell us of the vital moments in this physical life, not only do our origins tell us where we started, but where we have also explored in life and what were the flux of influence that weigh in and change our ways or what moves us to adapt our ways of living in this human existence.

In creation stories of global indigenous groups; thematically revolve around a higher reflection on the state of energy and balance of natural law. We often talk about the indigenous creation story as more than just physical, but also reflective in spiritual (energy) realms. When one limits their thinking that only physical human focus is all that is required for life we are only seeing half-truths, and only accepting half of the truth tends to make things more complex. Socially humans have mirrored the complex that everything will revolve around the human physical need, and that we can create “time” and push the boundaries of natural balance at will. As if the physical human is superior over all else within the world, this intellectual thought often sets on a course of chaos. Human nature is to create a measurement of structure for life and to have rules to a game that only humans believe in—but environment and all external influences in the universe don’t play the same game. So the indigenous perspective aims to keep true to the higher understanding we will always be reflective to what our environment is, holistic and systems thinking, we are a product of the cause and effect. The existence of universal laws that will always govern us, we become conduits of natural law—“stewards to the land”—is our purpose and often thought of as our obligation.

So in the discourse of the global changes and social changes—we are bound to be so consumed by our human structures, rules, and games, that we still blindly uphold the judgement of human difference in this made up game. You do wrong, you then are labeled. You don’t live by the expectation set on you as a child, you are damaged. We have complicated the essence of life, and forgot the pure simple notion is to just live. That is what indigenous roots are—to know you are more than just physical; you are the land, you are the water, you are the stars, you have the blood memory of many past lives that are interconnected—you are spirit (energy). Knowing Truth, is your origin and that is what our braided roots are, we all had civilizations on turtle island that was upheld before the colonial contact and oppression to abide by the rules of a game we didn’t need to play. Indigenous peoples have governance and government – our ways of living were guided by morals and values to know we are not at the top of the pyramid, but we are interconnected to everything around us—so it was to remind ourselves to stay grounded and keep rooted to your origins. Our philosophies, and pedagogies were holistic around energy & environment based driven.

When the human race, set up divisionism, hierarchal status, discriminatory labels, social ranks, race distinctions, economical benchmarks, etc, this is when the chaos of disorder happens. We rewrite the origins of why we exist and become caught in this game of life. All the unjust and untruthful literature becomes what we call interpretive and persuasive “History”. Origins are neither good nor bad, but the birth of energy into a space of existence. This is the meaning of truth, to know that before all else, it exists.

Braided roots—symbolically means so much more that to be united. It honours the truth that collective strands coming together solidify a stronger foundation for you to be grounded, to have the tools of strength and clarity to experience what this life will take you through.

– Cathie Jamieson

*The L.L. Odette Artist-in-Residency Program is an intensive, hands-on production residency that provides upper level students with the opportunity to work with a professional artist to produce elements of the artist’s work and reflects YorkU’s commitment to experiential learning. 

Braided Roots / Trenzando raíces is co-curated by Emelie Chhangur (AGYU Interim Director/Curator) and Cathie Jamieson (artist, Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation Band Council Member).

Special thank you to: Jordan Jamieson, Veronica Jamieson, Rachele King, Calvin Jamieson, Laura Jamieson, Kelly Laforme, Jen Sault, Mark Sault, Peter Schuler, and Chief Stacey Laforme for their generosity and for their contribution to the development of this exhibition; to Brandon Vickerd, Kevin Yates, Joel Wengle, and Roch Smith of the Department of Visual Art and Art History and to all the students who participated in this year’s L.L. Odette Artist-in-Residency course; undergraduate visual arts students Malina Sintnicolaas and Ana Ghookassian, who worked for AGYU all summer as Romero’s studio assistants; to professor Joel Ong’s undergraduate students Kimberly Davis and Divya Mehta from the Computational Arts Program at York University for the design and production of the sophisticated circuitry for the work Wind and Lightning Birds; to the Mexican Consulate and AEROMEXICO for their in-kind support of Romero’s travel.

Off-Site Exhibitions

AGYU @ Nuit Blanche Scarborough | Cineplex Odeon Theatre | Scarborough Town Centre | 29 September  | 7 pm

It is with the full-clamour of “Scarborough sounds” that AGYU celebrates the inaugural Nuit Blanche Scarborough! (Insert finger snapping here.) We were elated to hear that this all night contemporary art event has finally turned its attention to this formidable suburb. (Jeeez.) Especially since we just spent the better part of this year working in collaboration with Randell Adjei’s R.I.S.E. (Reaching Intelligent Souls Everywhere) and spoken word poets and rappers from across the GTA. (Hmmmm.) So, it is with respect that we announce the Canadian Premiere of RISE, AGYU’s newest film commission directed by our beloveds Bárbara Wagner and Benjamin de Burca (see Pedagogy Community Action) at the Cineplex Odeon Theatre at the Scarborough Town Centre on September 29 from 7 pm – 12 am.

A very special thank you to Nuit Blanche Scarborough Producer Jenn Goodwin, curator Alyssa Fearon, and Programming Supervisor Shannon Linde for their extraordinary work in making this happen! We are so proud to be part of this event!

AGYU @ Contact Gallery | 80 Spadina Ave, suite 205

AGYU presents a commissioned set of photographs by Scarborough-based photographer Anthony Gebrehiwot at the CONTACT Gallery in downtown Toronto. The exhibition complements the screening of RISE at the Cineplex Odeon Theatre at the Scarborough Town Centre for Scarborough’s Nuit Blanche. Gebrehiwot has a long history with R.I.S.E. (Reaching Intelligent Souls Everywhere) and as a documentary photographer of the spoken word scene here in Toronto. (We first met him as one of the photographers who documented our Ring of Fire procession in 2015). He has a long-standing commitment to social justice work through photography. His most recent community-based project From the Margins to the Centre was commissioned by Cultural Hotspots Toronto and presented this past May at the Malvern Town Centre.

AGYU commissioned Gebrehiwot to be the on-set/still photographer for RISE but also to use this opportunity to begin a series of portraits of the poets and rappers engaged in the film. Gebrehiwot spent six (long, tiring) overnights on set in the TTC Line One Subway Extension photographing the behind-the-scenes of the film and using the stations as the mise-en-scène for his new series of portraits. We are proud to contribute to the ongoing development of one of Toronto’s most important up-and-coming photographers, Anthony Gebrehiwot.

AGYU Vitrines

Talking Windows turns AGYU Vitrines into lightboxes. Using acrylic paint, geometrical patterns of orosi (stained-glass sash windows used in Persian architecture) are painted onto the vitrine’s glass. Instead of being a tool for presentation of its contents, the vitrines themselves have become an object of art, containing merely the light that makes the windows themselves visible.

As a teenager in Iran, Nima Arabi was drawn to both calligraphy and typography. This led to an initial schooling in graphic and textile design in Tehran. Migrating to Canada, he completed a BFA at York University, and is currently enrolled in the MFA program in visual art. Arabi’s work focuses on bridging cultural barriers between his Persian background and the Canadian context of his adopted home.

Audio Out Listening Bench

This fall, the Audio Out Listening Bench is thinking about ephemeral landmarks with Lou Sheppard, a settler artist from K’jiputuk in unceded Mi’Kmaq territory (Halifax). Birdsongs of North is part of Landmarks, a series of works by Sheppard that translate environmental data into poignant works using dance, music, sculpture, and performance. As Sheppard describes it, “a landmark is a place we remember, together, a monument in our collective conscious that orients us in the landscape. Landmarks are how we find our way, how we come to understand an otherwise incomprehensible wilderness.” The catch, however, is that with climate change and late-stage capitalism, landmarks are changing; our relationship to the land, and how we orient ourselves within it, is changing beneath our feet. Our challenge, in the throes of the Anthropocene, is to thus rethink our relationships to our environment. Sheppard offers us, through disorienting gestures, a guidebook of sorts to do so; an example to follow.

Birdsongs of North America “translates spectrograms produced by analyzing bird calls into music. The resulting music is discordant and jarring, with only faint echoes of the original songs.” In the midst of unprecedented loss of songbirds, the piece could be thought of as a memorial-in-waiting, for a time when birdsongs will have faded from our daily lives entirely. This iteration of the piece was composed at the Doris McCarthy Artist Residence at Fool’s Paradise on the Scarborough Bluffs this summer. The composition “echoes the daily experience of listening to the birds at Fool’s Paradise, from the early morning calls of the mourning doves, the constant sound of redwing blackbirds, the jays, hawks, cliff sparrows and cardinals, and finally the closing hoots of owls.”

Lou Sheppard is an interdisciplinary artist working in video, audio, and installation practices. A graduate of the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, their work has been exhibited both in Canada and internationally, including the first Antarctic Biennale and the Antarctic Pavilion in Venice. Sheppard was the recipient of the 2017 Emerging Atlantic Artist Award, and was long listed for the 2018 Sobey Art Award.

Public Programs

Student Tour Series | Wednesday, 17 October @ 6–7 pm | AGYU

Join PhD candidate in Indigenous Studies at York University Lance Morrison for a tour of Betsabeé Romero’s AGYU exhibition. Lance discusses the artist’s transposition of Indigenous art and production in the North Americas through his experience with Indigenous scholars, the teachings of Elders, and participation in ceremonies.

Lance Morrison (Northern Thunderbird) is a storyteller, student, writer, and activist. He is working towards a PhD in Indigenous Studies and currently works as a Campaign Coordinator for Anishnawbe Health Toronto (AHT), a registered charity which supports improved health and wellness for the Aboriginal community in Toronto. He is a member of Centre for Aboriginal Student Services (CASS) and the Aboriginal Students Association at York (ASAY).

Tour with Cathie Jamieson and the Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation | Sunday, 21 October @ 2 pm | AGYU

From bronze-cast marker trees to the creation of new highway signs, this exhibition considers wayfinding as a means to facilitate cultural and land-based encounters. Join Braided Roots / Trenzando raíces co-curator Cathie Jamieson and members of Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation for a discussion of Betsabeé Romero’s work. Cathie lends a personal perspective on the trajectory of the exhibition and discusses the coincidental connections forged through its making. In a series of workshops, which took place in New Credit and in YorkU’s sculpture studio this past summer, we collectively conceived and produced a number of the works as well as the exhibition’s final design. This is a rare opportunity to understand the processes and predicaments behind making exhibitions that negotiate the borderlines of cultural translation when confronted by the realities of cross-cultural collaboration.

Unaligned Seminar: The We Love Édouard Glissant Edition! | Wednesday, 26 September @ 7pm

Join us on Wednesday, September 26, at 7pm as we re-launch our Unaligned Seminar: The We Love Édouard Glissant Edition, hosted by Jonathan Adjemian. We venture forth to read in style … TTC style, that is, discussing in transit and in situ in some of the many TTC stations in the city. We consider Édouard Glissant’s poetics, and the links between his thought and our current state.

Please RSVP to Michael Maranda, assistant curator, at mmarand@yorku.ca by September 20 so we know how many will be joining us on our travels, and so you will know where to meet us.

Jonathan Adjemian is a musician known for his skill as a keyboardist and his knowledge of digital and analog audio. His works for instruments, electronics, and voices have been presented by The Music Gallery, Flowchart, the Canadian Music Centre, and Dancemakers. Jonathan is Administrative Director of Labyrinth Ontario, coordinates the Composer’s Toolbox project at the Canadian Music Centre, and runs informal academic-style seminars in Toronto art galleries. He holds a PhD in Social and Political Thought from York University, and translates from French to English.

Contemporary Bus Tour | Sunday, 14 October @ 12–5pm

The tour starts at Koffler Centre of the Arts at Artscape Youngplace (180 Shaw Street) at 12 noon and then departs for the Art Gallery of York University, Art Gallery of Mississauga, and Doris McCarthy Gallery. To save a seat RSVP to scarte@yorku.ca.

Art Toronto

AGYU is once again a proud community partner in this year’s Art Toronto. Visit the fair from 26-29 October, 2018, at the Metro Convention Centre and find out more about all the talks, special projects, and exhibitors at www.arttoronto.ca

Research & Residencies

Ruangrupa: Lessons from the Gudskul

This past August, AGYU found their way to Jakarta—with hammer in hand—to assist the interdisciplinary collective Ruangrupa build their new school. Founded in Jakarta in 2000, Ruangrupa comprises curators, artists, publishers, programmers, etc., who operate under four core streams: ARTLAB (for experiments), Institute RURU (for acquiring knowledge), Karbon Journal (for archiving, printing, publishing), and RURU Gallery (for practices related to culture in the urban context).

Summer 2019 marks an important milestone for the AGYU as we experiment with putting the institution itself into residency with Ruangrupa. Together we reimagine how our overlapping streams of production might co-exist. Then, we put it into practice fall 2020! We are ready to explode our working parts—maybe even grab that hammer again—and re-form the AGYU anew.

Long-time Ruangrupa collaborators—Japanese-Canadian artist-curator Daisuke Takeya and Toronto-based German-Indian artist-curator Oliver Husain—will work with us to curate this project and assist in its pre-planning and production.

Nothing is True, Everything is Alive: Caecilia Tripp

Known for working in collaboration with individuals and groups and for performatively exploring the “poetics of relation,” Paris-based artist Caecilia Tripp uses forms of re-enactment and rehearsal to explore concepts of freedom, utopia, and civil disobedience at the crossroads of globalization and post-colonial cultural hybridity.

After a month-long research residency with AGYU in fall 2017, Tripp returns this fall to Toronto to produce two new pieces: Interstellar Sleep and Deep Earth. Interstellar Sleep is an overnight, 12-performer installation built in collaboration with astrophysicists from the Dunlap Institute at the University of Toronto and local Knowledge Keepers. It is co-produced with SOLUNA International Music & Arts Festival and the Dallas Symphony Orchestra. Deep Earth is a collaboration with York University’s Faculty of Science and students at YorkU’s Observatory. Comprised of a film, sound installation, and a copper “fault line” based on an ancient Iroquois shoreline in Toronto, Deep Earth is a performative installation created for AGYU’s fall 2019 exhibition One Star Over. This performance-installation will happen in three other locations across the world simultaneously: in Bombay with Clark House Initiative, in New York with Residency Unlimited, and in Cameroon.

Caecilia Tripp’s work has been shown in galleries, museums, and public streets internationally: PS1/MOMA New York, Museum of Modern Art, Paris, Center of Contemporary Arts, New Orleans, Clark House Initiative, Mumbai, Brooklyn Museum, Bronx Museum, New York, Le CREDAC, Ivry-sur-Seine, France; and has been featured in Biennials: 7th Gwangju Biennale, Dakar Biennale, Prospect Biennale 1, New Orleans, and upcoming at the Sharjah Biennial (2019).

Upcoming Exhibition

READY PLAYER TWO: Brendan Tang and Sonny Assu | 17 January – 17 March 2019

For Ready Player Two British Columbia-based artists Brendan Lee Satish Tang and Sonny Assu combine elements from science fiction, comic book, and gaming cultures to consider how these forms alternately reinforce and transcend racial boundaries in suburban youth culture.

In their individual practices, Tang and Assu frequently negotiate the material and conceptual dynamics of culture and ethnicity. Informed by their mixed-race backgrounds and experiences of Canadian life in the 1980s and 1990s, Ready Player Two brings together found objects, selections of previous works, and new collaborative pieces to create immersive spaces that evoke the sanctuaries of the artists’ adolescence: the basement, the arcade, and the comic book store.

Organized and circulated by The Reach Gallery Museum Abbotsford. Curated by Laura Schneider. This project is made possible through generous support from the Canada Council for the Arts.


Performance Always Performs Yet Erases its Own Boundaries: RISE

We did it! For real! From November 2017 to July 2018—with intuition as a guide, friendship as a force, and a little magic to ensure it was all happening beyond our control—we worked in intimate collaboration with the amazing, talented, and generous artistic duo (and international art stars) Bárbara Wagner and Benjamin de Burca on their newest film RISE. It was an incredible adventure that engaged Toronto spoken word poets and rappers, local musicians and sound producers, the Toronto Transit Commission (and its new Line One Subway Extension), graduate and undergraduate students from YorkU’s Department of Cinema & Media Studies and Visual Art and Art History, and international and local film professionals (and included the artists’ first solo exhibition last spring at AGYU!). RISE raised the bar on socially-engaged (or more appropriately speaking, emotionally-engaged) practice at the AGYU and solidified our commitment to the messy entanglement of all our multi-faceted institutional commitments into one single mega-project. The process was the project. This is its outcome:

 Directors Bárbara Wagner and Benjamin de Burca || Cast Duke Redbird, Linell “ES-EF” Roy, Jameel3DN, NamedTobias., Kevin Brathwaite, Shahaddah Jack, Laurette Jack-Ogbonna, David Delisca, Terence Penny, Abdulkadir “Moose” Nur, Borelson, Thunderclaw Robinson, Bidhan Berma, Akeem Raphael, Kareem Bennett,  Trevlyn Kennedy, Chantal Rose, Nathan Baya, Gee Soropia, Kwazzi D. Brown, Randell Adjei, Anthony Gebrehiwot, Paul “Ohm” Ohonsi, Nasim Asgari, Timaaj Hassen, Zenab Hassan, Michie Mee, Dynesti Williams, Daniel Burton, Aliyah Suvannah Suviana 

Executive Producer Emelie Chhangur || Pre-production Coordinators Emelie Chhangur, Allyson Adley || Pre-Production Assistant Amil Shivji ||Production Manager and 1st AD Chris Boni || 2nd AD Katarina Veljovic || Production Assistants  Allyson Adley, Suzanne Carte, Emelie Chhangur, Lillian O’Brien Davis || Cinematographer Pedro Sotero || 1st Camera Assistant Maíra Iabrudi || 2nd Camera Assistant Katerina Zoumboulakis, Carine Zahner || Still Photographer Anthony Gebrehiwot || Gaffer Kay Grospe, Jordan Héguy || Key Grip Martin Kenji || Grip Shamarr Barrett || Swing & Electric Andrei Pora || Sound Recordist Matt Beckett || Additional Sound Recording Ehren Pfeifer  ||  Style and Hair Khadijah Powell-Kelly || Make-Up and Style Assistant Zyrelle Endozo || Catering Saucy Affairs || Post-production Coordinator Jennifer Lange || Editing Bárbara Wagner and Benjamin de Burca || Sound Design / Mix Paul Hill || Colourist Alexis McCrimmon || Original Soundtrack Nate Smith

RISE was shot in Toronto, Canada in June 2018. The film was commissioned by the Art Gallery of York University (AGYU) and curated by AGYU Interim Director/Curator Emelie Chhangur. Produced with the kind support of the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC).

At the TTC: Thank you to Sandy Tsirlis, Ricky Gairey, Chasminder Bhela, Imran Bashir, Chad Wilson, and AGYU’s newest convert, York University Station supervisor, Kevin Brathwaite.

RISE was produced with support of the Liaison of Independent Filmmakers of Toronto (LIFT) with thanks to York University, Department of Cinema & Media Arts for their invaluable assistance. Post-Production support was provided by the Film/Video Studio at the Wexner Centre for the Arts, Ohio. Additional support was provided by Pipa Institute, São Paulo, Brazil and Front International, Cleveland, USA.

RISE was developed in collaboration with R.I.S.E. (Raising Intelligent Souls Everywhere) EDUTAINMENT and Truth be Told, a spoken word poetry mentorship program conceived and produced by R.I.S.E. and the Art Gallery of York University, Toronto

*AGYU would like to acknowledge the Canada Council for the Arts for our recent operational funding increase. This increase affirms our commitment to socially-engaged institutional practice—what curator Emelie Chhangur calls “in-reach.” Without this increase, we would not have been able to undertake this kind of project, and, for the first time, without the stress, anxiety, and uncertainty of having to prove the importance of a project before an outcome can be clearly defined.


Truth be Told

In partnership with Scarborough powerhouse R.I.S.E., the AGYU presented Truth Be Told: Youth Voices in Poetry, a professional development and art education program for emerging spoken word poets, rappers, and youth. Taking place twice a week throughout the spring in Scarborough and Regent Park and facilitated by two teams of emerging spoken word poets and rappers, including Bidhan Berma, Thunderclaw Robinson, Michael Q. Morales, Nasim Asgari, Timaaj Hassen, and Nathan Baya, the program engaged youth in writing and performance activities that fostered their artistic growth and excellence. The program also served as a professional development resource whereby our program facilitators were mentored by Randell Adjei and Joshua “Scribe” Watkis, two of Toronto’s most accomplished spoken word poets. On May 25 we presented Truth Be ToldRegent Park at Centennial College’s Performing Arts Commons in the Daniels Spectrum. Hosted by Patrick Walters, this event featured show-stopping performances by Nathan Baya, Terence Penny, Nasim Asgari, Timaaj Hassen as well as workshop participants and first-time performers Glamma Kimaiyo and Orane Foster. Hosted by Michael Q. Morales, Truth Be Told Scarborough took place on May 28 at Burrows Hall and featured an all-star lineup including: Bidhan Berma, Thunderclaw Robinson, Akeem Raphael, Hiba Ahmed, and Bulale Suleiman, among others. The program encouraged participants to hone their writing and performance skills, giving many of them the confidence to take the stage for the very first time.

The Truth Be Told program culminated with mentor Randell Adjei and our team of workshop facilitators being featured alongside an impressive cast in Bárbara Wagner and Benjamin de Burca’s experimental documentary, RISE. An extraordinary opportunity, the film represents an artistic milestone, bringing together an intergenerational group of poets, rappers, singers, and dancers for an unprecedented collaborative project.

Jane Street Speaks

Making a name for himself as a rapper and an event organizer, Nathan Baya joined forces with the AGYU to present Jane Street Speaks a monthly open mic event at the gallery that brought together some of the best and brightest talents in spoken word poetry and rap including NamedTobias., Borelson, Terence Penny, and Kwazzi D. Brown, all of whom, through this event, found their way into Bárbara Wagner and Benjamin de Burca’s experimental documentary RISE.


AGYU played ’Mas at Pride this year with artist Natalie Wood and students from the York Federation of Students (YFS) and Trans, Bisexual, Lesbian, Gay, Asexual @ York (TBLGAY). We were loud and proud… and blue all the way down Yonge Street in the Pride Parade. Wood brought Toronto’s Blue Devil Posse to revel at the crowd. Borrowing from the cultural traditions of Trinidadian Carnival, the Blue Devil is a satirical character channeling and deflecting all the fear and hate thrown upon them. Adorned with horns and armed with pitchforks, the devils danced, stared, and drooled, while confronting onlookers with screams from their “blood-filled” mouths and streaking people with bright blue paint. DJ Carma kept our spirits up on the rain-soaked afternoon with the ultimate Soca mix of devil rhythms and music.

Student leaders took to the streets for the Trans Rally, Dyke March, and Pride Parade to ask whose party is this anyways? Like Carnival, Pride is a festival deeply rooted in social justice and political action. The AGYU@Pride campaign took hold of that historical thread to question whose blood, sweat, and tears continue to move the 2SLGBTQIAP community forward? Who gets to participate in Pride and who is celebrated? Whose blood is being spilled in the wave of death and violence in Toronto? In the face of brutality and erasure, York student leaders asked these hard questions to all who engaged in the festivities on and off campus.

Artist and writer Samra Habib joined us for Pride week to introduce her international Queer Muslim photo project, Just Me and Allah, and upcoming publication We Have Always Been Here followed by a roundtable discussion that explored identity through art. The conversation began by answering, “What does belonging look like for you?” and opened to a broader discussion on the role of elders in QBIPOC communities.

AGYU@Pride is generously supported by the Office of the Vice Provost Students, REI, TBLGAY, YFS, LA&PS, Faculty of Education, Faculty of Graduate Studies, Faculty of Environmental Studies, Faculty of Science, and the SexGen Committee.

And the Award Goes To…

The annual AMPD Open House aligned perfectly with our spring exhibition this year, happening as it did on the same day as the opening of Bárbara Wagner & Benjamin de Burca. AGYU staff had just enough time to go through the Joan & Martin Goldfarb Centre for Fine Arts (CFA) to check out the undergraduate students end-of-year works. Jurors Suzanne Carte and Michael Maranda granted Best in Show to Nima Arabi’s “Homeland,” an installation of light and colour that evoked the Persian architecture of Arabi’s Iranian background. The AGYU Award, much coveted, went to Tyler Matheson both for his varied suite of works (he seemed to be everywhere!) and his tireless enthusiasm for getting the AMPD Open House off the ground. And finally, we would be remiss to not mention the stunning porcelain work that garnered Honourable Mention for Malina Sintnicolaas.

Student Cash! Writing Award

AGYU has two cash awards for undergraduate critical writing! Send us your review or essay on one of our 2018/19 exhibitions (Braided Roots, Ready Player Two, Division of Labour) and we will send you AGYU CASH—$150 for a review and $200 for a thematic essay.  The review discusses the exhibition and offers a brief critical analysis of its content (word count: 500-1000) and the thematic essay thoroughly explores one or two underlying themes of the exhibition (word count: 1500-2000). Email submissions to agyu@yorku.ca by Friday May 3, 2019.

There was stiff competition this past year but, in the end, Jenny Bukuroshi’s review of the Postcommodity exhibition convinced us all. A theatre and art history undergrad at York, Bukuroshi offered a smart analysis of the installation and a sensitive parsing of the socio-economic context of the pieces. We hope and expect to see more writing from Bukuroshi in the future.


After a very long time in transit, we do indeed have Marlon Griffith’s book, Symbols of Endurance, in stock and it’s still a stunning book, well deserving of the two and a half Ontario Association of Art Galleries awards that it received! Please, do avail yourself of a copy while they still are in stock. See our website.

In related news, Iris Häussler: The Sophie La Rosière Project has also arrived in our lobby bookstore. Delayed for the same reasons as the Griffith, it is now available in limited quantities online and in our lobby bookstore. We will also be launching the book later in September. We’ll let you know when we have those details to share.

Way back in July, we spent a hot weekend down on Spadina Ave, in the Chinatown Centre mall. The mall was airconditioned, but that isn’t what got us there. It was the Toronto Art Book Fair, bringing it out of art spaces and into the public sphere proper (they do say malls are the new agora, amirite?). For this, our first formal participation in this book fair, we had the perfect project: Shellie Zhang’s artist book, Fusion Cuisine: Now with added MSG, published by the AGYU artists book series this past summer. We didn’t do the design in house for this one, it was done by Furrawn Press, and it is bee-yew-ti-fulll.

Zhang is an up-and-coming artist located here in Toronto, and this recipe book slash cultural critique dove into the Toronto Star archive, unearthing a wide range of European-referencing recipes that use MSG as a core ingredient, highlighting the particular strangeness of MSG having become the bogeyman hiding in Chinese restaurants world-wide. As she writes in the introduction … well, why don’t you order a copy and see for yourself?

This fall will also see some new books coming our way: we’re sending The Long Now, our beautiful Public Studio book with essays by TJ Demos, John Greyson, Susan Schuppli, and Jayne Wilkinson and interview by curators Emelie Chhangur and Philip Monk, to the printer simultaneously to sending you this newsletter. We’re working with Lauren Wickware on this one, and it’s been an exciting path to print. Always fun to work with a new designer!

We’re going to hold onto this one for a little bit, though, as we will be launching it at Edition/3, the book fair held in conjunction with Art Toronto, late October. Come by and visit us, as we would LOVE to sell you a copy.

Also brewing up in the background but soon to press are our books on Derek Liddington (a co-publication with SAAG); a co-publication with UBC Press and One Archive on Allyson Mitchell’s Killjoy’s Kastle (our first peer-reviewed publication); and the epic book on last fall’s groundbreaking exhibition, Migrating the Margins.







Art Gallery of York University
Keele Campus, Accolade East Building
Toronto Ontario  M3J 1P3

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please note: the gallery spaces are currently closed for construction of our new building

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