What We Lose in Metrics

Public Studio
13 April – 19 June 2016
Opening Reception: Wednesday, April 13, 6 – 9 pm

A popular colloquialism is that one “can’t see the forest for the trees.” And yet can we even see a tree for what it is? “The tree which moves some to tears of joy is in the eyes of others only a green thing that stands in the way,” William Blake wrote in 1799. “Some see nature all ridicule and deformity… and some scarce see nature at all. But to the eyes of the man of imagination, nature is imagination itself.” Here at the origins of the capitalist era, Blake opposed imagination to the Enlightenment project where a deformed nature was to be demystified and corrected. No more deep dark woods of the Grimm fairy tales, in this utilitarian world that we have inherited trees are meant for harvesting. Forests have been uniformly managed into columns of statistics.*

(* For instance: Forests occupy 66% of the province of Ontario, and comprise 2% of the world’s forests. This is reckoned as 85 billion trees of which there are 7 billion cubic metres of growing stock. Most forests in Ontario are Crown Land, 44% of which are managed for forestry, which makes up 26% of the province all together. The total harvest area is 114,110 hectares and the total forest harvest volume is 12.6 million cubic metres. The monetary value of the forestry section in 2012 was $11.5 billion.)

In this exhibition, Public Studio asks us what we lose in such metrics, in turning forests into standing reserves for commodity exploitation. What has been given up and what needs to be regenerated in this pragmatic notion of the natural world in which we all participate? For millennia before we began to cultivate forests, they conditioned us psychologically.

The word “forest” has come to mean a large wooded area, although etymologically it can
be traced to the Latin word foris, meaning “outside.” Thus begins our complex relationship with the forest—something that at once is “outside” ourselves and something that sustains us. Metaphorically the forest symbolizes the part of our psyche that is unknown, and stands in darkness until we come to the “clearing”—more than fall upon the devastation of a clear-cutting. Given this lack of understanding of our place in the natural world, Public Studio speculate whether there is a possibility of alternate cosmologies of nature.

We enter the exhibition through a tunnel as if a path through the woods. It is dark but dappled with light, like the forest of Akira Kurosawa’s famous film Rashomon. At the end, already deep within, lies a cabin. Have we walked into a nightmare or a forest idyll? Within this cabin, to a soundtrack (designed by Berlin sound artist Anna Friz) that hovers just at the level of our anxiety, or premonition, a cascade of images falls through the forest, all in black and white and collaged together in rapid pursuit of each other: Apocalypse Now, Rambo, Bambi, Avatar, Rashomon, and more. They are evidence, through all their genres, of the pervasive and profound symbol of the forest as a place of refuge or ambush, of evil or enchantment—of hunter or hunted.

If we wander, behind the cabin we stumble upon the video game The Path, which rehearses the way we just took to grannie’s house. The journey then begins again, this time in digital form, as we traverse the towering forest along what may be a logging road. This forest is imposing yet familiar, its image just shimmering out of stillness. In the distance, another path beckons and leads to two video games, The Witcher and Dragon Age Inquisition. Have we figured out that we too are advancing in the stages of a real-life video game; but are we hunter or hunted?

We travel on. A clearing lies ahead, filled with the blazing light of a giant LED screen, the type found beside freeways. Advertising no product, instead it proclaims a Rights of Nature, written for this exhibition by Haida lawyer Terri-Lynn Williams-Davidson. Cleverly detourned, the screen is also now a giant grow light. The scent of fresh foliage fills the air, coming from a grove of saplings nurtured in the gallery, preparing there for their biodiverse planting based on the ideas of Canadian scientist Diana Beresford-Kroeger’s Bioplan.

We are safely through. In our passage through these dread woods perhaps we have recognized the reserve of deep memory the forest stands for—a psychic and symbolic archive we all share.

What We Lose in Metrics is curated by Emelie Chhangur and Philip Monk. It is a primary exhibition of the 2016 Scotiabank Contact Photography Festival.

Get on the Performance Bus

Can’t see the forest for the trees? Think the AGYU is located in the middle of the bush? Don’t fret, Toronto artist Gina Badger is hosting the AGYU Performance Bus — and who wouldn’t trust a self-defined “kitchen witch” to get you out there? Gina is cooking up something special to take to the woods, though we are not going to disclose her ingredients just yet. The free Performance Bus departs OCADU (100 McCaul St.) at 6 pm sharp on Wednesday, April 13, en route to the exhibition opening of What We Lose in Metrics and returns downtown at 9 pm.

Gina Badger is a kitchen witch who currently makes her living as an artist and editor. At the heart of her practice is an engagement with the time and material of colonial ecologies from a critical settler perspective. She has presented work at venues including MOCCA (Toronto), the Blackwood Gallery (Toronto), LACMA (LA), Issue Project Room (NYC), The Kitchen (NYC), and the London School of Economics and Political Science. Born and raised in Edmonton, Badger is a fourth generation settler of Norman, Huguenot, and Anglo-Saxon ancestry born in Cree territory and currently living in Anishinaabe and Haudenosaunee territory, in Toronto. She holds a BFA from Concordia University (Montreal), a Master of Science from MIT (Cambridge), and has completed training as an energetic herbalist at the Blue Otter School of Herbal Medicine (Fort Jones CA). From 2011 to 2014, Badger was editorial director of Fuse Magazine.

AGYU Vitrines

Geometry of War, a new work by Maryam Ghayedikarimi for AGYU Vitrines, borrows directly from the architecture of the sound structures used as military air defense tools in World War I & II. Before the invention of radars, devices were fabricated to detect the sound of the enemy’s aircrafts. The acoustic instruments ranged in size from wearable headsets to large constructions. Ghayedikarimi builds facsimiles of these early surveillance and detection equipment as studies of form, sound, and texture. The sculptural forms are listening from the vitrines…

Maryam Ghayedikarimi is a PhD Candidate in Visual Arts at York University. She has a Master’s in Architecture from the University of Waterloo and has worked with such firms as SMV Architects, Lindy Consulting Limited, and KPMB Architects.

Audio Out

Toronto-based artist Gina Badger jumps into deep waters for this iteration of AGYU’s Audio Out, a listening post located outside the gallery lobby, to bring us the sounds of the sea. Rates of Accumulation is an oyster-soundscape that presents the rich ecological history of the Eastern Oyster. Originally presented as a pirate radio broadcast emanating from the Little Red Lighthouse underneath New York’s George Washington Bridge (May – June 2010), the piece provides an orchestral ocean interlude for visitors to the AGYU before encountering Public Studio’s “forest” inside the gallery.

Contemporary Art Bus

Sunday, 1 May 2016, 12 – 5 pm. FREE

Tour starts at the Koffler Centre of the Arts, Artscape Youngplace (180 Shaw Street) and then departs for Blackwood Gallery, AGYU, and Doris McCarthy Gallery, returning to Shaw Street at 5 pm. Seating is limited. Please RSVP by Friday, April 29, to scarte@yorku.ca or 416.736.2100, ext 44021.

Upcoming at AGYU

Toronto Pride 2016

From June 24 – July 3, AGYU celebrates Pride Toronto, proudly waving the rainbow flag at the Trans March, Dyke March, and Pride Parade! With a team of artists and students, we’ll showcase the acceptance, diversity, and inclusivity that YorkU promotes. We’re already getting the sparkles primed as we collaborate with members of our glitterati, including The Centre for Women and Trans People (CWTP), Trans Bi Lesbian Gay Asexual at York (TBLGAY), York Federation of Students (YFS), Centre for Human Rights (CHR), Glendon Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender (GLgbt*), The York United Black Students’ Alliance (YUBSA), and the SexGen York Committee.

Fall Exhibition: Iris Häussler

In 2009 Iris Häussler created the fictitious artistic persona of Sophie La Rosière and since has operated through this heteronym to produce a body of late-nineteenth century and early-twentieth century painting. The mystery of La Rosière is unveiled in this exhibition collaboration between the AGYU and Scrap Metal.


Creative Campaigning: Sameer Farooq

AGYU commissioned Sameer Farooq to dig a little deeper into the lives of students on campus and find out what excites, moves, angers, and intrigues them. He went straight to the center of their nervous system (i.e., the brain) to take a closer look.

A partnership with the York Federation of Students (YFS) and their affiliated advocacy groups, Behind the Eyes asked student leaders to “see” with their eyes closed. Farooq’s research-as-performance-residency (October 2015 – March 2016) examined the individual as a moving archive of images and modes of imaging. Through meditation, intuition training, and guided visioning exercises, Farooq engaged the students in a series of cognitive awareness sessions that focused on conjuring up peaceful scenes, building imaginary worlds, telling existing narratives, and releasing difficult images. The sessions tested the participants’ brain plasticity through exercises that re-constructed autobiographical episodic memory, pictured the continuous present, and produced future imagining (mental time travel!) through “image meditation.” This freeform streaming of “inner pictures” unlocked a library of images that were neither memory nor dreams, but something in-between—located in the imagination.

Behind the Eyes was an unrehearsed performance that was built with the guidance and consultation of the Psychology Clinic at York, Department of Psychology and Faculty of Health, Sherman Health Research Centre at York University, and members of York University’s prestigious Centre for Vision Research (CVR).

AGYU Curatorial Intensive Exhibition

After great pain, a formal feeling comes…

May 2 – 13, Gales Gallery, York University

Curated by Megan Toye

After great pain, a formal feeling comes… is comprised of various interactive and immersive mixed-media works that contain within their formal structure an element of loss or a sense of incompleteness. Featuring the work of artists Ellen Bleiwas, Kriss Janik, Erin Vincent, and Maryam Ghayedikarimi, the exhibition asks: how can certain aesthetic forms evoke the affective experience of pain and loss? That is, instead of regarding affects as resisting or being beyond form (as much affect theory has recently purposed), the work here queries how affects stick to, imbed themselves within, and are intimately tied to certain temporal structures and visual forms. What do the aesthetic forms of loss and pain look, feel and sound like? Do they have ethical and political potential? Can the forms of loss and pain evoke a common sense of precarity and thus create an atmosphere for collective healing? The artists in this exhibition explore these questions through a provocative mix of sculpture, video, and sound art.

This is the second of the AGYU Curatorial Intensive exhibitions, produced in collaboration with YorkU’s Art History Department. The Curatorial Intensive results in two exhibitions annually, one collection-based and one composed of a thematic selection of work by students in the MFA/PhD program. Working with the AGYU, student curators learn all aspects of curating: from ideation to selection, production, and installation. Megan Toye was mentored by AGYU Director Philip Monk. The first exhibition, Starry Stairs: Alma Rumball’s Atlantis, took place January 18 – 29 and was curated by Vanessa Nicolas.

AGYU & Words by the Water

On April 23, AGYU and Lakeshore-based Words By The Water co-present a free spoken word poetry event at Placebo Space (277 Lake Shore Blvd W.), celebrating the poet power and artistry of Toronto’s West End poets.

AGYU & Urban Arts

On May 9, AGYU and Urban Arts co-present a free cultural showcase featuring up and coming artists from Weston Mt. Dennis and Black Creek at the Urban Arts Program Space (19 John Street). The AGYU thanks BAM Youth Slam, Patrick De Belen, Urban Arts, Words by the Water, and Paulina O’Kieffe for collaborating with us on our most recent poetry events. These partnerships are integral to providing meaningful and horizon-expanding performance and artistic development opportunities for our youth artists.

Reports – Spoken Word Poets are Slowly Taking Over AGYU!

Spotlight: C.W. Jeffreys

On February 10, in conjunction with our ongoing Spotlight spoken word poetry program, Kareem Bennett and Thunderclaw Robinson led a spoken word poetry workshop for students at C.W. Jeffreys Collegiate Institute. Following the workshop, students from C.W. Jeffreys and Success Beyond Limits (Westview Centennial Secondary School) came together to celebrate and showcase the best and brightest up and coming poets, rappers, singers, and dancers from the Jane-Finch community.

AGYU & BAM Youth Slam

On March 9, from 6:30 to 9:30 pm, the AGYU joined forces with Poetry Powerhouse BAM Youth Slam to present a free Toronto Youth Poetry Slam at The Central (603 Markham Street) that brought together youth poets from our Spotlight program and BAM’s legendary line up.


On the publishing front, we’ve successfully seen two of our co-publications with Black Dog Publishing come to pass, Is Toronto Burning? and Imaginary Homelands. Both of these books are available for sale in our virtual and physical bookstore, as well as in bookstores around the world.

Imaginary Homelands brings together the work of nine Colombian artists who participated in an extended residency program at the AGYU, which culminated in the fall 2012 exhibition of the same name. The book contains an extended literary essay on the process of establishing this imaginary homeland by curator Emelie Chhangur, and interviews with all of the artists by York University professor Emiro Martínez-Osorio. This fully bilingual English/Spanish large-format, 176 page softcover book was designed by Lisa Kiss Design and contains countless illustrations and photographs. It could be yours for a mere $29.95.

Is Toronto Burning?, on the other hand, is the publication which fills out the story behind Philip Monk’s fall 2014 exhibition, Is Toronto Burning? 1977 | 1978 | 1979: Three Years in the Making (and Unmaking) of the Toronto Art Scene. There are reproductions of archival material and documentation of the work in the exhibition as well as Monk’s narrative telling of the creation of the art scene in this key period of Toronto art history. This 256-pages, large format, hardcover book was designed by Black Dog Publishing, and is available for $39.95.

We are currently in planning stages for an epic book on the work of Marlon Griffith, with some great contributions from Claire Tancons, Gabriel Levine, Christopher Cozier, and Stephanie Springgay. There is no way we could put together this publication without the assistance of Partners in Art, who are generously sponsoring the book.




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

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