Jess Dobkin’s Wetrospective
2 September – 26 September 2021
Opening Reception: Friday, September 10, 6 – 9 pm
Curated by Emelie Chhangur
I’ve been thinking a lot about how to undo, redo, reimagine, represent, activate, upcycle the archive. For my purposes I’m not interested in the archive as presentation of historical documents. I am interested in how it can be performed. How it can be in conversation with the living present and also speak to the future.
– Jess Dobkin
The Art Gallery of York University is excited to present the first solo exhibition of Toronto-based performance art matriarch Jess Dobkin, curated by Emelie Chhangur.
“Driven by an interest in how one might performatively engage the energetic liveness of archives from polysemous perspectives Jess Dobkin’s Wetrospective takes up and takes apart the linear, patriarchal, and authoritative conventions of archive-making impulses. Channeling them instead toward more rhizomatic readings and feminist relationalities, she upcycles her own archive of past performances in ways that constitute her concept of “bendy-time.” The “archive” performs in this exhibition at the same time as it makes sense of (as in making sensate and sensual) an artist’s 25-plus-years of performance art work—including all its material and immaterial remains, reminders, and affective labour. This exhibition demands of archives what we expect from performance: the live encounter of experience in a ritual of transformation. Taking past performances as cues and as clues, this exhibition is a polytemporal, feminist, and queer experience of an archive of possible futurities, open to forever accommodating the always-shifting communities of belonging that Dobkin’s performance practice entails and magically conjures.”
– Emelie Chhangur
Jess Dobkin’s Wetrospective was produced by the AGYU with support of Sensorium: Centre for Digital Arts and Technology at York University and the AMPD Makerspace, along with the collaborative help of affiliated computational arts students who assisted in the conceptualization and development of the Wetrospective app. Further development of the Wetrospective was aided by a Theatre Centre hosted residency. Jess Dobkin’s solo exhibition includes the support of numerous collaborators with special thanks to: Laura Levin, Joel Ong, Lisa Kiss, Jeremy Mimnagh, Jesse Garrison, Thalia Godbout, Moe Angelos, Dany Lyne, David Hawe, Dan Dobson, Jeremy Saya, Andrei Pora, Nguyen Nam, Tina Fance, Zhouyang Lu, Joey Morin, Cheng Shao, Tamyka Bullen, Andrew Zealley, Tania Anderson, Henry Chan, Alex Tigchelaar, Aislinn Rose, Natalie Gisele, Navid Amini, Tim Lindsay, John Caffery, Nik Redman, Cozmic Cat (Paula Burrows) and the Canada Council for the Arts and the Ontario Arts Council for their financial support for this collaborative undertaking.
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Top: Jess Dobkin’s performance Mirror Ball, 2008.
Left: Jess Dobkin with David Hawe and Lisa Kiss, Judgement tarot card from Major Arcana tarot deck, 2020.
Wetro Event Constellation: (Porta Jane Constellation)*
You’re Welcome Wetro Tour with Emelie Chhangur and Jess Dobkin (IRL)
Thursday, September 9 • 3pm @ AGYU
Collective Effervescence Wetrospective Opening Party (IRL)
DJ’s spinning archives of Toronto’s favorite parties: Cozmic Cat, Nik Red, Sasha Van Bon Bon, John Caffery. Jewish food truck with Guillermina Buzio and Bar Bacan
Friday, September 10 • 7-10pm @ AGYU and Outdoors on York University – The Common
The Live Encounter Performative Gallery Tour with Laura Levin (IRL)
Monday, September 20 • 3pm @ AGYU
Portals, Potions and Archives with Jehan Roberson (IRL/livestream)
Saturday, September 18 • 3pm@ AGYU
Archival Alchemy® with Joyce LeeAnn (IRL/livestream)
Tuesday September 21 • 7pm: The Commons @ 401 Richmond Street, Toronto in Collaboration with FADO Performance Art Centre
Hemispheric Encounters with Performance Art Archivists (livestream)
Thursday, September 23 • 3-4pm
All the Feels with Ann Cvetkovich (IRL/livestream)
•Friday, September 24 • 3pm @ AGYU
These star points are not date specific • More September Activations
ASL Wetro Tour with Tamyka Bullen, Emelie Chhangur and Jess Dobkin (Recorded)
Designing Difference in the Arts with Creative Users
Power to the Pause with Ben Gillespie and Jess Dobkin
Renewing the World Podcast: Charles Reeve, Rachel Epp Buller, Elana Marchevska with Jess Dobkin
Jewish Holiday Stars: Rosh Hashanah: September 7-8 • Yom Kippur: September 16 • Sukkot: September 21-26 • Simchat Torah: September 29
Jess Dobkin has been a working artist, curator, community activist, mentor and teacher for more than 25 years, creating and producing intimate solo theatre performances, large-scale public happenings, socially engaged interventions and performance art workshops and lectures. Her practice extends across black boxes and white cubes, art fairs and subway stations, international festivals, and single bathroom stalls. She operated an artist-run newsstand in a vacant subway station kiosk (The Artist-Run Newsstand), a soup kitchen for artists (The Artists’ Soup Kitchen), a breast milk tasting bar (The Lactation Station Breast Milk Bar), and a performance festival hub for kids (Free Childcare Provided). Her 2017 performance, The Magic Hour, was developed and produced in a multi-year residency at The Theatre Centre with support of the Canada Council. She received a Chalmers Arts Fellowship to fund her international archival research in 2018–19. She’s taught as a Sessional Lecturer at OCAD University and the University of Toronto, and was a Fellow at the Mark S. Bonham Centre for Sexual Diversity Studies at the University of Toronto. Jess is currently Curator of the Performing Archives stream of a multi-year “Hemispheric Encounters: Developing Transborder Research-Creation Practices” SSHRC Partnership Grant. Her film and video works are distributed by Vtape and her performance work is held in performance art archives internationally.
Curator, writer, and artist, Emelie Chhangur, is the Director and Curator of the Agnes Etherington Art Centre. This appointment follows a significant curatorial career at the Art Gallery of York University (AGYU). At AGYU, she led the reorientation of the gallery to become a civic, community-facing, ethical space driven by social process and intersectional collaboration; she founded the gallery’s residency program and received 25 OAAG awards for her contributions in writing, publishing, exhibition-making, public and education programming.Over the past 20 years, Chhangur has emerged as a leading voice for experimental curatorial practice in Canada and is celebrated nationally and internationally for her process-based, participatory curatorial practice, the commissioning of complex works across all media, and the creation of long-term collaborative projects performatively staged within and outside the gallery context. Chhangur has published numerous books on contemporary art and regularly contributes articles to art journals, peer review essays to anthologies, and presents her research at conferences internationally. Distinguishing herself as a cultural worker dedicated to questioning the social and civic role of the public institutions of art, Emelie Chhangur has developed a curatorially-engaged approach to working across cultural, aesthetic, and social differences through a practice she calls “in-reach”—a concept that has since transformed engaged institutional practice in the arts across Canada. In 2019, she won the Ontario Association of Art Galleries’ inaugural BIPOC Changemaker Award and in 2020, the prestigious Hnatyshyn Foundation Award for Curatorial Excellence.