Jess Dobkin’s Wetrospective

2 September – 26 September 2021
Opening Reception: Friday, September 10, 7 – 10 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 For my purposes I’m not interested in the archive as presentation of historical documents.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

A woman, dressed in a pantsuit resembling a disco ball, stands on a plinth. Spotlit, she is performing for an audience in a darkened environment.

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.

Covid Protocols: To keep within capacity limits, pre-registration is required for all events and in-gallery visits. AGYU visitors will be required to pre-screen on the day of their visit to the campus or attending associated events (the York U Covid Screening tool can be found here).

You can book for events and gallery visits here:

Warning: exhibition & related events contain mature content
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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:

* Thursday, September 9 • 3pm @ AGYU
You’re Welcome Wetro Tour with Emelie Chhangur and Jess Dobkin (IRL)

* Friday, September 10 • 7-10pm @ AGYU and Outdoors on York University’s Commons
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.

* Saturday, September 18 • 3pm @ AGYU
Portals, Potions and Archives with Jehan Roberson (IRL/livestream)

* Monday, September 20 • 3pm @ AGYU
The Live Encounter Performative Gallery Tour with Laura Levin (IRL)

* Tuesday, September 21 • 7pm: The Commons
Archival Alchemy® with Joyce LeeAnn (livestream) co-presented with FADO Performance Art Centre

* Thursday, September 23 • 3-4pm
Hemispheric Encounters with Performance Art Archivists (livestream)

* Friday, September 24 • 3pm @ AGYU
 All the Feels with Ann Cvetkovich (IRL/livestream)

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, and 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.

See also

All the Feels with Ann Cvetkovich

All the Feels with Ann Cvetkovich

24 Sep 2021
Hemispheric Encounters w/ Performance Art Archivists

Hemispheric Encounters w/ Performance Art Archivists

online panel discussion
23 Sep 2021
Archival Alchemy®

Archival Alchemy®

lecture w/ J LeeAnn
21 Sep 2021
Portals, Potions, and Archives

Portals, Potions, and Archives

lecture w/ J Roberson
18 Sep 2021
ASL Exhibition Tour

ASL Exhibition Tour

feat. Tamyka Bullen
2 – 26 Sep 2021
You’re Welcome Wetro Tour

You’re Welcome Wetro Tour

Exhibition tour
9 Sep 2021
ASL introduction

ASL introduction

feat. Tamyka Bullen
2 – 26 Sep 2021
Exhibition views

Exhibition views

2 – 26 Sep 2021


2 – 26 Sep 2021
Visiting the Gallery

Visiting the Gallery

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

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From September 2 to 26, 2021

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Wednesday: extended hours to 7 pm

(gallery closed for Labour Day on Sept 6)

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