Winter 2016 Newsletter
Out There, Adrift?

Centre for Incidental Activisms (CIA) #3

6 January– 6 March 2016
Opening Reception: Wednesday, February 3, 6 – 9 pm
A constellation of energies held by Radiodress, Greg Staats, and Syrus Marcus Ware
with vibrational cuts by Johnson Ngo
Drafted by Emelie Chhangur, Suzanne Carte, and Michael Maranda

We have changed.

In this, the third iteration of the Centre for Incidental Activisms (CIA), things certainly don’t look the same as they did five years ago.

Five years ago we set out to performatively examine a question at stake in contemporary artistic and curatorial practice. Instead of creating an exhibition about politically engaged and activist practices, we created a centre through which to enact politics and embrace activism. This was a start. Disagreement, uncertainty, and unpredictability kept us going, enthusiastically. We are curious. We then looked to collaboration across disciplines and practices – from choreography to publishing to spoken word to dance to architecture and object play – to understand how new techniques might improvise a different scenario inside the gallery space and loosen the distinctions in-between the genres of our programming: no more education separate from exhibition making separate from public programming separate from publications. And then we realized it wasn’t about space at all, but the gallery itself. As much as anything, the AGYU was the subject of the CIA.The artists and communities with which we were working on each new iteration of the CIA were transforming us. And transforming our relationship to the university: cross-disciplinary skype conversations in the gallery, class meetings, formal and informal symposia connected to curriculum at YorkU. Students used the gallery as a studio in the second iteration, which also brought classes from OCADU, Ryerson, and Sheridan. Activism and collaboration as an end goal certainly brought a new time-sense to the gallery. It changed how we conceived our programming, in the long term. We changed out-reach to in-reach. We made a score instead of an exhibition. And we have followed its movement henceforth.

The CIA was always about putting research on display. The artists’ and our own.

We began each edition of this project with physical supports that shaped our propositions. In 2011, for the inaugural CIA, it was a large, custom-designed table positioned in the middle of the gallery. It was an organizational device that acted as a site and a meeting place, highlighting the questions we thought this project was about: “who is sitting at the table;” “who is stepping up to the table” (e.g., who has access and who is brokering these decisions in relation to the structure of the gallery)? But it also acted as a platform for different kinds of activities—from talks, to workshops, to dinners, to classes that professors conducted in the space, to being a stage for spoken word events and performances—and, in the end, through Public Studio’s intervention, the symbolic destruction of the idea of the “gallery” and the project’s very concept itself by cutting the table into pieces and rearranging it throughout the space. This is what the CIA taught us.

2014. We learned. Our 10’ diameter rotating table was low to the ground. In the back space, a quiet room. The table was a surface for collaboration, co-authorship, and exchange – a platform that brought the various collaborators, from members of the downtown art community to members of the Jane-Finch community, into the fold. There was spoken word, collage parties, collective writing exercises, think-tanks, and feasts. The 16’ library carrel, in the back gallery space, was a place of reflection, to reflect upon the activities taking place in the front gallery in real time and not after the project was finished. It also functioned as a physical drop box—a way to share research, with each other and the public. We understood these projects never finish. Especially when the focus turns to possibilities inherent in collective (and, occasionally, anonymous) authorship. Documentation became primary, source material deprecated. The result: ephemera flooded the gallery.

2016. We want to keep our head above water.

We have built a dock and a series of piers as our proposition. We’ve learnt. This time, change is anticipated. Mutable forms are the beginning. This time, the proposition follows the artists’ proposals. The piers start moored to the dock. They might start out there but they won’t end up there. This is another material metaphor for the project.

Did we mention the crates? They are back in the front gallery, forming a wall, dissecting the space. They too are meant to move, building new structures to put things in, to place things on, to hide things, to reveal. They too can be piled whether on themselves or on a pier. The piers and the crates and the docks can do other things too. They can bridge, which is convenient because these artists are experts in bridging. Bridging communities. Cultural practices. Genres. Or rituals, or ceremonial processes, or reciprocities, or transmissions, or actions.

For this iteration, the artists are bringing a grassroots approach to sharing information and community healing. CIA #3 focuses on the importance of ritual and shared cultural traditions to interrogate and build new knowledge structures while simultaneously recuperating and reinventing these techniques and traditions. The artists mine family archives and cultural histories bringing forward sacred symbols and mnemonic devices to construct portraits and uncover new narratives.

These narratives run in real time. A continuous present. They run like water but are as sturdy as land.

The CIA #3 is a rehearsal space for the artists to build on their existing work and explore the nuances of their complex practices, perhaps finding pathways into each others’ future projects or meeting new collaborators at the intersection of cultural crossroads.

Radiodress (aka Reena Katz) leads ritual baths, Mikvot, all the while with an embodied awareness of the colonial footprint on our local water sources. Reframing a traditional ritual for bodies marked outside the frame. It is a contemporary tradition she is co-creating. She is curious about the role “queer orientations” might have to offer civic life. She offers MKV as a comforting and transformative marker of life shifts, specifically for queer and trans-identified people. Radiodress’ project sits at the threshold of the gallery space and the outside world, and, by bringing people one-by-one to the CIA #3 as part of the project, brings the Greater Toronto area to YorkU’s campus. Connections proliferate. Ritual sounds are returned to the gallery through a meandering system of audio vibrations. And healing enters the gallery space as a form of renewal and generosity. MKV is a powerful ceremony and offering to community, acknowledging the physical toll that our work takes on marginalized bodies in our culture.

Greg Staats unpacks Onkwehonwe civilization. His research includes the restraint/constraint of cultural behaviour from the personal to the land-based remnants of memory and phenomena. Looking from above, with aerial views of the land gleaned from the Ontario Archives, he catalogues his history and implicates us in its current narrative. Making connections with the Aboriginal Student Association, the Department of Photography, and inviting members of the Six Nations of the Grand River Territory into the CIA #3, he uses the university as source material to share knowledge and guide performances that move from condolence to renewal. Working on written and photo-based/video works, this transition-transmission encompasses a gestural language as well, based on a personal condolence/renewal-restorative aesthetic that his work has evolved over the years. Piers become work spaces and boxes contain information to be shared.

Syrus Marcus Ware brings the classroom into the gallery by drawing on a YorkU course he’s teaching this semester. He hosts break-out sessions in the CIA #3, using the piers as seating arrangements, always re-arranging. These sessions explore environmental justice, prisoners’ justice and abolition-based activism, and the experiences of black and trans activists in Ontario. Considering memory both a distant/near-future and an homage/celebration of the lives of activists, Syrus moves his love-letters-to-activists project/performance in new directions, adding to his growing archive of drawings of those activists who come to the gallery to engage with the CIA #3. As the CIA #3 progresses, Syrus weaves together his large-scale portraiture, newly created soundscapes, and an ongoing speculative fiction text, continuing his long-standing practice of experimental pedagogy and movement building now as experiential-immersive installation.

Collaborations proliferate. Inter-connectedly. Already the artists approach their work through collaboration—with ideas, processes, and other people. And the sharing of skills, knowledge, and evidence collected over the course of the CIA #3 means that co-creation happens in-between their practices and projects as well, making new works together as the organic culmination-continuum of sharing the space and clarifying the terms used in relation to their practices.

This is the final iteration of the CIA. As we move forward we question what it takes to continue. How do we ensure that galleries might also be safe spaces for exchange, sociality, and activism? And that the AGYU continues to learn from the teachings of the CIA and the artists and communities that have taken up its propositions?

How do we move from grieving into dreaming into action?

These are questions for the future.

We dive off the pier into unknown waters.

Centre for Incidental Activisms: An Archive of Forces and a History in the Making


Deanna Bowen, Eugenio Salas, and Public Studio (Eshrat Erfanian + Elle Flanders + Tamira Sawatzky)

Faduma Abshir, Ronnia Adamson, Ademola Adewusi, Kevin Aikins, Martha Baillie, Marshan Beals, Philippe Blanchard, Warren Crichlow, Cade M. Davies, David Delisca, Brian Dursin, Domanique Grant, Brett Gundlock, Melonie Halasz, Rian Hamilton, Gabriel Hector, Keira Herry, Latonya Huggins, Vid Ingelevics, The Institute for Community Inquiry (ICI), Michelle Jacques, Noterlee Johnson, Jason Julien, Nancy Kamalanathan, Kawartha Food Security Farmers Network, Khalid Khan, Ellen Konadu, Che Kothari, LAL, Brian LaBelle, Quentin “Vercetty” Lindsay, Andrew Lovett-Barron, Baydan Mahamed, Shineeca Mcleod, Kate Milberry, Candance Mooers, Nomanzland, Kaiser Nietzsche (Zev Farber and John Kamevaar), No One Is Illegal, Paonessa, Madi Piller, Prisoners’ Justice Action Committee (PJAC), Shazeda Rahman, Rushie Raw, Alejandra Renzi, Eugenio Salas, Star dat Prince, Sun a.k.a. The Real Sun, Heavy Steve, Nana Tieku, TK, Dot Tuer, Krys Verrall, and Khalid Wilson.


Maggie Flynn, Ame Henderson, Jp King, Terrarea (Janis Demkiw, Emily Hogg, Olia Mishchenko) The M.A.D. Poet (a.k.a. Melissa A. Dean), and Mark “Kurupt” Stoddart

Gabriela Aguilera, Barbara Balfour, Eunice Belidor, Kareem Bennett, Elaine Bowen, Aliyah-Suvannah Burey, CN Tower Liquidation, Shannon Cochrane, Miles Collyer, Mary Dyja, Santiago Escobar, Chevy Eugene, Jennifer Fisher, Deirdre Fraser, Sabrina Gajadhar, Ian Garrett, Rachel Gorman, Nadar Hasan, Destiny Henry, Felix Kalmenson, Jessica Karuhanga, Megan Kinch, Salee Korn, Amee Le, Life of a Craphead, Jiva Mackay, Laura McCoy, Sky Maule-O’Brien, Wendy McGuire, Don Miller, Farrah Miranda, Mohammed Mohsen, Abdulkadir “Moose” Nur, Bridget Moser, Grey Muldoon, Kalli Paakspuu, Lido Pimienta, Sandy Plotnikoff, Malcom Sutton,  Jeremy McCormick, Swintak, Kika Thorne, Wing Yee Tong, vsvsvs, Evan Webber, and Deshawn Williams.

Get On the Performance Bus

Farrah-Marie Miranda is calling on you to join a social movement tour on The Performance Bus. Follow her journey through the social landscape of activism—the work and the hardships and the persistence that all this entails—and engage in an alternative celebration of what it means to dissent. The free Performance Bus departs OCADU (100 McCaul St.) February 3, at 6 pm sharp en route to the public reception of CIA #3 and returns downtown at 9 pm.

Farrah-Marie Miranda is an artist, writer and conscious dreamer. Her practice emerges from over a decade of work within migrant justice movements. She founded and co-directed Mass Arrival, a critically acclaimed public intervention and installation that disrupts discourses of illegality surrounding migrant boat arrivals to Canada. Her research is in the pedagogical possibilities of performance in unmaking colonial borders.

Audio Out

Audio in the front is coming from the back. The lobby is a sound system that is connected to the CIA #3. An audio chamber set up in the back space of the gallery acts as a participatory audio archiving machine among other things: a black power sound space, two turntables and a microphone, poetic musings on the sound of water as it reaches land. From creation to production to dissemination, this time Audio Out is also Audio In and the spaces in between sound relation.

AGYU Vitrines

Nicole Clouston puts the AGYU vitrines under the microscope and examines the world of bacterial growth. Normal Flora transforms these exhibition spaces into large petri dishes full of active nutrient agar. Yeast, mold, and microorganisms are the material for the sculptural forms that makes visible the precarious ecosystems that are under the surface of our skins.

Nicole Clouston obtained her MFA from the University of Victoria and is currently a PhD candidate in Visual Arts at York University. She has exhibited in Victoria, Edmonton, Montreal, and most recently at Nuit Blanche in Toronto. She received the SSHRC Canada Graduate Research Scholarship, the Anne Lazare-Mirvish Award, and the Robert S. & Muriel A. Raguin Graduate Scholarship.

Upcoming Exhibition

Public Studio

6 April –12 June 2016.

Contemporary Art Bus

Sunday, 6 March 2016, 12 – 5 pm | FREE

Tour starts at the Koffler Centre of the Arts at 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, 4 March to or 905-828-3879

Community Pedagogy Action

Creative Campaigning: Performance as Resistance

What do you see when you close your eyes? What images flicker behind your eyelids? We filter, internalize, and construct a vast amount of images at rapid rates each day. Sameer Farooq embarks on a quest to locate these images and bring them forward through the Creative Campaigning: Performance as Resistance series. In collaboration with multiple student advocacy groups and associations, Farooq is asking participants to see with eyes closed, unlocking a library of images from the collective minds of York students. Turning the focus inwards to reveal the prophetic power of an image, his research-as-performance-residency examines the individual as a moving archive. Through meditation, intuition training, and guided visioning exercises students will be asked to visit their inner image stream and examine the cultural, historical, and social geographies of their location through an atlas (or encyclopedia) of images.

AGYU Shines a Spotlight on Jane-Finch Youth Artists

The AGYU teams up with Success Beyond Limits (SBL) again to offer Spotlight: Youth Artists Take Centre Stage. Our latest year-long dance and spoken word poetry program engages SBL youth and is led by youth poets and dancers as well as SBL and AGYU alumni, including Kareem Bennett, Thunderclaw Robinson, Destiny Henry, and Nathaniel Mitchell.

In addition to facilitating dance and spoken word poetry workshops our team of youth artists are also participating in professional development sessions led by mentor artists Britta Badour and Brandon Roache.

On Wednesday, November 4, we presented Spotlight: Westview, our first of a series of showcase events featuring youth artists from the Jane-Finch community. The event, which took place at Westview Centennial Secondary School, created a platform for aspiring spoken word artists, dancers, singers, and rappers to perform and share their talent with the Jane-Finch community.

Spotlight: C.W. Jefferys takes place on February 10 at C.W. Jefferys Collegiate Institute. Featuring youth artists from C.W. Jefferys and Westview Centennial Secondary School, the event provides an opportunity for youth from neighbouring schools to come together to perform, show support, and celebrate the artistic development and creative expression of fellow youth.

The AGYU would like to thank the Toronto Foundation’s Vital Toronto Fund and the Anonymous Fund for generously supporting Spotlight: Youth Artists Take Centre Stage.

AGYU Spoken Word Alumni Featured in Prestigious Event

The AGYU is proud to announce that a number of alumni from our spoken word poetry programs performed on November 5 as part of The Kitty Lundy Memorial Lecture, which featured renowned American author David Margolick speaking about his recent book Elizabeth and Hazel: Two Women of Little Rock. Commissioned to write and perform poetry inspired by Margolick’s book and the battle around desegregation in the United States, Kareem Bennett, Destiny Henry, Abdulkadir “Moose” Nur, Suviana, and DeShawn “DC” Williams performed compelling work that explored the legacy of systemic racism and the relevance of the history of the Little Rock Nine to today’s Black Lives Matter struggle.

The AGYU would like to thank Naomi Adelson, Associate Dean of Liberal Arts and Professional Studies for providing our beloved youth artists with this incredible opportunity.

AGYU Curatorial Intensive Exhibition

Starry Stairs: Alma Rumball’s Atlantis
Gales Gallery, 105 Accolade West
18–29 January 2016
Curated by Vanessa Nicholas

Drawing Performance by Lido Pimienta, Louise Reimer, and Kendra Yee,

31 January, 12 – 6 pm

Starry Stairs: Alma Rumball’s Atlantis looks at Rumball’s unique and personal mythology as represented in the many drawings housed in York University’s art collection. The exhibition, which brings together a selection of these works on paper, questions the ‘outsider’ label that has long been attached to this artist. To emphasize Rumball’s relevance and honour her artistic labour, three emerging female artists, Lido Pimienta, Louise Reimer, and Kendra Yee, respond to the exhibition in situ. Their drawing practices echo the penchant for world making and mythology that motivated Rumball.

This is the first of this year’s AGYU sponsored Curatorial Intensive exhibitions, produced in collaboration with York U’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 programs. Working with the AGYU, student curators learn all aspects of curating: from ideation to selection, production, and installation. The next exhibition follows May 2 –13.

Youth Mentorship Program

Mentored by Allyson Adley, Tiana Gonsalves is organizing a series of multidisciplinary arts-based workshops for Black Creek youth, exploring how the arts can be used to foster coping skills and resilience for youth struggling with mental health issues. Tiana is a recipient of a York U-TD CEC Catalyst Grants. Thank you to Jenna Naulls, Youth Outreach Worker at the Falstaff Community Centre for supporting this initiative.


For the third year AGYU is proud to mentor the Visual Arts Student Association’s (VASA) student curated show and curatorial mentorship program. On view from January 18 – 28, 2016, at Eleanor Winters Art Gallery in Winters College, the exhibition is the result of an inspired partnership between a visual art student and art history student.

Welcome! Welcome!

The AGYU has a new Administrative Assistant! We’d like to welcome Elizabeth Nam, who started at the AGYU August 25. Elizabeth has worked over ten years at York University in various capacities, most recently in the Faculty of Health. And she is a graduate of York, too, receiving an Honours Bachelor of Arts in Cultural Studies, Faculty of Fine Arts in 2002 with further training in 3D animation at Seneca College. So besides her administrative chops, she has the skills to pay the bills, and will be designing the new AGYU website.

OAAG Awards

We’re poppin’ bottles to celebrate two prestigious awards from the Ontario Association of Art Galleries. At the 2015 ceremony, held November 18 in front of an audience of colleagues, the AGYU received Exhibition of the Year (thematic) for Philip Monk’s Is Toronto Burning? 1977/1978/1979 Three Years in the Making (and Unmaking) of the Toronto Art Community and Public Program Award for Heather Cassils’ research-action piece Labour Intensive curated by Suzanne Carte.

Workshop on Innovation in Exhibition Design and Installation

On November 19 at York University, the Ontario Associations of Art Galleries (OAAG), in partnership with the AGYU and York U’s Department of Visual Art and Art History, hosted a lively and polemical workshop for an eager group of over 40 participants from across Ontario and a group of York University students from a range of disciplines. Presenters Emelie Chhangur, Wanda Nanibush, Stephanie Nadeau, Syrus Marcus Ware, Elizabeth Sweeney, Christina Kerr, Ellen Anderson, Christopher Régimbal, Rebecca Gimmi, and Erin Peck were charged with addressing the following questions: can innovation in exhibition design and installation change how art is experienced and by whom through new models of accessible design or performative modes of civic engagement? What are the potential forces of change that can transform the gallery or museum institution from within? The workshop was curated by AGYU Assistant Director/Curator Emelie Chhangur. Chhangur has won the OAAG Exhibition and Installation Design award five times over the past nine years and the OAAG Public Program Award 4 out of the past 5 years.


Right now, moored on the gallery bookshelves, we have our latest two books. Co-published with Black Dog Publishing out of London, they are ready to disembark from our bookshelves. As we mix our watery metaphors, dip into their pages, and then, maybe even, land one (or two) for your own fishpond.

The first is Imaginary Homelands, a Spanish/English bilingual catalogue on the eponymous group exhibition of 2012 of young Colombian artists who took part in various residencies at the AGYU in preparation. Designed by Lisa Kiss, this book includes an extensive essay by curator Emelie Chhangur as well as interviews with all the artists by York University professor, Emiro Martínez-Osorio.

The second is Is Toronto Burning? This book, by Philip Monk, covers the turbulent late seventies in Toronto, when an art scene invented itself. Between CEAC and A Space, Art Metropole and The Cabana Room, but more importantly, in the pages of Centerfold, FILE, and Art Communication Edition, a scene was created, debated, destroyed, and built up again in a quick three years. Coming out of Monk’s 2014 exhibition, this book makes a solid argument about what did, and what didn’t, happen at the end of that decade.




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Keele Campus, Accolade East Building
Toronto Ontario  M3J 1P3

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