Fall 2011 Newsletter
Surge Out There

Raqs Media Collective: Surjection

22 September – 4 December 2011

Opening Reception: Thursday, 22 September, 6-9PM

Of the current generation of Indian artists, the Raqs Media Collective from New Delhi (Jeebesh Bagchi, 1965; Monica Narula, 1969; Shuddhabrata Sengupta, 1968) are amongst the best known and most widely exposed in the west—and certainly the most media conscious. Having started as documentary filmmakers, over the past twenty years they have evolved a sophisticated—and sometimes performative—practice that combines film, media, audio, and text, which draw upon philosophy and political theory, in installations of an unresolved poetics. As the artists say of their upcoming exhibition, “Raqs Media Collective delights in transposing the plenitude of the incalculable onto the fabric of the ordinary. By counting to infinity, sensing animation in stillness and speaking in the language of silence, Raqs will breathe numbers, figures, proverbs and stories into the galleries of the Art Gallery of York University.”

In this exhibition of new work the artists start with traces that are minimal but that contain great amplitude within them: such as the palm print of Raj Konai—the ancestral trace (from 1859) of the entire history of forensic identification—that hovers over the exhibition. Now animated, this image of a counting hand initiates a series of moves that the viewer her- or himself animates through the exhibition. At the same time, the viewer witnesses other evolutions in video projection where stillness itself slowly is animated.

The elements of the exhibition are in a surjective relationship to each other. “Surjection” is a mathematical concept devised by the Bourbaki Group, whereby the elements of one set are applied, transposed, or mapped onto those of another set.

Get on the Bingo Dilemma Performance Bus With Oliver Husain!

B1, I2, N3, G88 O4: B7. I22, N33, G22, O15,

B16: I16. N46. G43. O40! B80! I34! N29 G29:

O30. B45! I56? N24? G67, O69. B67. I79. N82.

G89…O90. B20? I21…N23, G3, O2: B13

At the beginning, one little duck, one little flea wobbly wobbly on the floor: lucky. Two little ducks, two little fleas, toot toot young and keen, sweet sixteen: coming of age. Up to tricks. Down on your knees. Two score! Four score! Ask for more! You’re doing fine in your prime: Flirty thirty. Half way there! Was she worth it? Did you score? The same both ways, anyway round. Either way up. One more time. Straight on through. Nearly there…end of the line. Getting plenty? If only I was… A duck and a flea, you and me, me and you: unlucky for some. Block out.

Oliver Husain’s Bingo Dilemma Performance Bus departs OCADU (100 McCaul St) at 6 pm sharp en route to the Raqs Media Collective exhibition opening at AGYU and returns downtown at 9 pm. Free.

XSPACE loves AGYU’s Performance Bus

How best to introduce the next generation of artists to what’s out there? On Friday, September 2 at 5:00 pm the 2011 OCADU frosh will be taken on a performative parcours from their campus to XSPACE by Zeesy Powers on the often-imitated-never-duplicated-award-winning AGYU Performance Bus. This collaborative journey will be an introduction of OCADU frosh to both XSPACE and the AGYU.

Draw a line and follow it. The AGYU Performance bus is always free.

AGYU @ Art Toronto

H.A.M.S. at Art Toronto

(October 28 – 31)

After four years of schooling, what’ya get? A haunted schoolhouse! Come to fall convocation at the Art Toronto international art fair where, once again, the AGYU tricks or treats fair patrons with one of its specially commissioned installations featuring Toronto novelist Derek McCormack and Toronto artist Ian Phillips. The haunted schoolhouse is the outcome of an AGYU supported four-year project of H.A.M.S. (Holiday Arts Mail-Order School), which is a correspondence course (for the 1936-37 school year!) devoted to the holiday arts. Hallowe’enologists will be on hand to take your questions and offer demonstrations. Alumni welcome. Trick or Treat!

Studio Blog: Toronto <–> New York, via Paris!

For this edition of Studio Blog, Independent Toronto Curator Su-Ying Lee visits the studio of New York-based artist Alexandre Singh, whom she met in Paris this past summer on her travels through Europe.

Su-Ying Lee is interested in the capacity of a curator as an active agent, co-conspirator, and accomplice. She recently received a Masters of Visual Studies, Curatorial degree from the University of Toronto and is currently Curator-in-Residence at the Justina M. Barnicke Gallery.

Currently based in New York, artist Alexandre Singh explores a variety of media and exhibition formats, working in literature, collages, installations, and performances. Singh was born in Bordeaux (France) in 1980. He received a BFA from Oxford University (UK) in 2001 and an MFA from the School of Visual Arts (New York) in 2005.

Foreign Agent

Writing from the ash-filled Grimsvötn sky, Toronto artist Katie Bethune-Leamen counts down the rest of her days in Iceland. Bringing you the best from the MESSA Art Fair, the Living Art Museum, The Hafnarfjörður Centre of Culture and Fine Art, and Art Metropole’s Reykjavik twin, Útúrdúr. Bethune-Leamen will be explaining why the citizens of Reykavik are saying, “no” to Yoko Ono but saying, “yes” to Endemi during the launch of the women’s contemporary art magazine at Kling & Bang gallery. There will also be a generous helping of general never-ending splendour, mind-blowing sunsets, migratory birds, half-shorn sheep, geothermal pools, and more.

Contemporary Art Bus

On Sunday, October 16, join us at the Art Gallery of York University for a guided tour of the Raqs Media Collective’s exhibition Surjection. The free bus tour starts with the Koffler Gallery’s off-site project, 80 Spadina Avenue, Unit# 501 at noon and heads to the AGYU, Blackwood Gallery, and Doris McCarthy Gallery, returning to Spadina Avenue at 5:00 pm. Seating is limited. Contact Erin Peck at 416-208-2766 or erin.peck@utsc.utoronto.ca to reserve.

Upcoming Exhibitions

Winter: Will Munro

Spring: Diane Borsato

Programming reports

Centre for Incidental Activisms (CIA)

The Centre for Incidental Activisms (CIA) was a major new venture for the AGYU. It included Toronto artists Deanna Bowen, Eugenio Salas, and Public Studio (Elle Flanders, Eshrat Erfanian, and Tamira Sawatzky). Here the emphasis was not on the presentation of an exhibition of artworks but on an open situation where participatory, activist, and research-based art practices played out in artists’ actual production of knowledge. On the one hand, the aim of the CIA was to make artistic inquiry visible, particularly the ephemeral nature of the groundwork of research-based practices. On the other hand, it offered the contemporary art gallery as a base from which to enact activisms within an institutional framework, extending the influence of contemporary art practices to wider institutional frameworks such as the university as a whole. The gallery changed every day with different programs and events, with the artists also inviting different groups to present within the space. By bringing together different communities (such as through Salas’ work with farmers, prisoners’ advocates, Public Studio’s engagement with Israel and Palestine, and Bowens’ framing of conceptual art practices around the Civil Rights Movement), the CIA sought to highlight the interconnectedness of art and politics and how it could be a form of activism and social justice.

The CIA was also an opportunity to adapt our outreach to the Jane and Finch neighbourhood by changing it to “in-reach.” We welcomed the community into the AGYU with a number of exhibition projects that took place alongside our regular exhibition programming in our galleries. For Photo/Voice, we collaborated with the Office of the Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth (OPACY), Westview Centennial Secondary School, and The Spot Youth Drop-In Centre at York Gate Mall for a photography exhibition by Jane and Finch youth. Lost and Found: (Finding) Hidden Beauty in the ’Hood, curated by AGYU education Artist-in-Residence Melissa A. Dean (aka The M.A.D. Poet), featured works by emerging and mid career artists from different Toronto communities that brought attention to artist-activists who are representing the untold stories of strength and empowerment. Rise and Shine: A Community-Based Talent Showcase also highlighted some of the communities best, up and coming MC’s, singers, and spoken word artists. This event was organized by AGYU work/study student Lola Lawson, who also founded the Jane and Finch Club at York to ensure the strengths of the Jane and Finch community will continue to be celebrated on York University’s campus in the future (another incidental activism, indeed.)

The CIA project also reflected the AGYU’s new team approach to projects with Emelie Chhangur, Michael Maranda, and Suzanne Carte-Blanchenot co-curating. Education Assistant Allyson Adley organized and brought our inaugural Youth Arts Consultation into the CIA and mentored work/study students and interns who acted as curators/programmers.

Humberto Vélez

We miss Humberto Vélez. It seems strange not to have him around, working with us as he has for the past three years.  We also miss all Humberto’s collaborators but probably not as much as they miss him. And he misses us, and them, a lot, too. Humberto told us that The Awakening, the culmination of an intense series of residencies, workshops, youth exchanges, and collaborations with people from Toronto and Southern Ontario, including: The Monkey Vault Parkour artists, the Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation, the Tecumseh Collective First Nations Community Organization, and the New Credit and AGO Youth Councils was the best performance he had ever done. It was definitely the most unique. It was the first time an institution – the AGYU – was a collaborator alongside Humberto and his other collaborators. Humberto always profiles the underdogs, the upstarts, and the marginalized. That was also the AGYU, he said, the little gallery that could, and did. The Awakening took place at the AGO on May 14th at 4 pm. The Walker Court will never be the same, and neither will we for having worked with such an amazing artist.

The Awakening Re-Animated

Humberto Vélez’s Awakening came full circle in August with the AGYU’s return to the Mississaugas of the New Credit 25th annual Pow Wow. It was at last year’s 24th Pow Wow that the AGYU began its association with the Mississaugas that led to their collaboration with Humberto and participation in The Awakening performance at the AGO on May 14. At this year’s Three Fires Homecoming and Traditional Gathering an exhibition of photographs and regalia from the performance were exhibited in the New Credit Band Council Chambers adjacent to the Pow Wow. The exhibition was curated by New Credit Youth Council member Lauren King under the mentorship of Emelie Chhangur and Philip Monk. Watch for future iterations of The Awakening in Montreal as part of the Ethnographic Terminalia conference in November and at the Havana Biennial in May 2012.

Summer Residencies (Imaginary Homelands)

For the past six years, the AGYU has been exploring new possibilities of working with artists through residencies. Residencies are as much about Toronto as the places the artists are from and the commissioned work or exhibitions that result from them often take their cues from somewhere in between the two locations. Building from this idea, Imaginary Homelands, AGYU’s fall 2012 exhibition, started this past summer with a series of residencies with artists from Bogotá, Colombia. The residencies explored the idea of what it means to travel to and from places. The idea of an “imaginary homeland” in this context is not so much a place as it is a state of mind. The idea originates between two places, crossing borders and boundaries, annulling them by proposing new insights and forms of unconventional knowledge that have the potential to transform present-day realities. Over the course of the next year, in partnership with AB Projects, we will collaboratively conceive an imaginary homeland that will be built in the gallery that reflects the active movement or transposition of imagination across borders. The artists-in-residency this summer included Mateo Lopez, Daniel Santiago, and Carlos Bonil. Maria Isabel Rueda comes this November, and Mateo Rivano and Icaro Zorbar visit Toronto next spring.

We Can Be So Demanding…

The AGYU was dreaming BIG at Pride Toronto this year with artist Matthew-Robin Nye. Teaming up with the Trans, Bi, Lesbian, Gay Alliance at York (TBLGAY), York Federation of Students (YFS), and the SexGen York Committee, we demanded attention with We Demand Redux at the Pride Street Fair and with a specially designed float in the 31st annual Toronto Pride Parade.

We Demand Redux looked back to the past and forward to the future of Queer activism in Canada. Marking the 40-year anniversary of the 1971 “We Demand” March in Ottawa, Nye recreated Herb Spier’s original list of demands for equality as well as added a new set compiled with the collaboration of York students. Silhouettes of the first protestors lined the float emblazoned with “We Demand” and the bedazzled spire of Parliament Hill could be seen from blocks away! Backing up the Redux Float, DJ Produzentin and Mary Messhausen performed live, bouncing the truck with a heavy, house-pop remix.

It’s not too late to participate. To submit your own demands, go to http://wedemand.tumblr.com

Education

Voices Across Generations

Voices Across Generations brings fifteen youth from the Success Beyond Limits Program at Westview Centennial Secondary School together over the fall of 2011 to create multimedia artworks that explore the silenced or overlooked histories of diasporic cultural groups in the Jane and Finch Community. The Art Gallery of York University in partnership with a group of multidisciplinary artists, including Deanna Bowen, Truth Is…, NoManzLand, The M.A.D. Poet, aka Melissa A. Dean, and Lola Lawson, will teach and mentor youth through a multifaceted artistic process that explores and incorporates visuals arts, oral history, spoken word performance, theater, and music. In response to the erasure of cultural diasporic experiences, this program will encourage the recovery and reclaiming of lost voices and histories, by channeling them through multimedia art forms.

Publications

Recent:

FASTWÜRMS Donky@Ninja@Witch: A Living Retrospective

At the intersection of Pagan Lane and Queer Avenue you will find the FASTWÜRMs in their finest denim capes. In the pages of this exhibition catalogue, on the other hand, you will find all you want to know about their exploits in various Queen Street store-front installations, as re-purposed and re-staged in the galleries of the AGYU. Essays by Emelie Chhangur, Sally McKay and Jon Davies, a love letter from Andrew Harwood, an introduction by Philip Monk, all put together into one lush hard-cover resplendent book by Lisa Kiss. Now available at the gallery or from the AGYU online bookstore.

$24

Hot off the press:

And so, the animal looked back …

Alex Wolfson and Bojana Stancic

Take two theatrical plays, mix liberally with a gallery installation. Add a short story. The end result? The coming apocalypse or the one we just experienced; a theatrical production or a gallery installation? Six of one, half dozen of the other. It only makes sense that the exhibition catalogue is itself equally split: a script, a catalogue, and/or an artists’ book. It’s not for us to decide. In any case, texts by Alex Wolfson, Philip Monk, and Emelie Chhangur. Illustrations by Ken Ogawa. Design by Michael Maranda. Ready to order, made to measure.

Soon to be released:

Oliver Husain: Spoiler Alert

Essays by Emelie Chhangur, Ian White, and Chi-Hui Yang. Additional texts by Oliver Husain. Design by Sameer Farooq. How do we describe Spoiler Alert without spilling the beans? Let’s just say, all will be explained, with many loose ends left to play with.

In the works:

Philip Monk’s magnum opus on General Idea, Glamour is Theft: A User’s Guide to General Idea, Vol. 1: 1969 – 1978, is due to be published soon. Sometimes dismissed as camp pageantry, General Idea’s work actually comprised a coherent system. Until now, people believed General Idea made it up as they went along but their system can be analyzed linguistically and semiologically. Glamour is Theft takes this subject seriously but pretends that the book was written in the 1970s by Roland Barthes (in English translation).

The AGYU Artists’ Book of the Moment for 2011 is … plural.

That’s right, the jury was deadlocked. The top of the ABotM was split. On one side, Antonia Hirsch’s Komma (after Dalton Trumbo’s Johnny Got His Gun), published by Fillip. On the other, Gareth Long and Derek Sullivan’s the Illustrated Dictionary of Received Ideas 2010 Galley #5, published by Artexte.

Complete details on the 2011 ABotM available on the website at http://www.theAGYUisOutThere.org/abotm

Third time’s the charm:

Or is that three sheets to the wind. We’re not sure which way to go on this, but we’re definitely giving three cheers to the third iteration of the Artists’s Book of the Moment Prize. See our website for rules and regulations on this time ’round, which is much like the last two. Exactly: A three-ring circus.