Winter 2017 Newsletter: Out There in the Construction Zone

Illusion of Process

Marvin Luvualu Antonio

Miles Collyer

Maggie Groat

19 January –12 March 2017

Opening Reception: Thursday, January 19, 6–9 pm

AGYU hates competition (insert rolling eyes emoticon here). As many galleries across the Greater Toronto Area now open on Wednesday evenings, we have decided—after 28 years—to switch our openings to Thursday nights! And why not? Change is good.

Surrounded, as we are, by a never-ending construction site, we’re never really sure what the end result is going to be. Just outside the doors of the AGYU, a new subway station is taking shape. We’re told that the subway is going to come. We’ve been told this one for years, and before us already it was being told. We’ve been teased with “artist’s renderings,” with photo-ops, with scale models. Nevertheless, construction seems to be going nowhere, the promise always put off another month, another year.

That’s exactly the way the built form evolves, though. Only in stepping away for a bit, defamiliarizing one’s surroundings, can we actually see change as it happened. That subway? It’s coming, it’ll come, and then … instead of stopping, the changes will continue. We won’t necessarily see them, being too close, but they will continue to happen.

The work of Miles Collyer, Marvin Luvualu Antonio, and Maggie Groat all fit together. They are not, of course, the same. Far from it. But somehow, they do fit together. Their work shares a strategy, but it’s not only that.

To start with, Miles, whose work appears to be about violence and the destruction of the built form. Of more importance, however, is the route that he takes: he is not representing violence, either to or for us. His source material is not crumbling concrete and twisted rebar: instead, it is the incidental representation of such. Fragments caught in the background of the evening news; snippets of real destruction mediated for our consumption as spectacle. Aspects of warzones, in a constant state of de-construction, are re-constructed in the gallery as new objects of contemplation. Miles is offering us the representation of the representation of violence. He concretizes for us, in the most real way possible, the mediated image. On display is the extensive materials-based research he undertakes, from a concrete wall juxtaposed alongside the gallery’s own walls, to the revealing of a lattice of support columns via a wheat-pasted, monolithic photocopy.

Marvin, on the other hand, is not so bound to mediation (although consideration of the spectacle? that he shares with Miles). Instead, he is, using the most economic of means, setting a stage on which he will, during the opening, literally project his familial history in a performance titled “Death is a Tunnel.” Chains delineate the boundary of the stage, sand defines the floor, brick and concrete the stage sets. His intention is not to represent to us a connection of him and his father across time and space; his performance is the making of that connection real, immersive, present. He occupies, and redefines, the confines of the gallery space, challenging the purposes to which he as subject is often put. After the opening, when the sound and fury of the opening performance are gone, the stage will become a site onto which the viewer can meditate on their own phantasies of wholeness.

And then Maggie, whose chosen material practice cleaves most closely to the edges of the construction site. We see discarded materials, cast-off and dejected. Or at least that is the starting point. She does, indeed, collect, scavenge, and reclaim her materials from various sites (including the storerooms of galleries) but this material is not merely recycled and repurposed. She is saving it, reclaiming it from the profane cycle of the commodity, inventing it anew on its own terms. Hers is a practice of new materialism in material form, borrowing from the past to construct a future that will then be built again in another form. Through acts of assembling, modifying, and transforming these found and salvaged materials, sculptures and collages are created as tools for determinate uses; as visions of possible futures and/or utilitarian objects to be activated for uses not yet imagined.

To return to all three together, though, their work shares not with the construction site (even if the materials put into play, the rebar and concrete of Miles, the chain and brick of Marvin, the detritus of cultural-products past of Maggie,) but rather with the site of the construction site. More specifically, the hoarding around the site. And even more specifically, the artist’s renderings that adorn that hoarding, whose promise is the future, the ideal, and an end to the endless rearranging and shifting, the uncertainty and noise.

Certainly, they borrow from the construction site (one can think of their studios as reserves of material to be deployed), but once the work is installed, it takes on the timeless quality of a rendering—the finished product in preternatural stasis. The illusion is two-fold, then. An illusion of finished state, of existing just-so for an undetermined period of time, fixed as it is. Then, the illusion of the process, the various components in an unending dance, a dance to which we pretend to have access. Put in another way, we see the stasis in the work on display, but the stasis promises that solidity and permanence is always … impermanent.

As is our ongoing relationship with the city in which we live. At any one point, the urban environment is fixed and eternal, but at the same time, it is always changing, at a pace just slow enough to escape detection.

Departing from the formal qualities of the material these three artists use to deconstruct and reconstruct monuments and sites, the urgency of meaning is inherent in the building materials they use. The abstract collection of matter and objects transform through use and proximity, articulating the complexities of built space and the never-ending construction of meaning. Political discourse is inherent in all of these artists’ work without the articulation of overt narratives, allowing the power of the conditional material to do the heavy lifting.

As for that subway, it is coming. We can feel it.

BIOS

Miles Collyer’s work has been published and exhibited widely. Selected group exhibitions include the Art Gallery of Western Australia (Perth), Australian Centre for Photography (Sydney), Open Space (Victoria), The Power Plant (Toronto), and the University of Toronto Art Museum. Collyer is the Career Development Coordinator at OCAD University’s Centre for Emerging Artists & Designers and holds a MBA/MFA from York University.

Marvin Luvualu Antonio has recently been published in Every Object Has a Story: Extraordinary Canadians Celebrate the Royal Ontario Museum and was selected for the 2014 Aimia | AGO Photography Prize Scholarship Program. Selected group exhibitions include Stevenson Gallery (Cape Town), CK2Gallery (Montreal), Jackman Hall Institute, and XPACE Cultural Centre (Toronto). He has a BFA from OCAD University and is represented in Canada by Clint Roenisch Gallery (Toronto).

Maggie Groat’s work has been included in exhibitions at Western Front (Vancouver), The Power Plant, Mercer Union, Erin Stump Projects (Toronto), and Rodman Hall (St. Catharines). She is the editor of the anthology The Lake, published by Art Metropole in 2014. Groat was an Audain Artist Scholar in Residence at Emily Carr University in 2014 and nominated for the Sobey Art Award in 2015. Groat studied visual art and philosophy at York University before attending the University of Guelph, where she received an MFA in 2010. She is represented by Erin Stump Projects (Toronto).

Illusion of Process is curated by AGYU Assistant Curators Suzanne Carte and Michael Maranda. The work of Miles Collyer is supported by the Toronto Arts Council and the work of Maggie Groat by the Ontario Arts Council.

Get on the Performance Bus

2017 marks the last year of The Performance Bus as we usher in a new era with the AGYU Subway opening early 2018. For this iteration we welcome writer and philosopher Kevin Temple as host, but he won’t play either role in this performance. Instead, Kevin performs as an art critic, critiquing the work of Object Oriented Ontology (OOO) proponent Graham Harman—his art work though, not his philosophical work. Indeed, throughout Kevin’s 6-month contribution to AGYU’s newest discursive program the Unaligned Seminar (see below), Kevin has claimed that Graham Harman’s work is best understood as performance art—he is an artist performing the role of philosopher as an art practice. For Kevin, Harman’s is one of the most elaborate performances of all time, lasting well over a decade without him ever letting on explicitly that he is an artist at all.

The free Performance Bus departs OCADU (100 McCaul Street) at 6 pm sharp on Thursday, January 19, en route to the exhibition opening of Illusion of Process and returns downtown at 9 pm.

AGYU VITRINES:

Xuan Ye: What You See is Where You Go

How we interact with computers can render the once-familiar questionable. The advent and development of graphical user interfaces, functioning as the media bridging human computer interactions, can be understood as having drastically changed our way of seeing, as well as our perception of time and space. Presenting the enlarged icons that denote “loading,” “pointing,” and “typing” as LED signs magnifies this cognitive shift. Placing them in vitrines patterned with seamless grey-white checks (the background pattern indicating transparency in most graphic-processing software) creates physical spaces that signify an unknown vacuum, ad infinitum. WYIWYG, originally “What You See is What You Get,” here becomes What You See is Where You Go, questioning where these symbols point to in the virtual realm.

Coming from a multidisciplinary background of music, information technology, cultural studies, and visual communication, Xuan Ye is a Toronto-based Chinese artist and performer who works with media ranging from sound, body (vocalization, choreography, intervention), writing (coding-as-writing, performative drawing), moving, and still images, to sculptural objects. She holds a MA in Visual Culture and Cultural Studies from New York University with an undergraduate background in information technology and years of conservatory training on Piano Island. Her works have been performed and exhibited in North America, Europe, and China, most recently at the New Museum (New York), the Times Museum (Guangzhou), and as part of Christof Migone’s Mixer at the 21C Music Festival (in partnership with MOCCA).

Unaligned Seminar

Meetings held behind closed doors at unpredictable times and unpredictable places. Dim lighting, papers nervously shuffled, words exchanged. All this describes the Unaligned Seminar not in the least. It’s true, we’ve been getting together over the last six months at varying times, and in varying locales, but there’s been nothing illicit about it. Instead, Kevin Temple (see The Performance Bus above) has been leading a group of Toronto-based artists on a literary tour of the fields of Object Orientated Ontology, Graham Harman-style. The sessions have been informative, entertaining, and we sure appreciate the work that Kevin and the seminarians put in, as well as the kind donors of space for the meetings. Stay tuned to our website for the theme and moderator of our next seminar, coming soon.

Contemporary Art Bus Tour

Sunday, 26 February 2017, 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, February 24, to dmg@utsc.utoronto.ca or 416.287.7007.

Upcoming Exhibitions

Spring 2017: Derek Liddington

Fall 2017: Migrating the Margins

PEDAGOGY/COMMUNITY/ACTION

AGYU: A Finalist for Toronto Diversity Award!

This past September, AGYU was named one of five finalists for the 2016 TD Arts Diversity Award, administered by the Toronto Arts Foundation. It was incredible for us to sit alongside such amazing, community-driven and politicized organizations such as Regent Park Film Festival, The Remix Project, UforChange, and ImagineNATIVE and to be recognized as peers. AGYU wants to acknowledge the tireless work and commitment of all of the finalists with a shout out to Regent Park, who went home with the prize and 10Gs in their pocket.

Report on Chronicles 2016

Taking place from September – December 2016 and led by a multidisciplinary team of artists including Anthony Gebrehiwot, Paul Ohonsi, Nathan Baya, and Thunderclaw Robinson, Chronicles 2016 invited Success Beyond Limits youth to discover the expressive possibilities of photography, spoken word poetry, and dance. Organized by Jane–Finch rapper and dancer Nathan Baya, the Chronicles 2016 Showcase on November 16 featured performances by up-and-coming singers, spoken word artists, and dancers from across the city. The program also incorporated a guest lecture series featuring cultural leaders who are on the front lines of arts and activism in Toronto. Hearing from Whitney French, the founder of Writing While Black, Jega Delisca, the founder of the Carefree Black Boy Project, Joel Zola, the creative force behind the Street Voices magazine, and Randell Adjei, the young visionary behind RISE, SBL youth learned about the diverse sources of inspiration that motivated these change-makers to initiate and sustain their own cultural movements.

The AGYU thanks the Toronto Arts Council: Targeted Enhanced Funding for generously supporting this program.

/Edition Toronto

Eight years of Hallowe’en studies came to a close this fall when we brought Derek McCormack and Ian Phillips of the Holiday Arts Mail-Order School (H.A.M.S.) to their adoring public. They lined up for hours for their chance to get their hands on a copy of the 1937 Yearbook, as well as swag from the school. For four days, the crowds never let up. This was at, of course, /edition, Toronto’s newest Art Book Fair. Held in conjunction with Art Toronto, it was an exuberance of print. We were not only there in support of H.A.M.S., of course, but we also were displaying our own books and checking out what everyone else was up to. Can’t wait for next year!

AGYU Wins Five OAAG Awards!

Established in 1978, the OAAG awards are the only annual juried awards to recognize excellence and significant achievement in all the multi-faceted activities undertaken in the public art gallery sector of Ontario. This year AGYU went home with five of those coveted little gems! Perhaps not surprisingly, we won the Public Program Award for Ring of Fire, our massive, two-year long project with Trinidadian artist Marlon Griffith, which culminated in a 300-person strong street procession along University Avenue from Queen’s Park to City Hall that opened the cultural program of the Parapan American Games last summer. Shout outs have to go to our collaborators: the Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation, Capoeira Angola, Picasso Pro, Equal Grounds, and a whole host of spoken word poets from Jane–Finch, Malvern, and Regent Park as well as to our partners: SKETCH, Art Starts, The Malvern S.P.O.T., Success Beyond Limits, COBA, and York University’s School of the Arts, Media, Performance & Design. Griffith’s monographic exhibition Symbols of Endurance, also curated by AGYU Assistant Director/Curator Emelie Chhangur, won for Best Exhibition.

We are thrilled that Director Philip Monk won the top Writing Award for his magnum opus Is Toronto Burning? We are extremely proud that the first exhibition in our “Curatorial Intensive” mentorship program, a partnership with the Department of Visual Art and Art History at York University, also took home a top exhibition award. Curator Vanessa Nicholas, a PhD student at York University, took home the First Exhibition in a Public Gallery Award for her AGYU-sponsored collection-based exhibition Starry Stairs (which also travelled to the Art Gallery of Sudbury!). But that’s not all! The publication for that exhibition, designed by Brett Ramsay and published by the AGYU won a Design Award. This year’s awards ceremony took place on November 17 at the Gladstone Hotel in downtown Toronto. AGYU would like to extend our congratulations to all the winners and to OAAG for pulling off another stellar awards ceremony.

AGYU’s New Hire!

We are pleased to welcome Yvonne Chiu, a long-standing and dedicated member of York’s community, to the position of Administrative Assistant at AGYU. Yvonne is a YorkU graduate with a Bachelor of Administrative Studies and a Management Certificate. Upon graduation, Yvonne worked in administrative and student service positions at YorkU for over 20 years, taking positions in the Dean’s Offices of the Faculty of Education and the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies, Vanier College Master’s Office, and Office of the University Librarian. Yvonne’s wide-ranging experience with York also includes positions in non-academic units such as Human Resources, Centre for Human Rights, and York International as well as academic units such as Osgood Hall Law School and the School of Administrative Studies. Finally, she has landed at AGYU (ahem, the best place to work on campus!) and we are ecstatic!

Publications

Our Marlon Griffith publication is on its way and we couldn’t be more excited. Distilling more than just the procession, Ring of Fire, and exhibition, Symbols of Endurance, we covered a complete history of his processional work from the early days on. We could not do this, of course, without the aid of our writers, Gabe Levine, Claire Tancons, and Chanzo Greenidge, and of course, our own curator and writer, Emelie Chhangur. We also need a shout out to Partners in Art, who made this financially possible, and Black Dog, our co-publisher. We’ll let you know when it gets here.

On other book news, we’re deep in the process of putting together the book that will document the Sophie La Rosière project of Iris Häussler, also a Black Dog co-publication. As we move forward, we’ll be letting you know more details on the publication.

Then, there’s a new initiative that we’ve started: a series of (modest) artists’ books. To replace our Artists’ Book of the Moment prize of a few years back, we’re dipping our toes into the publishing of nonexhibition- related artists’ books. Limited to short-run, digitally-printed books of modest scale, we’re seeing what we can accomplish with shoe-strings and spit-polish. It’s not about the splash, nor the fetishized luxury-object. Content-driven with distribution-as-needed.

Our first book in the series and we’re already cheating. Well, a little bit. Alejandro Tamayo’s vitrine project of last fall was so nice, we made a book out of the project, with the rather extended title of A quantifiable translation of the agitation of enclosed air allowing three empty spaces to be visually compared. More on our website, and more importantly, you can purchase it online or in our bookstore!

AGYU promotes LGBTQ2 positive spaces and experiences and is barrier-free.

All events out there are free of charge and open to everyone.

Our new territorial acknowledgement

AGYU respectfully acknowledges our presence on the traditional territory of Indigenous Nations including the Wendat, Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) and Anishinaabe, and that this territory is the subject of the Dish With One Spoon Covenant and Wampum, between the Haudenosaunee Confederacy, the Ojibwe, Odawa, Pottawatomie (the Three Fires Confederacy) and allied nations to peaceably share and care for the resources in and around the Great Lakes. The Three Fire Confederacy includes the Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation, who settled in what is now the City of Toronto. In 1805, the Mississaugas agreed to the sale of tracts of land known as Crown Treaty No. 13 (also referred to as the Toronto Purchase), although the payment for the land was not concluded until 2010. As a result of the Toronto Purchase, the protection and management of the land is now shared with the present generation of inhabitants of Toronto and, as Métis Elder Duke Redbird reminds us, “remembering always that we never own the land but rather borrow its use from our children.”

In 2011, the Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation presented the AGYU with an Eagle Feather to acknowledge our continued relationship, built through collaboration beginning in 2009 and which has resulted in two projects, The Awakening (2011) and Ring of Fire (2014). We have installed this Eagle Feather permanently in the AGYU’s lobby as a visual reminder of our friendship, respect, and trust within this relationship.

In acknowledging that York University occupies colonized Indigenous territories, and out of respect for the rights of Indigenous people, we accept our collective responsibility to recognize our colonial histories as well as their present-day manifestations and to honour, protect, and sustain this land.