Spring 2017 Newsletter: STILL Out There: A MOVEMENT IN THE MAKING

Derek Liddington

the body will always bend before it breaks, the tower will always break before it bends

5 April – 4 June 2017

Opening Reception: Wednesday April 5, 6 – 9 pm

the body will always bend before it breaks, the tower will always break before it bends is a performance of two photographic stills taken from two 1928 Ballet Russes productions—Ode and Apollon Musagète—staged back-to-back across two sites: the Art Gallery of York University and the Southern Alberta Art Gallery (23 June — 10 September 2017). Not a travelling exhibition in the conventional sense, the body will always… pivots across time and space and through its various material means, including the creation of new two- and three-dimensional work in fabric, marble, pencil, watercolour, and clay. Anchored by a co-commissioned video shot by Toronto filmmaker Chris Boni and produced during a residency with students from York University’s Department of Dance in summer of 2016, each exhibition uses the “performance still” (or production shot) as a dramaturgical framework for the development of its score and mise-en-scène—Ode at AGYU and Apollon Musagète at SAAG. These exhibitions are neither intended to bring to life the particular productions nor rehearse their subject matter or theme, however. Rather, Liddington animates the space in-between performance and image as a point of departure for his ongoing investigation into the relations between narrative (meaning) and abstraction (aesthetics). Like the revolutionary practice of the Ballet Russes, these exhibitions operate at the intersection of dance, theatre, and the visual arts. As Gesamtkunstwerk, each element—silk curtains blowing under fans, marble floor pieces shaped like load-bearing limbs, dance notation in the form of drawings and clay sculptures—is an artwork as much a stage cue, indexing and gesturing toward the creation of movement from stillness—the underlying libretto for Liddington’s operatic two-act exhibition.

The source material for Act One, AGYU’s exhibition, is the pyramidal shape composed of three dancers pictured in the production still for Ode. Yet, “origins” or “subjects” play a complex role in Liddington’s iterative practice. During the residency last summer, dancers performed the pose as it is pictured but not as a mirror of its ideal form. Instead, Liddington had the dancers investigate the movement possibilities proceeding from and exceeding the pose, slowly drawing away from its self-contained structure toward all that is possible in and from that position—a shift in perspective. Each work arising from this summer’s experiment is a further abstraction that builds on what couldn’t be seen in the still image itself but that is nevertheless a key component of the complex contours of the pictured pose: movement (muscles shaking under the weight of bodies above, limbs adjusting to find a balance for bodies below, etc.). With the triumphal triangle broken down into a series of isolated moments (the narrative), the tension between stillness and movement becomes the backdrop to a series of works that perform what can neither be fixed nor felt changing. Fluidity, height, sightlines, perspective, and scale are thus re-framed (and indeed become frames) as the central markers and makers of Ode’s formal meaning and, in turn, the exhibition’s libretto. Not portrayed as representations, these abstract frameworks perform through materials (silk, marble, clay) and media (video, painting, sculpture), what is at stake for Liddington in this pose. As the privileged position of the original triumphal posturing in Ode is no longer possible, nor desired for our contemporary composition, Liddington sets up a scenario that accommodates new kinds of arrangements, using the strategies of exhibition-making to stake a claim for meaning that is embodied and ambulatory, rather than static and fixed. Perception doesn’t give way to understanding, per se, but to more perceiving: connections that weave through the exhibition like the arms and legs of the dancers in the pyramidal pose captured in Ode’s production still. The apex has folds and structure is broken by a body that bends meaning.

the body will always bend before it breaks, the tower will always break before it bends is curated by AGYU Assistant Director/Curator Emelie Chhangur. AGYU would like to thank the Department of Dance and the Department of Film, School of the Arts, Media, Performance & Design, York University for their in-kind support of the commissioned video, The muscles of our body allow us to bend, it is the weight of these muscles. Derek Liddington would like to thank the Canada Council for the Arts and the Ontario Arts Council for their support.

Get on the Performance Bus

Have you ever participated in a life drawing class? Almost a prerequisite for all artists in the early stages of their art school training, it’s when a model holds stock-still in a rotation of odd poses for three hours at a time, and you draw what you see. If you haven’t tried it yet, now’s your chance. Only this time we’ve added a moving school bus to make it a bit more dynamic…

For AGYU’s second-last-ever Performance Bus, join Toronto artist and model Chris Heller for an out-of-the-classroom and onto-a-school-bus life drawing class while travelling en route to the exhibition opening of the body will always bend before it breaks, the tower will always break before it bends. Chris puts his skills and his body to the test in two different poses (and no, it doesn’t take three hours to get out there to the AGYU…) that performatively explore the relationship of movement and stillness. Though, perhaps, the first lesson of the ride will be learning how to hold your pencil… All drawing supplies and paper will be provided.

The free Performance Bus departs OCADU (100 McCaul Street) on Wednesday April 5 at 6 pm sharp and returns downtown at 9 pm. Warning: nudity.

A graduate of OCADU’s Integrated Media program, Chris Heller is a video-based performance artist. From his own physical reactions, Heller is interested in the limits and mechanisms of the human body. His work has been exhibited in several events and exhibitions in Toronto, Montreal, as well as in Turin, Italy.

Contemporary Bus Tour

Sunday, 30 April 2017, 12 – 5 pm

Tour starts at the Koffler Centre of the Arts, Artscape Youngplace (180 Shaw Street) and then departs for Oakville Galleries and AGYU, returning to Shaw Street at 5 pm. Seating is limited. Please RSVP by Friday, April 24, to scarte@yorku.ca or 416.736.2100 ext 44021.

All Hail the Chief

AGYU Director Philip Monk wins 2017 Governor General’s Award!

It was just a matter of time: Director Philip Monk has been given the 2017 Governor General’s Award in Visual and Media Arts for outstanding contribution. Hurrah! Philip already was the inaugural winner of Ontario Association of Art Galleries Lifetime Achievement Award in 2009 and won the Hnatyshyn Foundation Visual Arts Award for Curatorial Excellence in Contemporary Art in 2010. But this is the BIG award. And he deserves it.

We know that Philip wants to be recognized for his contributions as a writer. He started publishing in 1977 and has never stopped—having written twelve books, dozens of catalogues on Canadian and international artists, and countless articles and reviews. You could say, becoming a curator and then a director were devious means for him to continue to be a writer. But in the end he has made equal contributions to all three fields. To recap: he became curator at the Art Gallery of Ontario in 1985 where he was instrumental in developing a history for Toronto art (while there, he was the Canadian commissioner for the 1993 Venice Biennale); he joined the Power Plant as a curator in 1994, extending the international reputation of that institution, and initiating his signature series of oblique Toronto histories; and in 2003 he became Director of the AGYU … and the rest is history!

AGYU Vitrines

Finding herself displaced in an unfamiliar landscape and working to methodically attune herself to this new environment, Sheri Nault has slowly and meticulously gathered flowers and other natural materials found in Toronto. Working with wood, bark, beeswax, and human hair, she tells a story of interconnectedness, of bodies whose boundaries are permeable and overlap. Local and global, these materials are entangled. Hair becomes an outgrowth of another body while wax, leaking like sap, binds to tree, bark, and roots. Grounded in the necessity of growing alternative knowledges, she cultivates an intimacy and sensitivity to the environment through ecological sensibilities, shared stories, and relayed connections.

Sheri Nault is a multi-disciplinary artist of Métis and mixed European descent. Situated within personal and political contexts, her art practice and research are grounded in queer, feminist, and Indigenous world-views. She holds a BFA from the Alberta College of Art + Design and was an Indigenous Practicum Participant in The Banff Centre’s Visual Arts department from 2014 to 2015. She is currently completing her MFA at York University.

AGYU Curatorial Intensive

27 May – 15 June 2017 | Gales Gallery, Accolade West, York University

Mentored by AGYU staff, MA candidate in Art History, Belinda Ho-Yan Kwan curates a group exhibition featuring the works of MFA/PhD Visual Arts students alongside artifacts from the AGYU’s collections as part of the Winter 2017 AGYU Curatorial Intensive, a partnership with York’s Department of Visual Art and Art History. On view at the Gales Gallery from May 27-June 15, 2017, the exhibition examines issues of institutional legacy, historiography, and memory within York University. By drawing a relationship between “contemporary” and “historical” artworks, Kwan explores how temporal classifications manifest, structure, and manipulate accounts of history for the sake of contemporary values, and the political stakes of these operations.

Unaligned Seminar

The first seminar (with Kevin Temple) ended up in a rather interesting way. Starting solidly within the speculative realism realm of Graham Harman’s particular variant (OOO), we slowly slid our way towards First Nations thinkers instead. The final final installment came as an interesting experiment, a seminar conducted on a moving school bus (while not technically part of the series, it became such when Kevin commandeered the Performance Bus at the last opening). The shift in topic opened up an avenue for us to consider: a seminar based in Indigenous thinking, with a diverse audience. We are in the process of putting together a schematic for it, and will let you all know when we’re ready to launch. In the meantime, if you are a visual artist in Toronto intrigued, please email Michael Maranda at mmarand@yorku.ca do so we can let you know what’s happening and where.

RESIDENCIES AND RESEARCH

Summer Residency: Out There in the Six

“It’s not just the core that makes Toronto Toronto. If we are going to be a world-class city, we need to treat it as the sum of all parts.” – Jalani Morgan, “Ten Torontonians who got things done in 2014” (Globe & Mail)

This summer is going to be busy as we turn over our galleries to a host of Toronto artists. Toronto artists Erika DeFreitas, Anique Jordan, Tau Lewis, Rajni Perera, Nep Sidhu, Bonerkill, and Farrah Miranda will be here making work in-situ for this fall’s exhibition Migrating the Margins. Rajni will be living at York (which in a way is a return to her childhood neighbourhood of Jane-Finch) from July 1 – August 31, making AGYU her new temporary neighbourhood! This also means AGYU will be a social space of intergenerational exchange and geographical re-imaginings as we continue what we have become known for: using the gallery in ways that bring different artists and communities together through our strategic programming initiatives designed to make out there a leading cultural force in the SIX.

Curatorial Research: Border Culture, Migration, and Movement

Postcommodity

Mere days before the US elections, AGYU hosted Kade Twist and Cristóbal Martínez, from the interdisciplinary collective Postcommodity, to discuss their upcoming Winter 2018 exhibition, curated by AGYU Assistant Curator Suzanne Carte. Flying in from Arizona and New Mexico (minus their third collaborator Raven Chacon), the artists wasted no time in offering their thoughts on the current American political climate through a shared Indigenous lens. The visit allowed for an extended conversation with the collective about their recent audio explorations and research focusing on redistribution, reconciliation, equity, and sovereignty.

Crossing is an important part of their practice, as Postcommodity directs our attention in various ways to border construction. In previous works, such as Very Long Line and Repellent Fence, the collective has hyper-performed national limits, visually exaggerating them to emphasize their real and psychological presence. In a time when the world’s relationship to the USA is strained, and the fate of border crossing stressed, we are looking ahead to a continued dialogue with Postcommodity on the complexity of indigeneity and immigration.

Betsabeé Romero

This May, we host Mexican artist Betsabeé Romero for the first in a series of engagements to develop a major new project co-commissioned by the AGYU and the Department of Visual Art & Art History’s L.L. Odette Artist-in-Residency Program.* During this visit, she will participate in the department’s Summer Institute, meet with potential collaborators in Toronto, and conduct in-situ research that will determine the trajectory of this major commission. Romero will be the summer 2018 L.L. Odette Artist-in-Residence and work closely with AGYU Curator Emelie Chhangur to develop an exhibition at AGYU that fall. A publication will be released in 2019.

Betsabeé Romero is known internationally for her large-scale public works and unconventional approaches to trace-making. Her work incorporates materials and techniques from vernacular tradition and popular arts as a mode of cultural resistance and as a form of festive celebration. Romero explores themes ranging from the megalopolis of Mexico City to pollution, border culture, migration, and movement in contemporary life by recycling mass produced objects—such as cars and tires—that act as cultural vehicles, capitalizing on their material and metaphoric import. She enacts anti-modern gestures (through collective handmade labour techniques) that operate against the mechanization of industrial processes to decolonize materials, such as rubber or chewing gum. Romero is interested in how the global incorporation of influences can be a form of cultural dialogue in the aftermath of colonialism, particularly in the Americas. Conjuring the global-ancestral to explore the borders between the local and transnational, the individual and social, and the elitist and popular, Romero’s work can be viewed as symbolic action that enlists culture as the receptacle of deep-time and reinvests in knowledge that is slow and cyclical.

*The L.L. Odette Artist-in-Residency Program is an intensive, hands-on production residency that provides upper level students with the opportunity to work with a professional artist to produce elements of the artist’s work and reflects York’s commitment to experiential learning.

Upcoming Exhibitions

Fall 2017: Migrating the Margins: Erika DeFreitas, Anique Jordan, Tau Lewis, Rajni Perera, Nep Sidhu with special projects by Bonerkill and Farrah Miranda

Winter 2018: Postcommodity

Community/Pedagogy/Action

AGYU IS OUT THERE IN JANE-FINCH

@ Oakdale Park

In July, the AGYU offers five satellite art workshops for Jane–Finch children and youth in Oakdale Park thanks to a grant from the Toronto Arts Council’s Arts in the Parks program. Working in partnership with the Oakdale Community Centre’s summer camp, the AGYU collaborates with a roster of acclaimed art educators to engage summer campers and youth residents in a challenging and enriching series of multidisciplinary workshops that span the disciplines of spoken word poetry, dj-ing, storytelling, song writing, singing, writing, and dance. Led by Motion, DJ L’Oqenz, Esie Mensah, Sashoya Simpson, Aisha Bentham, Kamilah Apong, Britta Badour, Jasmyn Fyffe, Renée Ashanta Henry and Whitney French, participants experiment with a variety of art forms and take part in an illuminating process of creative self-discovery and artistic experimentation. Oakdale Park also serves as the site for two AGYU showcase events in July and features a stellar line-up of spoken word poets, djs, dancers, rappers, singers and actors. Stay tuned for more details about these exciting events!

@ York Woods Library

On April 28 at York Woods Library the AGYU joins forces with Professor Wendy McGuire from York University’s School of Social Work, Freedom Fridayz and the Studio for Media Activism at Ryerson University to co-present Narratives of Jane-Finch: Defining Who We Are Using Art, Storytelling, and Activism. The workshop provides an opportunity for neighbourhood residents, community artists, activists, and academics to showcase artworks and to explore how art, storytelling, and activism can converge and be employed to amplify and foreground the stories and experiences of community members.

AGYU and Contact Photography Festival: Jalani Morgan

1-31 May | Metro Hall

Building on our long-standing relationship, this year CONTACT approached AGYU Curator Emelie Chhangur to commission one of their public works for the festival. We are thrilled to be co-presenting the work of Toronto artist Jalani Morgan for the first solo presentation of his work at Metro Hall in downtown Toronto.

Hailing from South Scarborough and working at the intersection of art, industry, and community, Jalani Morgan has made a name for himself as a photographer committed to picturing the social and cultural landscape of Toronto as it changes. While his subjects range from single figure studio portraits to mass public assemblies in Toronto’s city streets, his compositions consistently frame and foreground multi-faceted sites of Black knowledge production across the Greater Toronto Area. Whether this is articulated through the artist’s formal investigations into the politics of tonal representation—as his black and white series of well-known Black Torontonians demonstrates—or portrayed through the spaces in which Black cultural tradition is transmitted, such as in the ‘mas camps of Toronto’s Caribana, Morgan’s ever increasing archive of Black Toronto performs as a rich collection of monuments-in-the-making.

Creative Campaigning

Meera Margaret Singh is AGYU’s Creative Campaigning artist-in-residence in a new series of performances on campus. Partnering with women (all individuals who identify as women including gender non-binary, trans, and 2-spirited) from the York University Mature Student Organization (YUMSO) and York Students for Women and Children (YSWC), Meera hosts a series of dance and movement workshops. Working with a professional dancer and choreographer, women examine reproductive health and trauma through kinaesthetic response movement training. The intergenerational group of women harness the deeply symbolic power of dance to express ideas of motherhood, labour, and birth.

The Creative Lab

The AGYU is working in partnership with Voice of Purpose (The Real Sun) and York U TD Community Engagement Centre on an exciting project that is paving a path for innovation in education. Using an arts-based approach, The Creative Lab supports high school students to deepen their sense of True Inner Purpose, empowering them to take ownership over their post-secondary studies experience. The Creative Lab involves the creation and implementation of a youth conference model based on the core principles of Purpose Driven Education: Social Justice & Equity, Creativity & the Arts, Identity & Purpose, and Holistic Well-Being. For more information you may contact: info@voiceofpurpose.org or aadley@yorku.ca

PRIDE 2017

From June 19 – 25, AGYU is PROUD to support York students on campus and at the Trans March, Dyke March, and Pride Parade after news of Pride Toronto meeting the full list of demands put forward by Black Lives Matter Toronto.  We are thrilled to continue our work alongside The Centre for Women and Trans People (CWTP), Trans Bi Lesbian Gay Asexual at York (TBLGAY), York Federation of Students (YFS), Centre for Human Rights (CHR), Glendon Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender (GLgbt*), The York United Black Students’ Alliance (YUBSA), and the SexGen York Committee to build space and resources for BIPOC LGBTQ2+ youth on campus. See you at Blockorama!

Publications

On a ship, coming this way, is the first monograph on the work of Trinidadian artist Marlon Griffith. Symbols of Endurance, a co-publication with Black Dog Publishing, is 176 pages, retails for $29.95, and includdes essays by Gabriel Levine, Chanzo Greenidge, Claire Tancons, and Emelie Chhangur.

And then, there’s the Sophie La Rosière Project. We teased you a bit in the last newsletter, promising more details on this evolving co-publication (also with Black Dog). Well, it looks like it’s going to be a catalogue raisonné of Sophie’s work, and include background essays and critical analyses by many of the key figures in her “discovery”: Rui Mateus Amaral, Gérard Audinet, Iris Häussler, Philip Monk, Yan Pellisier, and Catherine Sicot.