Winter 2018 Newsletter
From Out There to The Beyond, Beyond

The middle of every narrative represents a moment of uncertainty before an arrival or change. Most artists and curators understand well that this is a productive process—and purgatory. This is because arrival and change are also ruptures. So, what if one used this time-before-the-arrival to shape the change-about-to-happen? “All the way out there?”

Today I rode the newly opened York University subway extension to the front doors of the AGYU! The “how” is such a big part of the arriving. And … we certainly have arrived.

Importantly, ruptures are about difference. Since 2005, our Out There slogan has been a cheeky response to our location. Soon, it became a vision and then, quickly, an operative concept. Extending itself constantly, it became a transformative concept: that is, a concept of difference that in differing from itself constantly evolved and transformed, moving us further “out there” in the process. The institution itself is a “concept” or a project, we decided, and as such is subject as well to transformation, while being an agent of it. With our fall 2017 exhibition Migrating the Margins as a kind of culminating manifesto, we move into 2018 in a dance with uncertainty and change: from Out There to The Beyond, Beyond, perhaps.

It is not by accident that this year is propelled by concepts of movement and migration. Our 2018 programming year is woven together by artists whose work engages real borders, thresholds, and (aesthetic) frontiers to consecrate and liberate our positions and perspectives-in-relation to each other and to the world. In fact, borders and thresholds are concepts necessary to thinking through The Beyond, Beyond. So is migration, survival, and connections to place—be that land or locality. The artists presented in our 2018 program crisscross the Americas: from the USA with Postcommodity to Brazil with Bárbara Wagner & Benjamin de Búrca, to Mexico with Betsabeé Romero. And, in-between, we conduct research and stage actions that intentionally inhabit the civic spaces that surround the gallery, opening our city to new kinds of possibilities for movement and agency, not to mention diasporic performativity. A case in point is the hybrid opera we stage in May 2018 in our new subway station that spills out onto “The Commons” at York University.

There are consequences to every encounter, no less so for the relationship of artists to art institutions. If we have learned anything from the artists we are hosting then it is a kind of circular nomadism: a movement and change full of detours, interludes, and delays; a multiplicity inspired almost entirely by the “toute monde” of the Americas. As Martiniquan poet Éduoard Glissant reminds us: the Americas makes the multiplicities of the world comprehensible. It is these multiplicities we follow this year.

While we cannot move borders, we certainly can try to make them more permeable. We welcome you unconditionally to the new AGYU, knowing full well that with this welcoming comes unexpected consequences. For isn’t hospitality, in fact, also a kind of borderline activity? One never knows what will come next, certainly not in these times of uncertainty. Can uncertain times mean new kinds of arrivals, new sorts of ruptures? As we embark on this new chapter at AGYU, we wonder.

–Emelie Chhangur, Interim Director/Curator

Postcommodity

11 January – 18 March 2018

Opening Reception: Thursday, January 11, 2018 @ 6–9 pm

The USA-based collective Postcommodity (Raven Chacon, Cristóbal Martínez, and Kade L. Twist) is known for large-scale, performative, and installation-based works that hyper-perform national limits. These works visually exaggerate borders and systems of control in order to emphasize their real and psychological presence. The two recent works exhibited at AGYU focus on border construction and contestation, permutation and movement—and engage in discourses on redistribution, reconciliation, equity, and sovereignty as they pertain to the borders that extend between Mexico, the United States, and Canada.

A 360-degree continuum projected in a specially constructed enclosure, the immersive video installation A Very Long Line depicts the fence dividing the municipalities of Douglas, Arizona, USA, and Agua Prieta, Sonora, Mexico—an imposed borderline that also cleaves traditional Indigenous territories. The work acknowledges this disruption but also honours the diaspora of trans-border families intertwined in the North American immigration system.

Whereas A Very Long Line depicts the full run of the physical barrier, the second work, Coyotaje, focuses on the micro-politics of the divide, and in so doing examines the relationship between US Federal patrols on one side and migrants on the other, revealing how one entraps and the other evades. Taking its title from the Coyotaje—a person employed to smuggle migrant labourers across the border—the work accentuates the number of intricate, deceptive positions at play in borderland security. Deploying illusions and tactical maneuvers employed by Homeland Security, Coyotaje takes viewers on an auditory, ambulatory journey that culminates in the confrontation with the legendary Chupacabra. A dog-like creature, the Chupacabra is a folkloric creature said to be the destroyer of livestock—draining animals of their blood and haunting the imagination of many. US Border agents instill fear by feeding off of the myth of this predator; in the dark southwestern desert landscape, the greenish glow of night vision goggles resemble the ghoulish glare of the beast.

The two exhibited works are united in the gallery by a third, a new audio exploration that mimics sonic tactics utilized by the US Border agents to lure people through the landscape. Postcommodity’s sound installation leads us through the gallery spaces with voices that punctuate the darkness and beckon us to continue forward.

An interdisciplinary collective founded in 2007, Postcommodity are recipients of grants from the Joan Mitchell Foundation (2010), Creative Capital (2012), Art Matters (2013), Native Arts and Cultures Foundation (2014), Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation (2017), and most recently The Ford Foundation’s Art of Change Fellowship (2017). The collective has exhibited nationally and internationally, including: Contour the 5th Biennial of the Moving Image in Mechelen, Belgium; Nuit Blanche, Toronto; 18th Biennale of Sydney; Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art, Scottsdale, Arizona; 2017 Whitney Biennial, New York; Art in General, New York; documenta14, Athens and Kassel.

Postcommodity is curated by AGYU Assistant Curator Suzanne Carte.

AGYU Vitrines

This winter we continue our commissioning series of AGYU vitrines by graduate students of the School of the Arts, Media, Performance & Design. This time around, we’re getting a two-for-one! Interested in entropy, theatricality, collaboration, and materiality, Chloe Lum and Yannick Desranleau create works that explore bodies as material, the inanimate as actors, and the encounters between performer-as-thing and thing-as-performer.

Chloe Lum and Yannick Desranleau are currently in residence at the Darling Foundry, Montreal. Recent exhibition venues include Circa Art Actuel, Montreal; Khiele Gallery, St. Cloud State University, Minnesota; Center for Book and Paper Arts, Columbia College Chicago; and the Confederation Centre Art Gallery, Charlottetown. They are represented by Galerie Hugues Charboneau, Montreal.

Audio Out

This winter, our Audio Out Listening Bench is occupied by Nothing to See Here, experimental radio out of Halifax. Since 2016, David Clark has been running weekly recording sessions with interested collaborators that are subsequently edited and then broadcast on CKDU in Halifax (88.1 FM), WGXC in upstate New York (see wavefarm.org/listen/wgxc for details), and NAISA radio (naisa.ca/naisa-radio/). Each session develops based on the interests and improvisations of the participants, the core group of which includes Raf MacDonald, Mark Hines, Jessica MacDonald, Mauve Mulroy, Harrison Brooks, and, of course, David.

At present, there are twenty-two finished episodes, ranging from 30 minutes to an hour in length and counting. We’re presenting all of them, and adding to the playlist as the playlist itself expands, so come on in, strap on some headphones, and listen awhile.

Lieutenant Governor of Nova Scotia Masterworks Award-winner (2011), David Clark is a media artist, filmmaker, and visual artist who has produced work for the internet, gallery installations, narrative films, and public art commissions. He teaches Media Arts at NSCAD University in Halifax.

This season of Audio Out is co-curated with Darren Copeland of NAISA (New Adventures in Sound Art). More info available here: naisa.ca.

PUBLIC PROGRAMS

Talking Borders: Postcommodity in dialogue with Evelyn Encalada Grez

Wednesday, January 10, 2018 @ 6:30–7:30 pm

Joan & Martin Goldfarb Centre for Fine Arts (CFA) Room 130, York University

Postcommodity’s Cristóbal Martínez and Kade L. Twist engage YorkU academic and activist Evelyn Encalada Grez in a critical discussion about migrant labour and food security, especially as it pertains to the entangled flow of capital, people, and produce between Mexico and the US, the US and Canada, and Mexico and Canada. Evelyn Encalada Grez is one of the founders of Justice for Migrant Workers, a grassroots collective at the forefront of the migrant justice movement in Canada. Co-presented with the Visual Art Student Association (VASA).

New Website!!</collective sigh of relief>

To coincide with the opening of the new subway, and the retiring of the out there tagline, we’re opening up a new future on our website with the help of Michelle Gay, designer, and Barry Veerkamp, programmer. That’s right, we’re transitioning from theagyuisoutthere.org to the much more manageable AGYU.art! Our new site is designed phone-forward, with totally responsive interfaces, a new organizing structure, is completely accessible, and even has some new colours!!! Everything is just a few clicks away, so please bookmark our new site and visit often.

New! Student Tour Series

Wednesday, February 7, 2018 @ 6 –7 pm | AGYU

Multidisciplinary artist, photographer, and filmmaker Polina Teif—currently an MFA candidate in Film Production at York University—inaugurates our new student-led exhibition tour series. Teif’s tour focuses on the experimental documentary strategies used in A Very Long Line and considers this aesthetic through the lens of her current research interests into how natural ecologies are affected by politics, commerce, and borders.

Contemporary Bus Tour

Sunday, March 4, 2018 @ 12 5 pm

The tour starts at Koffler Centre of the Arts at Artscape Youngplace (180 Shaw Street) and then departs for the Art Gallery of York University, Art Gallery of Mississauga, and Doris McCarthy Gallery. To save a seat RSVP online at march-art-bus.eventbrite.ca.

Upcoming Exhibition

Bárbara Wagner & Benjamin de Búrca

Bárbara Wagner & Benjamin de Búrca have become known internationally for their quasi-documentary photographs and films that take up the cultural milieu of Recife, on Brazil’s northeast coast, as both subject and object of their work.

Wagner & de Búrca’s work celebrate, while reframing, what might be considered “submerged” or “vernacular” cultural forms and traditions as they have manifested through time: from popular arts to pop culture, for instance. Their work looks to how performative forms of colonial cultural resistance in the Northeast—such as Capoeira—continue today but in revised expression, such as in Fevro, the subject of their 12-minute video, Faz que vai (Set to Go) from 2015. Traditional vernacular forms or popular genres persist through this cultural mixing, diasporic re-fashioning, and translation (geographically, formally, and linguistically). On the part of its protagonists, self-fashioning becomes a means of cultural, economic, and social survival. This subtle cultural re-valuing is a key concept behind the artists’ film, Estás vendo coisas (You Are Seeing Things), produced for the 2016 São Paulo Biennial. The film’s protagonists are part of Recife’s burgeoning Brega scene, a once regional musical genre that has since broken into the global music industry via social media.

Wagner & de Búrca’s practice implicitly navtigates the space in-between documentary and fiction. Self-fashioning, framing, and the conventions of film are entangled in the real-life politics of their protagonists. Concerned with the contradictions and conundrums of “what, how, and for whom” their work addresses, the artists have developed a subtle system of pointing that reveals rather than classifies: it is the slippery spaces in between the staged and the actual that the gendered, racialized, and socio-economic contexts of the subjects emerge. And, it is precisely there that the self-generated strategies of visibility and subversion between the fields of pop culture, high art, and tradition gets performed anew.

Wagner & de Búrca’s own hybrid practice may well be self-fashioned, too. It is perhaps a strategy that allows them to stay open to the ways in which “the subjects choose their own formats” of presentation, as the artists have said. The AGYU is doing the same as we get ready for their exhibition, which will be a combination of recent work and a new commission, set in the context of the burgeoning scene that is Toronto.

The collaborative works of Bárbara Wagner (1980, Brasília, Brazil) and Benjamin de Búrca (1975, Munich, Germany) was shown most recently at Skulptur Projekte Münster, Germany, São Paulo Museum of Modern Art, 32nd São Paulo Biennial, the Biennale on La Réunion, and EVA International, Ireland. They live and work in Recife, Brazil.

RESEARCH & RESIDENCIES

A Hybrid Opera: towards a new Afro-Diasporic Dramaturgy

In preparation for our upcoming hybrid opera, AGYU orchestrated a two-week experimental artistic laboratory in December, with cast and acclaimed Director Mumbi Tindyebwa and Stage Manager Tara Mohan to collectively develop a multidisciplinary script.

This period of open experimentation—and the envisioning of a performative odyssey that chronicles and commemorates waves of forced and voluntary African migrations—facilitated the creation a new Afro-Diasporic dramaturgy. This developmental phase allowed the artists to explore multiple exilic narratives that cross and intersect generations—such as the contemporary condition of displacement that arises from gentrification. The cast took this residency period as an opportunity to pay homage to and celebrate the ways in which West and East African cultural forms live on in the diaspora through an ever-growing artistic legacy of cultural reinvention and adaptation—charting and navigating through a never-ending cycle of movement. Using spoken word poetry, dance, music, rap, theatre, and storytelling, the script challenges repeated attempts at erasure and silencing in order to honour and recognize Afro-Diasporic cultural expression as a survival strategy and a tool for liberation.

The empowering bonds of Black sisterhood are central to the intertwining operatic, poetic, musical, and choreographic narratives crafted through this residency as they form a collective aesthetics of reciprocity committed to interdisciplinary convergence. Not to give it all away just yet, but imagine: scenes featuring interdisciplinary constellations that bring a spoken word poet to perform alongside a singer while another features an actor taking the stage with a DJ; a mise-en-scène and set designed by acclaimed visual artist Sandra Brewster (with the support of Set Design Professor Ian Garrett and Graduate Set Design students Lucas Olscamp and Sharon Reshef) that amplifies the opera’s thematic exploration of African dispersal and migration and its transformative effects; an encounter with the sublime and soul-stirring chorus of a Gospel Choir; and the creation of a Hip Hop Land Acknowledgement composed by Ojibwe Elder and Wisdom Keeper Duke Redbird…. Imagine soundscapes that weave original musical and poetic passages that pay homage to the primacy of kinetic orality in Afro-Diasporic culture.

Aisha Lesley Bentham is an internationally trained artist from Ajax whose practice is focused on movement work. Bentham is committed to producing socially relevant work that contributes to social change.

Britta B. is a spoken word poet and arts educator. In 2017, Britta was an Artist-in-Residence at the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity and was featured in the exhibition Every. Now. Then: Reframing Nationhood at the Art Gallery of Ontario.

Tara Mohan is a Toronto-based Stage Manager who enjoys working on theatre, dance, musicals, and everything in between. She is particularly interested in multidisciplinary works that have something to say. She has had the pleasure of working with Why Not Theatre, Gadfly Dance, The Theatre Centre, Expect Theatre, Hart House Theatre, George Brown Dance, and Toronto Dance Theatre, among others.

Sandra Brewster is a Canadian multi-disciplinary artist based in Toronto. Exhibited nationally and abroad, her work engages many themes that grapple with notions of identity, representation, and memory.

Raised in Kenya and now based in Toronto, Mumbu Tindyebwa is a Kenyan-Ugandan-Canadian theatre creator and director. She is the Founder and Artistic Director of the Dora-nominated company IFT (It’s A Freedom Thing) Theatre.

A DJ, producer, music director and sound designer, L’Oqenz has garnered the attention of local and international audiences. From her home in Toronto to scenes in LA, New York, the Caribbean, and the UK, her innovative musical vision transcend the worlds of music, theatre, and visual arts.

MOTION’s aural/sonic works span the realms of word, sound, and drama. Her theatrical works have been staged at Factory Theatre, The Rock.Paper.Sistaz Festival, and The International Black Playwrights Festival.

Sashoya Shoya Oya is a Jamaican-born storyteller, performer, writer, and member of Obisidian Theatre’s 2016–2017 Playwright’s Unit. Recently she performed in d’bi.young anitafrika’s plays Bleeders at Summerworks Theatre Festival and Lukumi at Tarragon Theatre.

Bárbara Wagner & Benjamin de Búrca: what, how, and for whom?

For a month from November 19, 2017, on, we welcomed Bárbara Wagner & Benjamin de Búrca to Toronto. While they were here they developed a new work for our Spring 2018 exhibition (see upcoming exhibition). This commission is only the artists’ second to engage another locality outside their home context of Recife (the north-east of Brazil). Their Bye Bye Deutschland! Eine Lebens­melodie / Bye Bye Germany! A Life Melody (2017), commissioned by Skulptur Projekte Münster this past summer, was super popular, and for some reason—well, we sort of have an idea why—these two thought Toronto was an appropriate place to take their next risk, newly situating their nuanced practice of examining the contemporary sense of what presents itself as tradition, right here in Toronto. We are elated!

This new project is a unique collaboration between these artists and those working toward the AGYU–RISE initiated and produced Subway Cypher project. Building on AGYU’s desire to bring together our various streams of activity—to move away from a programming framework that separates false dichotomies such as “community arts” from “contemporary art,” or, vernacular tradition from high art, etc.—we doubly commissioned these two new projects to be all these things, all at once. Not yet knowing where each is going and yet not putting demands on their final outcome, we have set these two projects in relation, hoping that their singularities produce a more complex multiplicity. And it has. Whew. Intuition is a powerful curatorial methodology!

During their stay, Bárbara and Benjamin attended all the Monday night RISE events in Scarborough (and one downtown!), attended poetry workshops conducted in Flemingdon Park by Randell Adjei, hosted dinner parties for some of Toronto’s most up and coming spoken word poets and rappers, met with local experts on diasporic cultural forms here, gave talks to the film department at York (with thanks to John Greyson!), and visited the many neighbourhoods of Toronto despite the fact that it was cold by Brazilian standards.

Bárbara and Benjamin’s generosity and openness to our proposition also means that we have our first research associate from the film department now working with us to produce their commission. The first monograph of the artists’ work will follow in 2019.

Betsabeé Romero: Vernacular Tradition as a Form of Cultural Resistance

Mexican artist Betsabeé Romero returns this summer (May–August) to produce a new body of work while in residence with upper level sculpture students as part of the L.L. Odette Artist-in-Residency Program*, a key partnership between York’s School of the Arts, Media, Performance, and Design (AMPD) and AGYU. Betsabeé 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). She 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. Betsabeé is known internationally for her large-scale public works and unconventional approaches to trace-making that explore themes ranging from the megalopolis of Mexico City to pollution, border culture, migration, and movement in contemporary life. Betsabeé’s work will provide a compelling contrapuntal perspective to our current Postcommodity exhibition. A publication that documents this project and exhibition will be released in 2019.

*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.

Caecilia Tripp: from Black Holes to the Right to Opacity

From September 14 to October 2, we introduced Paris-based artist Caecilia Tripp to the unique situation called Toronto. What started as an initial research trip with no “strings attached” has set the stage for two new performance-installation works: Interstellar Sleep and Deep Earth. During her visit, Caecilia explored the sun and the moon from the top of York University’s Observatory, where she will create two new films with students in the Faculty of Science later this year. She met with astrophysicists from the Dunlap Institute at the University of Toronto to explore dark energy, the interstellar medium, galaxy evolution, cosmic magnetism, and the natural noise of earth’s sonority. We engaged alternative healers, earth science thinkers, and brought together Indigenous Elders and cosmologists to understand something about the relation between black holes and the “right to opacity” (Glissant). We toured the ancient glacial-lake-carved shorelines of Lake Iroquois that (under)line the contours of the GTA; we ate roti in Scarborough; and we fell in love with T.dot BANGERZ Brass in Kensington Market.

Known for working in collaboration with individuals and groups and for performatively enacting a “poetics of relation,” Caecilia uses forms of re-enactment and rehearsal to explore concepts of freedom, utopia, and civil disobedience at the crossroads of globalization and post-colonial cultural hybridity. With Interstellar Sleep and Deep Earth, Caecilia choreographs movements in-between Martiniquan writer Édouard Glissant’s “pensee du tremblement” (trembling or moving thought) and the dynamic equilibrium of the earth’s systems: plate tectonics, deep sea plumes, earthquakes, etc. Over the next year-and-a-half, these works find their scale: from the cosmically connected to the terrestrially linked. As a poetics of cosmic magnetism and rhizomatic relation, Interstellar Sleep and Deep Earth, move beyond concepts of belonging that are constituted through filiation and rootedness in favour of alternative foundational grounds from which to build new multiplicities. From the multi-verse to the earth’s heartbeat, we “tremble together.”

Measuring out the State of the Art: Waging Culture and Labour Conditions in Artist-Run Culture

The very first Waging Culture survey covered the 2007 calendar year, and that means that the year we just finished is the ten-year anniversary! A lot has happened in those ten years, and the full implications for the socio-economic status of artists in Canada are still unfurling. There’s been increases to funding on all levels, countered by the continuing fallout of the 2008 recession (with the subsequent closing up of the middle of the market).

Well, there’s some big news to let you know about: the Sector Innovation and Development component of the Canada Council has come through! We’ve received significant project funding to conduct the next installment of the survey and that means: Statisticians! Consultants! Translators!!! That’s right, instead of wheedling info from random economists on the subway, we’re going to be able to pony up for some real number wrangling. A dream we’ve had all along is throwing a little ANOVA, a sprinkling of Pearson correlation coefficients, and a right proper linear regression analysis at the data we’ve collected … and now our dream has come true!

This coming year will see a new survey launched, and analysed, and then in the next year there will be a release of the results of this all-new intensive ana­lysis on web and in person, at our very own symposium looking at sustainability in the visual arts! So, if you’re an artist, and you reside in Canada, and you get an email from us asking some really pointed questions about your financial status, please please please, do answer. As they say: your randomized anonymous data directly to policy-maker ears.

As a result of the gallery’s track record on researching the sector, we’ve also been invited to be a partner in a new study being undertaken by ARCA, the organization of artist-run centres and collectives in Canada. Along with some key researchers and academics, ARCA is developing and conducting a study of the working conditions in artist-run centres. We will be helping with design and implementation, and hoping to see the results of the survey address issues of equity and sustainability in that sector.

Visiting Curator in Residence | Emilie Renard

For just under a year, we have been looking for new ways to conduct research and initiate dialogues and collaborations across this enormous country called Canada. In April 2017, AGYU started a Visiting Curator Series intended to support the local arts ecology and build AGYU’s suburban networks. This past fall, we invited two curators, Jordan Strom from the Surrey Art Gallery in British Columbia and Emilie Renard from La Galerie in Noisey-le-Sec, a suburb of Paris. Our invitation to extend this program to international curators is not to change our original intention, however. It is extremely important to understand the unity-in-diversity that is this enormous country’s potential and to find ways to foster productive discussion across our differences. But, it is also integral to bring curators we meet abroad back here, especially when we recognize that their curatorial commitments can find a home here, too. Call it an impulse toward a radical kind of hospitality! Emilie came in October and visited ten Toronto artist’s studios, did the gallery circuit, and met with curators from Toronto’s suburbs. At the AGYU we feel an affinity with Emilie’s curating, committed as it is to the transformation of institutional practice through her long-term projects. As a performative curatorial gesture in the context of the city-owned gallery she directs, for instance, Emilie spends her Friday afternoons at the mayor’s office meeting members of her community to make the contemporary art gallery more accessible to them, while inside the gallery she creates year-long inquiries into concepts of care. We look forward to a continued conversation with Emilie and hope that AGYU and La Galerie finds ways of enacting our own kind of suburban hospitality in the future.

PEDAGOGY/COMMUNITY/ACTION

Truth be Told: Youth Voices in Poetry

Joining forces with RISE Edutainment, AGYU delivers Truth Be Told: Youth Voices in Poetry, a spoken word poetry program for youth in Scarborough and Regent Park. Facilitated by a team of emerging poets including Bidhan Berma, Thunderclaw Robinson, Timaaj Hassen, and Nasim Asgari, the program introduces youth to the art of writing and performing spoken word poetry. Led by Randell Adjei and Joshua “Scribe” Watkis, two of the most accomplished contributors to Toronto’s vibrant spoken word poetry scene, the program also serves as a professional development and mentorship program. As mentors, Adjei and Watkis will guide our team of emerging educators in the development and delivery of an enriching and engaging spoken word poetry curriculum.

On Monday, November 27, RISE and the AGYU hosted a performance showcase at Burrows Hall in Scarborough featuring some of the best and brightest up and coming spoken word poets and performing artists.

RISE Edutainment and the AGYU thank the Ontario Arts Council – Artists in Communities and Schools Projects for generously supporting this program.

Creative Campaigning | WAVE

Seated in chairs facing each other
two women moved together.
Right hand on left knee. Left arm overhead.
Swivel clockwise. Repeat.

Learning how to relate to one another through kinesthetic responses and instinctive choreography, dance pairs responded to the invitation of Meera Margaret Singh’s project WAVE and gained strength from one another. Part of the Creative Campaigning series, this three-day workshop and investigative-performance worked with students who identified on a wide spectrum as women. YorkU dance professor and choreographer Terrill Maguire led the dancers, teaching movement techniques to access agency within their bodies.

Women from the School of Social Work, Women’s Empowerment Club, Visual Arts Student Association, TBLGAY, and the York University Mature Students Organization joined Singh and Maguire to openly discuss and react to the restrictions, oppressions, and regulations they experience over their bodies. Conversations about reproductive health, trauma, transition, pregnancy, labour/birth, infertility, and illness led to experiments in non-verbal communication and to the design of the final presentation.

Photographer and filmmaker Alyssa Bisonath along with sound engineer Sophie Sabet joined us to document the workshops and final performance. She captured all the subtle details and intimacy of the project. The final film will be posted on the AGYU’s website and vimeo account.

AGYU would like to acknowledge the generous support of AMPD’s Department of Dance and Department of Cinema and Media Arts.

NEWS & REPORTS

Hello (again) :) And … Goodbye :(

The AGYU usually is not revolving doors. Collectively, we have worked together for more than ten years. But it is time to say hello and goodbye.

Hello to Karen Pellegrino, who is AGYU’s new acting Administrative Assistant. Remember that name? Well, you can’t keep a good Administrative Assistant down! Karen Pellegrino, who was the AGYU’s Administrative Assistant from 1997 until she retired in September 2015, is back with us again on a part-time basis, helping out until this position is filled.

All good things come to an end, they say. So good-bye to Director Philip Monk, who has retired. Philip has been Director of the AGYU since 2003. This Governor General Laureate (2017) passed through the doors of all the city’s major institutions, having been a senior curator at the Art Gallery of Ontario (1985–1994) and the Power Plant (1994–2003), but considers the AGYU his finest and most productive achievement. At the end of December, he took one of the first subway trains from York to downtown where he is continuing his career as one of Canada’s most prolific art writers. That writing can be followed on his website: www.philipmonk.com.

OAAG Awards

Monday, November 27, AGYU (once again!) took home some of the Ontario Association of Art Galleries’ top prizes. Interim AGYU Director, Emelie Chhangur took home the top prize for Curatorial Writing, Major Essay for “Paving it Forth,” her contribution to Marlon Griffith’s Symbols of Endurance book. As the jury noted, “Chhangur’s text illuminated the significant role of art in social change.” AGYU Assistant Curator Suzanne Carte took home the Public Program award for Behind the Eyes, her Creative Campaigning project with Toronto artist Sameer Farooq (in collaboration with the Sherman Health Institute, the School of Social Work, the Department of Film and Video at YorkU and eight student leaders from the York Federation of Students (YFS), York United Black Students’ Alliance (YUBSA), Active Minds, and the Visual Art Student Association (VASA). Marlon Griffith’s book also won the Art Book award for design and guest writer Gabriel Levine’s poetic text for that publication, “On Splendour,” received an honourable mention for Art Writing. Finally, Megan Toye, an MA student at York took home the award for First Exhibition in a Public Gallery for the exhibition After great pain, a formal feeling comes…, produced during AGYU’s Curatorial Intensive program. This is the second time we have won this award for our Curatorial Intensive exhibitions. A collaboration with the Department of Visual Art & Art History, the Curatorial Intensive supports an emerging student-curator for two semesters. Gallery staff mentor them through the process of curating an exhibition from conception to production that simultaneously serves as a degree requirement for their Curatorial Diploma.

Curating in the Suburbs

We cannot speak highly enough of The City Institute, an internationally-recognized and thought-leading research cluster working out of York University. This past October their seven-year research project culminated in a three-day symposium entitled After Suburbia: Extended Urbanization & Life on the Planet’s Periphery. We felt honoured to be included in the periphery-centred ideas of The City Institute because we have been following their cutting-edge consideration of suburban culture for years.

We want to thank The City Institute for recognizing us as a leading suburban art gallery with their thoughtful inclusion of the AGYU in After Suburbia—where we hosted a reception and tour of our fall exhibition Migrating the Margins for symposia delegates, and for inviting us to present a panel curated by interim Director/Curator Emelie Chhangur, titled On the Edge of Curating: Toward new practices afield. Panelists Randell Adjei, Dr. Janine Marchessault, Emilie Renard, and Jordan Strom, and respondents Christine Shaw and Alissa Firth-Eagland discussed the questions: what special circumstances the suburban locale offers curating at the level of practice and, more importantly, how these locale’s social and civic particularities challenge curating’s conventions or concerns.

Studio Visits with Toronto’s NEWEST Artists

AGYU curatorial crew spent a late summer day in discussion with artists from Airsa Art & Thought Association, a program that focuses on introducing newcomer artists to the Toronto art community. Founder and artist Aitak Sorahitalab, together with our summer Curatorial Assistant Tanya Matanda, graciously coordinated a full day of studio visits at YYZ Artists’ Outlet where we talked with members about their work, local opportunities, grants, live/work spaces in the city, writing, and employment. Airsa is an ambitious program of workshops and events supporting internationally educated and trained artists to network, build communication skills, and exhibit.

Suburban Hospitality

In the hot sticky sweat of September, AGYU was out there making the most of the unseasonably warm weather with our weekend-long ambulatory symposium, entitled Suburban Hospitality.

Amy Desjarlais, York University’s knowledge keeper, opened the event on Saturday afternoon with a smudge, ceremony, and song. After an exhibition tour of the wildly popular Migrating the Margins with exhibition curators Emelie Chhangur and Philip Monk, we jumped on a bus to the Black Creek Community Farm. Welcomed by music and dance, we ate Ontario plums and grapes that were wrapped in messages from migrant farmworkers, part of Farrah Miranda’s mobile roadside fruit stand, Speaking Fruit. Dedicated to re-envisioning and humanizing our food systems, this day was framed by members of the Black Creek Food Justice Network, Neighbour to Neighbour Centre (N2N), and Adrianne Lickers from Our Sustenance. Spoken word artists and musicians from PEACH, a youth-oriented organization promoting education and community health, provided the day’s closing celebration.

Sister Co-Resister’s Sunday session started with a group reading of the Dr. Lynn Gehl’s Ally Bill of Responsibility. Together we walked the Huron-Wendat trail with Indigenous social thinkers Nettie Lambert, Shane Camastro, Janet Csontos, and Lisa Myers. A two-hour walk brought us to the Stong House where we encountered Rememory, a powerful performance piece by artist Gloria Swain. Regent Park Catering Collective provided our feast as we sat together at Syrus Marcus Ware’s “long table,” where we reflected upon a single question, “How did we get here?”

Writer/researcher Desmond Miller joined us for the full experience and provided written documentation of the symposium.

Suburban Hospitality was co-presented with the Faculty of Environmental Studies and was programmed by Suzanne Carte, Emelie Chhangur, Lisa Myers, and Honor Ford-Smith. Suburban Hosp­itality was sponsored by Canada 150 @ York.

PUBLICATIONS

The last weekend in October was art book central as the second Edition Toronto art book fair was held in conjunction with Art Toronto. We were there, of course, but this year we concentrated on primary material: artists books and multiples. We’ve produced quite a few of each over the years, and, to add to the mix, we’ve started a new artists book series. The first books from the series were central to our booth, with Erika DeFreitas’ very strongly may be sincerely fainting and Peter Hobbs’ The Tale of the Sarnia Nose still smelling of the printer’s shop. Other hot items included Carla Zaccagnini’s Translated Catalogue series, and the seasonally appropriate Jack O’Lantern, the Holiday Arts Mail-order School Yearbook of 1937 (has it really been 80 years already?), a 12-year AGYU-supported project by Derek McCormack and Ian Phillips.

In other publishing news, after a long delay at sea, Marlon Griffith’s award-winning Symbols of Endurance is finally in our lobby bookstore, and on its way to bookstores and libraries worldwide. It was worth the wait, of course, and we’re ever so pleased with it. Essays by Emelie Chhangur, Chanzo Greenidge, Gabriel Levine, and Claire Tancons explicate ever so dramatically the processional work of Griffith, and his Ring of Fire project in particular. It’s books like this, encapsulating years-long projects, that make publishing worthwhile.

Meanwhile, we’re now awaiting delivery of Iris Häussler’s The Sophie La Rosière Project. Itself a project almost a decade long in production, we were pleased to be able to present it in its final form in 2016, and now, to complete the project by presenting the extant corpus of Sophie La Rosière along with much of the primary documents involved in unravelling (and re-weaving) the story of this to-now-little-known French artist of the early twentieth century. As well as conceiving the book, AGYU’s exhibition curator Philip Monk, has contributed a major essay, with additional contributions from Rui Mateus Amaral, curator; Gérard Audinet, art historian; Yan Pélissier, psychoanalyst; Catherine Sicot, curator; and a letter from Iris Häussler to Sophie herself. This book would not have been possible without the support of the Hal Jackman Foundation.

You’d think that would be enough books to work on, but we’ve got others up our sleeves just waiting to get out. We’re well on our way to getting the Public Studio book to design, with an interview between curators Emelie Chhangur and Philip Monk and artists Elle Flanders and Tamira Sawatzky (aka Public Studio) and essays by TJ Demos, John Greyson, Susan Schuppli, and Jayne Wilkinson. This book covers an arc of development of the work of Public Studio from essentially its inception in the exploratory AGYU-group exhibition Centre for Incidental Activisms #1 in 2011 through to their immersive AGYU installation, What We Lose in Metrics, in 2016.

Then, a collaboration with UBC Press (Vancouver) and the One Archives (Los Angeles) sees us putting together a peer-reviewed anthology of essays on Allyson Mitchell’s Killjoy’s Kastle project of 2013. We should see this hybrid peer-review/artists book by the end of the year.

Other books in developmental stages include a catalogue on Derek Liddington’s recent exhibitions at the AGYU and the Southern Alberta Art Gallery as well as ongoing work towards an artists book by Joshua Schwebel.

Finally, we are pleased to announce that a publication on the fall’s Migrating the Margins exhibition is in the planning stages, and to do this amazingly important publication we must acknowledge significant financial support from the Toronto Friends of the Visual Arts and from the Royal Bank of Canada.

Our newsletter theme, “Nothing is true, everything is alive”
[Rien n’est vrai, tout est vivant], is Édouard Glissant’s epitaph.