Art in Toronto has faced some challenges lately, in the form of a vague call for self-definition. Various variables have played a role in this strange sense of urgency to encapsulate art activity in Toronto. I don't have a handle on it, but here are the influencing factors as I see them:
1) Instant Coffee's diaspora. This collective made a big impact promoting a local, relational, art-as-social interaction party/exhibiton vibe in this town. Now that one of the most prominent founding members, Jenifer Papararo, has morphed her career, both geographically and conceptually, to take up the role of Curator at Contemporary Art Gallery in Vancouver, the immersive momentum of the group has dissipated in TO. If art's not a big party...then what is it?
2) RM Vaughan's infamous calling-out of Vancouver photo-conceptualists in Canadian Art. This topic causes an allergic avoidance response in many Canadians, me included, and I can't actually bring myself to dissect it all here. There has been some heated and informative debate on the topic over at Simpleposie. Browse the links, you'll find it. The upshot, however, is a kind of frisson of regional competition. Q: What's Vancouver got that we ain't got? A: Art stars.
3) uTOpia 1 and 2. These Coach House Press publications focussed some hyperbolic-yet-often-insightful attention on the downtown TO culture that generates art in Toronto. Links were made between development on Queen St. West, commercial galleries, psycho-geography, graffiti, public art, the latent multi-cultural kinetic force of the suburbs, urban planning policy (including Superbuild funding for recent big architectural initiatives) and the eerie manic energy that is being generated by the two mere-blocks-apart downtown art hotels, the Gladstone and the Drake.
4) The fact that the Toronto Alternative Art Fair International became, over a very short space of time, functionally indistinguishable from the official, trade-show, we're a World-Class City sales event called the Toronto International Art Fair.
5) The emergence and closure of a mutitude of indpendent art ventures that blurred the boundaries between institutional curation, entrpreneurial commerial galleries and the venerable tradition of DIY Candian artist-run culture such as: MOCCA, Diaz, Jessica Bradley Art Projects, the closure of Zsa-Zsa, the move of both InterAccess and TPW to store-front spaces at Ossington and Queen, Le Gallery, and many more (I've left a lot out). 6) "We Can Do This Now." This Power Plant exhibition was a timely disaster that claimed to represent current art activity in Toronto, but utterly failed to encapsulate any of the above.
In light of all this kerfuffle, I really enjoyed the big videos currently on display at PREFIX Institute of Contemporary Art. 25sec.-Toronto, by Berlin artists Angelika Middendorf and Andreas Schimanski, featuring various personages in the Toronto art scene, shot against a slick white-screen background, pontificating on their hopes for art in Toronto to a grand total of 25 seconds each. From what I could tell from conversation at the opening, the display drew a predictable response of suspicion, shame, sour grapes and chagrin from the audience. People who were included in the line-up were gosh-shucksing all over the place, while those who weren't nit-picked the choices. I personally noted a marked lack of attention to the blogosphere, particularly the omission of Jennifer McMackon who's incisive Q&A blog, Simpleposie, does a lot to instigate art talk in Toronto these days. But that's not a big surprise, Canadian art-types have always been slow to grasp the potentials of the internet. Nor is it really important to the project.
This display made no pretense to be totally comprehensive. Instead, a range of participants were showcased, from some of the most established gallerists, curators and artists to some of the most newbie. Everyone looked vulnerable; as Tanya Read of Fly Gallery and Mr. Nobody fame pointed out, the unforgiving white light enhanced everyone's wrinkles, pouches and flaws. As video and performance artist Andy Paterson pointed out, everyone looked "wider" than they really are. Despite the tight 25-second timeline, the camera lingered long enough for embarrassed smiles, fidgets and the inevitable Candian that's-just-just-my-2-cents-worth shrug. The end result was a picture of good-vibe enthusiasm; a committed pile of folks making culture happen here. I loved it, and it made me feel happy that I live and work in this town.
post deleted at the request of the author.
i wonder if the secret is keep working, and find communities outside spec geography, keep out of the politics?
that sounds like three secrets. I bet there are even more.
Meaty post Sally.
It’s interesting in this brief overview of what amounts to Toronto’s art history over the past ten years you gave into (perhaps false) modesty and didn’t mention Lola. As for Instant Coffee – it’s also interesting to see such high praise three years after Jenifer’s move, given that Lola gave it no attention whatsoever during the time I was a part of it.
Thanks for your comments, J.! I agree with the bulk of what you say but I have a few things to add.
Hi Timothy...thanks for bringing up Lola. Feels like ancient history to me now. I also sense some bitterness in your comment, sorry if we offended. I do remember that we covered Money House quite a bit, and there was no intention to dismiss IC. I always had the impression that our two projects were working in concert.
I have an Instant Coffee T-shirt that says "I will always remember how rude and arrogant you were," culled from a comment box at the IC Disco Trailer show at AGO. Rumour has it that members of IC were convinced I wrote it. I didn't. It's possible I might have written something equally unpleasant, but if I did I don't remember. I've always thought this perceived animosity was pretty funny, and I like wearing the shirt.
Yeah, the makeout party went nowhere for me either but that's only the little picture.
lola was incredibly exciting, new, and liberating for a queer kid lonely on the praries, i dont think people realised that...it made the kind of writing and art making i want as possible.
Tim, you'll have to take a number and get in line. I was never reviewed or mentioned in LOLA and I have devoted the past few years to making sure that Sally never forgets this egregious, scurrilous, and vicious insult.
You are vociferous, LM.
J., Free Parking Gallery belongs on that list with Brown Spot, of course. They were a real inspiration to Lola, eventhough we were a magazine, not a gallery or a collective. But now I'm starting to feel nostalgic, and that's not what I set out to do...I think there are more current and recent factors than these fond histories.
Sorry - didn't mean to conflate Brown Spot with Free Parking. I meant to extend it through to IC.
Re the shirt and your supposed authorship: we now know that the S of that comment was Justin Waddell’s girlfriend Sandra, but I can vouche for the fact you were a suspect. I was told there was some tension between you and Jinhan and that also accounted for the lack of coverage IC got in Lola. Which is not to accuse you of being unprofessional, but merely human. We accepted and understood it on that basis – but I may be slightly exaggerating the memory. Yes, we did look forward to each new issue of Lola and yes, there was a sense of disappointment when we saw that there was no shotgun for an IC event, and I figured at least something unfair was happening because how could the events be as successful as they evidently were and not have one person submit a shotgun? Being documented by Lola was important to me at least, but I’m not sure the others cared that much.
I like a good shot of history - especially as our experiences of the same one all seem a little different. I feel like there definitely is a kind of artworld amnesia out there. Its hard to do on a blog but even to talk about Toronto's recent interest in relational aesthetics is kind of a conceit - since there's a bigger history here in the house of McLuhan...
Point well taken about the desirability of peers rather than idols, but I would include a genuine desire to see many of my brilliant peers receive greater recognition and opportunity.
I concure too. Also about the importance of history, although again, I'm wary of nostalgia and the crankiness of age that produces an "I was there and nobody cares" syndrome.
It is probably predictable that I should say this since he and I are great friends but I miss the energy of John Massier here. He championed a lot of artists and I do recall the day Lola got its name - it was because he brought everyone to the table.
The more I think about it Sally, the more various the variables really are!
John is a rockstar. I miss his energy too, although Buffalo really isn't that far away.
concure - lord help me today and yo all to concur
1. I liked Lola magazine a lot, most of all for its embrace of writers and positions that were totally antithetical to each other.
Hi CJB. Thanks for posting! For those of you who are interested, CJB and I have already pretty thoroughly had it out about the aforementioned "heresy" on Simpleposie. I'm not super inclined to go back into it all again...except I will note that I was pleased to see that Antwerp Diary won an honourable mention at the National Magazine Awards.
I was telling someone the other day that iam now in a rock band and he said 'oh, so your into relational aesthetics are you?' gee wiz, i guess i can be a rock star and and art star at the same time!
Oh, duh, the example right under my nose is the show this post is supposedly reviewing: 25sec.-Toronto.
Like most art, I think it's a good idea to separate the work from the creed. I agree that the relational chit-chat can get pretty sanctimonious, but when those lauded elements actually are functionally in play, rather than just added on as a new kind of 'decorative' gesture, it can be pretty great. I like Santiago Sierra a lot too.
Charles Reeve, formerly of Art Papers, now Curator of the Gallery at OCAD made some comments that were pretty damning of things relational in the recent issue of ArtLies. He, among others was asked to respond to the question " Does the 'cult of personality' diminish our ability to think critically?" His entire answer is germane so I'll just put the link down here for you and quote this bit that relates to CJB's remarks:
I sort of bristle when institutional curators employ the Royal WE. (suspecting that they are really speaking only to other curators) But I come from the pov of someone who's been generating group shows among artists for years. I don't recall anyone mentioning that the next Persona Volare show would be so great if only we could slip in some work by Rodney Graham.
What are you talking about LM?
The cult of personality is generated by institutional curatorial career needs. (and collectors who need to perpetuate the value of their investments)
Do you see Reeve's remarks as disingenuous?
No, not totally, as this last paragraph points out, he's aware of the bind he's in:
I also think that a lot of the paid arts professionals in various institutions should start asking themselves, is this curating or is this shipping & receiving?
Laconic LM: I also think that a lot of the paid arts professionals in various institutions should start asking themselves, is this curating or is this shipping & receiving?
No way dude, gotta revisit your ascii skillz.
"Is this curating or is this shipping & receiving?"
Having said that, I do believe that there is "A" list art and one should find ways--begging, borrowing, stealing, conning artists with promises of greatness--to get it in your shows. And if you should be lucky enough to score, or unlucky enough not to--just don't talk about it.
I'm surprised that AA Bronson's name has not come up in the Toronto art stars conversation. From the states, at least in New Media circles, he's probably Toronto's best known artist.
Tom's comment brings to mind an incredible missed opportunity perhaps from a total lack of imagination on the part of the Art gallery of Ontario several years ago.
I too like LM's comment about 'shipping & recieving'; it reminds me that the AGO's current show of stuff from the V&A is obviously a rented package show, since the highlight is a Da Vinci notebook which was here in 1998 as part of a show of stuff from the V&A at the ROM. The ROM show included objects from the 1990s (a pair of shoes Naomi Campbell fell down in) whereas this one at the AGO is limited to the curatorial context of the mediavel. It's nice to see Da Vinci notebooks are being rented as fill in the lead up to their shut-down/reboot in the autumn.
It's the regional galleries that are originating and cataloguing the touring shows, (with smaller budgets than the blimped out Toronto institutions, its fucking admirable)
I really understood the gist of Reeves remarks to implicate both the bloated shipping and receiving and (while we're at it RENOVATING, RENOVATING, RENOVATING!) gallery/museum at the same time as the language of relational aesthetics and even their happenings and parties themselves as having become too easily appropriated by corporate and governmental agendas.I thought his comments, despite the use of your despised ROYAL WE really did point out a conundrum the comments in this thread have almost all touched on so far.
Anyway, let me be the first to say I do think it would be great if Persona Volare did something with Rodney Graham. How come I didn't think of that before?
Sorry, I'm dashing in and out here today cause my attention is overloaded elsewhere. J., I can't see where in Reeve's piece he is addressing a relational aesthetic.
"Which is to say, on one hand, the whiff of Guy Debord’s chiliasm haunting the injunctions that art and its institutions be spectacular never has seemed so apt: the more expensive your museum, the more ravelike your exhibition, the better. Thus, roars of approval greeted a recent all-night art fair in Toronto, so unimaginative that its organizers could do no better for a name than steal the title Nuit Blanche from a similar event in Paris, so juvenile that they could describe it no more compellingly than as a “contemporary art thing.”
Seems to me he's talking pretty specifically about spectacle there. Very sorry, gotta run off again...will be back later.
Doesn't that speak to your remarks about the Instant Coffee Diaspora?
Rodney will have to pay his P.V. dues with a good potato salad at our next BBQ, and he'll also have help Rebecca and Lyla with the grant writing.
Should work LM.
I agree that the AGO really missed the boat with the Cindy Sherman show and its obvious connection to Suzy Lake... however I never got to the AGO as the ad in Lola was all messed up. I guess sally was taking names.
Bunnie! augh! The first time you pop up on this blog in years and it's just to torment me. LOL. Yes, the AGO took out a full page ad in Lola. That was astonishing enough, but even more newsworthy is the fact that, while doing the layout for the magazine, I somehow deleted the 3-inch high words "CINDY SHERMAN" from the ad, which none of us noticed, and then we published it with a nice big blank space. Hey, it had her picture, what more do you want? Humility, humility, humility.
J., yes I see what you are getting at now. But I think there's a difference between party-as-art and party-as-outreach. Also, getting away from IC, so much of relational art has nothing to do with parties, and is actually quite anti-spectacle, so I didn't make the connection. I'd say IC is anti-spectacle too. The whole aesthetic is much more like a basement rec-room than a rave.
Timothy, I finally erased your dupe.
J., I don't understand what you mean by all those exclamation points.
I'm just thinking about art as a party - something like Warhol's Factory and flipping it over to think about it as outreach - and suddenly Valerie Solanas seems like a civil servant. Hence, !!!!!
Oh, that's funny!
What I think about Nuit Blanche is that it may have contributed to the quote unquote demise of TAAFI. Maybe that is as it should be/ maybe not...but I do wonder about it. It is a cliche to say it but corporations and our civic government have tapped into the artworld's ongoing quest for alternativity and appropriated it's language creating a milieu that is supersaturated with reach out and touch me art festivals. Whatever their individual merits in the end - it is not all bad but I feel wary of it. 'Cause meanwhile LM says shipping and receiving and renovating goes on much as usual, pretty much uninterrupted.
I really don't get that connection that you are making between Nuit Blanche and TAAFI's end.
TAAFI was great compared to the concurrent TIAF. But coming on the heels of Nuit Blanche as it did last year it seemed lackluster. Was it that way because it sucked? Old hat? Or could it be possible that the milieu is getting too saturated?
Nuit Blanche was not a trade show. TAAFI is a good trade show, but a trade show nonetheless.
I don't think there is any connection between the two events. Most of the venders at TAAFI that had purchased booths in TIAF as well, chose only to rent at TIAF the second and third year. Money walked in that case. (and as I recall, the petting zoo at the Royal Winter Fair held more appeal to me, but that was love talking, ...or, perhaps food pellets being traded for love)
from the farm to the fork.
from the belly to the toity
you said 'toity'! LOL. I think this thread is winding its way down....down...
Guilty. I did say toity.
'All art is trade' works for me, and who will I pay with my precious attention.
I don't think it's trade in itself. But I do think it is always FOR trade and it can obviously be exchanged for lots of things - gold, your precious attention - what have you. I didn't so much make a connection between TAAFI and Nuit Blanch as I suggested Nuit Blanch had most likely supplanted TAAFI as an art viewing "alternative".
For once, I wasn't being facetious. Attention has great value.
you two are almost starting to sound like a couple of commie relational aestheticians! (yet again, I concur)
I relate this last bit to what CJB said earlier:
Some artists voiced complaints about participating in some IC events. Their work was more than vaguely co-opted in that case. It's a fair observation to make and the tensions between individual artists and the IC umbrella shadowing them is understandable. (remember, IC did exercise choice in who participated as artists)
And how about Nuit Blanche?
With Nuit Blanche, time will tell. (Luminato ran out of time real fast for me) I also saw Nuit Blanche as a more Civic exercise than a relentlessly commercial enterprise. (at least Scotia Bank made themselves useful with the water vending, if L'Oreal had offered to touch up my roots, I may have felt kinder towards them)
I think its a bit apples and oranges. Am I wrong? Nuit Blanche was never conceived of as an art project in and of itself. It's just a big art festival, like many others.
It's a bit like apples and oranges...
hm. I'm confused. Feels like I'm just stating the obvious...still not sure what the issue is here.
back to CJB's comment, there are many occasions when generosity is followed by a surprise invoice, so he has a good point about the ultimate coerciveness of formalised gregarity.
The form of a vague call for self-definition.
You type so fast LM.
Well, coercion sucks, I'll have to agree on that point. But I'm not convinced that it's more prevalent in art practices that are about social dynamics than it is in practices that are about objects.
geez. We're all posting at the same time.
Oh right, J., ..the original post! I'd forgotten all about it.
That would mean staying on topic. Doesn't happen much here and we don't mind.
Today's posts are about a launch for the WADE catalogue. WADE, curated by Sandra Rechico and Christie Pearson, is a great example of curation that's committed to community. And here I would draw more connection to Nuit Blanche, than I would with Instant Coffee. Why? Hmmm...I guess because WADE is not about the curators. It's about the participants, and the dynamics that emerge from the experience of encountering art in wading pools. The curators let go of the concept once the structure is in place, and it becomes whatever it becomes. No coercion. This kind of thing can work really badly if its over determined, and the participants feel like there is something they are supposed to be thinking/doing/feeling in relation to the art. But that can happen when you visit the MOMA too.
THAT is a good thing. How are VP's negotiations with RG going?
More simultaneous posting sorry. That was for LM's previous.
I love the website Learning to Love You More. Again, here I have a feeling that public participation is light and fun and actually desirable, not forced and arch and serving someone else's concept. I admit, it's a fine line!
I think if PV wants to be "generous intergenerationally in encouraging and collaborating" and RG is really on their radar, they should call him up.
does that count as collaborating?
I suppose they COULD collaborate unbeknownst to each other. Maybe they have been all these years already.
this has been fun but now I gotta go play outside for awhile. later gators.
OK, but for those who stay inside a lot:
Joester, you are a gamer through and through.
INSTANT COFFEE were politically suspect because they discriminated against TEA, the thoughtful beverage for those who can actually think. An endangered species, I believe.
that is funny. "Earl Grey, hot."
Now that Sally went over to simpleposie to get pissy over Jerry Saltz , I will now employ a GIF based metering system to measure the contention for that link.
oh my golly there's some serious bed time LOLling going on over here.
Spammers are loving this one too much, so I'm closing the thread. But don't fret, we'll come up with another subject for a sissy fight real soon.