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Wednesday, October 30, 2019

When I started reading about Ayesha Singh’s work, I was also reflecting on utopia in relation to localized aesthetics and ‘global’ migrations. I had just visited Jonas Meskas’ posthumous exhibition, Let me dream utopias, at Rupert in Vilnius and circled in the exhibition essay: “‘Real utopias,’ Mekas claimed, ‘may only be found within one’s small closed village evoked with the specific mouth muscles of one’s mother’s tongue.’” In our interview, Singh and I never got around to asking each other the name of our ancestral village, but I think (and I hope) we felt the pulse of the ghost muscle linking her art practice with my own critical/ curatorial inquiry. Ghost muscle, to say something of our tongues’ twisted, even if no longer taut, entwinement with the colonizer’s language. We spoke about art in English (and extensively) but we delivered our jokes and glances in Punjabi/Hindi. Like our parents, we lived in the tight corset of British Colonialism and post-colonialism, but the digitali...

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Karen Asher picks me up from my parent’s house in the suburbs. We decide to go to Rae & Jerry’s for our interview. Rae & Jerry’s is a relic of 1960’s postwar Winnipeg, a steakhouse still dimly lit and covered in red velvet and wood panel. It sticks out like a sore thumb on the city's Portage Avenue with its long, covered driveway originally used for valet service. Once the epitome of fine dining, Rae & Jerry’s now sits somewhere in between a high class experience and a tongue-in-cheek joke. 

I’m going to be speaking with Asher about her most recent exhibition, Class, at Plug In Institute of Contemporary Art. In the past, Karen worked primarily with still photography. In her website bio, Asher describes her artwork as an exploration of “her obsession with stress, absurdity and the catastrophe of everyday life.” Most of her work features the figure shot on square, medium format film. Her subjects vary from her partner, Kevin, to strangers she meets on the street, to friends piled...

Monday, August 12, 2019

Look up any image of Radwan Ghazi Moumneh and you’d likely see him donning some form of shades. I ready my phone call with Moumneh, I’m curious what he looks like so I search up for his photo online. As the phone rings and he eventually picks up, I thought about sharing my observation with him. I wondered if he had shades on as we spoke. I couldn’t picture him without it. I don’t ask, instead, I’m caught in his voice and in our conversation.  Something he said later in our chat about cracking open a proverbial door for his audiences during performances and allowing them to make up their own experience resonates with the shades’ visual obstruction. With his now ten-plus years project Jerusalem In My Heart (JIMH), what Moumneh offers to audiences eludes all prescription. You come at it from where you are at and meet it how you see fit. Even as personal and political as what he results with may be, Moumneh is merely a messenger.  

At the time of our conversation, it was in b...

Wednesday, July 10, 2019


Andrei Tarkovsky's seminal 1979 film Stalker was produced in the late Brezhnev era of the Soviet Union, and centres on the journey of three men to a forbidden location called the ‘Zone’– the product of an extraterrestrial visitation, purported to manifest the deepest desires of any person to enter it. Every empire has an end, an exhibition at Toronto’s Franz Kaka, juxtaposes the work of Jennifer Carvalho and Jenine Marsh to explore the material sensibilities and conceptual dialogues of their art practices through the lens of the film. Together, Marsh’s sculptures and Carvalho’s paintings summon the themes and visual languages of Stalker; its mysterious ‘Zone’; and its investment in time utilizing what Tarkovsky referred to as the “long take.” 

Like the ‘Zone’ of the film, a site of antagonism and obsession, the artists play with the anxiety present in zones of indistinction and estrangement. Both Carvalho and Marsh consider through the lens of Stalker that science fiction is an i...

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Its weeks before the opening of his one-person exhibition at the Frankfurt am Main upstart gallery HUSSLEHOF and I’m in correspondence with Cudelice Brazelton over email. He tells me things are coming together, it’s been a bit confusing but productive nevertheless. This sounds familiar. Brazelton has told me this before. The part about things being confusing. Reading his email, I try picturing him in this setting of confusion. As if I could somehow redirect this momentary fog toward some reassuring clarity. Months prior, in another conversation, Brazelton earnestly reflected on the tonal shifts in his material selection. Where he once seemed fervent to let the viewer into some part of his world, to render bare his vulnerabilities and worries without hesitation or varnish, he describes his current outlook on his work as ‘solemn’ and maybe even ‘confused’. ‘But it’s not a bad thing’, he adds with a knowing sureness. The feeling of confusion can no doubt be an aversion but for Brazelton,...

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

I am sitting in Toronto artist Steven Beckly’s light-filled studio surrounded by the work he lives with like I have many times before. Only this time, I get to ask him about them and his broader practice. In May of 2017, I saw an image of two arms linking on a giant billboard in my neighbourhood. It was by Steven as part of the CONTACT photography festival and was immediately invested in his work. A couple of months later, I went to the Toronto Art Book Fair at Artscape Youngplace and met him for the first time. I told him I loved that image and picked up a couple of issues of his unbound zines. He asked if he could photograph me so I left him my contact information. We quickly became close friends and he has since become a mentor to me.

Steven’s work carefully straddles various forms, including photographs, artist books, sculptures, and installations. He is interested in the paradoxical nature of love and desire, of light and darkness. We discussed his relationship to research, place,...

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

flickering light, water over film skin. the sound of the wind on the water, coloured like a sunset or a redness that comes from the heat. you are absorbed by the light of the day walking through the window, travellers. you watch her hands linked together like an old tree, the house shaded by soft limbs of cedar.

she looks at the corner of the room, the sounds of insects and birds chirping. wasp body floats in the water, full of shadows and plant debris fallen from the sky. follow the grain of the wood with the blade of the axe, making a sound for punctuation. to live your own life, to have your own reasons and faith in them: she looks at you with the bells chiming, she says, foxes, wolves, bears, they are all different in the wild.

Melodic and irregular, the sound of bells invokes the opening and the ending of Ralitsa Doncheva’s short film “Baba Dana Talks To The Wolves” (2016). Interwoven with other ambient sounds, they form a richly textured soundscape which includes both sheep bells a...

Thursday, May 23, 2019

I first met Arielle Twist IRL, in Tiohtiá:ke/Montreal last fall. She was touring for the launch of her now released book and running a writing workshop at a café. Read any of Twist’s poetry and you’ll feel your heart strings being tugged, it’s raw and poignant. She has major auntie energy: knowledgeable and assertive, paired with cutting eyeliner comparably sharp as her wit. A group of us sit in a circle, scribbling responses to her deeply profound writing prompts,

“What part of myself did I have to kill to exist in a colonized world?”

In her newest collection of commanding poetry, Disintegrate/Dissociate channels human vulnerability, sensuality and the reflections of rebirth and death. Her work stands grounded in opposition to colonial violence that continues to undermine sex, gender, and sexuality. As she states: “the post-colonial world is of filth and fire, but racialized LGBTQ2S+ continue to persevere as the apocalypse persists.” In landscapes leached with white settler ideology, sh...

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

first encountered Heather Rigg’s curatorial work for An unassailable and monumental dignity at Contact Gallery in 2017, and was blown away. It reframed images of Black masculinity in the public sphere. Each work sparked off one another in a way only a strong curatorial vision can create. Rigg grew up in Victoria, BC and relocated to Toronto in 2008 where she received her MA from Ryerson University’s Photographic Preservation and Collections Management (PPCM). She worked at the Art Gallery of Ontario as part of that program, then as Programming Administrator for the Contact Photography Festival. In July she was appointed Curator of Exhibitions and Public Programs at Gallery 44 Centre for Contemporary Photography. Last year, Rigg initiated the project space ma ma, with long-time friend and collaborator Magdalyn Asimakis. Recently at a Gallery 44 opening I overheard someone say about her: ‘she’s such a firecracker’, and I’m inclined to agree. Rigg is an exciting new voice in curati...

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

I think of HaeAhn Kwon's assemblage works as solutions to open-ended questions. How might we tweak our surroundings to bring light to the things we take for granted? How do our surroundings shape us, our bodies, and the way we behave? How can one inflect change, or make the best of a situation, with minimal means? Or as the artist asks: “How do incongruent parts come together meaningfully to suggest an otherwise?”

Working in drawing, sculpture and installation, Kwon's practice largely revolves around the idea of “the makeshift” -- a word that aptly describes the haphazard site of art production, the art object that emerges both from chance and necessity, and the daily labour of making-do. The makeshift, as she describes it, implies operating creatively within (and despite) material limitations, and having to navigate barriers through efficacious improvisation.

In a recent work titled Pissbox (2018), two shoe prints embedded in a yellowed block of gypsum cement allude to a bodily presence...

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Loosening, rethinking, and altering the ways we navigate space and relate to one another are Misael Soto’s bread and butter. The Miami-based artist is currently working on large projects situated in public space, rooted in a practice that has continuously intervened in the systems that govern the everyday. Daily life is often riddled with unexpected and often contradictory phenomena that usually go unnoticed and unquestioned: construction street signs, scaffolding, and crisis-averting equipment are all obvious indicators of change—sometimes even threats —yet their ubiquitous and quotidian deployment eases potential anxieties, certainly staving off the urgency that required their invention in the first place. In a moment heightened by polarizing politics, many artists are looking to the nature of relations and relationships between people. Soto considers the challenges of our time through the interpellation of architectures, machines, and symbols of the public sphere.

The artist’s recent...

Thursday, April 18, 2019

I first met Sindhu Thirumalaisamy in San Diego. We reconnected later at the airport in Tijuana while we waited to board a plane to México City where we were going to take part in a summer study program at SOMA. Back then, I had only heard about a soundscape she'd done inside a hospital. It layered and built tension around hospital life in a magical and meditative way.

As I got to know Sindhu, I noticed her ability to listen with great care and that appealed to me. I wanted to work with her. I later found out she was a filmmaker when she started to work on her latest project, The Lake and the Lake. Both her film and sound works are location-based, multi-lingual, and collaborative. She experiments with context-specific practices of looking, listening, and speaking to produce “sonic possible worlds” across a range of media including text and live events. Her recent projects intervene into a collective understanding of health, cleanliness and toxicity of the urban commons.

At the airpor...

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Listen to any of Sheffield’s Ashley Holmes’ mixes on NTS Radio and it can feel like getting a warm welcome into the mind of a mixer who is every bit as delicate about his choices as he is with their successive arrangements. You can picture Holmes spending hours sifting through record after record, lining them up, seamlessly placing disparate textures together before broadcasting it for us to hear. But he also manages to make the results flow intuitively and casual.  Each time, he takes us on a meandering journey into the decades and then brings us forward and then back again. This back and forth maneuvering is done to a point where you start to lose any geographic or historic orientation you may align the tracks towards. Instead, we are left with a stacked-up sonic displacement and hybridity that is not entirely here nor there.  It teases out the multiple contexts from which these sounds come to be and how they continue to be morphed into new shades that may have only been hinted at in...

Friday, March 29, 2019

gusts of sheets like lungs, breathing the air. dandelion leaves and blades of grass. dimpled fruit branches rustling like a horizon. between here and the pear tree—heat and the slowness of waiting. she says, relationships between people are beautiful.

head held in creases and folds. deep watered intention or else a seething fury. nearby a woman crouched in a tree, a painted figure eating a fruit. pears piled high in a bowl, she says, i didn’t ask your opinion on being a woman.

white noise. white plaster hand, limp-wristed. a man with a cloth held in front of his face made of plaster. hands on her hip bone, sheets tangled up in the line. beside the sink, a window, yellow dish soap, a crumpled piece of paper towel.

I watch Toronto-based artist Sophie Sabet’s Though I Am Silent, I Shake (2017) over and over again on loop, and as the video ends there is an unexpected switch: her mother’s body is replaced by her own body, laying in the same position. It’s a close-up on their collarbones, the c...

Thursday, March 28, 2019

If I were a journalist, I might begin this piece so:

“Davis Plett (23) a petit blonde in pink two-piece with wide, gold, metal choker, black stilettos, and glasses, began their performance in the midst of a rapt audience. Seated in a large 1980’s office chair (emphasising their build), Plett operated an overhead projector/laptop hybrid in silence as acetate after acetate, and digital screen after screen of text and image rolled over the fabric of the old projection screen … ”

The visual description of the subject, once common in tabloids, directs the reader towards assumptions about intelligence, intention, personality, social standing, and availability. A female identified body in a public role was regarded as an available body. This still holds true. With simultaneously greater subtlety and absolute brazenness, female, and increasingly, male identified bodies, are still being overtly included in North American and European neo-liberal economies of sex, fantasy, commodity, personal bran...

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