Apocalypse – Now what? Art After Political Trauma

31 January 2008

Mercer Union and the Koffler Gallery of the Koffler Centre of the Arts present

Apocalypse – Now what? Art After Political Trauma

Panel discussion organized in conjunction with the exhibitions Living Units and New World

Thursday, January 31, 2008, 6:30 pm
Mercer Union, 37 Lisgar Street

Apocalypse – Now what?will discuss contemporary art and architecture produced in cultures that are still transitioning from the experience of a traumatizing political system. Including perspectives from different artistic and theoretical fields, and focusing on several geographic locations, the panel will examine the ways in which artistic production reflects and analyzes a difficult past and still uncertain present, striving to shape new directions. Taking different approaches to investigating the contemporary cultural context of Romania, China, Argentina and Canadian First Nations, the panelists will address what becomes possible for artistic production in the space and process of post-traumatic transition, and how does art contribute to processing difficult memory and affect social change.

Adrian Blackwell is an urban and architectural designer, artist and researcher, whose work focuses on the spaces and forces of uneven development produced through processes of Postfordist urbanization. His art and urban research have been exhibited across Canada, at the 2005 Shenzhen Biennale of Urbanism / Architecture and LACE Gallery in Los Angeles. Blackwell co-edited Unboxed: Engagements in Social Space, with Jen Budney and co-curated Detours: Tactical Approaches to Urbanization in Chinawith Pei Zhao. In 1997 he won Toronto’s Nathan Phillips Square Design competition in collaboration with PLANT Architects, STI & Partners, and Peter Lindsay Schaudt. He teaches architecture and urban design at the University of Toronto, where he initiated al&d’s China program in 2004, and has been a visiting professor at Chongqing University and the University of Michigan.

Mario DiPaolantoniois Assistant Professor in the Faculty of Education at York University and his latest project is “Aesthetics and Potentiality in ‘Political Art’: Talking to Artists in Argentina and Northern Ireland,” which considers contemporary art in the context of transition from past violences. DiPaolantonio received his PhD from the University of Toronto and his postdoctoral fellowship at the University of London, UK. He is currently working on a research project exploring the dynamics between art production and justice demands in societies reckoning with past state abuses. He is also an international research associate with the Unit for Global Justice at the University of London.

Gerald McMasteris Curator of Canadian Art at the Art Gallery of Ontario since 2005. His specialty is modern and contemporary First Nations art and culture. An established artist and curator, he is a widely published author, an international lecturer, as well as the recipient of many prestigious awards and recognitions, including Officer of the Order of Canada. He has served as Deputy Assistant Director for Cultural Resources for the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of the American Indian, Washington DC, and held the position of Curator of Contemporary Indian Art at the Canadian Museum of Civilization, in Ottawa, from 1981 to 2000.

Calin-Andrei Mihailescu is a writer and a Professor of Comparative Literature, Critical Theory, and Spanish at the University of Western Ontario in London, Canada. His publications over the past five years include seven books and a large number of shorter texts in English, French, Romanian and Spanish. His latest books are Anthropomorphine, 16-17. Renaissance, Mannerism, Baroque, and What Was It Like? Something Like That… Memories from the Years of [Romanian] Communism. In addition to his academic writings spanning a number of disciplines, he has published prose, poetry, children stories and texts which defy pigeonholing.

The panel will be moderated by Georgiana Uhlyarik, a curator of Canadian art at the Art Gallery of Ontario and past President of Mercer Union Board of Directors. She will introduce the presentations through a series of questions outlining the broad areas of investigation to be elaborated upon by each of the panelists. Following the panel, she will facilitate an audience-driven, informal discussion to further explore the role of artistic practice after political trauma.

Organized in conjunction with the exhibitions

New World: Olia Mishchenko, Mona Vatamanu and Florin Tudor
The Koffler Gallery
January10 to February 24, 2008
Curator: Mona Filip

New World brings together video work by Romanian artists Mona Vatamanu and Florin Tudor, and a new drawing installation by Toronto-based Olia Mishchenko. These artists address the elusive promise of progress through their shared experiences of growing up in Communist systems. While Vatamanu and Tudor witness daily the hopes and anxieties of a society struggling to redefine itself, Mishchenko has experienced the process of displacement and adaptation inherent to settling in a new land. Originating from distinct but sometimes overlapping viewpoints, the works presented at the Koffler Gallery address the turmoil and expectations intrinsic to rebuilding one’s life on unknown territory. Infused with insight on bureaucratic structures and utopias of efficiency, Mishchenko’s work situates itself ambivalently, with humour and tenderness, between a critique of productivity gone mad and an enchantment with poetic idealism. Her meticulous wall drawings invite viewers to explore the site through viewfinders, revealing a minute world-in-progress where construction seems forever expanding yet never achieved. In Vatamanu and Tudor’s video piece, Il Mondo Novo, the construction site becomes a metaphor for the political territory of a nation that faces its own transformation with wary anticipation. The piece references an 18th Century fresco by Giandomenico Tiepolo in which a curious crowd gathers in front of a street performer’s tent, presumably to view images of the Americas projected through a new optic invention. In the video, a group of onlookers gaze out onto the still formless ground of a new building—a site charged with expectation, inviting along with the viewers’ gazes their subjective projections.

Mona Vatamanu and Florin Tudor: Living Units

Mercer Union
January 11– February 16, 2008
Curator: Mona Filip

Living Units comprises a multi-media installation and photographs by Romanian artists Mona Vatamanu and Florin Tudor. Their practice explores urban sites as documents that speak of lives and stories where the personal clashes with political ideology and state control. The city of Bucharest, as many other in Romania and the Eastern European block, suffered traumatic transformations under the Communist regime. Large-scale demolition eradicated historical neighborhoods and displaced population to make room for delusional symbols of grandeur and contrived urban prosperity. The material residues of this utopia are still standing. Negotiating these spaces involves a difficult process of remembering and forgetting painful public and personal history. In their installation, Vatamanu and Tudor create an immersive environment that emulates the oppressiveness of socialist habitats, integrating the viewer as part of the landscape. Images of apartment building facades are projected onto two structures representing stylized houses, creating an ambivalent feeling of struggle. The human scale of these units reinforces identification, while their schematic shape—reminiscent of early childhood drawings—makes us think beyond architectural models, to the quintessential home. A series of photographs complements the installation, documenting Communist architectural vestiges and the urban devastation that marked the most destructive project of the ‘80s in Bucharest—the development of the Civic Centre. To examine and process past traumas is essential for the process of re-humanizing an oppressed society and re-building on stable grounds. Bringing focus to still controversial histories, Vatamanu and Tudor’s work provides an occasion to explore the political and ethical state of a post-communist society, its disillusions and hopes.

Free Guided Bus Tour:On Sunday, February 3, from 11:30 am to 5 pm, there will be a free guided bus tour from Mercer Union to Blackwood Gallery, Koffler Gallery, Doris McCarthy Gallery and Justina M. Barnicke Gallery. Please call (905) 828-3789 to reserve a seat.

The Koffler Galleryof the Koffler Centre of the Arts gratefully acknowledges the support of its patrons and members, Cultural Season Sponsor CIBC Wood Gundy, the UJA Federation of Greater Toronto, the City of Toronto through the Toronto Arts Council, the Ontario Arts Council and the Canada Council for the Arts.

Mercer Unionacknowledges the support of its membership, the Canada Council for the Arts, the Government of Ontario through the Ontario Arts Council, The Ontario Ministry of Culture, and the City of Toronto through the Toronto Arts Council.

The Koffler Gallery

Koffler Centre of the Arts
4588 Bathurst Street
Toronto, ON M2R 1W6

tel (416) 636-1880 x268 fax (416) 636-5813

kofflergallery@kofflerarts.org www.kofflerarts.org

Gallery Hours: Tuesday to Friday 10 am to 4 pm Sunday noon to 4 pm and Monday by appointment. Closed Saturday, statutory holidays and Jewish holidays. Admission is free

Mercer Union, A Centre for Contemporary Art

37 Lisgar Street Toronto, ON M6J 3T3

tel (416) 536-1519 fax (416) 536-2955

info@mercerunion.org. www.mercerunion.org

Gallery Hours:Tuesday to Saturday 11 am to 6 pm. Closed Sunday. Admission is free