The Fine Thread of Deviation

Anne Low & Evan Calder Williams

15 September 2018 - 3 November 2018
Opening Reception 14 September 2018 7pm


The silkworm has long been reared commercially for the production of silk fibre; their cocoons are naturally spun white and later dyed into a variety of colours. In 2011, researchers in Singapore developed a technique of adding a chemical dye known as Rhodamine B into the diet of silkworms, producing cocoons of brightly coloured silk thread. The first silkworms to ingest the dye wove cocoons of fluorescent pink, offering a possibility for eliminating traditional dyeing methods from the production of silk products. This method, and its indication of broader transitions in the textile industry, carries material concerns that underlie Anne Low and Evan Calder Williams’ collaborative project The Fine Thread of Deviation.

The exhibition at Mercer Union picks up from and radically revises Low and Williams’ collaboration, first presented in 2016 at ISSUE Project Room in New York. In an exploration of continuous experimentation, the artists will reimagine the dynamics and tendencies of their collaborative work and materialize it wholly new. At its heart is a projection screen hand-woven in silk using a variation on a twill pattern conceived by Low and Williams. This screen and its pattern ground the structure of the video shot and assembled by Williams, which uses the “rhythm” of a woven pattern’s binary construction — one thread over or under another — to generate a system of montage that organizes text, thermographic imaging, digital video, found footage and bands of colour. The content of the video is less a narrative than a mosaic of discontinuous histories finding points of continuity, including the history of Rhodamine B, passing from its use by striking silk weavers as part of their sabotage to production to the transformation of silkworms themselves into miniature dye houses.

The fluorescent pink from these early silkworm experiments – a hue modulated by Williams to hover between the pure toxic dye and the hot red that came to stand for militant organization against the conditions of such labour – washes over the screen and seeps deep into the hallway and lobby of the gallery, meeting the equally saturated light coming from the gallery’s pink front door. The screen here is treated as interface: a porous and continually shifting frame, endlessly permuting a luminescent light source, a display structure; and, a dense net of woven gestures. The artists share their approach to materiality; seeing both textile and moving image as kneaded with time, though here, time is permeable, malleable embodiments of history. And, here, industrial history includes the removal of the maker’s hand from the production of textiles,the shift in technologies from analogue to digital, and the forms of attempted oversight and control written into new technical forms themselves – including the explosive possibility of their inversion and misuse. This expanded conception of the screen transforms the main gallery into an installation, itself an interface for temporal marks made by the movement of bodies.

Meanwhile, the back gallery acts as a literal “backspace”, titled Paperstainer it will house new sculptures created by Low. In contrast to the experimental condition of Low and Williams’ collaboration, Paperstainer presents an interior belonging to a more singular subjectivity. Each of Low’s newest sculptures are produced using highly specific craft methodologies usually ascribed to furniture making and domestic interiors. While several components of these works have been fabricated by a craftsperson, Low instrumentalizes these techniques as one of many materials within her work. The installation of a site-specific architectural interior turns this space into a private quarter for the consideration of Low’s sculptures.

Presenting a new commissioned project by Anne Low and Evan Calder Williams, this exhibition marks the duo’s first collaborative presentation in Canada. The exhibition is curated by Julia Paoli, Director of Exhibitions & Programs at Mercer Union.


The Fine Thread of Deviation is made possible with Leading Support from Partners in Art  




Anne Low would like to acknowledge the support of the Canada Council for the Arts, which last year invested $153 million to bring the arts to Canadians throughout the country.




Anne Low is based in Montreal, Canada. Recent solo exhibitions include A wall as a table with candlestick legs, Tensta Konstall, Stockholm (2018) and Witch with Comb, Artspeak, Vancouver (2017). Recent  group exhibitions include Soon Enough – Art in Action, Tensta Konsthall, Stockholm (2018); Separation Penetrates, Mercer Union, Toronto (2017); Clive Hodgson & Anne Low, The Block, London (2017); Dream Islands, Nanaimo Art Gallery (2017); Ambivalent Pleasures, Vancouver Art Gallery (2016) and Reading the Line, The Western Front, Vancouver (2015). Her ongoing project with Derya Akay, Elaine, has hosted events at AKA Artist Run Centre, Saskatoon; Haunt, Vancouver, and the Vancouver Art Gallery.

Evan Calder Williams is a professor at the Center for Curatorial Studies at Bard College. He has a forthcoming solo exhibition with 13BC at NYU’s 80WSE (2019). Recent solo and collaborative films, performance, and audio works have been presented at La Biennale de Montréal (2016);Serpentine Gallery, London (2016); Artists Space, New York (2016); Swiss Institute, New York (2016); the Ljubljana Biennial of Graphic Arts (2015); and Images Festival, Toronto (2014). He is the author of two forthcoming books, Manual Override: A Theory of Sabotage (2019) and Prowling Forms (2018). His previously authored books include Shard Cinema (2017); Combined and Uneven Apocalypse (2011); and Roman Letters (2011). He is the translator, with David Fernbach, of a new edition of Mario Mieli’s Towards a Gay Communism (2018). His writing has appeared in publications including Film Quarterly, Frieze, WdW Review, The Italianist, La Furia Umana, World Picture, Cultural Politics, The Journal of American Studies, Mute, Estetica, and The New Inquiry. He is an editor of Viewpoint Magazine and a founding member of the film and research collective 13BC. He received a PhD in Literature from the University of California Santa Cruz (2013) and was a Fulbright Fellow in Italy (2012-11).


Image: Evan Calder Williams and Anne Low, video still The Fine Thread of Deviation, 2018. Digital video on handwoven silk. Courtesy the artists. Commissioned by Mercer Union, Toronto.