October 21, 2015 – January 23, 2016

Complex Social Change

Works by Sharlene Bamboat, Cecilia Berkovic, Dana Bishop-Root, Lori Blondeau, Ginger Brooks Takahashi, Wendy Coburn, DodoLab, Ali El-Darsa, FASTWÜRMS, Deirdre Logue, Syrus Marcus Ware, Allyson Mitchell, Heidi Nagtegaal, Michèle Pearson Clarke, Radiodress, Hazel Meyer, Adrian Stimson, Jesi The Elder, Chris E. Vargas & Christina Zeidler
Curated by Josephine Mills

Exhibition organized by the University of Lethbridge Art Gallery

Growing out of the debates regarding the recent Occupy movement and Idle No More, Complex Social Change is an interdisciplinary research program and collaborative partnership developed at the University of Lethbridge - this exhibition at the Doris McCarthy Gallery continues the program and brings it to Ontario. The artists investigate some of the larger issues surrounding complex social change, and the means by which sustained, active engagement can be produced within particular communities, resisting the political and economic pressures that encourage passive acceptance.

About the Artists

Sharlene Bamboat is a Toronto-based artist, working in a variety of media. Bamboat regularly works in collaboration with artists and academics. Her most regular collaborative partner is artist Alexis Mitchell, and together they form Bambitchell. Recent exhibitions include Border Sounds at the Art Gallery of Windsor (2015); Silent Citizen at the Images Festival (2014), and Sashay Away at Campbell House Museum, Toronto. Upcoming residencies include the Santa Fe Art Institute in New Mexico, and Akademie Schloss Solitude in Germany.

Cecilia Berkovic is a visual artist and graphic designer who uses language, found imagery and strategies of collecting and displaying to explore aspects of feminism, the everyday, consumer culture, desire and queer identity. Her work includes collage, publishing, photography and installation. She received her MFA from Bard College in New York and was an active member of Toronto/Vancouver–based collective Instant Coffee from 2000 to 2010. She currently sits on the Board of Directors at Gallery TPW. Recent work has been exhibited at Mercer Union and The Artist Newsstand in Toronto; as part of We Can’t Compete at the University of Lethbridge Art Gallery in Alberta; online at Nomorepotlucks.org and throughout the city as poster projects for Nuit Blanche and AIDS ACTION NOW!

Dana Bishop-Root is a founding member of Transformazium, a collaborative project in North Braddock, PA. Their projects aim to foster multiplicity of amplified voice; redirect money from an arts economy to a local economy; value local knowledge and discourse production; and create spaces in which roles can shift between teacher and learner. Transformazium has an embedded partnership with Braddock Carnegie Library where they operate a Neighborhood Print Shop, a residency program and an Art Lending Collection. Transformazium has presented their work at Temple University, Carnegie Mellon University, ICA Philadelphia, the Queens Museum and the Columbus Art Museum. Transformazium was in the Pittsburgh Biennial in 2012, and the 2013 Carnegie International. They received an MFA from Portland State University in 2013. Prior to Transformazium, Bishop-Root was a program director for Publicolor in NYC. She continues to work as an education consultant for arts and neighborhood based organizations.

Lori Blondeau is a performance artist based in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan that has exhibited nationally and internationally. Blondeau’s work explores the influence of popular media and culture (contemporary and historical) on Aboriginal self-identity, self-image and self-definition. The performance personas she creates refer to the damage of colonialism and to the ironic pleasures of displacement and resistance. She completed her MFA at the University of Saskatchewan. She is also a co-founder and the current director of Canada’s most innovative and exciting aboriginal arts organization, TRIBE.

Ginger Brooks Takahashi’s collaborative project-based practice is an extension of feminist spaces and queer inquiry, actively building community and nurturing alternative forms of information distribution. She is co-founder of LTTR, a queer and feminist art journal, and MOBILIVRE BOOKMOBILE project, a traveling exhibit of artist books and zines. She received her BA from Oberlin College, attended the Whitney Independent Study Program, and was a founding member of the touring musical act MEN. She has presented work at the Serpentine Gallery, London, 2008; documenta 12, Kassel, 2007; Textile Museum of Canada, Toronto, 2009; the New Museum, New York, 2009; The Brooklyn Museum, 2013, and The Miller Gallery, 2013.

Wendy Coburn (1963 - 2015) was a Toronto-based artist, activist and educator. Coburn’s multi-disciplinary work in photography, sculpture, installation and video explores representations of women in popular culture; ideas of nationhood; the roles of image, spectacle and myth in mediating cultural difference; queer and sexualized bodies, everyday objects, material culture, and human/animal relations. Coburn’s work has been exhibited and screened in galleries and festivals including Photophobia (Art Gallery of Hamilton), the Living Effect (Ottawa Art Gallery), MIX (New York Gay & Lesbian Experimental Film/Video Festival) Transmediale International Media Art Festival (Berlin, Germany), Beaver Tales and Uneasy Pieces (Oakville Galleries), Kassel Documentary Film & Video Festival (Kassel, Germany), and the Dublin Lesbian & Gay Film and Video Festival (Dublin, Ireland). Wendy Coburn studied at Dundas Valley School of Art, Ontario College of Art, and held an MFA from Concordia University. Coburn worked several years as Assistant Dean and Associate Dean in the Faculty of Art at OCAD U, where she taught sculpture and interdisciplinary courses. In 2007 she was appointed Associate Professor and awarded tenure.

DodoLab is the experimental, public-focused practice of Guelph-based artist Lisa Hirmer. DodoLab is focused on developing provocative approaches to working with the public and the nebulous reality of public opinion. Often modeled as a type of performative research, the work explores and responds to the public’s relationship with contemporary issues—meaning that it is never solely an idea in and of itself that is explored, but rather an idea in relation to the public’s (or more accurately a specific public, counter-public or community’s) understandings and beliefs about that idea. As DodoLab, Hirmer has created projects across Canada and internationally at public galleries, including Confederation Centre Art Gallery (Charlottetown), Harbourfront Centre (Toronto), University of Lethbridge Art Gallery, Kamloops Art Gallery, Kitchener-Waterloo Art Gallery, Foreman Gallery (Lennoxville) and Peninsula Arts (Plymouth, U.K.); with service organizations, such as Trillium (Sudbury) and the Gosling Foundation (Guelph); municipalities, including Breckland Council (U.K.) and the City of Rijeka (Croatia); and academic groups, including The Institute for Critical Studies in Improvisation (University of Guelph), and the Centre for Community Based Research (Kitchener). In 2015 Hirmer was selected for an international residency by the Centre for Contemporary Art and the Natural World (U.K.) and for the Time_Place_Space program by Performance Space and Art House Melbourne (Australia).

Ali El-Darsa, Beirut-born Berlin/Toronto-based, works in video, performance and installation. He holds a Master of Visual Studies from Daniels Faculty, University of Toronto and a BFA from Concordia University in Intermedia/Cyberarts. Recent solo exhibitions and performances include: 25/09/2001–Present at Espace Cercle Carré (Montreal); Entr’acte at Hart House co-presented by SAVAC (Toronto); Standing Still at Darling Foundry (Montreal). Group exhibitions and screenings include: The Color Remains the Same at University of Toronto Art Centre, Kassel Documentary Film and Video Festival (Germany), No Place: Queer Geographies at Small Projects Gallery (Norway); Brooklyn Film Festival (New York); We Can’t Compete at University of Lethbridge Art Gallery (Calgary); Lite Side Festival (Amsterdam); (In)formal disclosures at Access Gallery (Vancouver); Festival International du Cinéma Méditerranéen (Montpellier); Rendezvous with Madness Film Festival (Toronto); Galerie Sans Nom (Moncton); Festival Les Ecrans Documentaires, (Arcueil); III Festival Internacional de Videoarte Camaguey (Cuba); and Theatre Centre (Toronto). In 2014, El-Darsa undertook a fellowship with Beirut-based artist and filmmaker, Akram Zaatari.

Formed in 1979, FASTWÜRMS is the cultural project, trademark, and joint authorship of Kim Kozzi and Dai Skuse. FASTWURMS cultural production is about multidisciplinary, multimedia artworks that integrate time based, performance, and visual art in the context of immersive installations, social exchange and event architecture principles. FASTWURMS artwork is characterized by a determined DIY sensibility, Witch positivity identity politics, and a keen allegiance towards working class, queer alliance, and artist collaborations. FASTWURMS cultural practice is predicated on the free exchange and circulation of aesthetic knowledge as a public and performative narrative. FASTWURMS has exhibited and created public commissions and installations, performance, video and film projects, across Canada and in the United States, Europe, Brazil, Korea, and Japan.

For the past 20 years, the film and video work of Canadian artist Deirdre Logue has focused on the self as subject. Using ‘performance for the camera’ as a primary mode of production, her compelling self-portraits investigate what it means to be a queer body in the age of anxiety. Logue has been prolific and steadfast in her engagement with the moving image and has subsequently produced upwards of 60 short films and videos as well as some of this country’s most celebrated video art installations. Important exhibitions of her video works have taken place at Plug In ICA (Winnipeg), Open Space (Victoria), Oakville Galleries, the Images Festival (Toronto), the Berlin International Film Festival and ExiS (Seoul). Her most recent collaborations with artist Allyson Mitchell include the FAG Feminist Art Gallery (Toronto) and Killjoy’s Kastle: A Lesbian, Feminist Haunted House (Toronto, London and Los Angeles). The two also just completed an artist in residency program at the Art Gallery of Ontario where they completed new video and sculptural work for the travelling exhibition I’m Not Myself At All.

Syrus Marcus Ware is a visual artist, community activist, researcher, youth-advocate and educator. He is the Program Coordinator of the AGO Youth Program, Art Gallery of Ontario. As a visual artist, Syrus works within the mediums of painting, installation and performance to explore social justice frameworks and activist culture. His work has been shown widely, including at the Art Gallery of Windsor, the University of Lethbridge Art Gallery, Art Gallery of York University and The Gladstone Hotel. Syrus’ recent curatorial projects include TSG: Fall to Pieces (Gladstone Hotel, 2015) The Church Street Mural Project (Church-Wellesley Village, 2013), That’s So Gay: On the Edge (Gladstone Hotel, 2014) and Re:Purpose (Robert McLaughlin Gallery, 2014). He is part of the PDA (Performance Disability Art) Collective and co-programmed Crip Your World: An Intergalactic Queer/POC Sick and Disabled Extravaganza as part of Mayworks 2014. In 2009, Syrus coedited the Journal of Museum Education issue Building Diversity in Museums with Gillian McIntyre. Syrus’ writings on trans health, disability studies and activism are part of curricula at City University of New York, York, and Ryerson. In 2005, Syrus was voted “Best Queer Activist” by Now Magazine, and in 2012 he was awarded the Steinert and Ferreiro Award for LGBT community leadership and activism. Syrus holds degrees in Art History, Visual Studies and a Masters in Sociology and Equity Studies, University of Toronto. He is a PhD candidate in the Faculty of Environmental Studies at York University.

Allyson Mitchell is a maximalist artist working in sculpture, performance, installation and film. Her practice melds feminism and pop culture to investigate contemporary ideas about sexuality, politics and the body. These articulations have resulted in a coven of lesbian feminist Sasquatch monsters, a room-sized Vagina Dentata, an army of genius Holly Hobbies and a woodland utopia library of political knowledge. Her works have exhibited in galleries and festivals across Canada, the US and Europe, including Tate Modern, the Textile Museum of Canada, the Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art, Yerba Buena Art Centre, Andy Warhol Museum, Walker Art Center, The British Film Institute, Winnipeg Art Gallery and the Art Gallery of Ontario. Her most recent collaboration with artist Deirdre Logue includes Killjoy’s Kaslte: A Lesbian, Feminist Haunted House in Toronto, London and Los Angeles. The two just completed an artist in residency program at the Art Gallery of Ontario where they completed new video and sculptural work for the travelling exhibition I’m Not Myself At All. Mitchell is an Associate Professor in the School of Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies at York University and runs the FAG Feminist Art Gallery with her partner Deirdre Logue.

Heidi Nagtegaal is an artist, writer and facilitator living in Vancouver, BC. After receiving her BFA from ECUAD in 2005, Nagtegaal has gone on to found local arts initiatives such as The Hammock Residency and Headbands and Bracelets. She has recently exhibited in the Tate Modern (London, UK) for the No Soul For Sale: A Festival of Independents, with the Western Front, Äkkigalleria (Jyväskylä, Finland), Burnaby Art Gallery, Richmond Art Gallery, CSA, Signal + Noise, and many others.

Michèle Pearson Clarke is a Trinidad-born artist who works in photography, film, video and installation. Using archival, performative and process-oriented strategies, her work explores queer and black diasporic longing and loss. Recent exhibitions include We Can’t Compete, A Feminist Art Gallery (FAG) Satellite Project at University of Lethbridge Art Gallery (2014), Parade of Champions at Ryerson Image Centre, Toronto (2015), and (art)work(sport)work(sex)work at The Power Plant, Toronto (2015). Recent film screenings include Pleasure Dome’s New Toronto Works, International Short Film Festival Oberhausen, and Images Festival, Toronto. She holds an MSW from the University of Toronto and an MFA in Documentary Media Studies from Ryerson University.

Radiodress uses live and recorded talking, singing, yelling and listening to consider bodies as sites of knowledge, and communication as a political practice. Through guided audience participation in public space, she highlights the relationship between collective voice and the empathic act of listening. Radiodress' projects centre around questions of community, justice and healing. They usually involve non-artists, intentional community, and spiritual practices. Radiodress' audio-based community project, midnight dawn 20-10-10 was exhibited as part of Border Cultures Two (work, labour) at the Art Gallery in Windsor, resulting in a long-listing for the 2014 Sobey Award. Her most recent work, Mysterium Tremendum was presented this past summer by the Worker's Arts and Heritage Centre in Hamilton. For this project, Radiodress worked with a number of feminist, activist and precarious worker communities to share their struggles and transform their invisibility through the ancient mystical form of the Merkabah. Radiodress also produces Republic of Love, a radio show on critical art culture broadcast monthly on the new moon, and is currently in training as a Hebrew Priestess. For more information on her creative and spiritual work, visit: www.radiodress.ca

From the monumental to the modest, Hazel Meyer’s projects range from large installations to small woven tags meant for an audience of one. She explores seemingly disparate yet overlapping preoccupations —intestines and athletics, feminism and the absurd, anxiety and textiles— using scale, language, play, repetition, gentle confrontation and ecstatic immersion. She has collaborated with teens, badminton players, composers, her mother, and artists for projects that are devoted to a forever shifting ratio of endurance, transgression, and laughs, as ways of being in one’s body and the world. Hazel holds an MFA from OCAD University (Toronto), a BFA from Concordia University (Montréal). Recent solo exhibitions include Muscle Panic at the MacLaren Art Centre (Barrie, ON), No Theory No Cry at Art Metropole (Toronto), and Walls to the Ball at La Centrale (Montréal). Hazel’s work has been included in Separation Penetrates at the Dutch Art Institute (Netherlands), Temperamental at the Doris McCarthy Gallery, University of Toronto Scarborough, and Schlaegermusik with Annesley Black for Zukunftsmusik (Stuttgart). In fall 2014 she was the visiting artist at the Embassy of Foreign Artists in Geneva, Switzerland as well as the inaugural artist-in-residence at Scrap Metal in summer 2015. Hazel lives and works in Toronto, Ontario.

Adrian Stimson is a member of the Siksika (Blackfoot) Nation in southern Alberta. He is an interdisciplinary artist, curator and educator with a BFA with distinction from the Alberta College of Art & Design and MFA from the University of Saskatchewan. As an interdisciplinary artist, Adrian’s work includes paintings, installations, sculpture and performance. Recent exhibits and performances include, Agnes Etherington Art Centre | Queen's University, Sovereign Acts, Southern Alberta Art Gallery, Story Telling, Contemporary Native Art Biennial, Art Muir, Montreal, Witnesses at the Belkin Gallery, UBC, Vancouver, Reconsidering Reconciliation, Buffalo Boy’s Coal jubilee, House of the Wayward Spirits- ANDPVA, Toronto, White Shame Re-Worked, Grunt Gallery, Vancouver, Photo Quai, Musee du Quai Branly, Paris, France. Adrian was awarded the Blackfoot Visual Arts Award in 2009, the Queen Elizabeth II Golden Jubilee Medal in 2003 and the Alberta Centennial Medal in 2005.

Jesi The Elder is a self-taught animator experimenting frame by frame since 2005 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Her work is full of chimeric landforms, melting bodies, radical womanhood, sentient objects, and disarming ruptures of time and space. Inspired by her nomadic lifestyle, Jesi the Elder's animated short films and music videos are a fever-dream travelogue. Her animations are diaries of her most traversed landscape: that of her own vivid imagination.

Chris E. Vargas is a video maker & interdisciplinary artist. From 2008-2013, he made, in collaboration with Greg Youmans, the web-based trans/cisgender sitcom Falling In Love…with Chris and Greg. With Eric Stanley, he co-directed the movie Homotopia (2006) and its sequel Criminal Queers (2015). He is the founder of MOTHA–Museum of Transgender Hirstory & Art. As a whole, his work is both comic and committed, utopian and topical, and intimately engaged with the histories, herstories, and hirstories of queer politics and visual culture.

Christina Zeidler is a Toronto based artist who makes stuff, a lot of different stuff. She is best know for he film and video work with over thirty short film and video titles in distribution and is currently touring her first feature film Portrait of a Serial Monogamist a lesbian romantic comedy. She is also President and Developer of The Gladstone Hotel in Toronto with 37 artist designed hotel rooms, and took a community-based approach to the redevelopment of the building and business. She is engaged in a city-wide conversation about urbanism and the role community plays in development.

About the Curator

Josephine Mills is the Director/Curator of the University of Lethbridge Art Gallery and a Professor in the Department of Art. She has worked as a curator and public programmer in art galleries and artist-run centres in Saskatoon and Vancouver. Mills has a PhD in Communication Studies from Concordia University and is a graduate of the Museum Leadership Institute at the Getty Center. She is the current University Scholar representing the Faculty of Fine Arts. Her research interests focus on the relationship between art and concepts of public in Canada with specific attention to issues involved with public engagement for art galleries and within artist's practices. Mills is a past President of the Canadian Art Museum Directors' Organization / Organisation des Directeurs des Musées d'Art du Canada and a past President of the University and College Art Gallery Association of Canada.