Models for Taking Part
9 September - 11 December 2011
Anetta Mona Chişa and Lucia Tkácová, Bouchra Khalili, Renzo Martens, Tobias Zielony, and Artur Żmijewski
Curated by Juan A. Gaitán
Art, Space, Democracy - Curator's Tour and Round-Table Discussion
Wednesday 12 October 2011, 6:00 - 8:30 pm
6:00 pm Tour: Justina M. Barnicke Gallery
Followed by Round-table Discussion in the Music Room, 2nd Floor, Hart House
Round-table participants: Juan A. Gaitán with Elle Flanders, Dana Granofsky, and Meghan Sutherland
IMAGE CREDIT: Renzo Martens, Episode III: Enjoy Poverty, 2009, film, 90 min. Courtesy the artist.
Models for Taking Part brings together media works by international artists Anetta Mona Chişa & Lucia Tkácová, Bouchra Khalili, Renzo Martens, Tobias Zielony, and Artur Żmijewski. The five works in the exhibition are critical interpretations of the public sphere as an idea and ideal that intersects uneasily with factional and even personal interest, and is constantly thrown into fragments.
Artur Żmijewski's Democracies (2009) is a multiscreen installation comprised of short vignettes of protests, public processions, and historical re-enactments. Each vignette documents a different manifestation of such collective mobilizations, which are largely comprised of recent protests in support of democratic rights or some form of self-affirmation, occurring in Western Europe and countries directly affected by its proximity.
Bouchra Khalili's video works typically set up complex relationships between documentary and ghostly images, different languages, "in" and "off" sounds, and real or potential stories. Straight Stories – Part 2: ANYA (2008) explores the Bosporus area of Istanbul, which separates two continents (Europe and Asia), if at an imaginary level. Today the area is a labyrinth where migrants wait before going further west or end up settling there. The work takes us to meet people who confide their hopes to go or stay, to return home or continue their travels.
Tobias Zielony's Vele di Scampia (2010) is a video and photography-based documentary that focuses on Franco di Salvo's eponymously named modernist housing project in Naples, Italy—a product of Italian rationalism that was taken over by the mafia and thus "privatized," albeit in a very public way.
The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex (2010) is a video by Anetta Mona Chisa & Lucia Tkácová wherein a group of "blonde" girls are asked to read sentences from Darwin, one at a time, and pass them on in secret. The girl sitting at the end of the chain must utter the secret out loud. The initially complex sentences become simplified and transformed through a string of interpretations and re-interpretations.
All these works offer models of participation that are unsustainable in terms of the ideal marriage between democracy and the public sphere: in Democracies, the viewer is confronted with an emotion-less gaze that seems relentlessly disenchanted with the effectiveness of public actions; in Vele di Scampia, one is brought into a world that seems thoroughly uninterested in politics, open only to itself; in Straight Stories – Part 2: ANYA, one encounters the territories of displacement, wanderings, and forced nomadic existences; and, on a humorous note, The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex appropriates a discourse of collectivity that at the same time exercises a degree of violence on collective knowledge.
One might see Renzo Martens' Episode III: Enjoy Poverty as the "coda" of this exhibition. This documentary/film shows a man, reminiscent of a Werner Herzog character, charging through the Upper Congo, bent on displaying a neon sign that reads "Enjoy Poverty." In "bad faith" (to use Jean-Paul Sartre's term)—if not bad taste—this enterprise nevertheless manages to reveal a reality that, though widely discussed, is generally suppressed from media representation or, worse, industriously controlled. The film is also a statement about the investment that the idea of participation (one hesitates to use the word "commitment") has on individuals and their motivations.
IMAGE CREDIT: Models for Taking Part at the Justina M. Barnicke Gallery, University of Toronto. Photographed by Toni Hafkenscheid, 2011.
Anetta Mona Chişa, born in Romania, and Lucia Tkácová, born in Slovakia, have been working together since 2000 and currently live in Prague. Recent exhibitions include Figura cuncta vbedentis, at Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary, Vienna; How to Make a Revolution at MLAC, Rome; and The Making of Art at Schirn Kunsthalle, Frankfurt. They represented Romania at the 2011 Venice Biennale.
Bouchra Khalili is a French-Moroccan artist, born in Casablanca in 1975. Travelling between France and Morocco, she lives and works in Paris. Khalili studied cinema at the Sorbonne Nouvelle and earned a diploma from l'Ecole Nationale Supérieure d'Arts de Paris-Cergy. Her work has been included in exhibitions internationally, and is included in the upcoming shows Mapping Subjectivity, Part II: Experimentation in Arab Cinema. 1960-Now, MOMA, New York; and Locus Agonistes: Practices and Logics of the Civic, Argos Centre for Art and Media, Brussels, curated by Okwui Enwezor—both presented in the fall of 2011.
Dutch artist Renzo Martens is working on a series of films that have the effect of mediating their own complicity with dominant visual regimes. Martens' work has recently been shown at Tate Modern (London); Kunsthaus Graz, La Virreina (Barcelona); Stedelijk Museum (Amsterdam); and the 6th Berlin Biennale. The series' Episode I was shot in a refugee camp in Chechnya, in 2002.
Berlin-based Tobias Zielony produces photographs and moving pictures that often portray groups of teenagers in suburban settings and social places at the fringes of urban environments. Recent exhibitions have taken place at Kunstverein Hamburg, Fotomuseum Winterthur (Switzerland); Sprengel Museum (Hannover); and an upcoming show at Museum Folkwang (Essen, Germany). His new book, Story/No Story, published by Hatje Cantz, can be perused at the gallery desk.
Born and based in Warsaw, Poland, Artur Żmijewski works almost exclusively in photography and film. From a nearly anthropological viewpoint, Żmijewski investigates social norms, morality, and representations of power, and the relation of art to politics. His work has been exhibited in numerous international solo and group exhibitions and publications, and he represented Poland at the 2005 Venice Biennale. He is a member of the Polish political movement "Krytyka Polityczna," and the art director of the magazine of the same name. Żmijewski has been appointed curator of the 7th Berlin Biennale of Contemporary Art in 2012.
Juan A. Gaitán is a curator currently working at Witte de With, Center for Contemporary Art in Rotterdam, the Netherlands.
Models for Taking Part @ Justina M. Barnicke Gallery, Toronto, 2011