Bik Van der Pol
Michele Pearson Clarke
Pearl Love Lee
The Power Plant presents solo exhibitions featuring commissioned projects by Bik Van der Pol, Tercerunquinto and YES! Association/Foreningen JA! Juxtaposing their respective installations is a new collaborative project by Nadia Belerique, Lili Huston Herterich and Laurie Kang.
Curated by Julia Paoli
Bik Van der Pol : Eminent Domain
Liesbeth Bik and Jos van der Pol have worked collectively since 1995. The production and circulation of knowledge is an important tool in their practice, which is predominantly context-specific and largely driven by examining the potential and possibilities of art and research. Their projects often take the form of site-specific installations, participatory environments and discursive activities in order to make visible the largely unnoticed conditions or realities of a globalized economy and its effect on urban and natural spaces.
For instance, in 2010 the duo first exhibited Are you really sure a floor can’t also be a ceiling; an architectural structure loosely based on Mies van der Rohe’s Farnsworth house. Largely considered one of the most radically minimalist homes ever designed, the Farnsworth house aimed to intertwine the realms of indoor and outdoor space. The artists’ model functioned as a temporary home for butterflies, recognized as an indicator species for climate change as they are particularly sensitive to environmental degradation.
For their commissioned project at The Power Plant, Bik Van der Pol continues their investigation on the ways that human activity in the globalized age has a direct effect on ecological systems. Their title references the concept of eminent domain coined by author Hugo Grotius in 1625. Eminent domain is understood as the power that the State may exercise over land within its territory, whereby the government or one of its agencies has the right to expropriate private property for public use through payment or compensation. By foregrounding this concept, Bik Van der Pol’s project alludes to the increasing privatization of previously public goods including territory, property and the public domain at large.
Through installation and sound, they have conceived of an environment in the gallery that makes it possible to grasp the overwhelming data related to ecology and species extinction figures. Soundscape Ecologist Dr. Bernie Krause contributes to the environment through the installation of collective and structured sounds produced in healthy habitats in Borneo, Costa Rica, Sumatra and Zimbabwe from the 1990s. Since their original recordings, each habitat has changed drastically as a direct result of human intervention and natural disasters. Krause’s soundscapes coupled with figures affected by ecological changes results in a project that moves data from abstraction to experience.
By physically situating and mirroring the viewer amidst these statistics, they shift from spectator to engaged participant. As a result, Bik Van der Pol’s research offers an opportunity for the gallery to become a site for discursive activities that examines both the re-articulation of public and private property and the threat of such activities on natural environments.
Through their practice, Bik Van der Pol aim to articulate and understand how art can produce a public sphere, and to create space for speculation and imagination. This includes forms of mediation through which publicness is not only defined but also created. Their working method is based on co-operation and research inquiries surrounding the activation of situations serving the creation of platforms for various kinds of communicative activities. Recent solo shows and projects include Ternitz, Austria (2014); 31st Bienal de São Paulo (2014); Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art, Rotterdam (2014); CAFAM Biennial, Beijing (2014); the Biennale of Mercosul, Porto Alegre (2013); Hoog Catherijne, Utrecht (2013); Between A Rock and A Hard Place in collaboration with Musagetes, Sudbury, ON (2011); The ENEL Award; MACRO, Rome (2010); and The Western Front, Vancouver (2010). Recent curatorial projects include Kunstfort Asperen, Acqouy (2011); and Plug In, Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven (2009). They are currently the course directors of the School of Missing Studies at the Sandberg Institute in Amsterdam.
The artist collective jointly known as Tercerunquinto came together in 1998 and is comprised of Julio Castro Carreón, Gabriel Cázares Salas and Rolando Flores Tovar. Their projects involve processes of negotiation that enact architectural or infrastructural interventions within public and private spaces. In an effort to reveal the organization of cultural systems, Tercerunquinto’s projects interrogate the limits and possibilities of various institutional spheres and reveal the viewer’s subject position within the scope of such domains.
In 2005 the collective was invited to create a site-specific intervention at The Power Plant within the framework of a group exhibition entitled Dedicated to you but you weren’t listening curated by Reid Shier. Their project Open Access (2005) involved the installation of a second public entrance into the gallery allowing audiences the opportunity to circumvent admission fees and front of house staff and procedures. Ten years later, Tercerunquinto return to The Power Plant and reflect upon the changes to the site and surround of the institution.
Their response reduces the pristine white cube to a hole in the ground. Their gesture touches upon the traditions of indoor earthworks from the 1960s and 70s and its foray into a history of institutional critique. Mine is a newly commissioned project with a title that refers on the one hand to the commercial activity that involves extracting valuable subterranean minerals and on the other appropriates the possessive pronoun referring to that which belongs to the associated speaker. Through the artists’ nimble allusion to linguistic and geographic references, their project points to questions surrounding shifting conceptions of territory. More, their gesture of excavation disrupts the notion of ownership and complicates our understanding of property as it relates to both Canada’s mining industry and its relationship to Indigenous populations.
Their excavation began as an implicit response to a call for site-specificity, for commissioned work from the artist. As a result, Mine passes through several varied contexts in an effort to create a moment for discursivity, to reflect upon the sets of questions inherent in discussing appropriation. At its core, Mine calls out to its viewers and asks them to question their sense of possession: what does and does not belong to them.
Tercerunquinto was formed in 1998 in Monterrey, Mexico. The collective has developed projects that affect both public and private spaces, questioning the limits between the two, disarticulating the elements that make up these systems and disassembling the logical order of their interrelationships. It has also sought to challenge the borders organized around the constitution of a system, be it architectonic or urban, tracing their implications and effects in personal, social, cultural or political orders. Tercerunquinto has had solo exhibitions at Kunstmuseum Bochum, Germany (2014); Galerie Peter Kilchmann, Zurich (2013); Kunsthalle Basel, Switzerland (2013); Proyectos Monclova Gallery, Mexico City (2012); Museum of Contemporary Art Denver (2012); Matadero Madrid (2012); Espai d’art contemporani de Castelló, Castellón de la Plana, Spain (2011); and Sala de Arte Público Siqueiros, Mexico City (2011), among others. The artists have also shown in group exhibitions in such venues as The Modern Museum of Fort Worth, Texas; Centro de Arte Contemporáneo, Quito, Ecuador; Museo Tamayo Arte Contemporáneo, Mexico City; Stedelijk Museum voor Actuele Kunst, Gent, Belgium; Level 2 Gallery Tate Modern, London; Musée D’Art Moderne, Paris; and Centre d’Art Contemporain, Geneva, among others. Tercerunquinto is based in Mexico City.
YES! Association/Föreningen JA!: (art)work(sport)work(sex)work
Within the context of this season’s wider examination of contemporary collaborations, The Power Plant presents a commissioned project by YES! Association/Föreningen JA!, an art collective, an artwork, an association, an art worker, an institution, a group of people working to overthrow the ruling system of heteronormative, patriarchal, racist and capitalist power structures. YES! Association/Föreningen JA! puts into practice a structural redistribution of access to financial resources, space and time within the contemporary art sphere through engaging in strategies related to rights discourse and inclusion, radical difference and utopia.
(art)work(sport)work(sex)work aims to map how ideologies, socially accepted norms and legislations govern the conditions of work and participation within the fields of contemporary art, multi-sports events and sex trade, by specifically addressing The Power Plant, the Pan Am and Parapan American Games, hosted in Toronto this summer, and Canada’s new sex trade law Bill C-36. In so doing, YES! Association/Föreningen JA!’s project prompts a series of questions: How are these fields connected and entangled with one another? How are the divisions amongst them demarcated? What governing bodies are given the power to define these demarcations? Who is able to work within each field? What are the regulations that condition ones behaviour and why are these regulations within each field markedly different from one another?
In an effort to triangulate these fields and situate them within the urban space of Toronto, YES! Association/Föreningen JA! has allocated a portion of its exhibition budget towards a series of bus rides that will take place each Saturday throughout the duration of the exhibition. People and groups based in Ontario who work within the fields of visual art, sports culture and sex trade have been invited to host each week’s ride.
The bus rides provide an intimate space, a collective mode of transport, bringing participants together while moving through the infrastructure of the city and offer time and space for collective responsibility, sustained engagement and trust. Before embarking on the ride, participants meet within the exhibition space where YES! Association/Föreningen JA! has constructed a liminal space, a bus terminal of sorts, that houses material and objects in relation to the invited hosts’ engagements and work. The space itself is ever-evolving, as documentation from the previous week’s ride is continuously added.
Through both the scope and framework of (art)work(sport)work(sex)work, YES! Association/Föreningen JA! presents a project that carries both the risks and the possibilities in positioning the institution as a site that can be regularly taken up, challenged and reconstituted by those who create, inhabit, critique, and disassemble it.
The Mouth Holds the Tongue
Nadia Belerique, Lili Huston-Herterich and Laurie Kang employ distinct approaches to the investigation of the intrinsic playfulness and performativity of objects and photographs in their individual artistic practices. Invited to work collectively for The Power Plant, the artists’ first group project appears within the frame of a wider examination of contemporary collaboration.
Taking this invitation as its starting point, The Mouth Holds the Tongue foregrounds the pleasures inherent in representing and experiencing time and space. It points towards collaborative methodologies by privileging temporal fissures and offering temporality as a visceral means of organizing individuals non-hierarchically. The forms of collaboration implicit in this project are not found simply within the artists’ collectivity but implicate the curator, the institution, the viewer and the space of the gallery itself.
Aimed at redistributing institutional forms of power, the artists’ site-specific architectural structure renders fluid the roles of all those involved in the exhibition as well as those of the artworks and walls that bear them as they begin to meld and fold into one another. Effectively turning the gallery space upside-down, this approach functions to entangle bodies through non-sequential interactions. In so doing, the artists provide opportunities for those navigating their space to connect in varying degrees of reciprocity.
The structure’s reference point comes from architect Aldo Van Eyck’s temporary pavillion built for the 1966 Sonsbeek Exhibition in Arnhem, Netherlands. The pavillion, originally intended to house a series of artworks, sought to achieve Van Eyck’s concept of labyrinthine clarity, an architectural approach aimed at offering a more playful and fluid interaction amongst individual users. Such structures employing this concept embrace the ambiguity of time and space and prompt their users to move freely within them. The artists’ reworking of Van Eyck’s Sonsbeek hinges on a sense of feminist rigour in its redistribution of the architectural elements typically found in the white cube. Having been turned upside-down, the walls of the structure curve and bend spontaneously, hanging above the floor in an effort to propose a more horizontal approach to interaction. More, the artists’ choice of construction materials themselves evoke possibilities for growth and activity to occur.
The exhibition’s title therefore alludes to the artists’ conception of the space itself: a richly active and fertile environment that breeds multiple metaphors and interpretations. By reframing conventional hierarchies through the exhibition’s form and gestural treatments, the artists provoke consideration of both the feasibility and impossibility of the concepts underpinning their project through its concrete manifestation. The space and its users are thus at once the mouth and tongue working together; the structure actively embodying the possibility to redistribute the roles and positions of its inhabitants.
Nadia Belerique constructs installations that engage with the poetics of perception and the ways in which images perform in contemporary culture. She received her MFA from the University of Guelph, and has recently exhibited at such venues as Daniel Faria Gallery, Toronto (2014), and Kunsthalle Wein, Vienna (2014). She was awarded the BMW Exhibition Prize during Scotiabank Contact Photography Festival in 2014. Belerique has upcoming exhibitions at Tomorrow Gallery, New York, and the Art Gallery of Hamilton.
Lili Huston-Herterich has maintained an active studio and curatorial practice in Toronto since she received her BFA from York University in 2010. With a focus on multidisciplinary installation, Huston-Herterich's studio practice is informed by the tendencies of space and how it shapes the movements within it. She has recently exhibited at Peregrine Program, Chicago (2015); 8-eleven Gallery, Toronto (2014); Birch Contemporary, Toronto (2014); and OCAD University, Toronto (2014).
Laurie Kang works in image-based sculpture and installation. Exhibition and project sites include the Art Gallery of Ontario (2014); Feldbuschwiesner, Berlin (2014); Erin Stump Projects, Toronto (2013); Gallery 295, Vancouver (2013); Camera Austria, Graz (2013) and Art Metropole, Toronto (2012). She is an MFA candidate at Bard College.
Image: Bik Van der Pol, Are you really sure a floor can’t also be a ceiling?, 2010. Collection Enel Contemporanea / Museum of Contemporary Art of Rome (MACRO). Photo: Bik Van der Pol.
Charles Bolduc, email@example.com
Opening: 19 June, 8–11pm
The Power Plant
231 Queens Quay West, Toronto
Tuesday–Sunday 10–6 PM
Thursday 10–8 PM
Open holiday Mondays