"If We Can't Get It Together" is an international group exhibition curated by Nina Montmann which proposes that the idea of community calls out for radical renewal. "Headless" the project, of Swedish collaborative duo Goldin+Senneby, investigates the immaterialization of contemporary society, the invisibility of labour, and the emergence of a global network economy. "Beauty Plus Pity" is a new installation by Emily Vey Duke and Cooper Battersby: a colourful single-channel video within a lush viewing environment populated by costumed taxidermic animals.
'IF WE CAN'T GET IT TOGETHER'
Artists rethinking the (mal)function of communities
Artists: Shaina Anand, Egle Budvytyte, Kajsa Dahlberg, Hadley+Maxwell, Luis Jacob, Hassan Khan, Emily Roysdon, Haegue Yang
Guest curated by Nina Möntmann, 'If We Can't Get It Together' proposes that the idea of "community" calls out for radical renewal. Sometimes organized around as-yet-unrealized ideals, the new communities explored in the exhibition implicitly ask: what effect does today's upsurge in temporary social groupings—brought on by global migration and newly fluid notions of identity—have on communal and public life?
Many of these radical new social formations incorporate subversive or covert communication strategies and secret dialects, or even reject conversation altogether. Shaina Anand, in KhirkeeYaan, 2006, takes a grassroots approach to media. Turning cheap surveillance technology against itself, Anand created an open-circuit network and feedback interface for a migrant New Delhi neighbourhood. Hassan Khan also manipulates mainstream media to unsettling effect. In a new etching that adapts the seductive image of a TV game show presenter taken with a cell phone, he suggests a closed circuit, an entirely virtual community. More covert communication strategies fascinate Egle Budvytyte. Her new fictional documentary Secta, 2006, depicts a utopian society whose members reinforce their collective values by sharing bizarre rituals, like walking backwards up an elevator, licking fruit in a supermarket and shaving their legs in public.
A tension between the desire to identify with a group and ambivalence about collective affiliation characterizes the work of several artists. Kajsa Dahlberg accompanies her video about a separatist women's camp with an etched-glass version of the contract between herself and the women. Beyond formalizing the terms of their collaboration, the agreement notes: "You are welcome on Femø if you are a woman [...] We are aware that the use of the term 'woman' activates dichotomies such as: inside-outside, constructed-biological, feminine-masculine, center-margin, public-private, and many others. Participants identify themselves as being located either inside a category, outside a category, or moving in, out and between such categories."
In Haegue Yang's work, the search for belonging emerges in the desire to convey her experience of place within abstract parameters. Her new project, Domestics of Community, 2008, embeds a video projection within an evocative installation. The video camera meanders through rainy Brazilian streets while a voiceover captures an outsider's impressions of an unfamiliar culture. Fashioned from Venetian blinds, a freezer, fan, heaters, and scent emitters, Yang’s installation combines familiar objects with unexpected sensations.
Proposing that communities are constantly in process, Emily Roysdon in Strategic Form, 2006, documents the performance of an unstable human pyramid as "the body of potential." Meanwhile, Luis Jacob explores conflicts between individual and collective activities. Developing from his earlier sculpture of a flock of pigeons as a symbol of artistic collaboration, Jacob here displays a solitary swan that highlights the tension between being part of a group or standing apart from the flock, flying as part of a collective effort or remaining rooted in one's territorial space. Larger ideas about the mass movement that catalyzed the generation of 1968 and its aftermath are considered by Hadley + Maxwell. In Gloomy Sunday, 2006, they mobilize an image of a slain student from the 1970 protests at Kent State University to reflect upon the unsettled ghosts of a violent past.
Open-ended and elusive, unsettling and compelling, the approaches to community and collectivity in the exhibition combine the documentary, the fictional and the activist. New and recent works incorporate such media as film/video, sculpture, installation, photography, and ephemera. Guest-curated for The Power Plant by the leading German curator and critic Nina Möntmann, 'If We Can't Get It Together' highlights the crucial role of communication - and miscommunication - in shaping current ideas of community.
Nina Möntmann is Head of the Art Theory and the History of Ideas Department at Stockholm's Royal University College of Fine Arts. She curated the Pavilion of the Republic of Armenia at the 2007 Venice Biennale and was a curatorial advisor for Manifesta 7, 2008. A correspondent for Artforum, Möntmann is editor of Art and Its Institutions (2006) and co-editor of Manifesta 7 Companion Reader and Mapping a City (2005).
Victoria Webster & Gabe Gonda
Kajsa Dahlberg's work in the exhibition is supported by Iaspis (International Artists Studio Program in Sweden)
Cultural Agency Supporter: Goethe-Institut, Toronto
Symposium: 23-24 January, 2009
We Ourselves and Us
Keynote address by philosopher Simon Critchley, and speakers including Ian Balfour, Carlos Basualdo, Luis Jacob, Nina Möntmann, and Emily Roysdon.
Organized in association with the journal Public and in collaboration with the Goethe-Institut, Toronto. A special issue of Public follows in 2009.
curated by Gregory Burke, Director of The Power Plant
Goldin+Senneby is the framework for collaboration between Swedish artists Simon Goldin and Jakob Senneby. Since 2004, Goldin+Senneby have initiated projects which explore juridical, financial and spatial constructs through notions of the performative and the virtual. Through actions and theoretical pursuits, they interrogate the mythologies created by virtual economies and fictional personae. Their timely exhibition at The Power Plant comes at a crucial moment, as the confidential activities of corporations are being traced and investigated in the wake of collapsed world markets and global economic instability.
For their first solo exhibition in North America, Goldin+Senneby present their ongoing research project Headless, a critical investigation of the offshore company Headless Ltd. The exhibition’s point of departure is the hypothesis that the Bahamas-registered corporation Headless Ltd is a contemporary incarnation of 'Acéphale,' the secret society initiated by philosopher Georges Bataille in the 1930s. Goldin+Senneby explore how the juridical construction of offshore financial centers function as performative acts that fictionalize place and stage realms of invisibility.
'Headless' consists of two distinct perspectives on Goldin+Senneby’s ongoing work. A documentary film, whose creation has been delegated by Goldin+Senneby to directors Kate Cooper and Richard John Jones, reflexively involves investigative journalist Gavin MacFadyen, who lends his expertise to the filmmakers to suggest how they should make a documentary about Headless Ltd. The documentary will be produced over the course of the exhibition and screened in three segments, released on 12 December, 24 January, and 13 February. The other perspective is developed by independent curator Kim Einarsson and scenographer Anna Heymowska, who have been contracted to produce a pedagogical display. This display introduces the viewer to K.D., who is both the fictional author of Looking for Headless, a novel in the making, and an employee at the offshore consultancy company Sovereign Group. A lecture during the exhibition’s opening weekend by Angus Cameron, economic geographer at the University of Leicester, will further explore Goldin+Senneby’s practice, and the modes of performance the collaborators employ in their study of Headless Ltd.
Jakob Senneby (born 1981, Umeå), and Simon Goldin (born 1971, Stockholm) received MFA degrees from Stockholm's Royal University College of Fine Arts in 2004 and 2007, respectively. In parallel with his artistic work, Goldin has studied management at the Stockholm School of Economics. Recent Goldin+Senneby exhibitions include 'Twentyfourseven,' Signal, Malmö (2007), 'Looks Conceptual,' Galeria Vermelho, Sao Paulo (2008), 'Disclosures,' Gasworks, London (2008), 'Data Recovery,' GAMeC, Bergamo (2008), 'Reality Effects,' Henie Onstad Kunstsenter, Oslo (2008), and 28th Sao Paulo Biennial (2008).
Cultural Agency Supporter: IASPIS
Nancy McCain & William Morneau
Cultural Agency Supporter:
Iaspis (International Artists' Studio Program in Sweden)
Emily Vey Duke and Cooper Battersby, 'BEAUTY PLUS PITY'
Curated by Assistant Curator of Exhibitions, Jennifer Matotek
Combining ditties, stories, cartoons, scavenged video footage and the installation of taxidermic animals and other sculptural elements, 'Beauty Plus Pity' investigates the perverse ethical, emotional and existential relationships among adults, children, animals and God. Syracuse-based Canadian collaborative artists Emily Vey Duke and Cooper Battersby suggest that generational legacies and natural cycles both comfort us with their promise of continuity and entrap us in destructive patterns. They are fascinated by how redemption can sprout from the present as a tree from a seed. Reciting Philip Larkin's poem about parental dysfunction, 'This Be The Verse,' they urge us to "get out as early as you can" from our parents’ grasp "and don't have any kids yourself." Although children are not good, the narrator claims, they contain the potential for goodness.
'Beauty Plus Pity' testifies to life's simultaneously sublime and horrific qualities, and the beauty and shame of existing. Justifying his pleasure in killing animals, the hunter-narrator claims that "we want to touch them and hold them." This longing for closeness casts his fellow hunters' morbid rituals in a new light. Meanwhile a senile God stumbles around and makes a fool of himself and the Catholic Church casts out a grieving mother, blaming her for her daughter's death (or so an outraged little mouse tells us). The mouse is part of an animal chorus called The Spirit Guides, who deliver directives to humanity and an ultimatum to the God whom humans have created in their own image. The video piece, and its accompanying sculptural and installation elements, is part apologia and part call to arms.
Emily Vey Duke (born 1972, Halifax) and Cooper Battersby (born 1971, Penticton) have been working collaboratively since 1994 in printed matter, installation, new media, curation and sound, with their primary practice single-channel video. Their work has been exhibited internationally including at the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis and The Renaissance Society, Chicago and nationally at the Vancouver Art Gallery. In Toronto their work is represented by Jessica Bradley Art + Projects.
John & Peggy Clinton
James Lahey & Pym Buitenhuis
Image: Haegue Yang, Series of Vulnerable Arrangement, 2006. Courtesy Gallery Barbara Wien, Berlin
Opening Reception: Friday, 12 December, 2008 7:30PM – 11PM
The Power Plant
231 Queens Quay West Toronto ON Canada M5J 2G8
HOURS > Tuesday-Sunday: 12-6 pm | Wednesday: 12-8 pm | Closed Monday | Open Holiday Monday: 12-6 pm