What does one do with such a clairvoyant image?

Stephanie Comilang, Lumapit Sa Akin, Paraiso (Come to Me Paradise) (still), 2016.

Kapwani Kiwanga, The Secretary’s Suite (2016), mixed-media installation, 23 min, courtesy the artist and Galerie Tanja Wagner, Berlin.

Dana Claxton, Camping 2 ( fellow with stone circle), from "The Camper" series, 2017

Dylan Miner, Occupied Land, 2017

Tania Willard, Only Available Light, 2016, selenite crystals, archival film (Harlan I. Smith, The Shuswap Indians of British Columbia, 1928) (still). Courtesy of the artist.

What does one do with such a clairvoyant image? installation view, documentation by Jocelyn Reynolds

What does one do with such a clairvoyant image? installation view, documentation by Jocelyn Reynolds

What does one do with such a clairvoyant image? installation view, documentation by Jocelyn Reynolds

What does one do with such a clairvoyant image? installation view, documentation by Jocelyn Reynolds

What does one do with such a clairvoyant image? installation view, documentation by Jocelyn Reynolds

What does one do with such a clairvoyant image? installation view, documentation by Jocelyn Reynolds

What does one do with such a clairvoyant image? installation view, documentation by Jocelyn Reynolds

What does one do with such a clairvoyant image? installation view, documentation by Jocelyn Reynolds

What does one do with such a clairvoyant image? installation view, documentation by Jocelyn Reynolds

What does one do with such a clairvoyant image? installation view, documentation by Jocelyn Reynolds

What does one do with such a clairvoyant image? installation view, documentation by Jocelyn Reynolds

What does one do with such a clairvoyant image?

Friday, May 5, 2017 to Saturday, June 3, 2017
Opening reception
May 5,
6:00PM to 8:00PM
About the Exhibition: 

What does one do with such a clairvoyant image? is a group exhibition across two venues—Gallery 44 and Trinity Square—that explores questions of sovereignty, nationhood and identity through strategies of speculative fiction and alternative histories of land and landscape. In works that explore the political demands of image-making, this exhibition asks how images might produce resistance to power structures, and how the narratives of history can be written, or re-written, by artists. The title is drawn from a work by Kapwani Kiwanga and offers a provocative initial claim: images have agency that extends beyond the temporality of the present. Together these works foreground the possibilities of an otherwise unsettled future against the prospect of being indentured to history. 

The re-appropriation and re-use of historical imagery offers a range of possibilities for resistance. Tania Willard’s Only Available Light (2016) combines historical research and archival materials to question anthropological representations of the artist’s Secwe̓pemc community. The work departs from an educational film by archaeologist Harlan Ingersoll Smith, who was a member of the infamous Jesup North Pacific Expedition of 1897–99. Willard’s intervention into the film physically obstructs and distorts a clear view of the imagery. By confronting the desire of settler society to consume Indigenous cultures as exotified or prehistoric, Willard transforms Smith’s ethnographic video and renders it unavailable to the broader Canadian public for which is was intended. Instead, it comes to viewers only as light, as a meditation on loss and resilience transposed through time. 

Dana Claxton’s new body of work, Road Trip (2017), combines found imagery from a quintessentially middle-class Canadian holiday of the 20th century—the road trip. By layering anonymous but familiar images of camping and leisure activities with beadwork patterns from the Lakota nation, Claxton’s project queries how histories are represented, and for whom. In knitting together familiar cultural forms, Claxton emphasizes that history is an embodied story that is personally contingent, not a dispassionate relation of events.

While the archive offers a rich terrain for speculating on the possibilities of what might have been, artists looking to the near-future recognize that the minor, everyday rituals of domestic life can make much larger paradigm shifts possible. Stephanie Comilang’s Lumapit Sa Akin, Paraiso (Come to Me Paradise) (2016) is a science-fiction documentary set amongst the maze-like temporary structures constructed by Filipina migrant workers who gather together every Sunday throughout Hong Kong. Narrated by a disembodied, ghostly drone who is only able to engage with the women during their Sunday activities, the video suggests a future where the isolation of economic migration and class can be thwarted through the emergent energy of collectivity.

The mundane nature and drudgery of everyday life is likewise reflected in Martine Syms’ audio film Most Days (2014), a table-read of an original screenplay accompanied by a score composed in collaboration with Neal Reinalda and published as a vinyl record. The project details an average day for Chanel Washington, a young black woman in 2050 Los Angeles, tracking her boredom, sense of dread and increasing uncertainty about life in the very near future. Alongside Most Days is Syms’ Mundane Afrofuturist Manifesto (2013), a text work that articulates a new theory of the Black aesthetic in the 21st century that coalesces around a movement of black, diasporic artists that consider everyday moments of futurism as lived reality.

Balancing upon a fulcrum of past, present and future, the work of Kapwani Kiwanga uses the iconography of photographs to interrogate various historical narratives. In the video installation, The Secretary’s Suite (2016), Kiwanga reveals the conflicting priorities that motivate international diplomacy and gift-giving, suggesting cracks in the façade of history. The project is based on a 1961 photograph of then Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjöld’s office at the United Nations. As Kiwanga sorts through various photographs of gifts given throughout history, she narrates the possible intentions behind these exchanges. The stories provoke a viewer to question the nature of sovereign states and the ways in which decisions with global implications are made, revealing the oftentimes contradictory narratives of colonial history.  

In a new body of work commissioned specifically for this exhibition and extending across the vitrine spaces of Trinity Square and Gallery 44, Dylan Miner foregrounds processes of reciprocity and redress. Entitled omazinaakizaan: s/he takes its picture (2017), Miner uses found photographs that depict common monuments to colonial dispossession and responds to their ideological premise by scarring the images’ surfaces. His marks are not subsequent to an original image but rather are irreducible from the images themselves. In refusing a distinction between temporalities, the colonial gaze finds itself decentred.

In framing these artists’ projects with a question that implies a supernatural force, What does one do with such a clairvoyant image? calls the viewer to imagine futures that are radically different from the colonial present. And during a present moment that is politically charged and fraught with conflict, an underlying question remains implicit: what is to be done now, with what we sense just beyond the horizon?

Presented in partnership with:

Artist Biography: 

Dana Claxton is an award winning, critically acclaimed artist and film/videomaker. Her practice investigates beauty, the body, the socio-political and the spiritual. Her work has been shown at the Vancouver Art Gallery, Museum of Modern Art (NYC), Metropolitan Museum of Art (NYC), Walker Art Centre ( MINN.MN), Sundance Film Festival, Eiteljorg Museum (IND. IN), Museum of Contemporary Art (Sydney, AU) and held in public and private collections. Born in Yorkton Saskatoon, her family reserve is Wood Mountain, Lakota. Her paternal Euro-Canadian Grandmother taught her how to harvest and preserve food and her maternal Lakota grandmother taught her to seek justice.

Stephanie Comilang is a Filipina-Canadian artist living and working in Toronto and Berlin. Her  documentary based work looks at the cultural and social factors that shape an environment. She studied fine art at the Ontario College of Art & Design. Her most recent film, a science fiction documentary entitled Lumapit Sa Akin, Paraiso has been screened at Asia Art Archive in America in New York, S.A.L.T.S in Basel, Switzerland and at UCLA in Los Angeles. She has upcoming screenings at Images Festival in Toronto, as well as a solo show at Artspeak in Vancouver.

Kapwani Kiwanga's projects materialize as installations, video, sound and performance. Afrofuturism, anti-colonial struggle and its memory, belief systems, vernacular and popular culture are but some of the research areas which inspire her practice. She studied Anthropology and Comparative Religions at McGill University. She was an artist in residence at: L'Ecole National Supérieure des Beaux-Arts, Paris (France); Le Fresnoy: National Contemporary Art Studio (France), and MU Foundation, Eindhoven (Netherlands). An award winning filmmaker, her documentary work has been nominated for two BAFTAs. SHe has exhibited internationally including at: Centre Georges Pompidou (France), Glasgow Centre of Contemporary Art (U.K.), Bienal Internacional de Arte Contemporáneo Almeria (Spain), Kassel Documentary Film Festival (Germany), Kaleidoscope Arena Rome (Italy), Paris Photo (France).

Dylan AT Miner is a Wiisaakodewinini (Métis) artist, activist, and scholar. He is currently Director of American Indian and Indigenous Studies and Associate Professor in the Residential College in the Arts and Humanities at Michigan State University. Miner is also adjunct curator of Indigenous art at the MSU Museum and a founding member of the Justseeds artists collective. He holds a PhD from The University of New Mexico and has published approximately sixty journal articles, book chapters, critical essays, and encyclopedia entries. In 2010, he was awarded an Artist Leadership Fellowship through the National Museum of the American Indian (Smithsonian Institution). Miner has been featured in more than twenty solo exhibitions – with many more planned in the near future – and has been artist-in-residence or visiting artist at institutions such as the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, École supérieure des beaux-arts in Nantes, Klondike Institute of Art and Culture, Rabbit Island, Santa Fe Art Institute, and numerous universities, art schools, and low-residency MFA programs. His book Creating Aztlán: Chicano Art, Indigenous Sovereignty, and Lowriding Across Turtle Island was published in 2014 by the University of Arizona Press. Miner is currently completing a book on Indigenous Aesthetics: Art, Activism, Autonomy and writing his first book of poetry, Ikidowinan Ninandagikendaanan (words I must learn). In 2016, Miner has had solo exhibitions in Ontario and Vancouver, conducted a workshop in Chile, done a residency at the MacKenzie Art Gallery, and exhibited work in Sweden and at the Banff Centre.

Martine Syms is a conceptual entrepreneur based in Los Angeles. Her artwork has been exhibited and screened extensively, including recent presentations at Karma International, Bridget Donahue Gallery, the New Museum, Kunsthalle Bern, The Studio Museum in Harlem, Index Stockholm, MOCA Los Angeles, MCA Chicago. She has lectured at Yale University, SXSW, California Institute of the Arts, University of Chicago, Johns Hopkins University, and MoMA PS1, among other venues. From 2007–11, she directed Golden Age, a project space focused on printed matter. Syms has recently founded Dominica, a small press dedicated to nowhere shit.

Tania Willard, Secwe̓pemc Nation, works within the shifting ideas around contemporary and traditional, often working with bodies of knowledge and skills that are conceptually linked to her interest in intersections between Aboriginal and other cultures. Willard has worked as an artist in residence with Gallery Gachet in Vancouver, Banff Centre's visual arts residency, and as a curator in residence with grunt gallery and Kamloops Art Gallery. Willard's work is in the collections of the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, Kamloops Art Gallery and Thompson Rivers University. Willard’s curatorial work includes Beat Nation: Art Hip Hop and Aboriginal Culture, co-curated with Kathleen Ritter and Unceded Territories: Lawrence Paul Yuxweluptun at the Museum of Anthropology with Karen Duffek. Current projects include, Rule of the Trees, a public art project at Commercial Broadway SkyTrain station and BUSH gallery, a conceptual land-based gallery grounded in Indigenous knowledges. 

Curator: 

cheyanne turions is the Artistic Director at Trinity Square Video. She sits on the Board of Directors for Kunstverein Toronto, the Editorial Advisory Committee for C Magazine and the Education and Community Engagement Committee at the Art Gallery of Ontario. She is also the director of No Reading After the Internet (Toronto).

Leila Timmins is a Toronto-based writer and curator. She is currently the Curator of Exhibitions and Public Programs at Gallery 44. 

Jayne Wilkinson is a Toronto-based writer, editor, and curator. She holds an M.A. in Art History and Critical Theory from the University of British Columbia (Vancouver) and her research focuses on contemporary art and photo-based practices, with specific attention to issues of surveillance, security and representation. She has contributed critical essays to a variety of journals and publications, including C Magazine, Prefix Photo, Inuit Art Quarterly, InVisible Culture and others. She has worked at the Vancouver Art Gallery, was Editor/Publisher at Prefix Photo, Director/Curator at Prefix ICA, and has held teaching positions in Cultural Theory at Emily Carr University of Art and Design and in Visual Studies at the University of Toronto St. George. She is currently Assistant Curator at the Blackwood Gallery, University of Toronto Mississauga.