I stood before the source

Abbas Akhavan, Bureau d’études, Emma Charles, Revital Cohen & Tuur Van Balen, Carole Condé + Karl Beveridge, Mark Curran, Wally Dion, Keith Hennessy / Circo Zero, Ashley Hunt, Jeremy Hutchison, Richard Ibghy & Marilou Lemmens, Will Kwan, Gerald Nestler, Public Recordings, Public Studio & Darlene Montgomery, and Hank Willis Thomas & Christopher Myers

Blackwood Gallery
October 16 – December 3, 2016
Curated by Letters & Handshakes


Exhibition Statement

I stood before the source, an empty tomb; to be closer to the source is all I needed.

Emma Charles, Fragments on Machines

Capitalism’s representations are ubiquitous; less so are representations of capitalism. I stood before the source traverses varied contemporary scenes of accumulation, from data centres to tar sands, airports, prisons, trading bots, factories, mobile communication, vacant offices inhabited by speculation, earth’s atmosphere, and beyond. The exhibition features work that maps tightly integrated circuits of global political-economic power; tracks vast accumulations of dead labour as technological infrastructure; listens in on the plunge of financial markets; choreographs divisions of labour in commodity production; descends into the open pits of the stock exchange; and stages injuries of accumulation as extinction.

How might the tunneling optics of metrics, the digital fragmentation of work, and the algorithmic tailoring of what appears on our dividuated screens affect a social capacity to see systemically? As Alberto Toscano writes in an essay accompanying the exhibition, confronting capitalism as an aesthetic problem is a task fraught with tension: “The demand to visually or narratively identify and encompass a social form, a relation, a totality—a demand often acknowledged to be impossible in the same breath it is proffered—cannot but raise metaphysical conundrums, in all their sordid anxious everydayness.”

I stood before the source is the first of a two-part exhibition series at the Blackwood Gallery curated by Letters & Handshakes, the second of which imagines a shift from the metrics of accumulation to the requirements of care as an ordering principle of social relations.

UPDATE: Video documentation of I stood before the source by Mike Dopsa

Opening Reception & Performance Lecture

Wednesday, October 19, 5–8pm


Performance by Keith Hennessy/Circo Zero at 6:45pm
In a solo performance lecture, Keith Hennessy shares the content, forms, tactics, and contradictions of Circo Zero’s Turbulence (a dance about the economy).


CD_Photo.jpgCAPITALIST DUETS by Public Recordings
November 24–26, 8pm and November 27, 2pm
The Theatre Centre, 1115 Queen Street West, Toronto

CAPITALIST DUETS employs free-market dramaturgy in response to the commodity status of contemporary performance. Seven independently authored duets perform simultaneously as an unaffected spectacle on stage at The Theatre Centre.


Abbas Akhavan’s practice ranges from site-specific ephemeral installations to drawing, video, and performance. The domestic sphere, as a forked space between hospitality and hostility, has been an ongoing area of research in Akhavan’s work. More recent works have shifted focus, wandering into spaces just outside the home—the garden, the backyard, and other domesticated landscapes. Akhavan is the recipient of the Kunstpreis Berlin (2012), the Abraaj Group Art Prize (2014), and the Sobey Art Award (2015).

Bureau d’études is a French artist group that has researched and mapped structures of political-economic power and capitalism for the past 15 years, sometimes in collaboration with writer Brian Holmes. Bureau d’études initiated a zone de gratuité in Paris from March 1999 to September 2000, and founded, with Ewen Chardronnet, the newspaper Laboratory Planet. The group now lives and works in the countryside in Saint Menoux, France,where it works on collective projects across agriculture, commons, and cartographic research at Ferme de la Mhotte.

Emma Charles is a London-based artist. Working with photography and the moving image, her practice explores the way contemporary value systems of time, productivity, and labour are altered through technological progress. Recently, Charles has oriented her research towards the materiality of the Internet, going beneath the urban veneer to uncover the infrastructures within our technologically driven modern life. Charles holds a Master’s in Photography from the Royal College of Art. She has exhibited and screened at Jerwood Visual Arts (London). ZKM (Karlsruhe), HKW (Berlin), Jeu de Paume (Paris), LUX (Scotland), and ICA (London). Charles is the recipient of a 2016 Arts Council England award and a ZKM commission, and was recently published in Reset Modernity!, edited by Bruno Latour (The MIT Press, 2016).

Revital Cohen and Tuur Van Balen are London-based artists working across objects, installation, and film. Since graduating from the Royal College of Art in 2008, they have been exhibiting and lecturing internationally. Recent exhibitions took place at Kunstverein Düsseldorf, Lunds Konsthall, Moscow Biennale of Young Art, Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary (Vienna), Fotomuseum Winterthur, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts (San Francisco), HKW (Berlin), and the Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo. Recent screenings and artist talks include the ICA (London), TENT Rotterdam, Congo International Film Festival (Goma), and Cenart (Mexico City). Their work is in the permanent collections of MoMA and M+ Museum (Hong Kong).

Carole Condé + Karl Beveridge live and work in Toronto. They have collaborated with various trade union and community organizations in the production of their staged photographic work over the past 40 years. Their work has been exhibited across Canada and internationally in both the trade union movement and art galleries and museums.  Recently, their work has been included in the Noorderlicht Photofestival (Groningen), Manif d’art 7, Québec City Biennial, and the exhibition Really Useful Knowledge, Museo Reina Sofía (Madrid). Condé and Beveridge have been active in several labour arts initiatives including the Mayworks Festival (Toronto) and the Workers Arts and Heritage Centre (Hamilton). They received the Ontario Federation of Labour’s Cultural Award (1997), Honorary Doctorates from OCAD University (2010) and NSCAD University (2015), and the Prix de mérite artistique from the Université du Québec à Montréal (2013).

Mark Curran is an artist-researcher and educator who lives and works in Berlin and Dublin. He holds a practice-led PhD, is Lecturer in the Photography program at the Institute of Art, Design and Technology in Dublin and Visiting Professor in the MA program in Visual and Media Anthropology at the Freie Universität Berlin. Incorporating multimedia installation and informed by ethnography, Curran has undertaken a cycle of long-term research projects which critically address the predatory context of global capital. He has exhibited at DePaul Art Museum (Chicago), Xuhui Art Museum (Shanghai), Encontros da Imagem (Braga), Grimmuseum (Berlin), FORMAT (Derby), Gallery of Photography (Dublin), Belfast Exposed, Centre Culturel Irlandais (Paris), Noorderlicht (Groningen), and Limerick City Gallery of Art.

Wally Dion (b.1976 Saskatoon, Saskatchewan) is a visual artist living and working in Binghamton, New York. He is a member of Yellow Quill First Nation (Salteaux). Dion holds a BFA from the University of Saskatchewan and an MFA from Rhode Island School of Design. Dion’s work has contributed to a broad conversation in the art world about identity and power. Dion has participated in numerous solo and groups exhibitions, including at the National Museum of the American Indian (Washington, DC), Esker Foundation (Calgary), and MASS MoCA (North Adams). His work can be found in collections of the Canadian Museum of Civilization (Gatineau) and Canada Council Art Bank, among others.

Keith Hennessy is a performer, choreographer, teacher, writer, and activist. Born in Sudbury, Canada, he lives in San Francisco and tours internationally. His interdisciplinary research engages improvisation, ritual, and public action as tools for investigating political realities. Ideas and practices inspired by anarchism, critical whiteness, punk, and queer-feminism motivate and mobilize Hennessy’s creative and activist projects. Hennessy directs Circo Zero, and was a member of the collaborative performance companies Contraband with Sara Shelton Mann, CORE, and Cahin-caha, cirque bâtard. Hennessy has an MFA in Choreography and an unfinished PhD (ABD) in Performance Studies from UC Davis.

Ashley Hunt uses photography, the moving image, performance, map-making, and writing to engage social movements, the exercise of political power, and the disciplinary boundaries that separate art worlds from the larger worlds in which they sit. The bulk of his art-making documents the expansion of the US prison system and its effects on communities as one way to address structures that either allow some people to accumulate power or keep others from getting power, while learning from the ways people come to know, contribute to, or resist these structures. Hunt’s work has been exhibited in venues ranging from DiverseWorks (Houston), MoMA, Tate Modern, Documenta 12, and Project Row Houses in Houston through to community centers and prisons. Hunt is the Co-Director of the Program in Photography and Media at CalArts and is on the Visual Art faculty of Vermont College of Fine Arts.

Jeremy Hutchison is a British artist based in London. After studying linguistics, he received an MFA with distinction from the University College London Slade School of Fine Art. His practice examines performance as a mode of manufacture: a way to produce realities. He constructs situations that disorder socio-economic procedures, reimagining the power relations encoded in dominant discourse. Hutchison’s work has been exhibited internationally, including recent shows at the ICA (London), Modern Art Oxford, V&A (London), Z33 (Hasselt), Nassauischer Kunstverein (Weisbaden). EVA International Biennale (Limerick) Saatchi New Sensations (London), Rurart (Poitiers), Galeri Mana (Istanbul), Paradise Row (London) and Southbank Centre (London). He was recently a member of the Whitney Independent Study Program in New York.

Richard Ibghy and Marilou Lemmens have developed a collaborative practice that combines a concise approach to the form and construction of the art object with a desire to make ideas visible. Spanning multiple media, including video, performance, and installation, their work explores the material, affective, and sensory dimensions of experience that cannot be fully translated into signs or systems. They have examined the rationale upon which economic actions are described and represented, and how the logic of economy has come to infiltrate intimate aspects of life. Recent solo exhibitions have been held at the International Studio & Curatorial Program (New York), Leonard and Bina Ellen Gallery (Montreal), VOX – Centre de l’image contemporaine (Montreal), and Trinity Square Video (Toronto), among others. They have participated in several group exhibitions including, recently, the XIII Bienal de Cuenca (Ecuador), 14th Istanbul Biennial SALTWATER: A Theory of Thought Forms (Istanbul), La Biennale de Montréal, L’avenir (looking forward), 27th Images Festival (Toronto), Manif d’art 7: Quebec City Biennial, and La Filature, Scène Nationale (Mulhouse, France). They live and work in Montreal and Durham-Sud, Quebec.

Will Kwan is a Hong Kong-born, Canadian media artist. His work has been exhibited at the 2014 Folkestone Triennial, 2010 Liverpool Biennial, 2007 Montréal Biennale, 2003 Venice Biennale, MoMA PS1, Cooper Union, ZKM (Karlsruhe), Contemporary Art Centre (Vilnius), Polish National Museum, Zendai Museum of Modern Art (Shanghai),  Art Museum at the University of Toronto, The Power Plant (Toronto), and the Western Front (Vancouver). Kwan has been artist-in-residence at the Centre for Chinese Contemporary Art (Manchester), Headlands Center for the Arts (San Francisco), and the Irish Museum of Modern Art. Kwan’s work is held in the collections of the M+ Museum (Hong Kong), Folkestone Artworks (Kent), and the University of Toronto. Kwan is an Associate Professor in Studio at the University of Toronto Scarborough and graduate faculty in Visual Studies at the Daniels Faculty of Architecture, University of Toronto.

Christopher Myers is an author, illustrator of books for children and young adults, and an artist who lives and works in New York. He has written numerous books and notable essays, amongst them the much-discussed “The Apartheid of Children’s Literature,” which ran in the New York Times in 2014. He has illustrated books for authors including E.E. Cummings, Zora Neale Hurston, his father Walter Dean Myers, and Misty Copeland. He has collaborated with traditional shadow puppet makers in Jogjakarta, silversmiths in Khartoum, conceptual video artists in Vietnam, young musicians in New Orleans, woodcarvers in Accra, and weavers in Luxor. He also co-directed with Hank Willis Thomas  the documentary film Am I Going Too Fast? Myers’ work has been shown at MoMA PS1 (New York), Contrasts Gallery (Shanghai), Prospect Biennial (New Orleans), and The Ethelbert Cooper Gallery of African & African American Art at Harvard (Cambridge).

Gerald Nestler is an artist and author who combines theory and postdisciplinary conversation with video, installation, performance, objects, graphics, text, and sound to explore what he terms the “derivative condition” of contemporary social relations and its paradigmatic (financial) models, narratives, and operations. He is currently working on the aesthetics of resolution as a means to produce counter-fictions and imaginations that support renegade activism. Nestler graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna (1992). After collaborating in early net art projects he examined financial markets as a broker and trader. His work has been shown internationally and has received several grants and awards. He is a practice-based PhD candidate at the Centre for Research Architecture, Goldsmiths, University of London.

Public Recordings develops and presents projects that test hypotheses about group work through performance, education, publishing, and other collective gestures. With the goal of providing a readable index of problems and solutions in and through experiential practice, we use the structural and administrative framework of a dance company to question the meanings and possibilities of shared space. Based in Toronto, Public Recordings has staged projects in Calgary, Cardiff, Chalon-sur-Saône, Edmonton, Ghent, Halifax, Kitchener, Leuven, Ljubljana, Montreal, Nottingham, Ottawa, Paris, Pula, Terni, Toronto, St. John’s, Vancouver, Vienna, Yokohama, and Zagreb.

Public Studio’s multidisciplinary practice spans topics such as war, globalization, ecology, and political dissent. Elle Flanders completed her PhD in 2014, and has mentored with feminist artists Mary Kelly and Martha Rosler. Tamira Sawatzky is an architect working in Toronto. After 12 years with the architectural firm MJMA designing award-winning institutional buildings, Sawatzky started her own multidisciplinary practice and formed Public Studio with Flanders. Together, they have garnered critical attention, won several public art commissions and art awards, and have exhibited their work at the Venice Biennale, MoMA, Berlin International Film Festival, EVA Biennial, and TIFF. In 2016 they were the artists-in-residence at the AGO in Toronto. They collaborate with artists and thinkers from a variety of disciplines. Darlene Montgomery designs landscapes. Her career has focused on large public space and infrastructure projects in Canada, the United States, and the Middle East, many of which have won prestigious awards for reclamation, historic preservation, master planning and placemaking. Currently, she designs landscapes that focus on time and natural processes for MJMA, an architecture firm that designs beautiful, huge, monolithic community buildings. She graduated from Queen’s University and the University of Toronto. She is interested in the contemporary and the technological sublime.

Hank Willis Thomas is a photo-conceptual artist working primarily with themes related to identity, history, and popular culture. He received a BFA in Photography and Africana studies from New York University and his MFA/MA in Photography and Visual Criticism from the California College of the Arts. Thomas’ monograph, Pitch Blackness, was published by Aperture. He has exhibited throughout the United States and abroad, including at the International Center of Photography, the Fabric Workshop and Museum, and Studio Museum in Harlem, among others. Thomas’ work is in numerous public collections including the MoMA, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, Whitney Museum of American Art, Brooklyn Museum, and National Gallery of Art (Washington, DC). He is represented by Jack Shainman Gallery in New York and Goodman Gallery in South Africa.

Alberto Toscano is Reader in Critical Theory and Co-Director of the Centre for Philosophy and Critical Thought at Goldsmiths, University of London. He is the co-author of Cartographies of the Absolute and author of Fanaticism and The Theatre of Production. He edits the Italian List for Seagull Books and sits on the editorial board of the journal Historical Materialism.

The Blackwood Gallery gratefully acknowledges the support of the Canada Council for the Arts and the Ontario Arts Council, with additional support from the Department of Visual Studies, University of Toronto Mississauga.

Image Credits
Jeremy Hutchison, Fabrications (indigo mountain), 2013-2016, chromogenic print, printed on acrylic billboard, 72” x 108.” Image courtesy of the artist and Delfina Foundation.

Revital Cohen & Tuur Van Balen, 75 Watt (production still), 2013. Courtesy of the artists.

Keith Hennessy/Circo Zero, Turbulence (performance still), 2010-2012. Photo: David Visnjic. Courtesy of the artists.

Public Recordings, CAPITALIST DUETS, 2015-16. Logo: Jeremy McCormick. Photo: Adam Kinner. Courtesy of the artists.


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