Bambitchell, Special Works School, 2018. Image courtesy of the artists.
Special Works School
January 13–February 24, 2018
Opening Reception: Saturday, January 13, 2:00–5:00 pm
Exhibition text: Bambitchell (Sharlene Bamboat and Alexis Mitchell) and Richy Carey in conversation with Dina Georgis
Through performance, video, and installation, Bambitchell (Sharlene Bamboat and Alexis Mitchell) has developed an expansive research practice working with national archives and historical narratives, informing the duo’s rigorous yet playful approach to querying power. For Gallery TPW, Bambitchell has produced a multi-part installation exploring the intricately linked histories of surveillance technology and artistic practice.
Bambitchell’s first major solo exhibition, Special Works School takes its title from a codename used by the British War Office between 1917 and 1919. The original moniker denoted a military unit of artists—painters, textile artists, scenographers, designers, sculptors, and scenic painters—employed to develop camouflage technology. Instead of rendering their surroundings with utmost accuracy, the artists in the Special Works School were charged with making things disappear.
Special Works School transforms Gallery TPW into the speculative workshop of a surveillance artist. Throughout the gallery, objects and experiments stage the problems and possibilities of camouflage, and the accompanying video delves into its multi-sensory potential through an operatic, polyphonic exchange. Through this new body of work, Bambitchell asks: what is the sound, feel, and smell of surveillance? What does an aesthetic approach to surveillance render visible or, indeed, invisible? Framing surveillance as an aesthetic practice, Special Works School hones in on its psychic, material, and embodied dimensions, working from the positions of both surveillor and surveilled.
This exhibition is produced with the support of the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council as part of the research-creation project “Surveillant Subjectivities: Youth Cultures, Art, and Affect” directed by Dr. Dina Georgis (University of Toronto) and Dr. Sara Matthews (Wilfrid Laurier University). In addition to the commission of this new work by Bambitchell, the grant supports associated programming activities with youth participants from the Toronto region.
Conversation with Bambitchell and Christopher Willes
Wednesday, January 17, 7:00–9:00 pm
Camouflage, a tactic of surveillance, can be defined as the use of material layers for concealment, either by making something hard to see (crypsis), or by disguising one thing as something else (mimesis). But in order to see camouflage one must be able to see oneself seeing, so to speak—to understand senses, which is to say feelings, as ways of thinking.
Bambitchell and Christopher Willes will lead a public discussion on the exhibition’s preoccupation with the aesthetics and materiality of surveillance, considering sound, colour, feelings, and frame.
The gallery will remain open between 5:00–7:00 pm for additional screenings of Bambitchell’s video, which is 28 minutes long.
Special Works School and the Canadian Network for Psychoanalysis and Culture
Wednesday, February 14, 7:30–9:30 pm
The Canadian Network of Psychoanalysis and Culture invites you to engage with three responses to Special Works School by Bambitchell. The invited respondents are Nicole Charles, Nael Bhanji, and Dr. Silvia Tenenbaum.
Each invited respondent will speak for 10 minutes about Special Works School. There will then be an opportunity to engage as a group with each of the responses about the work.
The Canadian Network for Psychoanalysis and Culture (CNPC) is a network of psychoanalytic scholars and practitioners in Canada that meets semi-annually, in addition to hosting local events organized by CNPC members throughout the year.
Bambitchell is the artistic collaboration between Sharlene Bamboat and Alexis Mitchell. Working together since 2009, their works have been exhibited at festivals and galleries such as Articule (Montreal), The Images Festival (Toronto), and The Art Gallery of Windsor and included in a number of publications such as C Magazine, the Los Angeles Review of Books, and the forthcoming Routledge publication Contemporary Citizenship, Art, and Visual Culture. The duo recently completed a residency at Akademie Schloss Solitude in Stuttgart, Germany (2015–17) and have an upcoming fellowship at The MacDowell Colony.
Nicole Charles is an Assistant Professor of Feminist Studies in Culture and Media in the Department of Historical Studies at the University of Toronto Mississauga. Her research engages transnational feminism and science and technology studies with an emphasis on cultures of biomedicine, health, and the politics of race and biotechnologies in the Anglophone Caribbean.
Nael Bhanji is a PhD candidate in the graduate program in Women’s Studies at York University. His research draws upon psychoanalysis and affect theory in order to explore articulations of necropolitics, racialization, and counter-terrorism within an increasingly globalized trans movement. Nael’s work appears in Transgender Migrations: The Bodies, Borders, and Politics of Transition, The Transgender Studies Reader 2, Trans Studies Quarterly 4.1, Canadian Ethnic Studies, and The Equity Myth: Racialization and Indigeneity at Canadian Universities.
Dr. Silvia Tenenbaum holds a postdoctoral fellowship at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health with the University of Toronto, where she is providing institutional research on the topic of the praxis of Indigenous Reconciliation in mental health. A registered clinical psychologist in the province of Ontario, Dr. Tenenbaum provides therapy for Indigenous trans-youth and Syrian refugees, as incoming young adults fragmented by sexual and/or cultural diversity, including the refugee/othering experience and geographic dislocation, and informed by diasporic studies. Dr. Tenenbaum has been working with youth since her own youth in Montevideo, Uruguay, and under military dictatorship. Dr. Tenenbaum routinely researches and presents at international venues on the topic of her doctoral thesis: gender non-conforming youth, acknowledging the beauty of things imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete.
Christopher Willes is a Toronto based artist working in the intersections of experimental music, performance, and visual art. His activities include concert performances, exhibitions, publications, curatorial projects, and he often collaborates with dance and theatre artists as a sound maker and dramaturge. He is an associate artist with the Toronto based collective Public Recordings, with whom he is currently developing a new staging of an orchestral work from 1970 by the American composer Pauline Oliveros, performed primarily by non-professional musicians. He studied music at the University of Toronto, and received an MFA in music/sound from Bard College (NY, USA).