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The Parkette Projects
Mitchell Akiyama, Raven Chacon, Ronnie Clarke, Vanessa Dion Fletcher, Marisa Gallemit and Amy Lam
Curated by Shani K Parsons
September 12 – November 20, 2021
Parkettes are defined as small pieces of leftover or unsaleable land that have been converted into public space. Often found in proximity to municipal margins and infrastructures, Toronto's parkettes provide oblique glimpses into the city's socio-political, economic and geographic histories. Featuring seven newly commissioned performances and temporary installations, The Parkette Projects probe existing tensions and future potentials for poetic and political relations between self, body, site, and society across a shifting urban landscape.
A corridor where it will have always been
September 12 - November 20, 2021
Channeling Toronto's overlapping infrastructures of trade, communications, and power, Mitchell Akiyama’s installation spans a series of small parkettes connected by giant electrical towers and high-voltage power lines. Within this context, his electronic assemblages may appear at first glance to represent yet another technological incursion upon our public spaces and lives. However, closer attention reveals them to be generators of a different kind, producing their own polyphonic corridor over the airwaves. Powered by the sun, and broadcasting accordingly at 88.3 FM and 101.1 FM for the duration of the exhibition, Akiyama's artwork seems to ask: where could these storied corridors lead us next, in a bid for more multivocal futures?
Vanessa Dion Fletcher
September 12 - November 20, 2021
Bringing together her artistic practices in both textile and performance, Vanessa Dion Fletcher’s sculpture is as much an event and an enigma as it is an object and artwork. Adapting porcupine quill embroidery through photographic enlargement, Dion Fletcher focuses our attention on details in the stitching while also shifting our physical relationships to the quillwork. When an artwork that is usually experienced up-close is scaled for outdoor space and public engagement, what new kinds of interpersonal intimacies might become possible between us?
Unofficial Commemorative Bench
September 12 - November 20, 2021
Public green spaces in Toronto's Chinatown are limited, a condition that urban historians have shown is far from coincidental. One such space, Glasgow Parkette, is notable not just for its comparative rarity but also for its recent total makeover by the City, which may seem inexplicable given its intimate location and tiny size. Paid for through Section 37 funding from a contested construction project, the parkette's glossy surfaces belie a protracted conflict between the local community and a commercial developer. In investigating how this happened, Amy Lam became interested in the ways a community is allowed (or not allowed) to express its wishes or dissent. Testing official processes through an engagement with the city's Commemorative Bench program, Lam's Unofficial Commemorative Bench plaques in Glasgow Parkette make visible the divide between local desires and what has been officially deemed to be of "community benefit."
September, 17, 18 & 19, 12 - 5 pm
Tethering: Entanglement is a durational performance that will materialize within Dundas–St. Clarens Parkette. Researching the parkette’s dual namesakes, artist Marisa Gallemit was struck by thematic convergences emerging from the legacies of Henry Dundas, an influential Scottish politician who successfully derailed a late 18th century proposal to abolish the Atlantic slave trade; and of Saint Clarence, 7th century bishop of Vienne and patron saint of prisoners. Thus invoking the troubling and intertwined ties between power, enslavement and incarceration, Gallemit’s performance makes visible how such ties are bound up in the very fabric of even our most unassuming urban spaces.
October 1, 8:30 - 9 pm
Spanning a 12 km stretch across the city of Toronto, Echo Sequence comprises two simultaneous performances, livestreamed to and from Don Panos Parkette (in St. Clair West) and Robertson Parkette (on the Danforth). Each group of performers moves in relation to the other, maintaining visual and virtual contact through a large screen at each site. Embracing the inherent unpredictability, and often overlooked physicality, of our relationships with digital technology, artist Ronnie Clarke is interested in how tech interferes with our intentions, often to problematic, comedic, or poetic effect. Through mutual observation, experimentation, and play across a distance from two very different public spaces, might the performers meet and mirror a body politic more curious than concerned, more cooperative than chaotic?
Music for 13 Paths
Presented in partnership with Trinity Square Video and imagineNATIVE
October 16th, 1 - 3 pm
The performance will begin at Gallery TPW (170 St.Helens Ave), with a pause in Paul Garfinkel Park (1071 Queen St W), and will conclude at Trinity Square Video (401 Richmond St)
Thirteen chimes are hand-cut and tuned to ring at thirteen pitch intervals within the 12-note Western musical scale. Thus shifting the relationship between frequencies across the standard octave, Raven Chacon gestures to possibilities for sounding and listening that transcend conventions in subtle yet subversive ways. Recent studies have suggested that the octave, as an organizing principle long held to be intrinsic to nature and auditory perception among all humans, may in fact be nothing more than a cultural artifact. Extending such considerations and gestures into public space, Chacon’s score for thirteen performers will invite free interpretation by both performers and viewing publics alike. Coupled with the knowledge that Music for 13 Paths makes pointed symbolic reference to the Toronto Purchase (aka Treaty 13), how will we — as performers, as publics — negotiate the grounds we traverse, and carry the tunes that reverberate from our individual and collective movements?
A Note About Process
Considering the ethical implications of presenting art in public spaces, Gallery TPW and curator Shani K Parsons consulted with artistic practitioners involved in the Encampment Support Network. Our impetus was to learn how to meaningfully support the unhoused community beyond our solidarity statement. Based on the advice, TPW and artists engaged people living in parkettes and asked permission to present artistic works in their homes. We also allocated $3,000 of programming funds to ESN Moss Park to support their work. The process has also compelled us to question the role, limitation, and autonomy of the artist-run-centre to respond to the political realities that intersect with our work. We will be inviting the community to engage in these questions at a forum we are hosting this fall; please stay tuned for more details.
Shani K Parsons is an independent curator, designer, and founding director of Critical Distance Centre for Curators. With a background in architecture and graphic design, she pursues an interdisciplinary, site-responsive, and process-driven practice within both independent and institutional contexts, and has produced an eclectic body of work ranging from intimate artist’s books to large-scale exhibitions.
Mitchell Akiyama is a scholar, composer, and artist. His work includes writing, scores for film and dance; and objects and installations that trouble received ideas about history, perception, and sensory experience. He holds a PhD in communications from McGill University and an MFA from Concordia University and is Assistant Professor of Visual Studies at the University of Toronto.
Raven Chacon is a composer, performer and installation artist from Fort Defiance, Navajo Nation. As a solo artist, collaborator, or with Postcommodity, Chacon has exhibited or performed at Whitney Biennial, documenta 14, REDCAT, Musée d’art Contemporain de Montréal, San Francisco Electronic Music Festival, Chaco Canyon, Ende Tymes Festival, 18th Biennale of Sydney, and The Kennedy Center. He is the recipient of the United States Artists fellowship in Music, The Creative Capital award in Visual Arts, The Native Arts and Cultures Foundation artist fellowship, and the American Academy’s Berlin Prize for Music Composition. He lives in Albuquerque, NM
Ronnie Clarke is a Black, queer and Canadian emerging artist living and working in Toronto, Ontario. Her work blends elements of choreography, dance, movement, collaboration, video and installation. She is interested in how language manifests, becomes translated and is mediated in the digital age. With an interest in the poetics of digital gestures, spaces and interfaces, she often uses movement to investigate how technology plays a role in our interactions with others. She holds a BFA from The University of Western Ontario in London, Ontario.
Clarke has performed and exhibited professionally at a number of galleries and performance venues such as Forest City Gallery (London), Artlab Gallery (London), Trinity Square Video (Toronto), and Xpace Cultural Centre (Toronto). Recent projects include a commissioned online performance with Artcite Inc. (Windsor, 2020) and an online residency at the 7th Annual Roundtable Residency (Toronto, 2019).
Vanessa Dion Fletcher is a Lenape and Potawatomi neurodiverse Artist. Her family is from Eelūnaapèewii Lahkèewiitt (displaced from Lenapehoking) and European settlers. She employs porcupine quills, Wampum belts, and menstrual blood to reveal the complexities of what defines a body physically and culturally. Reflecting on an indigenous and gendered body with a neurodiverse mind Dion Fletcher, creates art using composite media, primarily working in performance, textiles, and video.
She graduated from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago 2016 with an MFA in performance and York University in 2009 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts. She has exhibited across Canada and the US, at Art Mur Montreal, Eastern Edge Gallery Newfoundland, The Queer Arts Festival Vancouver, Satellite Art show Miami. Her work is in the Indigenous Art Centre, Joan Flasch Artist Book collection, Vtape, Seneca College, and the Archives of American Art.
Marisa Gallemit is a Filipina-Canadian visual artist. Informed by motherhood and third culture rituals, her work spans sculpture, assemblage, site-specific installation, storytelling, and arts advocacy. Since 2010 Marisa has been active in Ontario and Quebec with performative works, design installations for music + art festivals and art-making workshops; she has curated visual art programs for non-gallery community venues in Ottawa, and has produced a large-scale public art installation for the City of Mississauga. Through an ongoing exploration of found objects and their potential energy, Gallemit’s practice leans deeply into Buckminster Fuller’s query:
“Now how do we make this spaceship work?”
Amy Lam is an artist and writer. She has shown projects internationally, both solo and as part of the art collective Life of a Craphead. She is a member of Friends of Chinatown Toronto, a grassroots group fighting against displacement and for racial justice in Toronto’s West Chinatown.
The Parkette Projects is made possible through the generous support of:
Vanessa Dion Fletcher acknowledges the support of the Canada Council for the Arts for her project Relative Saturation.
Thank you PureAV for their support of Ronnie Clarke’s project Echo Sequence. Thank you to Trinity Square Video and imagineNATIVE for co-presenting Raven Chacon's Music for 13 Paths.