Porch View Dances, Kaeja d'Dance, 2012
So-called visual art has done more than enough in the last hundred years to smudge the borders between disciplines. Some, like film, make for obvious fields to cross-pollinate, so much so that there are any number of examples of both artists making feature films and filmmakers creating work for galleries (Chris Marker, RIP, to name just one). Music, in its most experimental limits, flows into galleries and performances in the form of sound art. And literature, to a lesser degree, manifests itself in multiples and book works. Dance, on the other hand, seems resistant to out and out collaboration. While there are examples of artists providing set design for choreographers and dancers being the subjects of artists' visions, I've always had the sense that the two communities (in Toronto, at least) work independently from each other. The roots of this are probably in categorical aesthetic differences between the two forms: art is stuck in galleries and dance in theatres. But when they both emerge from their homes to engage a public in public places, they overlap in terms of reframing the setting for their art, disrupting the traditional relationship with their audience, and demystifying the experience of their creation and realization. A good example of this is the yearly Dusk Dances that happen (starting today!) in TO's Withrow Park (and various other sites around the province this summer). This series of site-specific works turn urban green space into a cross-cultural, temporary autonomous zone of imagination. Another example is a new initiative from the Kaeja d'Dance company called Porch View Dances. They made a similar foray into the real in the neighbourhood around Christie and Bloor a couple weeks ago, successfully claiming public space away from cars and impersonal transit to introduce non-professional, home-based dancers who did more to make this a livable city than any property tax freeze in the last fifty years.
Sara Cwynar, Accidental Archives, 2012
However, if you are inclined to head inside, most galleries in the city offer not only air conditioning, but the traditional summer group show. Daniel Faria, Jessica Bradley, and Nicholas Metivier all have theirs up. Cooper Cole has an especially eye-popping display of energized work under the exclamatory rubric Zagga Zow. A lot of the work focuses on figures and faces; combine that with the electric colour palette and a psychedelic sense of humour, and you get a show that leans heavily in the direction of underground comics (yet another cross-over!). Participating artist Marc Bell is well known for his trippy panels of dense image and wordplay, while Taylor McKimens has a definite Gary Panter-thing going on. I'm not sure what to make of the mock-tribal art of Charlie Roberts and the racist-caricatures of Devin Troy Strother. Summer fun breaks down for me at this level of political incorrectness, unless I'm missing the underlying critique.
In the back, and not officially Zagga Zow, Sara Cwyner has the kind of maximalist, floor-to-ceiling assemblage that turns my crank. The overall feel is actually one of mourning as this (like Pascal Grandmaison's similarly elegiac installation at Prefix ICA) is a shrine to the soon-to-be-lost era of darkroom photography. It's funny/sad how quickly the once-familiar negatives strips and photomat bags have disappeared from our visual culture. It reminds me of how I had to explain what a film cartridge was to a class reading Walter Benjamin's The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction. Times change, but photography, not simply in content but in form, is memory.
Dusk Dances: http://www.duskdances.ca/en/season2012_6_Withrow.php
Cooper Cole: http://www.coopercolegallery.com/exhibitions
Zagga Zow continues until August 20.
Terence Dick is a freelance writer living in Toronto. His art criticism has appeared in Canadian Art, BorderCrossings, Prefix Photo, Camera Austria, Fuse, Mix, C Magazine, Azure, and The Globe and Mail. He is the editor of Akimblog. You can follow his quickie reviews and art news announcements on Twitter @TerenceDick.
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