For the first time in over 25 years McIntosh Gallery and Forest City Gallery have joined forces to bring the latest contemporary art to audiences in London and further afield. Together, the two galleries have published …and then the city told itself the same old stories by Broken City Lab. This publication documents our recent exhibit at Forest City Gallery, through which we aimed to explore the narratives around London, Ontario. Based on a research project we initially developed in Windsor, Ontario, our exhibition revolved around a curiosity about locality and the ways in which it becomes shaped through shared experience and interwoven narratives.
Both galleries have a long history in London Ontario. McIntosh Gallery, the oldest university art gallery in Ontario, was founded in 1942. Forest City Gallery, among the oldest artist run centres in Canada, was founded in 1973. Their last collaborative project was a 1987 exhibition curated by Bob McKaskell about Marcel Duchamp.
This publication is also the first publication of the McIntosh Gallery Curatorial Study Centre (MGCSC) founded in 2010. With the financial support of the Beryl Ivey McIntosh Gallery Fund, MGCSC includes a resource centre dedicated to curatorial practices and publishes innovative research on museology and contemporary art. …and then the city told itself the same old stories is a co-publication of Forest City Gallery and the McIntosh Gallery Curatorial Study Centre. We gratefully acknowledge the financial support of the Beryl Ivey McIntosh Gallery Fund, which has provided funding for this publication. The McIntosh Gallery wishes to acknowledge the annual financial support of the Canada Council for the Arts, the Ontario Arts Council, The University of Western Ontario and Foundation Western. Forest City Gallery wishes to acknowledge the annual financial support of the Canada Council for the Arts, the Ontario Arts Council, the London Arts Council and the City of London.
We spent the weekend in London, Ontario. We were installing for our upcoming exhibition at Forest City Gallery, while also briefly wondering about what it would be like to not do site specific work. Anyways, you should plan to come to the opening on September 9th!
We’re working on an installation using our “…and then the city” framework for exploring and unfolding the layers of narrative that go into shaping a place. We’ve pulled together some historical overviews of London, but have really enjoyed using an online questionnaire to hear about some of the narratives on the ground here. Huge thanks to Forest City Gallery and London Fuse for helping to spread the word. All of the answers have fed into the installation in some way, so it’s been a really effective way to get to some of the overarching stories about this city.
The show will run until October 21, 2011, and, in the meantime, what’s more fun than a peak of the install process?
On the final day of our ATTC Calgary residency, the billboards launched. We headed out in the early afternoon with Randy to document them all.
Alongside highways, on the sides of buildings in the downtown core, and mixed in with other urban-fringe architecture. The billboards stood deeply embedded and clearly removed from the landscape, at times being rotated amongst advertisements, and in other instances, acting more directly as annotations to the site of installation.
As a final trajectory of ATTC Calgary, these billboards were installed around the city noting a series of cyclical narratives. Using the phrasing, “…and then the city…” each billboard features a different statement that referenced an overarching narrative or perhaps a brief moment in time about the city, read either internally or externally. These billboards are aimed at creating a space for a momentary discussion around the possibilities in narratives themselves, which is centred on one’s personal connection, history, and knowledge on the city.
In total, TRUCK had secured us seven billboard locations spread throughout Calgary, concentrated in the downtown core and in the city’s industrial edge.
Wednesday morning we set up for our last day of Urban Discovery with Truck Contemporary Art‘s CAMPER, this time stationed in Central Memorial Park. The theme for the day was “Finding Urban Sophistication and Warm Western Hospitality.”
What we wished to explore was the notion that Calgarians are on average a kinder population. We also were curious if there were any trends in the areas that these kind acts occur. Josh, Todd, Randy, and I handled on the day’s activities, while Justin took a break after a marathon work session on our upcoming publication (which we’ll be posting soon).
Before and after a visit from CBC Radio’s Karen Moxley, we cleaned off and re-used our blackboards from Day 4 with a new goal in mind: to find distinct examples of friendliness at street level. Although the park had far fewer pedestrians than Stephen Avenue, we were still able to get useful feedback from Calgarians, while at the same time allowing them to take a break from their busy day to recall previous acts of kindness.
Tuesday night was our projection event around the edge of Central Memorial Park — an impeccably well-manicured green space in the middle of a downtown neighbourhood, and a welcomed surprise. A few logistical concerns aside (like having to connect seven extension cords to reach the edge of the park), we had a pretty ideal spot. A blank light-cemete wall always makes for a good projection screen.
The projections themselves were a series of text-based statements articulating of a set of narratives around Calgary that were originally based on the responses to our fill-in-the-blank statements and eventually moving on to real-time feedback and participation from those community members in attendance.
For Day 4, we had to condense our planned events into an single afternoon, collecting answers to a series of fill-in-the-blank statements and eventually creating a CAMPER-wide chalkboard to collect a timeline of Calgary.
Working to understand Calgary through these gestures provides insights to a city in between many things — a military fort and a sprawling urban centre, a longtime home and a temporary situation,the site of the first roadhouse and the place that Tim Hortons amalgamated with a small coffee shop, a celebrated Olympic site and the place of someone’s first concert. All of these experiences, memories, and invented histories create a space for dialogue around the narratives that create the social shape of the city and not only how we interact with it, but how we interact with one another.
The questions are, necessarily, basic and straight forward. We’re not conducting deep sociological or statistical research, but rather trying to tease out a series of narratives that we know we haven’t yet heard about this place. Over the course of the residency, we’re aiming to develop a practice, a series of tactics that aim to unfold a way to get to know a place and the things that go about shaping the things we can know about a place. Cities are continually enacted through the narratives that we hear, create, and tear apart through daily practice, and we’re interested in both the narratives and that daily practice.
Over the course of a few hours on Thursday afternoon, we hear about many parts of the city that are worth loving, and worth changing. Somehow, an impression is made upon us that aligns with what we felt during our algorithmic walk — that is, Calgary is a city that isn’t readily touchable. It feels distant even when it’s right in front of you, and somehow the things we heard about the city from lifelong residents and people on holiday were the things that are legible from a distance, but in some instances, distanced from lived experience.
We’re in Calgary working with Truck Gallery’s CAMPER Urban Discovery project, doing a residency based on our “…and then the city…” (ATTC) research. Developed after a six-month community research project back in Windsor called, Save the City, ATTC was initially realized as two billboards in Windsor and an accompanying publication that looked at the cyclical nature of city narratives — the things that we’re told and the things we tell ourselves about the places we live.
We’re here for 10 days working to develop a practice that can begin to unfold the complexities of Calgary and how the people, architecture, infrastructure, planning policies, and connections shape this city. We’re interested in the largest sense in understanding locality in both its reading and practice, and Calgary is already proving to be a wonderfully curious research site.
If you’re in Calgary, you can catch us at CAMPER by taking a look at our schedule, and if you’re away, you can expect posts everyday on our process.
Here’s what’s going to be keeping us busy for the next week:
July 21 (Thurs): CAMPER Day 1: Exploding Calgary (interviews & storytelling) (12pm-3pm) 222 8 Avenue SW
July 22 (Fri): CAMPER Day 2: Spatial & Temporal Narratives of Calgary (public mapping) (3pm-7pm) 222 8 Avenue SW
July 23 (Sat): CAMPER Day 3: DIY Publication Workshop, Planning & Making Day (10am-2:30pm) 222 8 Avenue SW
July 25 (Mon): Map Making & Distro (various small maps created and distributed)
July 26 (Tues): Projection Night (Tweets & Transcripts from Citywide encounters projected from CAMPER) (9:30pm-11pm) Central Memorial Park
July 27 (Wed): CAMPER Day 4: Finding “Urban sophistication and warm western hospitality” (10am-1pm) Central Memorial Park
July 28 (Thurs): “…and then the city” publication launch (7pm) Central Memorial Park
We’re basing all of this activity off an extension of our “…and then the city” project to unfold and uncover the multiple narratives that go into shaping locality and our experience of it. If you’re in Calgary, stop by. If you’re not, check back each day, we’ll be making epic posts.