I continue to shape​

I continue to shape​​ — UofT Art Exhibit

I have conflicted feelings about modern art. On one hand, it interests me because it’s such a different style of art compared to what I make myself. On the other hand — I don’t understand it. So when I visited the ​I continue to shape exhibit at the University of Toronto Art Centre, I was ecstatic to find a thesis statement, a clear declaration of purpose, displayed in the first paragraph of the artist’s statement:

“History, like all stories, is told slant, subject to distortion by those with the power to represent it. … And yet, it seems that aesthetic practices bear a specific capacity to transform the sediment of history into something moving once again, to puncture what seems solid, to reflect the light.”

With a tentative grasp on the exhibit’s purpose, I began to see ​how​ each art piece aimed to “transform the sediment of history.” Though ​I continue to shape ​features a selection of modern art pieces from a variety of artists, using a variety of mediums, they all have one thing in common: each is a type of reworking of the past — an interruption of history. And by disrupting conventions of the past, these art pieces make history a conversation, something alive.

For instance, there is Joseph Tisiga’s ​Props for Reconciliation​, a series which sets characters from the ​Archie​ universe in representational tropes from Indigenous cultures. According to the artist statement, “If the comic-book characters appear too much at home, the Indigenous characters fade from the surface, displaying the destructive effects of what Archie and his friends, no doubt, imagine as only good-natured skill sharing and curiosity.” Then there is Mickalene Thomas’s ​Origin of the Universe I​, which configures Gustav Courbet’s ​L’Origine du monde​ with the image of a black woman. Most interesting to me, though, was Justine A. Chambers’ interactive scenography, a variety of cushions, tables, blankets, and structures that the gallery visitor can configure as they see fit. Written instructions tell the visitor to “allow your body to unfurl,” recognizing flesh as a way of understanding the bodies of the past.

Though varying in medium, these art pieces all have been created and curated for the same purpose: to acknowledge the distorted lens through which we view the past, and to shatter it. I highly encourage you to check out this exhibit before it closes this coming Saturday, December 8. Even if modern art isn’t your thing, you might, like me, find yourself looking past the veneer of what we consider history and seeing something that is vibrant, alive, and new.

Post by: Yvette Sin

Posted in Blog.