AGYU’s new exhibition presents a retrospective of a decade of peformance work

The Awakening posterAfter a “March” around the world, the Art Gallery of York University (AGYU) is bringing it all back home to Toronto, where people from all the cities in the world converge in a new exhibition, Aesthetics of Collaboration, a retrospective of a decade of performance work by Panamanian-born, British-based artist Humberto Vélez.

York community members are invited to the official opening of the exhibition at the AGYU on Wednesday, from 6 to 9pm. The exhibition runs until June 26.

This exhibition is an alternative mapping of the world’s cities as told through the dreams, aspirations and new forms of belonging forged by common, marginalized or overlooked peoples living in these cities. Vélez has made it his practice to work collaboratively with groups in Cuenca (Ecuador), Panama City (Panama), La Habana (Cuba), Valparaíso (Chile), Las Palmas Gran Canaria (Spain), as well as London, Liverpool, Manchester (England) and Paris (France). He has worked with boxers, hip-hop musicians, Indigenous peoples, refugees, asylum seekers, synchronized swimmers, spoken word artists, marching bands, body-builders, amongst many others – not to mention llamas and alpacas. Vélez brings these diverse groups together in projects that develop what he calls his collaborators’ “capacity to produce aesthetics” in participatory projects at the forefront of new contemporary art practices today.

Over the past decade, these collaborations have resulted in hybrid processions,sport and music events such as large-scale performative boxing matches that become hip-hop dancing events with youth (Tate Modern, 2007), concerts with popular poets (Valparaíso: in(ter)venciones, 2010), orchestrated swim meets (Pompidou, 2010) and bodybuilding competitions. Each collaboration transcends divisions of gender and class and all are accompanied by marching bands, spoken word or commissioned hip-hop music.

The world tour stops at the AGYU with a layover at the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) with Vélez’s latest  performance, The Awakening, which takes its cue from Métis leader Louis Riel’s famous 1885 quotation: “My people will sleep for one hundred years, but when they awake, it will be the artists who give them their spirit back.”

Commissioned by the AGYU and three years in the making through residencies in 2009, 2010 and 2011, The Awakening is the culmination of a sustained relationship between Vélez and the people of Toronto and surrounding area. Both the exhibition and performance are the artist’s first projects in North America. The performance brings together First Nations artists, musicians and dancers from the Greater Toronto Area and the Mississaugas of The New Credit First Nations, with Aboriginal youth and elders, and with Toronto’s Urban Runners (parkours), in a new “art ceremony” in the Art Gallery of Ontario’s Walker Court on Saturday, May 14 at 4:30pm.The exhibition and performance are curated by Emelie Chhangur, assistant director/curator, AGYU.

For more information, visit the AGYU website.