Digital arts researcher takes her Land/Slide exhibit to China

Landslide Exhibit Featured image for YFile front page
Land/Slide exhibit at Bi-City Biennale
Land/Slide exhibit in Canada pavilion at Bi-City Biennale of Urbanism/Architecture in China

Fine Arts Professor Janine Marchessault has just returned from China where an exhibition she curated called LAND/SLIDE possible futures is being showcased in the Canada pavilion at the Bi-City Biennale of Urbanism/Architecture in Shenzhen.

As chief curator of LAND/SLIDE, Marchessault commissioned 35 artists – including York faculty, students and alumni – to reimagine the historical and ecological fabric of Markham, once a small agricultural village and now a fast-growing, ethnically diverse urban centre bordering Toronto. Marchessault asked them to explore themes of multiculturalism, sustainability and community by drawing inspiration from 80,000 historical artifacts and 30 historic buildings and dwellings at the Markham Museum and Heritage Village. Last September, their indoor and outdoor installations transformed the museum’s 25 acres for three weeks as LAND/SLIDE possible futures. (See YFile story Sept. 12, 2013)

LAND/SLIDE included work by renowned Canadian conceptual artist Iain Baxter&. It showcased work by York faculty – media artist and composer Mark-David

Yan Wu and Janine Marchessault
Yan Wu and Janine Marchessault, curators of the Land/Slide exhibit at the Bi-City Biennale of Urbanism/Architecture in China

Hosale, visual artist Allyson Mitchell, filmmakers Philip Hoffman and Ali Kazimi, and installation artist Radoslaw Kudlinski of Blue Republic. It featured work by students Communication & Culture doctoral students Dave Colangelo and Patricio Davila, and by alumni Christine Davis, Julie Nagam, Simon Robinuk and Jennie Suddick.

Visitors to the biennale’s Canada pavilion can see some of the original art works as well as documentation from the LAND/SLIDE exhibition. Marchessault organized the biennale exhibit with Yan Wu, curator of Toronto’s Gendei Gallery. The biennale runs from December 2013 to the end of February 2014.

Marchessault is director of Sensorium, Centre for Digital Arts and Technology Research in York’s Faculty of Fine Arts. She curated LAND/SLIDE as a public exhibition and community engagement project and her approach is being held up as a new model for site-specific curation.

“Seeing the Land|Slide exhibition in the context of Shenzhen and alongside several other experimental urban planning exhibitions brought a whole new meaning to the art works and the research,” says Marchessault. “It situated them in a global context of (sub)urbanization and sustainability.”

The Bi-City Biennale is the only such exhibition based on the dual themes of urbanism and architecture. It is organized by the neighboring cities of Shenzhen and Hong Kong in the rapidly urbanizing Pearl River Delta. This year’s theme is urban border.

The original exhibit was funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. SSHRC’S three-year research-creation grant went to Marchessault, education Professor Chloe Brushwood-Rose and environmental studies Professor Jenny Foster.

KFC maquette in Land/Slide exhibition
KFC maquette by alumna Jennie Suddick in Land/Slide exhibition in Canada pavilion at Bi-City Biennale on Urbanism/Architecture in China

To research both exhibitions, Marchessault enlisted the help of graduate students Sara Udow and Andrew Bieler, and postdoctoral students Helmut Klassen and Aleksandra Kaminska.

Hear artists speak about LAND/SLIDE

Sensorium will host monthly panels of Land|Slide artists at York’s Future Cinema Lab. On Jan. 30, the panel will feature Mark-David Hosale, Department of Unusual Certainties and Blue Republic. On Feb. 26, it will feature Ali Kazimi, Julie Nagam and Caitlin Fisher. On March 19, it will feature Phil Hoffman, David Han, Deirdre Logue and Jennie Suddick.