The Art Gallery of York University (AGYU) presents a thoughtful and innovative new exhibition featuring the work of rising international art stars Bárbara Wagner, a documentary photographer, and Benjamin de Burca, a visual artist. The exhibition (which opened April 18) will be on display until June 24 at the AGYU and is curated by Emelie Chhangur, the AGYU’s award-winning interim director/curator.
Wagner and de Burca’s work celebrates—while at the same time reframing—vernacular cultural forms as they have manifested through time, for example, as popular traditions become pop culture. Based in Recife in the northeast of Brazil, they are the AGYU’s 2017–18 artists-in-residence.
Through photography and film, Wagner and de Burca examine cultural change as it happens. The duo view these changes as a space in-between, where cultural forms of the past adapt in response to changing economic conditions. In particular, they look at emerging economies or post-colonial geographical contexts, where popular genres persist through cultural mixing and diasporic refashioning.
Alongside Wagner and de Burca, the AGYU considers the following questions: what might constitute the creation of new traditions in and for Toronto? Or, more interestingly, what will become our contemporary ones: traditions that can only be known, not from the past, but from the future looking back at the here and now? Can a subway cypher be the basis for a film-script?
The gallery is putting this thinking into practice through an AGYU-commissioned film that brings Wagner and de Burca into collaboration with Scarborough’s RISE (Reaching Intelligent Souls Everywhere) EDUTAINMENT and spoken word poets from across the Greater Toronto Area. Currently in production, the experimental documentary RISE is not “about” RISE. Rather, it is made “with” RISE. Wagner and de Burca adopt the concept of Edutainment as a conceptual tool for the film’s structure and RISE participants’ performances and poetry form its methodology and script.
Evolving out of the AGYU’s ongoing commitment to merging the once separate fields of exhibition making and education “outreach” (in order to explore this intersection as a mutually enriching source of cutting-edge artistic production and pedagogical innovation), Wagner and de Burca’s newest experimental film is created in conjunction with the AGYU’s Truth be Told Spoken Word mentorship program. Shot on the Toronto Transit Commission’s new Line One subway extension, the film provides a vehicle to chronicle the liminal state of postcolonial non-belonging that grows out of the diasporic reality of not being entirely rooted in Canada. While acknowledging Torontonians as settlers who occupy Indigenous land, the young poets and rappers involved in this film cultivate and preserve strong connections to their own respective countries, languages, and cultures of origin—an identification that permeates their performative rituals of self-fashioning and artistic self-presentation, and that subsequently carves out new traditions for the future of Toronto’s changing cultural milieu.
The film is co-produced with the WEXNER Centre for the Arts, Ohio, and will premiere at FRONT International: Cleveland Triennial for Contemporary Art in July 2018 and Nuit Blanche Scarbourough in September 2018.
The AGYU’s Bárbara Wagner & Benjamin de Burca exhibition is a Primary Exhibition of the Scotiabank CONTACT Photography Festival and is presented in conjunction with the 2018 Images Festival Off-Screen program. The artists are represented by Fortes D’Aloia & Gabriel, São Paulo.
Sunday, May 27 at 2pm, Wagner and de Burca give a tour of their AGYU exhibition where they discuss their works’ themes, production methodologies, and social-political contexts. The artists also shed light on their Toronto residencies and the development of their AGYU-commissioned film with spoken word poets from across the Greater Toronto Area.
Their talk is presented in conjunction with the Scotiabank CONTACT Photography Festival.
The AGYU is a public, university-affiliated, non-profit contemporary art gallery supported by York University, the Canada Council for the Arts, the Province of Ontario through the Ontario Arts Council, the City of Toronto through the Toronto Arts Council, and by its membership. The AGYU is located in the Accolade East Building, 4700 Keele Street, Toronto.
Gallery hours are Monday to Friday, from 10am to 4pm; Wednesday, from 10am to 8 pm; Sunday, from noon to 5pm. The gallery is closed on Saturday. The AGYU promotes 2SLGBTQIAP positive spaces and experiences, and is barrier-free. To learn more about Bárbara Wagner and Benjamin de Burca, visit the AGYU website.