Thursday, August 6, 2009

Out today: Review of "Arts of Togetherness" at Gendai Gallery

You know that general art-world trend towards collectives, community and participation? Well, it's been mirrored in Toronto of late—perhaps most flashily with a locals-heavy Reverse Pedagogy collective that crashed the Venice Biennale in canoes, but also in symposia like "If We Can't Get is Together" and "Encounters in the Socialverse." There's even a promising collectives themed show, Foreign Legionnaires, opening tonight at Ed Day Gallery.

This week for NOW, I review another show on these themes: "The Arts of Togetherness" at Gendai Gallery. Here's an excerpt:

Yoshinori Niwa is the standout. First – to be totally superficial – his wall drawing is one of the cutest I’ve seen. (Who can say no to a cat driving a van labelled “reason”? Not me.) Second, his participatory project Kite Flying With Local People has a genuinely sweet, nostalgic – and yes, inclusive – feel. Third, his display of collectively made kites is compelling. Everything from Holt Renfrew bags to Goodwill garments is transformed into elegant yet fun forms.

Sandee Moore’s works are a little more awkward. The overall framework – referencing communal Japanese rituals like bathhouses and karaoke – is promising, but tech glitches and a use of artist-developed jargon make it challenging to actually participate in her pieces.

As I later note in the review, Moore's works may have been intentionally awkward, but the tension between Niwa's ease and Moore's slight off-kilterness is definitely apparent. Also interesting is the fact that the gallery for this "togetherness" themed show is split right down the middle, almostly like there's an invisible wall. This may also have been intentional—indicating curatorially the ways in which separation is intrinsic to the concept togetherness—but it's left up to the viewer, it seems, to decide.

Image of one of Yoshinori Niwa's kite-flying events from NOW

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