As a cultural work, I harbour many desires about how the institutions and practices that make up my work might operate differently. Familiarity breeds familiarity. Familiarity also breeds insight, and insight corresponds to imagination. In the cultural work that I do, I try to make authority and convention strange, or at the least I try to work in ways that maintain the possibility of ideological or programmatic disruption.
Over the past year, I have been collaborating with the STAG Library (Aja Rose Bond and Gabriel Saloman), Gina Badger and Eric Emery on Brew Pub #3, a journal in the form of a beer whose contents, labelling and other printed and online material constitute the contents of the publication. Published by the STAG, this issue of Brew Pub explores a relationship with Artemisia vulgaris, commonly known as mugwort, an invasive species which has spread from Eurasia across Canada, flourishing in urban spaces that have been altered by human intervention such as abandoned lots, rail-yards and roadsides. Through the development of a beer using wild-crafted mugwort from the city of Toronto—land with which the Huron, Haudenosaunee and Anishinaabe people have a long, historic and profound relationship—we have been considering what and how mugwort can teach us about exploring the conflictual complexity of settlement. Here, publication is liquid, consumable. Here, authority is plant.
Tonight, the exhibition TBD, curated by Su-Ying Lee, opens at the Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art (MOCCA) and Brew Pub is a part of it. As described by Lee, “the exhibition title TBD, most typically used as an acronym for ‘to be determined’, proposes that the definition of a contemporary art gallery is not fixed. TBD exposes the defining factors of contemporary art galleries for scrutiny and examines the institutions’ effects on communities in order to imagine possible futures and new approaches.”
Lee also partakes of these visions of experiment that accompany cultural labour, and at the MOCCA, these questions are timely. As the organization gears up to leave its Queen Street West space—subject to a familiar story of gentrification that the gallery no doubt participated in—the opportunities for reflection, consideration and dreaming are ripe. What do we want arts ogranizations of the future to be? What provokes us to anger or joy in how arts organizations function today? Is there a way for a gallery to responsibly shepherd its gentrifying aura? Within TBD, the inclusion of Brew Pub poses a question of scale: how can a large, institutionalized gallery work with a small, experimental space in a way that does not subsume nor stifle the energies of either organization? I can say that so far the experience has been incredibly supportive, but I wonder what you think, of translations in scale and of institutional possibilities.
Join us tonight for the opening! And then join us a series of events related to the launch of Brew Pub #3. Further information can be found here.