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The Power Plant is set to open its doors and offer free admission for ‘Universal Code,’ a major new group exhibition featuring twenty-two of the world’s leading contemporary artists,
from 12 June – 30 August 2009


Toronto, 4 June, 2009 – This year, the gallery’s featured summer exhibition is ‘Universal Code.’ This large-scale group exhibition will present compelling and at times enigmatic responses from a broad range of contemporary artists to cosmology and ideas of the universal in our current information age.

‘Universal Code’ is the latest in a series of summer exhibitions organized by The Power Plant, that bring together international artists from a variety of cultural positions, to reflect on topics driving the development of contemporary culture. ‘Universal Code’ presents responses from 22 international contemporary artists to cosmology and ideas of the universal in our current information age. As such, the exhibition is one of the most ambitious in the gallery’s history. Curated by Director of The Power Plant Gregory Burke, the show includes many of the world’s leading contemporary artists—from Canada, United States, Mexico, Asia, Algeria, as well as Britain, Spain and many other countries in Central and Eastern Europe.

Drawing inspiration from the cosmos—as artists, scientists, mystics, and philosophers have throughout the ages—the exhibition is timed to mark the International Year of Astronomy and combines the work of Canadian and international artists in painting, film/video, photography, sculpture and installation. Artists in the exhibition work against the backdrop of developments within contemporary culture ranging from DNA research and the politics of the night sky to Morse code, corporate communication networks and migration patterns.

“I am very thankful for the extraordinary support that has made this project possible,” says Gregory Burke, “especially our Lead Donors Nancy McCain & Bill Morneau, Support Donors Elisa Nuyten & David Dime, Laura Rapp & Jay Smith and Garnet & Evan Siddall, and Cultural Agency Supporter le Consulat Général de France à Toronto. I am also thankful to our lenders that include local collectors Laura Rapp and Jay Smith, Thomas H Bjarnason and other private collectors. Support for contemporary art is very much alive and well in Toronto.”

President of the Board of Directors for The Power Plant and Lead Donor Nancy McCain exclaims, “The exhibition represents the extraordinary ambition of this gallery as a leading international contemporary art gallery. I am a very proud supporter of this outstanding project, and commend Gregory Burke for assembling an exhibition that will intrigue and enchant visitors and tourists this summer. I also salute The Hal Jackman Foundation, led by Past Board President Victoria Jackman, for their support of the exhibition, which has ensured free entry to all visitors.”

One of the highlights of this exhibition will undoubtedly be a work by British artist Katie Paterson. Paterson translated Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata into Morse-code and sent it to the moon via E.M.E., a radio communications technique called Earth-Moon-Earth, also known as moon bounce. Bounced off the moon, the coded score is returned to earth 'fragmented' by the moon's surface. A computer-programmed piano will be in the gallery playing a haunting, imperfect reflection of the code over its 240,000-mile journey. Paterson will be shown here after recently participating in the prestigious Tate Triennial.

For the first time in Canada, the installation Monarch –The Eternal by Swedish artist Henrik Håkansson will be installed at The Power Plant. Håkansson is deeply interested in the natural world, and this show will present one of his most beautiful installations. In an unending loop, he captures thousands of Monarch butterflies after their mysterious annual migration from Ontario to Mexico by using remote cameras. First presented in Mexico in 2008, the staging of Monarch – The Eternal in Toronto echoes the cycle of eternal return that sees the Monarch butterfly circle back to its northern summer feeding ground after four generations. The artist reconstructs the life cycles of plants, birds, and insects using media such as surveillance cameras, high speed films and specialized computer programs and dazzles the viewer with this natural imagery.

Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller, two of Canada’s most respected artists, are renowned for their internationally-recognized multimedia, multisensory installations that consider how sound can alter perception of time and space. In this exhibition, they present the visitor with a 1960s era office desk with an outmoded telephone. Visitors who pick up the telephone overhear a conversation between the artist, Janet Cardiff, and a male mathematician on the nature of time, commenting on the concept of time as linear, multi-dimensional, and as felt experience. Cardiff and Bures Miller have collaborated since 1995, and among their prestigious accolades, they have represented Canada with an award winning exhibition at the 2001 Venice Biennale. The Power Plant is thrilled to feature their work in this exhibition.

Sure to be one of the most memorable installations is Tania Mouraud’s visceral and mesmerizing multi-channel video installation La Fabrique. The work depicts multiple workers absorbed in the repetitive activity of weaving, accompanied by a clattering, cacophonous and ultimately rhythmic soundtrack, as the sounds from each loom are layered upon each other. Shot on location in a carpet-weaving facility in Kerala, India, the installation enacts a tension between the individual and the idea of connectedness through collective humanity. Mouraud will be in Toronto and will also present a musical event as part of her lecture at 6 PM on Saturday 13 June at The Power Plant.

The full list of artists is Adel Abdessemed, Franz Ackermann, Angela Bulloch, Mircea Cantor, Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller, Cerith Wyn Evans, Henrik Håkansson, Antonia Hirsch, Thomas Hirschhorn, Ann Veronica Janssens, Kimsooja, Jed Lind, Iñigo Manglano-Ovalle, Josiah McElheny, Tania Mouraud, Gabriel Orozco, The Otolith Group, Adrian Paci, Trevor Paglen, Katie Paterson, Fred Tomaselli and Keith Tyson. Henrik Håkansson, Tania Mouraud and Katie Paterson, the artists participating in the opening weekend programming, will be available for an interview upon request.

The opening party for the exhibition begins at 8 PM on Thursday, 11 June on the water and under the stars. The celebration will feature a new firework text sculpture especially commissioned by The Power Plant from leading Welsh artist Cerith Wyn Evans. The piece will be ignited at 10 PM.

For the fourth year running, The Power Plant is pleased to announce that it will be offering free gallery admission all summer through its ALL SUMMER, ALL FREE program, thanks to the support of the Hal Jackman Foundation and Media Partner NOW Magazine.

‘Universal Code.’ Background

‘Universal Code’ presents responses from a broad range of contemporary artists to cosmology and ideas of the universal in our current information age, a time of significant scientific and technological development as well as rampant globalization.

Whereas once the sky suggested the limitless, now a network of satellites enmesh the globe in a massive field of signals that unite the world in a “universal” web of telecommunications. Enabling instantaneous connection across vast distances, the new technologies also render visible what was formerly hidden at the bodily and even the cellular level. Corporate communications networks and digital technologies have in effect refigured the contemporary sense of the world and the universe by transforming historical understandings of time and space. In response to this current condition ‘Universal Code’ presents artists who look back on the modern era to consider the universe, the infinite and the eternal from a range of differing religious, scientific, philosophical and cultural positions.

Works in the exhibition draw and reflect on scientific discoveries related to the universe and the nature of life, from the mapping of intergalactic space, through to research into the microcosmic world of DNA coding. However the exhibition is not a celebration of scientific and technological advance. While many of the artists seek to engage the viewer in the awe and enigma of concepts of the universe, they are also concerned with shifts in the geo-political order brought on by the digital revolution, coupled with unresolved tensions that exist between differing belief systems.

Many of the artists look back to former times, including the pioneering era of space exploration, in order to elucidate aspects of the human condition in the current moment. Others address the increasing levels of surveillance that have developed in recent times and the incursion of satellite positioning systems into the private life of the individual. Still others ponder the disconnect that persists between differing cultural and religious beliefs, thereby questioning the myth of a globalized and thereby connected world.

The exhibition suggests that artists may be once again examining culture in relation to connectivity, as opposed to difference, without positioning the universal as a neutral construct. It includes artists for whom connectivity is articulated through intricate relationships between our evolving understanding of the cosmos, the production of scientific and biological knowledge, systems aesthetics, cultural belief systems, information technologies and global power relations. 'Universal Code' considers the response of artists to these relationships in the aftermath of globalization, reflecting the complexity of the world we currently inhabit. It charts the renewed interest of artists in concepts of the cosmological and immeasurable in an era where there is no longer a fixed scale that measures value, thereby producing a consequent loss of cultural and scientific certainty. Ultimately the response of the artists is poetic, positioning the universe as a void full of potential but also as a field riddled by elision and enigma.

For more information on exhibitions and all public programs, call 416-973-4949 or visit

The Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery at Harbourfront Centre
231 Queens Quay West, Toronto

Admission: ALL SUMMER, ALL FREE thanks to the support of the Hal Jackman Foundation and Media Partner NOW Magazine

NEW Extended Summer Gallery Hours:
Tuesday to Sunday 12 – 6 PM
Friday, Saturday 12 – 8 PM
Closed Mondays (Open Holiday Mondays 12 – 6 PM)


Media Contacts:

Robin Boyko
Marketing and Communications Coordinator
The Power Plant

Linda Liontis
Media Relations
Harbourfront Centre
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