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The Power Plant opens the new exhibition Adaptation: Between Species
and celebrates FREE admission all summer with a summer party on
Friday, June 18, 2010

TORONTO, ON (Jun. 14, 2010) The Power Plant at Harbourfront Centre is set to begin a wild summer with the opening of the exhibition Adaptation: Between Species. An outdoor summer party featuring a barbeque on the Lakeside Terrace will launch this group exhibition and the gallery’s ALL SUMMER, ALL FREE season on Friday, June 18, 2010, from 8 to 11 p.m. The Power Plant extends an open invitation to this ‘must-go’ celebration.

Each summer, the gallery offers FREE admission to a group exhibition of work by significant Canadian artists and their international peers. The exhibition not only speaks to key issues in contemporary art but relates these issues to a wider social context. In doing so, the result is a summer show that offers something for everyone. Power Plant Director Gregory Burke explains further: “The presentation of the gallery’s summer exhibition is in line with an important aspect of the gallery’s strategic plan – to build audiences while increasing the general public’s engagement with contemporary art. The gallery’s summer group exhibitions are designed to appeal to a broad audience and the ALL SUMMER, ALL FREE program ensures that everyone can access this important work.”

This year, the gallery presents Adaptation: Between Species, an exhibition responding to the contemporary desire to go “back to nature,” and explores our complex relationship with animals and the natural world. With this exhibition, curator Helena Reckitt answers the question ‘what happens “when species meet?” ’ The exhibition highlights an absorption in the natural and the animal realm in the work of contemporary artists that encourages us to lose ourselves among non-human “others” while simultaneously heightening what it means to be human. Presenting the work of leading international artists alongside that of newer figures who have gained national and international attention, the exhibition features work in photography, film/video, installation, sound and painting that ranges in tone from reverential to irreverent. Exhibiting artists are Allora & Calzadilla, Francis Als, Cory Arcangel, John Bock, Olaf Breuning, Marcus Coates, Robyn Cumming, Mark Dion, FASTWÜRMS, Shaun Gladwell, Lucy Gunning, Nina Katchadourian, Louise Lawler, Hanna Liden, Hew Locke, Sandra Meigs, Rivane Neuenschwander and Cao Guimarães, Jeff Sonhouse, Javier Téllez, and Michelle Williams Gamaker.

Gregory Burke looks forward to the ALL SUMMER, ALL FREE season: “The gallery is so thankful to be able to offer free admission to this exhibition and the many associated programs all summer. Because of the support of the Hal Jackman Foundation, we open our doors to everyone with Adaptation, an exhibition of universal relevance. The Jackman Foundation and our media Partner, NOW Magazine, have worked with us again this year to make the gallery accessible to all.” Adaptation: Between Species is generously supported by The Jack Weinbaum Family Foundation. Burke continues, “Our sincere thanks are extended to all of our committed supporters. We are untied in the desire to bring this exhibition to as many people as possible this summer.”

The summer exhibition opening party will feature a barbeque on the lakeside terrace and special events will continue during the opening weekend. A FORUM on Saturday, June 19 at 7 p.m. will feature presenters from a variety of disciplines who will discuss the exhibition in the context of philosophy, biology and the visual arts. Other highlights of the summer include a social performance by FASTWÜRMS, Ontario artists featured in the summer exhibition, who will be revising their 2009 Nuit Blanche performance Skry-Pod and offering free public tarot readings. Guelph artist Annie Dunning will also present a live performance with whistle-bearing homing pigeons as part of this event.

A publication together with an extensive programme of public events accompanies the exhibition. A complete list of summer programming is attached. The exhibition will continue through Sept. 12, 2010.

Adaptation: Between Species Background

Coinciding with the United Nations International Year of Biodiversity, Adaptation considers how camouflage and mimicry can function as forms of mimetic adaptation that offer protection against a hostile environment. Curator Helena Reckitt draws on the ideas of Roger Caillois, an early-twentieth-century writer who influenced the Surrealists, to think through the spatial, aesthetic, and psychological nuances of camouflage and assimilation. Reckitt also cites the philosopher Jacques Derrida, who wrote about how living with a cat had taught him about mortality and the limits of identity.

”Learning from animals,” several artists in the exhibition embrace the potential for fantasy, childish antics and regression at the core of human/non-human relations. Take Marcus Coates’s effort to “tackle social issues” by accessing animal spirits – channeling birds or stags in his performances and interventions, Coates becomes un-manned. The shaman that Joseph Beuys summoned up in his artworks with animals, and which form a backdrop to the work of Coates and the exhibition as a whole, here becomes a sham-man. Coates’s work embodies what the philosophers Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari termed “becoming animal,” where ecstatic communion with another creature occupies and extends human subjectivity. While Coates mimics animals, their ability to emulate us inspires the work of several other artists, including Cory Arcangel. Sampling online footage of cats, some of the most ubiquitous visual content to fuel the web, Arcangel recreates Alfred Schoenberg’s atonal tour de force as performed by Glenn Gould from video clips of felines “playing” pianos and electronic keyboards.

What it means to touch and be touched by an animal is a theme that recurs throughout the exhibition. In Javier Téllez’s Letter on the Blind, for the Use of Those Who See (2007), blind people learn about an elephant by touching it. Their image-rich descriptions reveal how blindness does not necessarily deprive individuals of a strong visual sense. Shaun Gladwell in Apologies 1–6 (2007–09) picks up a succession of slain, kangaroos from highways in the Australian outback, cradling them as if to comfort them and intuit their secrets. Meanwhile, roles reverse in Michelle Williams Gamaker’s Sunday Afternoon II (2001), a video depicting the artist lying on the ground as she is sniffed and licked by her greyhound dogs in ways that are unconsciously, yet undeniably, erotic.

The desire to become one with flora and fauna is explored in works by Hanna Liden, Hew Locke and Jeff Sonhouse. Their photographs and paintings express the urge to merge with nature through forms of camouflage and disappearance. Meanwhile, nature as an ever-present threat haunts A Man Screaming Is Not a Dancing Bear (2008), Allora & Calzadilla‘s powerful meditation on a New Orleans apartment devastated by Hurricane Katrina. This undercurrent of violence points to the unbalanced power dynamics that characterize our relations with the natural world in this age of genetically-enhanced farming, environmental crisis, and the mass production of animals. Mark Dion evokes these inequitable power dynamics in his installation Maquettes (2008), in which miniature versions of previous works by the artist are exhibited on the crates that they were shipped in. Borrowing tropes of classification from natural history, museology and archaeology, Dion reflects on how the cultural desire to order the natural world often destroys that which it seeks to preserve. Where Dion mimics the impulse to tidy up human/animal relations, the Ontario-based collaborative duo FASTWÜRMS overturns them completely. Their installation reflects a life lived with companion species, from the numerous cats who share their rural Ontario house to the feral feline colony that thrives on their property and stars in Cats vs Dragon (2010), a video which is at the centre of a new installation that also features posters, banners, texts and Endless Cat Column (2010), a floor-to-ceiling sculpture constructed from commercial cat trees that collapses Brancusi’s modernist transcentalism with the cloying mass production of the pet mart in a monument to interspecies play and display. In art as well as life, FASTWÜRMS embody what it means to live with other creatures, not on human terms, but on their own – an evolving form of coexistence that the biologist Lynn Margulis calls “symbiogenesis.”

As curator Helena Reckitt notes, “We may live among animals, but still we are estranged from nature and our own animality – and we look to animals and the natural world to show us the way back. Impersonating and identifying with creatures and nature might be a symptom of the messed-up relations that we have with both. Or, more hopefully, might these interspecies encounters contain the seeds for radical change, as we affirm our kinship with other life forms, reconnect with our animal natures, and experience ourselves as wild at heart?”

Curator of the exhibition, Senior Curator of Programs Helena Reckitt, will be available for interview upon request.

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

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

NEW Extended Summer Gallery Hours:
Tuesday to Sunday 12-6 p.m.
Friday & Saturday 12-8 p.m.
Closed Mondays (Open Holiday Mondays and Canada Day 12-6 p.m.)

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


Media Contact:
Robin Boyko
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