Curator: Yan Wu Artist: Yam Lau Critical text by: Yan Wu and Yam Lau
Gendai Gallery was established in 2000 as an independent gallery to promote contemporary East Asian art practices. It was originally housed at Toronto’s Japanese Canadian Cultural Centre. In 2010, Gendai began to reposition its role within the complex local /global dynamics of artistic and cultural productions. This revisioning entails a responsive and experimental approach to programming involving a diverse range of activities beyond the conventional exhibition model. In 2011, working closely with the support of the community, Gendai established two new initiatives. These include a new, satellite project space called Gendai Workstation in downtown Toronto, and a mobile project entitled Vectors: Connections and Interventions. Both initiatives promote spontaneous, exploratory, collaborative and accumulative endeavours in and around the art community. Henceforth, Gendai assumes a new identity in-the-making—one that is contingent with new forms of encounter and entanglement with other practitioners, cultural groups and institutions. The current installment of Vectors at Gallery 101 is an expression of this trajectory.
Vectors: Connections and Interventions originated with artist Yam Lau’s and Gendai programme director Yan Wu’s attempt to devise alternate ways to address the challenge faced by the gallery’s location at the time. Among the solutions, one of them was to be out-of-the-box—literally. Lau and Wu commissioned Montreal-based artist Alexandre David to custom design a modular mobile unit. The specs of this commission required a functional unit that can be implemented as storage, seating and a presentation platform in various configurations and permutations responding to the vicissitudes of need and use in the art community. More importantly, Vectors: Connections and Interventions exploits and maximizes the inherent efficacy (i.e. mobility and adaptability) of the unit in order to instigate new alignments and opportunities with other sites. In other words, Vectors attempts to construct a responsive mode of operation where programming, exhibition, production and community building can be effectively produced on the fly.
One may compare the versatility of the mobile unit with a small vessel such as an inflatable lifeboat. It can be hosted or stored within a larger vessel but can also be swiftly deployed to perform exploratory maneuver. In that sense, the mobile unit is fitted for survival as well as adventure. The inaugural launch of the mobile unit took place in February 2012 at Art Metropole in Toronto. It was decided then that the unit should assume the role of guest and have no fixed residence. During the two-month engagement with Art Metropole, Vectors respectfully infiltrated the various operations of the host in both pedestrian and creative ways. Individual components of the unit were dispatched as furniture and used as bookshelfs and rolling benches across the retail area of Art Met. This integration quietly modulated the day-to-day operation of the host. In return, Art Metropole invited Vectors and the unit’s unassuming occupancy to be the first in a series of interactions with and interventions into Art Metropole’s Publications and Ephemera Archive from the present.
The Wandering Art Metropole Publications and Ephemera Archive is a sibling project to Vectors, in that it initiates a variety of new perspectives on, associations with, and transformations of its material by inviting interactors in collaboration with different host institutions. Carried in a mobile support structure by Toronto artist Shane Krepakevich, it will travel on to Project Space in Vancouver during the Institutions by Artists event in October 2012. But before this, Gendai’s Vectors and Art Metropole’s Wandering Archive will make a journey together to Sudbury and Ottawa in May and June. Lau and Gendai reworked selected pages of the 1974 issue of FILE Megazine¹ to produce a print entitled Vectors: Infections and Infestations (1974 to 2012). The print further complicates the already fictionalized temporality that was the overarching theme of FILE issue 1974. This results in a permanently unsettled chronology that resonates with the self-styled mythology of FILE 1974 and General Idea.
Vectors at Gallery 101
Riding on the promise of the mobile unit and a trust in the unforeseen, Vectors delineates a new network of contingent histories and connections between Art Met and Gallery 101. This time, the mobile unit, as a lifeboat, will carry a limited number of items selected by the staff of Art Metropole. More specifically, the items are charged with a sense of urgency because they are selected to survive an imaginary disaster that will permanently destroy the rest of the archive. …to be continued…
Yam Lau and Yan Wu, 2012
¹ General Idea, ed. File Magazine (vol. 2, no. 5, February 1974), Annual Artists’ Directory Issue