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AGO Youth Council shifts our understanding of change

October 6th, 2008

Photo courtesy artist Dan Bergeron.

Change is everywhere. The city is in the midst of a major refurbishment. The historical boundaries of neighbourhoods are being reshaped and redefined, while the facades of the city’s major cultural institutions are responding with their own changes, contributing further to this process of transformation. Meanwhile, OHIP has announced that coverage will now be provided for sex reassignment surgeries.

In the midst of this shifting cultural and urban landscape, the 2008 AGO Youth Council has collaborated with guest artist Dan Bergeron (www.fauxreel.ca) and the Trans_Fusion Crew at the Supporting Our Youth organization (www.soytoronto.org) to create a photographic campaign exploring the notion that CHANGE is the only constant. Shift Change implores people to rethink what change means to them and to recognize that it isn’t something to fear or resist.

Bergeron has worked with the AGO Youth Council to design photographic installations that depict minor everyday transformations – shaving a beard, straightening hair, and cinching one’s waist – along with images of the less commonly portrayed act of binding one’s chest, preparing for plastic surgery and changing into drag. The images suggest that all these changes are fundamental parts of human existence in today’s society, yet they still elicit as many complications as they do rewards.

Photo courtesy artist Dan Bergeron.

Bergeron has encouraged the group to think of the project as a means to engage the viewer and be self-reflective. Some of the questions already generated amongst the participants of this project include: What are the social implications of black women being encouraged to straighten their hair? What does it mean to choose to be genderless in a gendered world? What is the significance of the desire to alter one’s natural body?

The life-sized images of Council members and local personalities embodying their daily transformations is being mounted in unexpected public places across the city, including on the Beverley Street hoarding outside the AGO. This installation is the first exhibition encompassing all seven elements of the project.

About the Artists

Dan Bergeron, recently profiled in Toronto Life, is known for the life-sized “paste-ups” he mounts in urban settings including New York, Vancouver and Toronto. “Paste-ups” are part of the street art tradition that evolved out of graffiti and hip hop culture. Streetscapes is a recent example of Bergeron’s work and was part of Toronto’s Luminato festival. Partnering youth from Regent Park Focus with local residents, Bergeron created 20-foot portraits, which were then “pasted-up” onto the remaining buildings of the changing neighbourhood. Part document, part celebration of resistance and resilience, Streetscapes has renewed interest in the politics of rezoning the area by demystifying a segregated community that has long been maligned by negative media representation. Read more about Bergeron articulating his artistic process.

Trans_Fusion Crew (TFC) is comprised of youth who identify as genderqueer, transgendered, two-spirited, transsexual, or are simply questioning. Meeting weekly at Supporting Our Youth, they engage in social activities and educational arts-based workshops designed to create a space in which they can explore themselves and their experiences. TFC members are engaged with specific experiences of transition and change, and provide alternative perspectives that challenge traditional concepts of gender, identity and social roles.

  • Vanessa

    This is a fabulous campaign! I slow down to take a look at it everyday to and from work. My kudos to Dan Bergeron and the AGO for such a smart, strong and compelling view of change. It’s made me even more eager to check out the new AGO.

  • Vanessa

    This is a fabulous campaign! I slow down to take a look at it everyday to and from work. My kudos to Dan Bergeron and the AGO for such a smart, strong and compelling view of change. It’s made me even more eager to check out the new AGO.

  • http://www.speakupforchange.ca Daniel

    This is very interesting; I’m an OCAD student and run a non-profit called ACCESS Charity.

    I’d like to invite the group or any of the artists involved to submit something about this project to our new youth journalism/blog, Speak Up for Change.

    Please email editor@accesscharity.ca to connect with our editor!

    http://www.speakupforchange.ca

  • http://www.speakupforchange.ca Daniel

    This is very interesting; I’m an OCAD student and run a non-profit called ACCESS Charity.

    I’d like to invite the group or any of the artists involved to submit something about this project to our new youth journalism/blog, Speak Up for Change.

    Please email editor@accesscharity.ca to connect with our editor!

    http://www.speakupforchange.ca