When visiting Level 4 of the AGO’s Contemporary Tower to see our latest exhibition, Every. Now. Then: Reframing Nationhood, you’ll find a room titled Possession Project. The curators, Andrew Hunter and Anique Jordan, have given it over entirely to guest curator Marjan Verstappen of the YTB (Younger Than Beyoncé) Gallery.
YTB Gallery’s name was inspired by a 2009 exhibition at the New Museum in New York City, called Younger Than Jesus, which exclusively featured works by artists under the age of 33. Founded in 2014, YTB Gallery also features artists under the age of 33 and presents a nomadic, D.I.Y. response to that landmark exhibition within the Toronto arts community.
Possession Project, inside the Every. Now. Then: Reframing Nationhood exhibition, allows each participating artist to maintain their distinct voice and identity. Each has produced new works in response to Canada 150 and the country’s sesquicentennial in Toronto and Canada, echoing and enhancing the critical ideas and themes that drive Every. Now. Then.
Artists featured include Topher King, Britta B., Ekow Stone, Sofia Mesa, and William Andrew Finlay Stewart. We spoke with artist Marjan Verstappen, whose work is featured in Possession Project and also curated the exhibition-within-the-exhibition.
AGO: Could you tell us about Possession Project – this exhibition within an exhibition?
Marjan: The idea for the show came out of many conversations with the artists in our group about space, displacement, land and cultural identity. We’re giving a youthful perspective to Canada 150, and it’s a debut for a group of young artists who, as yet, are relatively unknown but see this show as a benchmark for their future careers. AGO curator Andrew Hunter saw a show with the same group of artists, The Complete Unknown curated by Marjan Verstappen, in March 2016 and invited them to make an exhibition together about the 150 moment.
AGO: What was your process curating this exhibition?
Marjan: Having met over the period of a year, our conversations discussed the history of Confederation and the fraught relationship Canada has with its Indigenous peoples. The work in the exhibition takes personal departures on this theme, offering individual perspectives about Canada 150 which are anchored by a critical conversation about our collective history. Topher Kong collected family suitcases that were used in his immigration to Canada from China, Marjan Verstappen mapped the spread of European dandelions through Canada.
AGO: What would you like people to know about the artists and works chosen for this exhibition?
Marjan: The idea of being an exhibition within an exhibition gave us the control to create our own conversations. Leading into the space is Topher Kong’s doorway of stacked suitcases—this work, along with Britta B.’s audio piece Fluke, sets the tone of the exhibition, which is not only reflective of Canadian culture but charged with real political questions. When looking back through the suitcase doorway you see a collaborative work by Sister CoResister that asks “Who’s Home On Native Land?” Being framed by the suitcase doorway, questions of home, belonging, and travel come into focus through the lens of our colonial past.
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