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Toronto
Terence Dick
Gardening at ma ma
September 05, 2018

The relentless heat this summer made for a reminder that nature dominates us as much as we attempt to dominate it. Gardening is as good a metaphor as any for the ways in which humans attempt to impose an order on landscapes that would otherwise determine their own arrangements through minor skirmishes and organic conflicts that emerge amongst the layers of participants that inhabit said space. Overlapping needs from the animal kingdom (everyone from invertebrate worms through assorted insects and visiting birds to common mammals including us ungainly humans), the plant world, and that obscure realm of suspected agency we call the minerals make for a wonderfully non-binary free-for-all of collaborative efforts.



Sofia Mesa, Field Walkers, video

A suggestion of that ordered disorder can be found in Strange Attractors, a curatorial publication project put together by Nomaduma Rosa Masilela on the occasion of this summer’s 10th Berlin Biennale – which is ending this weekend if you’re in the neighbourhood. If you can’t make it to Europe in time, a copy of this book can be found in the current exhibition of new East Junction art space ma ma. Titled Gardening, this three artist grouping triangulates a wide range of possible interpretations to the governing theme of gardening as a way of understanding “politically motivated migration.” Masilela’s contribution brings together collaborators, texts, drawings, and archival material, among other things, and requires the type of non-linear reading that almanacs, encyclopedias, and yearbooks invite. A bench and some lavender plants are provided to make your time perusing more pleasant.

The other two artists display slightly more straightforward gallery experiences. Sofia Mesa’s video Field Walkers compiles a series of single camera shots of young women moving through various fields in Colombia. There is a mathematical rigor to the way each figure moves across the landscape like a dot tracing a line. I would have been happy if the video went on for hours: as each horizon is traversed, there is a feeling of completion. However, that sense of ease is undercut once history takes hold: colonial dress and a line of telephone poles are just two clues to how this paradise has been spoilt. As each woman disappears from view, a sense of dread lingers.



Eleana Antonaki, Uncanny Gardening II, 2017, gold thread on silk, cotton fringe, metal rod

Dread has bubbled over into insurrection in the riot videos that provide the visuals for Eleana Antonaki’s Uncanny Gardening II. The soundtrack is a Euro-pop ditty about visitors from Planet Paprika and the introductory text pulls together hair memory (specifically eyebrow hair), gardening, and riots. The artist is clearly playing around with some sort of political commentary – order is imposed and resisted – but the actual intent is obscure. Her silk flag with the inscription “And Maybe Gardening Can Function As A Metaphor for Collective Memory” points the viewer in the right direction, but that hesitant “…and maybe…” means the answer will never be clear.

Which is exactly what one wants in an exhibition. If the answer was there, the work would be advertising. Kudos to Magdalyn Asimakis and Heather Riggs for establishing ma ma as a gallery where art like this can be contemplated. They have two more exhibitions planned for this location (Tanya Lukin Linklater, and Stefani Jemison and Julia Phillips) before November 12 (check their website to find out what happens next). If the Toronto art scene can be considered a garden, then young sprouts (aka independent project spaces like those mentioned here) are essential to the health of the biosphere as they inject fresh nutrients in the form of local and international artists into the soil that surrounds us.


Gardening continues until September 17.
ma ma: https://www.mamaprojects.net/
The gallery is accessible.


Terence Dick is a freelance writer living in Toronto. His art criticism has appeared in Canadian Art, BorderCrossings, Prefix Photo, Camera Austria, Fuse, Mix, C Magazine, Azure, and The Globe and Mail. He is the editor of Akimblog. You can follow his quickie reviews and art news announcements on Twitter @TerenceDick.

 

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