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AGYU+ RISE = Truth Be Told

Truth Be Told + Bárbara Wagner & Benjamin de Burca + AGYU = RISE


Evolving out of the AGYU’s ongoing commitment to merging the once separate fields of exhibition making and education “outreach” – in order to explore this intersection as a mutually enriching source of cutting-edge artistic production and pedagogical innovation – Bárbara Wagner & Benjamin de Burca’s newest experimental film RISE is created in conjunction with Scarborough’s RISE (Reaching Intelligent Souls Everywhere) and AGYU’s Truth Be Told spoken word mentorship program.

Taking place throughout the spring in Scarborough and Regent Park, AGYU + RISE’s Truth Be Told spoken word poetry workshops are facilitated by a team of emerging artists including: Thunderclaw Robinson, Bidhan Berma, Michael Morales, Nasim Asgari, Timaaj Hassen, and Nathan Baya, who are mentored by established spoken word poets Joshua “Scribe” Watkis and RISE founder, Randell Adjei. The program provides emerging artists and members of RISE with the opportunity to collaborate with acclaimed artists Bárbara Wagner and Benjamin de Burca on the conceptualization, screenwriting, and production of their most recent experimental documentary film. For our cast of poets and rappers, this project represents a rare immersive opportunity to gain hands-on experience in filmmaking as well as a creative platform to experiment with autobiographical narratives of displacement, migration, and immigration. The film provides a vehicle to chronicle the liminal state of postcolonial non-belonging that grows out of the diasporic reality of not being entirely rooted in Canada. At the same time these young artists cultivate and preserve strong connections to their respective countries, languages, and cultures of origin—an identification that permeates their performative rituals of self-fashioning and artistic self-presentation.


Truth Be Told @ REGENT PARK
Performance Showcase presented in partnership with RISE and Regent Park Focus
Friday May 25, 6:00 pm - 8:00 pm
Daniels Spectrum – Regent Park, Centennial College Performing Arts Commons, Studio 1
585 Dundas Street East

Performance showcase presented in partnership with RISE
Monday May 28, 6:30 pm -11:00 pm
Burrows Hall
1081 Progress Avenue

Featuring participants from the Truth Be Told spoken word poetry and rap workshops in Regent Park and Scarborough as well as facilitators of the program, this showcase is a platform to shine a spotlight on the talents of emerging artists in the city.


Five years ago in Scarborough, located in Toronto’s east end, the young poet Randell Adjei formed a creative community—a self-professed “safe space”—named RISE (Reaching Intelligent Souls Everywhere). Meeting once a week in community centres, participants share their spoken-word poems and songs in an environment inspired by the concept of “Edutainment,” a phrase coined by the legendary New York rapper KRS-1, one of the founding fathers of Hip Hop.

At RISE, performers are encouraged by a sympathetic audience, who fully participate in an atmosphere of mutual support and collective therapy. The meetings are punctuated by different forms of acceptance through equally affective audience responses (finger snapping, deep throat intonations, mmmmm)—indeed a twenty-first century call-and-response—that calls upon the individuals who perform to exhort self-belief and betterment through art and education.

The majority of poets who perform at RISE have one foot in another land, culture, or language. The audience, too, shares their status as both Torontonians and as immigrants—having come predominantly from parts of Africa, the Caribbean, and the Middle East. As a result, a sense of non-belonging, “in-between-ness,” or duality is often discursively expressed, performed, and debated at each RISE meeting.

No newcomer to Toronto—the most culturally diverse city in the world—can ever truly claim Toronto as their own, as we all rightfully recognize Torontonians as settlers who occupy borrowed land— land taken from the Huron-Wendat, the Haudenosaunee, and, most recently, the Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation.

This new sense of being—a type of postcolonial non-belonging, in fact—is explored in the film by shooting in the non-spaces of the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC), rather than in the community centres where these meetings have traditionally taken place. This underground space is a passage, not a destination. It shares an in-between-ness that is felt in the daily life of Torontonians. Treated as a mise-en-scène, the subway acts as a literal and conceptual platform to frame concerns expressed by artists at RISE. The film also questions whether this space, too, is not also a logical outcome of contemporary globalized society.

The experimental documentary RISE is not “about” RISE. Instead, it is made “with” RISE. Wagner and de Burca adopt the concept of Edutainment as a conceptual tool for the film’s structure. RISE participants’ performances and poetry form its methodology and script.

Curated by Emelie Chhangur, Bárbara Wagner and Benjamin de Burca’s AGYU-commissioned film RISE is produced with the support of the Liaison of Independent Filmmakers of Toronto (LIFT) and York University, Department of Cinema & Media Arts. Post-Production support provided by the Film/Video Studio at the Wexner Centre for the Arts, Ohio. The film will premiere in July at FRONT International: Cleveland Triennial for Contemporary Art.

Artist Talk | Sunday, May 27, 2018 @ 2 pm | AGYU

Bárbara Wagner and Benjamin de Burca expand on their work’s themes, production methodologies, and social-political contexts; explore the role of documentary photography in their research-process; and look at filmmaking as a performative strategy for picturing cultural change-as-it-happens. Coincides with the Contemporary Bus Tour.


AGYU: Relink (Relay) Relate
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The AGYU is located in the Accolade East Building, 4700 Keele Street, Toronto.
Gallery hours: Monday to Friday, 10 am – 4 pm; Wednesday, 10 am – 8 pm; Sunday, noon – 5 pm; and Saturday, closed.

AGYU is a public, university-affiliated, non-profit contemporary art gallery supported by York University, the Canada Council for the Arts, the Province of Ontario through the Ontario Arts Council, the City of Toronto through the Toronto Arts Council, and by its membership.

AGYU promotes 2SLGBTQIAP positive spaces and experiences and is barrier-free.

Everything is FREE


For more information or to request images or interviews with the artists, please contact Emelie Chhangur, Interim Director/Curator at or 416.736.5169.





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