Burning Glass, Reading Stone: A multi-part lightbox series


Martina Pozzan, Technicians at the laminar flow hoods room during multiplication phase of peach and almond rootstocks, Vitroplant Agricultural Holding, Cesena, Italy, 2017.

Burning Glass, Reading Stone
A multi-part lightbox series

September 8, 2020–June 27, 2021

Featuring work by: American Artist, Rouzbeh Akhbari, Yto Barrada, Black Quantum Futurism, Martina Pozzan, Oscar Santillán, Jon Sasaki, Erdem Taşdelen, Shaheer Zazai, and more…

The Blackwood Gallery is pleased to announce the launch of Burning Glass, Reading Stone, an eight-part lightbox series on the University of Toronto Mississauga Campus, opening September 8, 2020 with Martina Pozzan’s Musa x paradisiaca L.

Activating four outdoor lightboxes in public space on the University of Toronto Mississauga campus throughout the 2020-2021 academic year, Burning Glass, Reading Stone explores the conditions, technologies, and spaces of spectatorship that mediate our engagements with the world—physical and virtual. The lightbox program features eight sets of images: each provides a distinct testimony borne of a particular mode of observation or narration.

Distributed across a University campus still navigating social distancing protections necessitated by the COVID-19 pandemic, the lightbox series responds to COVID-19 as a rupture that brings both public space and digital media under examination. What habits of looking has social distancing concretized? What wakefulness to the already existing inequities and gaps produced in our mediated environment is required? What responsibilities do images ask of us? What responsibilities do they occlude? How can various regimes of looking (scientific, testimonial, documentary, intimate, science-fictional) refocus collective attention?

Across Burning Glass, Reading Stone, lightbox images actuate attention to the seen and the unseen: shadows trace the presence of bodies and objects even as they open infinite voids, waves carry and kiss those humans and photons that travel upon and through them, bodies are held in suspension in an impossible instant. What new languages for writing the seen and the unseen do these images demand?

The project’s title draws from a preoccupation with optics throughout the series—not only in its interest in the (un)seen, but also in its interest with the scene: the fundamentally social, relational, and narrative space of action and observation. Both the burning stone and the reading glass are archaic lenses that enable some form of focus: whether the concentrated combustive power of the sun (eruption, agitation, power, potential) or the dedicated closeness of reading through a magnifier (intimacy, interpretation, fixity, study). In their activation across the lightbox series, burning glass and reading stone also chart possibilities for action through artists’ image-making practices. What forms of close reading are necessary at this time? How can incendiary actions reclaim scenes of social, political, and environmental crisis?

Visit the Blackwood Gallery website for more information: virtual programming and interpretative materials will be released throughout the series.

Musa x paradisiaca L.
Martina Pozzan

Burning Glass, Reading Stone I: September 8–October 4, 2020


Martina Pozzan, Plant protein analysis with Coomassie brilliant blue R-250 Dye, IBBR (Institute of Biosciences and Bioresources), Bari, Italy, 2019.

Botanical collections contribute to safeguarding knowledge about biodiversity; thus, their value increases with every loss of species in the natural world. However, because these collections also enable the commodification of botanical life, they should not be understood as neutral repositories. Since the appearance of the first botanical gardens—whose colonial origins demonstrate the indelible link between scientific research and capitalist commodities—methods of collection and conservation have radically expanded. Exemplary of this broadened biopolitical repertoire, new techniques now allow scientists to vitrify germplasm, thereby preserving it in a state of suspended life.

The research project Musa x paradisiaca L. explores the messy space between natural and artificial dimensions of botanical collecting. In vitro propagation methods, seed banks, and both cryogenic and living collections operate at the intersection of technoscientific research and the market-driven commodification of life itself. This photographic series from Pozzan’s ongoing research project focuses on techniques of biological multiplication in the service of capital accumulation.

The Blackwood Gallery gratefully acknowledges the support of the Canada Council for the Arts, the Ontario Arts Council, and the University of Toronto Mississauga.


Blackwood Gallery
University of Toronto Mississauga
3359 Mississauga Rd.
Mississauga, ON L5L 1C6

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Please note: The Blackwood’s gallery spaces are currently closed to the public. Burning Glass, Reading Stone is FREE and open to the public, and accessible 24 hours a day in four outdoor lightboxes across the University of Toronto Mississauga Campus. Some movement throughout the campus is required—ramps and curb cuts are in place across the University premises.

Please respect social distancing protocols while on campus.