Façade: A Series of Public Art Commissions

Presented by City of Markham’s Public Art Program & the Art Gallery of York University

Launch Event: September 10, 2023, 1–4pm
Markham Pan Am Centre, 16 Main Street Unionville, Markham, Ontario

Drag performances by Haus of Devereaux with special guest appearance by Lady Boi Bangkok
Tarot Card readings by FASTWÜRMS and I Ching readings by Yam Lau
Food Trucks
Free, All welcome!

Bus transportation available from downtown Toronto to the launch (subject to capacity), please contact Maria Won to register at mwon11@yorku.ca

Please join the City of Markham’s Public Art Program and the Art Gallery of York University for the launch of the inaugural public art commission Bicycle by artist Julian Yi-Zhong Hou curated by Yan Wu, Public Art Curator, City of Markham to be presented on the west façade of the Markham Pan Am Centre. Under the title and theme of Façade, four curators over 2 years each invite an artist to develop a massive 127 x 32 foot photomural conceived and designed specifically for the site. Each project will be unveiled consecutively, beginning with work by Julian Yi-Zhong Hou. New commissions by Andrea Carlson curated by AGYU Assistant Curator, Exhibitions, Clara Halpern and Aleksandra Domanović curated by AGYU Director/Curator Jenifer Papararo will follow, with a final project curated by Artangel’s Director Mariam Zulfiqar.

Staged as a floating signifier, literally and semiotically, Façade invites four artists to explore the potential of an architectural element as public space and to contemplate the layered identity of a place through the lens of their artistic and theoretical concerns. We use the theme Façade to articulate a possibility of encounters. Technically, the façade is a building’s outer shell and can refer to all of its external surfaces, but most typically to its front and public face which is commonly accentuated with material flourishes. The façade of a building houses its main entry point, and as such is usually dressed up, stylized, and adorned. Its embellishment acts as a means of wayfinding, designed to draw a person’s attention, and, as a first encounter, establishing an impression of what lies beyond it. The façade can set a mood, create an experience, and indicate what’s to come. It can also mislead, be a mask covering something more perfunctory, plain, or even ugly. A façade in general can be used as a distraction and as a means of redirection, shifting one’s focus away from the lesser materials used internally or the mundaneness of everyday operations. It can be used to create an illusion of grandeur, signifying status and thus directing behaviour. But ultimately, it is a threshold and point of entry to what’s beyond its surface. For this public art series, we invoke this liminal space between exterior and interior, applying another surface to a surface, to metaphorically create an opening for the public to engage with artwork that esoterically, symbolically, and visually shifts our perceptions and assumptions about who and what gets represented. The artists selected to varying degrees render internal dialogues externally, exposing what lies beneath the surface of how we represent and construct society and community while also questioning who and what is allowed and deemed worthy of taking up space.

Chosen as the architectural host of Façade, the Markham Pan Am Centre is a multi-purpose community and aquatics centre designed to serve as one of the venues for the 2015 Pan American Games. Its location is interwoven with the past, present, and future of Markham. Indigenous peoples have lived for over 10,000 years in the Markham area, and the Centre is positioned adjacent to the Rouge River, an important watershed that hosts some of Canada’s oldest known Indigenous sites. The Centre sits on the south end of Main Street Unionville, one of the city’s most celebrated historic neighbourhoods, and at the eastern edge of Markham Centre, a planned development by the city for a vibrant, intensive, mixed-use downtown. Across the street to its north are a secondary school and a retirement home. To the west of the Centre, on the adjacent lot, York University is constructing a new campus, scheduled to open in 2024, which will focus on technology and entrepreneurship, hosting programs from science to engineering as well as the School of the Arts, Media, Performance & Design, among others.

Each of the artworks presented in Façade will bring a distinct perspective to this series in both artistic approach and content. The first project to be presented is a photo-collage by Julian Yi-Zhong Hou. Curator Yan Wu engaged Hou to create a new artwork that reflects his speculative approach to translating traditional Chinese aesthetics across time and space, and its application in representing contemporary popular culture and lived experiences. Following Hou’s work, Andrea Carlson’s project will launch in spring 2024. Given the potential for Façade as a future-oriented platform, Clara Halpern has invited Andrea Carlson for the artist’s visionary practice, which often engages with Indigenous Futurism(s), language, and land. In fall 2024, Aleksandra Domanović’s project, curated by AGYU’s Director/Curator Jenifer Papararo, will launch as York University’s Markham Campus opens. Papararo approached Domanović for the artist’s feminist and perceptual exploration of moments of technological advancement from ultrasound to the internet. Mariam Zulfiqar will curate the last iteration of Façade. Zulfiqar’s curatorial work focuses on public art, recognising the potential of site-specificity for broadening dialogue and understanding. Her work manifests in unusual places including transport infrastructures such as canal and railway networks, disused and abandoned buildings, and sites of historic significance.

Julian Yi-Zhong Hou, Bicycle, 2023 (detail)

Julian Yi-Zhong Hou: Bicycle
Curator: Yan Wu, Public Art Curator, City of Markham
On View: September 2023 – March 2024
Markham Pan Am Centre (west façade)
16 Main Street Unionville
Markham, Ontario, L3R 2E4

Upcoming Projects
April – September 2024:
Project by Andrea Carlson, Curated by Clara Halpern, Assistant Curator, AGYU

September 2024 – April 2025:
Project by Aleksandra Domanović, Curated by Jenifer Papararo, Director/Curator, AGYU

April – September 2025:
Project curated by Mariam Zulfiqar, Director, Artangel, UK

To learn more about Façade, please visit facadepublicart.ca.

For media inquiries, please get in touch with Clara Halpern at clarajh@yorku.ca.