GUT_BRAIN 1: Destructive Desires and Other Destinies of Excess

Patricia Domínguez, Matrix Vegetal (production still), 2021. Courtesy the artist.

GUT_BRAIN 1: Destructive Desires and Other Destinies of Excess

Part One: September 5–November 15, 2023
The Blackwood, University of Toronto Mississauga

Curated by Irmgard Emmelhainz and Christine Shaw

With Mónica Arreola, Adrián Balseca, Rebecca Belmore, Miguel Calderón, Tania Candiani, Patricia Domínguez, Gauri Gill, Regina José Galindo, Tala Madani, Dafna Maimon, Marisa Morán Jahn, Yoshua Okón, Daniela Ortiz, Teresa Serrano, Joseph Tisiga, Laureana Toledo with Irma Pineda, Couzyn van Heuvelen, Miguel Ventura, Alberta Whittle, and Lorena Wolffer with Kira Sosa Wolffer.

GUT_BRAIN is an exhibition series inspired by the primary movements of the digestive system: ingestion, propulsion, mechanical breakdown, chemical digestion, absorption, and elimination. Staged in six movements in sites between Mississauga, Canada and Oaxaca, Mexico, the project will move from injury to potential, from separation to symbiosis, from damage to possible futures.

As earth’s metabolic rhythms have been made to converge with anthropocentric needs and desires, the nutrient cycling process has been disrupted, leading to environmental catastrophe. Our bodies-minds are mirroring what is happening in nature: environmental devastation is reflected in our diminishing microbiomes creating an epidemic of inflammatory diseases. We remain mirrors of the natural world: or rather, of the modified versions that we ourselves have created. Part of the devastation is related to the 20th Century war against bacteria and microbes for which antibiotics and pesticides were invented, a mission intrinsically linked to colonialism’s desire to modernize, valorize, and purify. In this context, we must bear in mind that our condition is currently that of ‘posthumans’: forever chemicals, pesticides, plastics are part of our bodies now as much as of our ecosystems. How can we conceive of possible futures considering the inevitable and lethal fusion of the technosphere and the biosphere? How are artists imagining epistemological breaks towards possible futures?

Connecting artists, scholars, and activists from across the Americas and beyond, GUT_BRAIN will acknowledge injurious forms of interdependency and imagines desiring differently: micro and planetary eroticism, making kin, holistic health, community-organized stewardship, and an erasure of the categorical distinctions between humans, animals, systems, seeds, plants, bodies of water, and bacteria.

Miguel Calderón, Camaleón (Chameleon) (film still), 2016. HD video, 26 min, 30 sec. Courtesy the artist and kurimanzutto.

The first movement, Destructive Desires and Other Destinies of Excess, materializes at the mouth. As a site of ingestion, sexuality, sustenance, and language, the mouth tracks the origins and symptoms of injurious forms of interdependency that have led to our toxic world. This two-part movement focuses on artists who recognize that modern technologies at the center of a project of future worldmaking are linked to destructive desires, toxic masculinity, feminicide, dependency on fossil fuels, land dispossession, chemical contamination, wasted and remaindered populations, and the colonial technosphere to sustain life. Other destinies of excess will be taken up in part two of GUT_BRAIN 1.

In the Blackwood galleries

Tania Candiani’s three-channel film features an all-female choir reciting sounds associated with the major industries of the late 19th and early 20th centuries—metal casting, meatpacking, printing, and woodworking—drawing a link between bodies and machines; Daniela Ortiz’s installation pictures a harsh denunciation of the exploitation and invisibilization of racialized domestic workers in Peru; Joseph Tisiga’s grid of artificial turf covered panels laden with plaster cast cigarette butts grapples with reconciling the present with the past; Miguel Calderón’s exploration of a real life character and his symbiotic relationship with a peregrine falcon evokes masculinity, predation, and Western human-animal relations.

In the UTM food court

Couzyn van Heuvelen’s human-sized fishing lures are based in Indigenous food sovereignty and survival, while also alluding to the lure of modernization.

In the UTM campus lightboxes

Lightbox Cycle 1 (September 5–October 25) takes up the destructive desire for excess and modernization in four images: Adrián Balseca’s video still renders an exuberant and paradisiacal land ravaged by extractivism, justified by dreams of modernization and emancipation; Mónica Arreola’s photograph captures the desolate reality imposed by real estate speculation in Mexico as well as economic and mortgage models that have left behind architectural vestiges; a still from Yoshua Okón’s video performance of an imagined canned laughter sweatshop factory that serves North American consumers alludes to the mechanization of labour and life processes by capitalism; Gauri Gill’s photo made in collaboration with members of an Adivasi community in India captures a range of emotions like love, sadness, fear, and anger, as well as shared human experiences such as illness and aging.

Lightbox Cycle 2 (October 26–January 8) addresses the current global regime’s structural contempt for—and capitalization of—all forms of life. Tania Candiani’s score for sounds associated with meatpacking reads “inhale/stop the air with the throat,” “chop,” “bone cracking,” and “with saliva”; a still from Regina José Galindo’s performance features the artist running from a Leopard tank until exhaustion and is dedicated to all women whose cries remain unheard; Rebecca Belmore’s Fringe evokes the material violence enacted upon the bodies of Indigenous women and, despite the gravity of the represented woman’s injury, is also about healing; Laureana Toledo captures mirages in the garbage dumps of modernization, inspired by the visual history of modernization and British colonization of the Istmo de Tehuantepec and juxtaposes it with a poem about inequality and erasure by writer Irma Pineda printed on lenticular in Zapoteco, English and Anishinaabemowin.

In the cinema (October 7)
Small World Music Centre, 180 Shaw St, Toronto

This program of short videos by twelve artists explores extractivist capitalism, feminicide, labour rights, penetrative potency, reproductive justice, metabolic rifts, bodily sovereignty, and healing rituals.

In the theatre (November 9)
Isabel Bader Theatre, 93 Charles St W, Toronto

darme-darse-darnos is a performance and collaborative action conceived by Mexican artist and activist Lorena Wolffer as a public and candid conversation with her teenage daughter Kira Sosa Wolffer.

Visit the Blackwood website for artist bios, project descriptions, installation documentation, and more!

The Blackwood
University of Toronto Mississauga
3359 Mississauga Rd.
Mississauga, ON L5L 1C6
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There are two gallery locations: the Blackwood Gallery in Kaneff Centre and the e|gallery in the CCT Building.
Hours: Monday–Saturday, 12–5pm, Wednesdays until 8pm.

GUT_BRAIN 1 is generously supported by the Canada Council for the Arts, the Ontario Arts Council, and the University of Toronto Mississauga. Christine Shaw’s research was supported in part by a Curatorial Research Fellowship from the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts.