Movement One: Interior
September 6–December 18, 2022
Curated by Farah Yusuf
Part one of This Unfathomable Weight, a three-part exhibition on UTM campus lightboxes and public billboards
Against the news landscape of the COVID-19 pandemic, images of the medical subject were no longer hidden discretely from view. We came to reckon with a more acute awareness of the fragility of the human body and its vulnerability to unseen and impersonal forces. We are all susceptible to illness; health is not guaranteed—nor is the stability of our healthcare system. We can no longer turn our gaze away from this reality.
This set of images from Jessica Thalmann’s ongoing series cut somewhere between the supports and collapse engages with representations of infirmity and care through the artist’s personal experience within the hospital system. In August of 2021, Thalmann’s mother suffered a brain aneurysm that left her fighting for her life in an ICU. Having to suddenly become a caregiver within this new reality, the artist documented her mother’s hospitalization including radiation treatments, MRIs, rehabilitation, and eventual recovery.
Thalmann’s process involves cutting, doubling, inverting, solarizing, and reassembling the original photographs to create an almost cubist dissection of space. This act of destruction and reconstruction builds on earlier work in which the artist uses a language of destabilizing alterations like folds and rips on photographs of different architectural sites that have meaning to her. Here, the primary alteration is that of the cut, which evokes the surgical precision of a scalpel and the messiness of an open wound. It speaks to the artist’s desire to materially and metaphorically examine medical institutions as sites that are haunted by trauma, and to reclaim some power over the emotional devastation of facing the mortality of a loved one.
This program of images forms part one of a three-part exhibition, This Unfathomable Weight, which animates outdoor lightboxes across the UTM campus and public billboards in Mississauga from September 2022 to August 2023.
Each part of This Unfathomable Weight features a fifth image on a public billboard in Mississauga. For part one, the public billboard appears on Eglinton Avenue West, west of the intersection with Mavis Road, on the south side facing west.
Visit the Blackwood website for the full curatorial statement, artist bio, documentation, and program details.
About This Unfathomable Weight
Three-part exhibition on UTM campus lightboxes and public billboards
September 6, 2022–August 27, 2023
Artists: Christina Battle, Erika DeFreitas, Jessica Thalmann
Curator: Farah Yusuf
Program Respondent: Vince Rozario
This Unfathomable Weight is a three-part lightbox and billboard project that grapples publicly with how we make sense of living through the massive crises of recent years. As we return “back to normal,” the effects of collective trauma, inflicted by the pandemic and cascade of socio-political upheavals will linger across society for a long time. How can we heal from widespread experiences of shock, anxiety, loss, and social upheaval?
Through an understanding of trauma as a psychic rupture, where meaning-making has been suspended, deferred, or displaced, the project carves out space for reparative gestures of making sense across personal, societal, and spiritual registers. In part one (Fall 2022), Jessica Thalmann reflects on a personal crisis of meaning through a series of images that document her time in the ICU as primary caregiver to her mother who suddenly became critically ill. In part two (Winter 2023), Christina Battle examines the precarity of meaning on a societal level through digital collages of right-wing identity signaling and misinformation. In part three (Summer 2023), Erika DeFreitas looks to the miraculous as a way of contending with uncertainty through a daily ritual of attempting to capture the Virgin Mary (or what she refers to as the “divine feminine”) in photographs of the sun.
Curating this project has become an antidote to my own post-traumatic inertia and anxiety. The effects of trauma are often characterized by sustained disaffection, apathy, and persistent low-level state of shock. By meditating on Thalmann, Battle, and DeFreitas’s images of fragility, grief, quiet rage, and serene contemplation, this project provided a way to truly consider and dwell in the complexity of my emotions—to try to fathom the magnitude of this moment. There’s poetry in the double meaning of the word fathom; in verb form it means to understand something deeply, and as a noun it is a nautical measure of the depth of water roughly equivalent to six feet. The measure comes from the Old English fæthm, meaning “outstretched arms,” describing the distance from fingertip to fingertip when one’s arms are stretched from the sides of the body.  This Unfathomable Weight embraces the need to understand and give form to what overwhelms. Intended as a series of public gestures, this exhibition invites a wider audience to collectively process together.
For the full curatorial statement, please visit the Blackwood website.
Across the three-part exhibition, This Unfathomable Weight, curator, writer, and community organizer Vince Rozario will facilitate a series of programs in response to the exhibition.
The Blackwood gratefully acknowledges the support of the Canada Council for the Arts, the Ontario Arts Council, and the University of Toronto Mississauga.
University of Toronto Mississauga
3359 Mississauga Rd.
Mississauga, ON L5L 1C6
Please note: This Unfathomable Weight is FREE and open to the public, and accessible 24 hours a day in four outdoor lightboxes across UTM campus and on a public billboard in Mississauga. Some movement throughout the campus is required—ramps and curb cuts are in place.
Please respect social distancing protocols while on campus.
 Merriam-Webster online dictionary, s.v. “fathom,” www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/fathom.
Image descriptions: 1) Greyscale cutouts of hospital interiors and an older woman sleeping in a hospital bed are collaged, repeated, and mirrored into a disorienting composition. 2) Beams of yellow golden-hour light cast across bright blue and shadowed walls, patterned floors, and railings. These details of interiors are collaged into a spiralling composition.