The Loft Gallery Commission: The Hissing Folly by Cole Swanson


Documentation from the phragmites harvest at Thickson’s Woods Land Trust of Durham Region, 2019. Photo by Jamie McMillan.

The Loft Gallery Commission: The Hissing Folly by Cole Swanson

Curated by Sandy Saad

Sunday, February 2, 2020 – Sunday, January 3, 2021
Opening Reception: Sunday, February 2, 2 – 4 PM

Artist will be in attendance. A free bus will provide transportation to bring visitors from Toronto to the opening reception. Pick up: in front of OCADU at 1:00PM and will return to OCADU for 4:30PM. To reserve a spot on the bus: RSVP to

The Visual Arts Centre of Clarington is pleased to present The Loft Gallery Commission: The Hissing Folly by Cole Swanson.

The 2020 iteration of the VAC Loft Gallery Commission will feature an installation by Canadian artist, Cole Swanson. Swanson’s ongoing body of work examines biosystems in direct negotiation with human life at a time of unprecedented social, political, and environmental change. The Hissing Folly looks at Durham Region’s ecological landscape and poses critical questions around human relationships with invasive species, specifically phragmites (European common reed). Phragmites is a perennial grass that spreads quickly and out-competes native species for water and nutrients. This plant has been damaging ecosystems in Ontario for decades including areas of Clarington and the wider Durham Region.

Working with the Central Lake Ontario Conservation Authority (CLOCA), this collaborative project includes the collection and removal of phragmites from the Thickson’s Woods Land Trust of Durham Region. In an effort to contribute to the control of phragmites in this ecologically sensitive area, the harvest will become part of a multidisciplinary installation in the VAC’s Loft Gallery. Using the centuries-long tradition of thatching, Swanson employs a low-cost and ecological method of using local vegetation to build roofs as the main method to build his structure. The resulting construct is a folly; designed primarily for decoration, while suggesting a greater purpose through its appearance.

The Hissing Folly considers phragmites as a historically valuable construction material with creative potential compared to its adverse effects on biodiversity in Canada. The project embodies the colonial, consumer, and cultural systems responsible for the passage of phragmites from Europe to North America, reflecting on the dissonance between the generative and destructive capacities of organisms mediated by human values and activities.

About the Loft Gallery Commission:
The Visual Arts Centre of Clarington (VAC) is a public art gallery that operates out of a 1904 historic barley mill. The Cream of Barley Mill operated 24 hours a day to produce barley cereal that was distributed across Canada, the USA and the Commonwealth countries. The building now houses a pottery studio, a painting studio and multiple exhibition spaces including a Loft Gallery. With concrete walls, wooden beams, and vaulted ceilings, this attic space is the least altered room in the facility, lending itself to the most direct response to the site’s place and history. In 2019 the VAC launched the Loft Gallery Commission Program to activate the space and commission annual site-specific installations by contemporary artists with varying practices.

About the artist:
Cole Swanson’s cross-disciplinary artistic practice spans over 15 years. Using sound, installation, painting, and sculpture his work explores interspecies relationships as they relate to complex coevolutionary systems. Swanson holds a BA in Studio Art from the University of Guelph and an MA in Art History from the University of Toronto. His work has been exhibited in exhibitions in Canada and international venues across four continents. He is a two-time national fellowship winner through the Shastri Indo-Canadian Institute (2007, 2014) for his research on miniature paintings and Jaipur school fresco techniques in Rajasthan.

The Visual Arts Centre of Clarington is a partially accessible venue with an accessible washroom. The front entrance can be accessed by a ramp and an outward-opening door (please note that we do not have an automatic door opener). It is important to note that the Loft Gallery is not accessible by wheelchair. Accessible parking is available on site. For any special assistance or queries about the venue, please call or email us. Admission is free and all are welcome.

The Visual Arts Centre of Clarington is committed to being a space that is safe and inclusive for all people. For this space to be accessible to people with varying allergies and sensitivities, it is a pet-free, nut-free, and scent-free zone. We ask that visitors please refrain from bringing in animals, food items containing nuts, and wearing heavily scented products. Thank you for your consideration.

Visual Arts Centre of Clarington, 143 Simpson Avenue, Bowmanville, Ontario, L1C 2H9
Gallery Hours: Please visit our website
Media contact: Áine Belton, Marketing Coordinator
Email: Phone: (905)-623-5831 ext. 1
Visit: Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

The Visual Arts Centre of Clarington is proudly supported by: