Tia-Simone Gardner: Dark and Perfect Memories

Tia-Simone Gardner, Salt Water I, 28” x 20” archival inkjet print, 2019

Gallery 44 Centre for Contemporary Photography

Dark and Perfect Memories
Tia-Simone Gardner

Exhibition Dates: September 9 – October 15, 2022
Opening Reception: September 9, 6:00 – 8:00PM

The carceral landscape had a water birth. Tia-Simone Gardner’s first Canadian exhibition will explore the legacy of the Mississippi River, the second-largest watershed in North America, its relationship to the transatlantic slave trade and the development of the United States’ economy. Gardner uses archival documentation and digital mapping technology to reflect on how the river is a tool of enclosure within the slavery industrial complex. The Mississippi River is the basis of the carceral landscape; the riverboats represent technologies of transportation and enclosure. This landscape is used as a tool of oppression, involving the formation of oppositional geography where Black people are treated as economic objects. The slave ship is a location of Black subjectivity, human terror and Black resistance.

For more information read There is Something in the Water, an essay by Curator Lillian O’Brien Davis and listen to Tia-Simone Gardner reflect on the theoretical underpinnings of her exhibition on the G44 Podcast. Gardner’s podcast episode launches September 15, alongside a newly commissioned artist web project.

Tia-Simone Gardner is an interdisciplinary artist, educator and Black feminist scholar. Working primarily with drawing, images, archives and spaces, Gardner traces Blackness in landscapes, above and below the ground’s surface. Ritual, disobedience, geography and geology are specters and recurring themes in her work. Gardner grew up in Fairfield, Alabama, across the street from Birmingham and learned to see landscape, capitalist extraction and containment, through this place. She lives in St. Paul, Minnesota.

Tia-Simone Gardner, “…when we had a smooth sea and moderate wind, two of my wearied countrymen who were chained together, (I was near them at the time) preferring death to such a life of misery somehow made through the nettings and jumped into the sea”, velvet on wood, 2019

Nuit Blanche Screening of The River
401 Richmond Street West, Suite 120
Saturday, October 1, 2022 8:00PM and 10:00PM

The River (1938) is a documentary film produced by the American Farm Security Administration depicting the importance of the Mississippi River to the United States. The film documents how farming and timber practices caused topsoil to be swept down the river and into the Gulf of Mexico, leading to catastrophic floods and impoverishing farmers.

In her essay “The Site of Memory,” Toni Morrison writes,

“they straightened out the Mississippi river in places, to make room for houses and livable acreage. Occasionally the river floods these places. “Floods” is the word they use, but in fact it is not flooding; it is remembering. Remembering where it used to be. All water has a perfect memory and is forever trying to get back to where it was.”

Selected by the artist, the film expands on Gardner’s interest and ongoing research into the site of the Mississippi river as an early channel for the industrial revolution and the slavery industrial complex. Gardner focuses on the aquatic landscape of the Mississippi as a tool of oppression, exploring the formation of oppositional geography with particular attention to the shore as a site of transmutation. The shores of the Mississippi and its adjoining waterways have become sites of ceremony and spiritual practice where many Black people sought liberation.

Leala Hewak, Stalactites, digital print, 2020

Small House
Leala Hewak

Exhibition Dates: September 9 – October 15, 2022
Opening Reception: September 9, 6:00 – 8:00PM

Small House depicts the interior of a 1960s Toronto home that was abandoned for five years prior to its sale. The house, located in Toronto’s Forest Hill neighbourhood which once belonged to a Rabbi and his family, was listed for sale in original condition. Leala Hewak returned to photograph the house four times as its contents were gradually removed, including for the last time on the day prior to closing the sale. For Hewak, the home and its contents’ continued existence in its original layout sits at the crack between preservationism and kitsch. This project coinciding with the agoraphobia of the Covid pandemic, marked a period of the artist turning inward in their practice and reflecting on what “home” or the interior might represent.

Leala Hewak is a Toronto-based digital artist. After a joint BFA from York University and University of Toronto, she attended law school, continuing to practise art throughout her law career. In 2004, she founded Cream Gallery in Winnipeg. In 2017, Hewak obtained an MFA in Documentary Media from Ryerson University. The recipient of multiple Ontario Arts Council/Canada Council awards, her work has been exhibited in numerous solo and group shows. In 2019 her large-scale collage installation, CLONE was selected as a featured exhibit in the Scotiabank CONTACT Photography Festival. She is a member of Toronto’s PATCH project. Her book works are available at Swipe and Art Metropole in Toronto and The Winnipeg Art Gallery and PlugIN ICA in Winnipeg. Her practice includes commissions and public art and she has mounted two outdoor installations in Toronto since 2020, Secret Fountains and DENIZENS. Her works will be featured on construction hoarding in Spring 2022 at Yonge and Davisville in Toronto. LOCH NESS, a large-scale public artwork will be installed in June 2022 at Saint John International Airport, New Brunswick, with the support of the Canada Council for the Arts.

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Gallery 44 Centre for Contemporary Photography is a charitable, non-profit, artist-run centre committed to supporting multi-faceted approaches to photography and lens-based media. Founded in 1979 to establish a supportive environment for the development of artistic practice, Gallery 44’s mandate is to provide a context for meaningful reflection and dialogue on contemporary photography.

Gallery 44 is committed to programs that reflect the continuously changing definition of photography by presenting a wide range of practices that engage timely and critical explorations of the medium. Through exhibitions, public engagement, education programs and production facilities our objective is to explore the artistic, cultural, historic, social and political implications of the image in our ever-expanding visual world.

Gallery 44 Centre for Contemporary Photography
401 Richmond Street West, Suite 120
Toronto, Ontario M5V 3A8
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