ELEVENTEEN

curatorial statement

For 11 years, TSG has celebrated Queer and Trans artist magic through a 2 month in person exhibition with accompanying public programs and an opening event held at the Gladstone Hotel between June and August. TSG aims to showcase art by, for, and about LGBTTI2QQ creators, with a particular focus on artists on the margins of these communities — QTBIPOC artists, crip/disabled artists, Mad artists, migrant artists, youth artists and so forth. These artist projects interrupt the idea of a homogeneous queer community and re-imagines what it means to talk about our lived experiences as artists from a diversity of backgrounds.

 

This year, I’d begun planning for our 11th show — a queer take on the concept of anniversary, celebrating our 11th year with fanfare. In my planning I had invited an exciting mix of alumni and new artists and we were looking forward to working and exploring together. We applied for and received funding from the Toronto Arts Council (Thank you to the TAC for supporting this exhibition and programming!).

 

And then the unthinkable struck — a global pandemic, shut downs, stress, and worry. We were all so rocked by this rapid system collapse — the arts milieu struggled, artists were out of work everywhere. And, yet at the same time so much magic began to happen. We steadily witnessed a rise in community building, collective care, mutual aid and people coming together to cry out, “We take care of each other”. Examples were everywhere of artists supporting each other, organizing in their communities, building on their past and ongoing work.

 

And here at TSG we continued planning, getting ready for some kind of Pride summer online gathering. 

 

And then the violence happened — not new, but part of the ongoing targeting by police of Black and Indigenous communities. New unequivocal evidence that we did, indeed, have a problem with policing — as the deaths mounted. George Floyd, Regis Korchinski-Paquet, Chantal Moore, the names rolled in. And then there was the shooting of Jacob Blake, and then the acquittal verdict in the case of the police who killed Breonna Taylor. It seemed relentless. 

 

We poured in the streets and we resisted from our beds and homes and we cried out again that WE TAKE CARE OF EACH OTHER. We would take care of each other, not the state, but us, one on one and community to community. We were committing to revolutionary change and community safety. 

 

And we continued making art. Envisioning change and new worlds. Dreaming up new realities, together. 

 

We have spent the last several months reflecting on this moment in history — this time like no other. Perhaps this is the best time to reflect back on 11 years and to imagine a future that is so much freer than our current reality. Eleventeen draws its name from Black folk/punk singer Kimya Dawson’s song about coming of age, and is a chance to consider memory, archives and the past as a way of understanding and dreaming about futures that don't yet exist. 

 

The artists in this show have put together incredible work, reflections and considerations. I am so thankful to Cease Wyss, Christopher Rodrigues, Darryl DeAngelo Terrell, Elizabeth Sweeney, Hannah Jickling and Helen Reed, Ifetayo Alabi, Jenna Reid, Kyisha Williams, PUFF Paddy, Raven Davis, and Rojelio Palacios for sharing their work with us. We are also joined by the first two curators of TSG: Elisha Lim and Sholem Krishtalka who have both contributed essays to this site. Thank you for your work innovating this exhibition and for these crucial reflections. 

 

We are launching on the day of an incredible planetary alignment — one not seen for hundreds if not thousands of years. It is in this meeting of the cosmos, this magical alignment of star dust and solar rays that we can dream our wildest Octavia Butler-style dreams. We can be connected to all that has come before us and all that stretches out into the future. Octavia asked us to touch change. To shape it. And in doing so we create possibility for life for all of us on the margins. We can do this work. We can imagine creative, abolitionist, and radically queer futures. 

 

Thank you again to the Toronto Arts Council for supporting this work. Thank you to Roxanne Fernandes for building us this beautiful site to share these works. 

 

Thank you to all of you for engaging with us. We look forward to meeting together again in person in the soon times. For now we wish you hope and justice and joy and love. Please join us this winter for an online artist talk, and some virtual programming!


 

Syrus Marcus Ware

about the curator

Syrus Marcus Ware
He/Him
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Syrus is a Vanier Scholar, visual artist, activist, curator and educator. Syrus uses painting, installation and performance to explore social justice frameworks and Black activist culture. His work has been shown widely, including in a solo show at Grunt Gallery, Vancouver in 2018 (2068:Touch Change), for the 2019 Toronto Biennial of Art and the Ryerson Image Centre (Antarctica and Ancestors, Do You Read Us? (Dispatches from the Future)), for the Bentway’s Safety in Public Spaces Initiative in 2020 (Radical Love) and in group shows at the Art Gallery of Ontario, the University of Lethbridge Art Gallery, Art Gallery of York University, the Art Gallery of Windsor and as part of the curated content at Nuit Blanche 2017 (The Stolen People; Won't Back Down).  His performance works have been part of festivals across Canada, including at Cripping The Stage (Harbourfront Centre, 2016, 2019), Complex Social Change (University of Lethbridge Art Gallery, 2015) and Decolonizing and Decriminalizing Trans Genres (University of Winnipeg, 2015).

He is part of the PDA (Performance Disability Art) Collective and co-programmed Crip Your World: An Intergalactic Queer/POC Sick and Disabled Extravaganza as part of Mayworks 2014. Syrus' recent curatorial projects include, Re:Purpose (Robert McLaughlin Gallery, 2014) and The

Church Street Mural Project (Church-Wellesley Village, 2013). Syrus is also co-curator of The Cycle, a two-year disability arts performance initiative of the National Arts Centre. Syrus has been curating That’s So Gay at the Gladstone Hotel since 2014, with the 2020 exhibition appearing online (tsgexhibition.com). 

 

Syrus is a core-team member of Black Lives Matter - Toronto. Syrus is a co-curator of Blackness Yes!/Blockorama. Syrus has won several awards, including the TD Diversity Award in 2017. Syrus was voted “Best Queer Activist” by NOW Magazine (2005) and was awarded the Steinert and Ferreiro Award (2012). Syrus is a PhD candidate at York University in the Faculty of Environmental Studies and an Associate Professor in the School of the Arts (Theatre and Film Studies) at McMaster University.

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This project was generously supported by the Toronto Arts Council. Thank you so much! #poweredbytheTAC