“You’re Not Here”: Feminist Art Conference’s March Exhibition

One of the "Nest" series by Agnieszka Foltyn.
One of the “Nest” series by Agnieszka Foltyn.

What: You’re Not Here, an art exhibition put on by the Toronto FAC

Where: Daniels Spectrum, 585 Dundas Street East

When: March 3 (runs until March 31)

Last Tuesday, I braved the cold to attend the opening of You’re Not Here, an exhibition put on by the Toronto Feminist Art Conference (FAC) and curated by my friend Jordana. According to the FAC’s site, the objective of the group show was to invite artists to explore ideas of visibility and belonging, among many others:

“Through a range of media, including painting, photography, video and performance from over twenty-five artists, the art represents a fight to exist, to remain, and to be visible.”

"Your Eyes Yearn for More" (left) and "Seen Not Heard" by Rakhi Mutta.
“Your Eyes Yearn for More” (left) and “Seen Not Heard” by Rakhi Mutta.

The best part of viewing an exhibition that features so many artists is that you get to take in so many types of media – from photography and painting to the less common wood carvings and felt tapestries. Many of the artists also included a detailed statement that was displayed right beside the piece, which explained their creative motives and how their work relates to the overarching theme of You’re Not Here.

"Birdhouses" by Lido Pimienta.
“House” by Lido Pimienta.

The residents of Regent Park, where the Daniels Spectrum is located, have their own conflicted history with the idea of being “not here.” They were forced to move when the neighbourhood underwent major redevelopment, and then had to decide whether to relocate their families again when the transformation was complete. Tellingly, questioning where you/I belong and your/my sense of place was an underlying theme in many of the pieces.

I’ve included just a few of my favourite works in this review, but I could have easily featured a completely different selection. The artists focused on a wide range issues, such as immigration and self-identity, belonging and placelessness, gentrification, gender and femininity, societal expectations, mental illness and depression.

"Monstering," "Monstering II," "Immigrant Daughter I, and "Immigrant Daughter II" by Kaythi Rossman.
“Monstering,” “Monstering II,” “Immigrant Daughter I,” and “Immigrant Daughter II” by Kaythi Rossman.

If this seems like a rather heavy collection of ideas, it’s because it is. But viewing the seemingly disparate works together served to enrich the overall takeaway message. Each piece was clearly selected by the artists to display how one might counter any accusation or declaration of “you’re not here” – whether that’s by defiantly claiming a place here (wherever here is), by showing a quiet strength and resilience, by refusing to conform, by sustained self-reflection, or by speaking out to end an oppressive silence.

"Cyberspace Diaries" by Giselle Noelle Morgan.
“Cyberspace Diaries” by Giselle Noelle Morgan.

The opening also featured some live entertainment, including a participatory embroidery circle with Helene Vosters, a spoken word presentation by Vanessa McGowan of Wordspell Collective, and a comedy portion with hosts/performers Jess Beaulieu and Natalie Norman of Crimson Wave. People came for the art, and stuck around for the live performances (and maybe also the wine and the free snacks and the chance to socialize after such a long hibernation).

Comedy with Crimson Wave.
Comedy with Crimson Wave.

The exhibition honours International Women’s Day – which is today, March 8. Celebrate the last few hours of this day by questioning, debating, and exploring the myriad roles in society of women of all ages and nationalities, how far we’ve come and how far we have yet to go with women’s rights, and maybe even why we need to call out one day of the year for this type of reflection.

"Past and Present Past 1.1" and "Past and Present Past 1.3" by Dorota Dziong.
“Past and Present Past 1.1” and “Past and Present Past 1.3” by Dorota Dziong.

You have until March 31 to check out You’re Not Here at Daniels Spectrum. (And read Kate Fane’s more in-depth review on Torontoist if you’re not convinced this is an excellent idea.)

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