“…between two beings across great distance.”
January 7 — February 19, 2022
Trinity Square Video
By Katie Lawson
Those who are a part of artistic communities and actively participate in the work of the artist, curator, or critic, know very well that the presentation of one’s work is merely the tip of the iceberg when below the surface of the water is a matrix of relationships that inform the ‘final’ product.
I know about hidden things is a collaborative project initiated by writer and curator Letticia Cosbert Miller which foregrounds Filipina-Canadian artist Juliane Foronda’s ongoing research concerning feminist hospitality, radical care, and traditions of gathering. The exhibition took place at Trinity Square Video in Toronto from January 7—February 19, 2022, yet lives on through its accompanying publication, an art object in and of itself. Foronda and Cosbert Miller invited Danica Evering, Camille Georgeson-Usher, Karina Griffith, and Ronald Rose-Antoinette to become entangled in the process of the exhibition’s making, meeting regularly in the development of the work. Each collaborator would produce contemporaneously a text to accompany the work, not as didactic works of criticism but as a manifestation of a network of relationships based on symbiosis. The artworks in the exhibition consider the role of physical, emotional, and ephemeral support structures, the concealed labour of care and hospitality in spaces and so-called inanimate objects. The texts that make up the printed edition become a support structure for the visitor, a generous gesture that welcomes the reader into a collective dialogue.
This approach to publication embodies feminist practices of lateral citation: to cite one’s peers, friends, cohort, and colleagues rather than citing upwards, towards a hierarchy of ‘legitimized’ scholarship, making visible the de-centered labour within artistic communities that so often goes unrecognized in the ‘final’ presentation of exhibitions or artworks. The printed edition that accompanied the show compels me to think about publication as a form of democratic dissemination, which opens this network of relationships to those who in turn hold and care for and think alongside an artist, curator, or critic. The texts are packaged in a sculptural bundle, with each writer’s contribution taking a distinct design, material quality, and typographic form. What holds this bundle together is a thoughtfully folded shell, which has the primary descriptive exhibition text and checklist on it in an embossed pink that I found myself running my hands over as I walked around the gallery with it in my hands. Foronda’s work becomes the literal and figurative container or carrier bag for the contributions held within.
I was struck by a phrase in Ronald Rose-Antoinette’s contribution that points towards an atmosphere diffused through a workshop held by Foronda, “the function of which is to betray the totality power wants us to recite.” Power might be understood as predicated on notions of totality and singular authorship, ways of working that are rejected even within the context of what is ostensibly a solo exhibition for the artist, sharing that space with those deeply engaged in the process of its very making. Rose-Antoinette’s ‘Support the Notes’ is a series of poetic fragments that dance across double-sided peach paper, with a deep yet vibrant blue serif text. It feels atmospheric and ethereal, with a level of subtlety embodied in two of Foronda’s works that, in particular, speak softly: magic hour and valuable and flawed. magic hour consists of two barely-there projections of past light rainbows, aimed at the infrastructural supports of the TSV space, reminiscent of the reflections of light that might dance across a room with the shifting sun. valuable and flawed uses small quantities of wood, paper, stone, and tape which take the form of makeshift wedges in the minor space between the floor and the base of the eastern wall. These two works draw the eye around the architecture of Trinity Square Video, with its tactile delights and quirks as a post-industrial space with historic resonances. How is the space of the gallery its own structure of support?
One can feel held by a space or a place, after all, as Camille Georgeson-Usher reminds us in ‘On being elsewhere – these archives of guilt.’ Perhaps the most narrative in form of the text contributions, she describes the embodied experience of returning home, to Galiano Island, and how that immersion allows her to feel deeply across time, deep time, feeling the remnants of care from ancestors in the trees, the water, and air. Across this long, narrow yellow paper, which folds down into a square, Georgeson-Usher wonders how to contend with feelings of guilt, getting lost, and displacement. Questions of reciprocity arise in reading this work alongside Foronda’s exhibition. If a place, a space, or a so-called inanimate object can provide and impart care, who cares for them in return?
The spoon is an object that Foronda returns to in her practice and finds its way into the exhibition through unit of measure, a series of plaster casts from the concave bowl of spoons. More specifically, spoons that were used during a residency at MeetFactory in Prague in Fall 2021. Their smooth, ambiguous forms rest on a low lying plinth painted the same soothing peach tone as the feature wall of the gallery. The spoon in its shape and function is not so different from using one’s own hands in sharing and consuming a meal, a practice that is common outside of Western dining traditions. Beneath the surface of this work, I am reminded of how place settings can carry colonial coding and inscriptions of race and class. Karina Griffith’s Did you lay the table? Yes, I set the table consists of a pale manila, single-sided half sheet of paper with deep purple sans serif text, a series or list of eighteen ‘rules embedded into traditions of drinking, dining, and hosting.
Danica Evering offers a series of text fragments, which literally unfold across the many-paneled, accordion-creased paper, which when collapsed fits in the palm of the hand, much like Foronda’s spoon casts. In one panel, Evering wonders how the ephemeral becomes solid, how “plaster makes this archive tender.” The vibrant green text on soft grey paper draws in quotes from Eugenie Waters, Mark Clintberg, Jennifer Doyle, and Tegan Jones, serving as a further expansion of the matrix of relationships held within this project. This contribution takes up aspects of Foronda’s work most literally or explicitly, as aspects of the exhibition come in and out of focus—the false sense of security given by the examination table paper, a direct response to the work coping mechanisms, and questions of harm and harm reduction. There is only one panel that has the text rotated 90 degrees to the left which strikes me as an outlier, and it reads: “between two beings across great distance.”
I have to remind myself that I know about hidden things went from concept to realization during a time of pandemic and isolation, with Foronda, Cosbert-Miller, Rose-Antoinette, Griffith, Georgeson-Usher, and Evering working virtually across great distances. It is no small feat that their collaboration feels so intimate and deeply connected. There is a warmth and tactility to both the exhibition and the publication that draw the visitor in, much like a good host. Is feminist hospitality an attempt to close or narrow that distance between us?
I feel compelled to mention my own personal connection with Foronda, who I feel very grateful to have had in my life as a friend and peer over the last six years. We met just before she moved to Iceland for her MFA, and what would follow was a period of writing one another lengthy emails and letters that moved between the personal and professional. We would send what others might deem the ‘scraps’ of our day-to-day life across oceans as a part of our growing ongoing long-distance kinship—rocks, dried flowers, transit stubs, and exhibitions pamphlets scrawled with notes, home-mixed spice blends, confetti, stickers, pins, postcards, a carefully selected stamp, a packet of dehydrated sourdough starter. We are both collectors, or hoarders, of curious objects and thoughts. I have been grateful to move between guest and host in this enduring exchange, and I can’t help but imagine the many copies of the I know about hidden things publication existing out in the world, a gift and care package from Foronda. In a part of a recent interview in Contemporary Art Stavanger, a quote from Foronda has stayed with me, that captures the ethos behind her practice, this project, and an unending process of being in relation has stayed with me: “The research alone will only go so far if it’s not shared.”
Foronda, Juliane. “Interview: Juliane Foronda” Contemporary Art Stavanger, November 23, 2021. https://www.contemporaryartstavanger.no/interview-juliane-foronda/
You can also find this review in the second print issue of Femme Art Review on Queer and Feminist Collaboration.