Exhibition is on view from Saturday April 1 to Saturday July 15, 2023.
Arrivals and Departures spans the three exhibition spaces at YYZ Artists’ Outlet. It is organized by Heather Nicol, an interdisciplinary artist whose practice involves working with people in a variety of ways. This project is a hybridization of her roles as an installation and sound artist, and a curator. She has invited six other artists to participate in an experiment wherein her sounds and sculptural elements create layers of connective tissue with new works they have created for the show. It is an opportunity for both artists and our audiences to contemplate boundaries, creative authorship, and exchange.
The artists in Arrivals and Departures examine transitional moments, from falling asleep to crossing the globe. Cycles of dislocation and relocation are ever-present, like the tides. Starting at birth, each day is a flow of movements and discoveries, entrances and exits. The moments of a lifetime can be understood as ever evolving arrivals. Yet each new instance can likewise be situated as a departure, right up until our unknowable final exit.
YYZ’s Window Space serves as a portal to the exhibition, featuring an image first made, and presently re-worked, by Simone Haeckel (Berlin). Circus animals are seen marching through Alexander Platz, Berlin shortly after the fall of the Wall. It is a potent evocation of events past, present and future.
The South Gallery, Arrivals, features work of four video artists from international creative-hub cities: Syrian newcomer Feras Azzam (Toronto), Janet Biggs (New York), Gerardo Montiel Klint (Mexico) and Sigrun Drapatz (Berlin). Working separately, each has taken up Nicol’s curatorial prompt: to explore the theme of arrival in the form of a video that responds to original music by the acclaimed piano artist Eve Egoyan.
Egoyan’s composition for augmented piano was performed and recorded in her Toronto studio. She contemplates her relationship with her Armenian heritage, her childhood in British Columbia, and the intergenerational legacies of her family’s escape from genocide. Nicol and the video artists have responded with still and moving images, animation, sculpture, AI, as well as additional sounds. Gamely, the video artists have inverted the typical creation relationship between moving images and sound; here, the audio is the first layer followed by the images. A baby grand piano has been subjected to Nicol’s sculptural gesture of being turned upside down. Its heft may serve as a reminder of the strains and losses of moving, while the music it emanates, a sign of perseverance.
The visual artists contributed additional sounds that Nicol augmented and mixed into a final audio score. Linked by the proximity of the projections and the sharing of sound, the artists are participating in a conversation about exchange and disruption, shifting the focus from mine to ours.
The North Gallery, Departures, is Heather Nicol’s multichannel audio zone that features songs sung to lull children to sleep, or songs sung at bedside or graveside for easing the passage from this world. Her immersive listening and resting zone welcomes, rather than wishes away, sonic overlaps with Paths. Over many years, Nicol has recorded songs selected from the personal histories of friends and family, performers, fellow artists, as well as refugee and immigrant youth and newcomer mothers. Through the overlapping and intersecting of such diverse voices and traditions, Departures invites critical questions about cross-cultural encounters in an age of globalization; notions of nationhood, migration and borders from the perspective of the Global South; and the roles of family traditions and caregivers.
Heather Nicol is a multidisciplinary artist based in Toronto whose practice includes immersive sound installation, performance and participatory actions, sculpture, and independent curating. Her large-scale site-specific interventions explore the architectural, sonic, historic and operational conditions across a wide range of locations, many of which are decommissioned, including concourse atriums, rail terminus, lobbies, a theatre, a public school building, a theme park, and a sweat shop. Her artworks and curatorial projects explore themes of social engagement, multivocality, memory, and intersectionality. Her work has been exhibited in Canada, USA, France and Germany. Recent projects include “September Song,” at the Harbourfront Centre Theatre, Toronto, and “Mary, Anne, Joan” at the National Arts Centre / Centre National des Arts, Ottawa.
Eve Egoyan is an internationally celebrated artist whose medium is the piano. She tours internationally, travelling to Armenia in spring 2023. Eve continually re-invents her relationship with her instrument through the creation and commissioning of new works. She has recorded twelve solo CDs. Her theatrical performance project, SOLO FOR DUET (a virtuosic mix of sound, image, and unspoken narrative challenging traditional conceptions of piano and pianist) premiered at the Luminato Festival and has subsequently toured internationally. The feature film ‘Duet for Solo Piano’ (2020) by filmmaker Su Rynard explores an intimate portrait of Eve (https://lefifa.com/en/catalog/duet-for-solo-piano). Eve is selected by the CBC as one of the 25 greatest Canadian classical pianists of all time.
Janet Biggs is a research based, interdisciplinary artist known for her immersive work in video, film and performance. Biggs’ work focuses on individuals in extreme landscapes or situations, navigating the territory between art, science and technology. Her work has taken her into areas of conflict and to Mars (as a member of crews at the Mars Desert Research Station and Mars Academy USA). Biggs has worked with institutions from NOAA to NASA and CERN. She has collaborated with high energy nuclear physicists, neuroscientists, Arctic explorers, aerospace engineers, astrophysicists and a robot named Shimon. Recently, Biggs sent a project up to the International Space Station as part of MIT Media Lab’s Space Exploration Initiative. In addition to videos, her work includes multi-discipline performances, often including multiple large-scale videos, live musicians, athletes, and artificial intelligence.
Biggs’ work has been experienced in solo exhibitions and film screenings across five continents. She is the recipient of numerous grants and awards including the 2018 John Simon Guggenheim Foundation fellowship. She lives in New York.
Simone Haekel is a Berlin based photographer and video artist. Her interest lays in sites, people and human action beyond the visible. In her work she examines the aspirations and dreams of humans and the state of humanity as such, beyond its outer physique. By using documentary techniques she draws topographies of the desires and realities of children and adults.
She has presented her work in numerous solo shows, group exhibitions and festivals in venues like the Viper/ Internationales Festival for Film, Video and new Media, Basel, Switzerland and EMAF/ European Media Art Festival at Osnabrück, Germany, Museum Salzburg, Austria, Gallery 1Shanthiroad, Bangalore, India, Torrance Art Museum, Los Angeles, USA. Her work is represented in collections Germany, Switzerland and Hong Kong. She is a member of SCOTTY, an independent project space for contemporary art and experimental media in Berlin.
Feras Azzam is a Syrian film director, now residing in Canada. He worked in the field of video and photography on Syria’s official TV for 15 years. He has filmed historical documentaries, TV shows, and series. His first film, The Simple Trace of Memory, was screened at the Damascus International Festival in 2008. The film “Goodby Syria” was recently shown as part of “Music Speaks Art’s” a Syrian cinema event at the Todmorden Museum in Toronto. He has directed a series of five short animation films since leaving his worn torn nation: Goodbye Syria, The City, Levelling, The Chair, and The Inception. He employs the art of recycling to create vignettes, and creates characters out of clay and paste for manual animation. His stories are drawn from Syrian reality, and revolve around war, fear, loss and the journey to search for salvation.
Gerardo Montiel Klint is photographer, teacher, curator and columnist, and a Product Designer from the Universidad Iberoamericana, Mexico. He is interested in confronting the photographic image as a phenomenon of ideological transition and its repercussions on the public imaginary. His professional activity, always around photography and image, oscillates between the exhibitions of his work, curatorship and theoretical production.
He is part of the advisory committee of EXIT magazine (Spain), advisor to the San Diego Museum of Photographic Arts MOPA 2013-2017 (USA), member of the advisory board of the magazine Alquimia (Sistema Nacional de Fototecas), Member of the advisory board of the Pedro Meyer Foundation and FotoMuseo CuatroCaminos (Mexico). His work belongs to museum collections in Mexico, USA, Denmark, China, and Japan. He is based in Mexico City.
Sigrun Drapatz is a visual artist based in Berlin, who also works as a curator and community organizer. She works on the topics of historical narratives, religion and migration though a variety of mediums, including drawing, video, photography, and programming events and exhibitions. She uses written, spoken, and transcribed language in works that are often site-specific, and involve community engagement.
Sigrun recently returned from the Spazju Kreattiv artists residency in Gozo and Malta, the location of her fictitious narrative for Arrivals and Departures. She is a member of SCOTTY, an independent project space for contemporary art and experimental media in Berlin.