New Exhibition: Centre for Incidental Activisms (CIA)

Art Gallery of York University Announces Winter 2016 Exhibition Program
December 7, 2015

AGYU begins 2016 changed. From 4 January – 6 March, AGYU hosts the third iteration of the Centre for Incidental Activisms (CIA) and things certainly don’t look the same as they did five years ago when we set out on this adventure. CIA#3 opens with a free public reception on Wednesday 6 February, from 6 – 9 pm, the halfway point of this experimental project.

In 2011, CIA #1, we set out to performatively examine a question at stake in contemporary artistic and curatorial practice. Instead of creating an exhibition about politically engaged and activist practices, we created a centre through which to enact politics and embrace activism. In 2014, CIA#2, we looked to collaboration across disciplines and practices – from choreography to publishing to spoken word to dance to architecture and object play – to understand how new techniques might improvise a different scenario inside the gallery space and loosen the distinctions in-between the genres of our programming. This time we ask: How do we move from grieving into dreaming into action?

For this iteration, Radiodress, Greg Staats, and Syrus Marcus Ware bring a grassroots approach to sharing information and community healing. CIA #3 focuses on the importance of ritual and shared cultural traditions to interrogate and build new knowledge structures while simultaneously recuperating and reinventing these techniques and traditions. The artists mine family archives and cultural histories bringing forward sacred symbols and mnemonic devices to construct portraits and uncover new narratives. A full list of CIA #3 events and programmes can be found at

A beginning: Radiodress leads ritual baths, Mikvot, as a contemporary tradition she is co-creating. She offers MKV in the adjacent garden as a comforting and transformative marker of life shifts, specifically for queer and trans-identified people. Ritual sounds are returned to the gallery through a meandering system of audio vibrations as healing enters the gallery space as a form of renewal and generosity.

Meanwhile … Greg Staats unpacks Onkwehonwe civilization with research that includes the restraint/constraint of cultural behaviour from the personal to the land-based remnants of memory and phenomena. He’s working with aerial views of land gleaned from the Ontario Archives at YorkU, making connections with the Aboriginal Student Association, the Department of Photography, and inviting members of the Six Nations of the Grand River Territory into the CIA #3.

Over here… Syrus Marcus Ware brings the classroom into the gallery by drawing on a YorkU course he’s teaching around environmental justice, prisoners’ justice and abolition-based activism. Syrus moves his Love Letters to Activists project/performance in new directions, adding to his growing archive of drawings.

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