Butcher Gallery is a hidden space, off the beaten path, but its new location is just the start of its unconventional nature. The brainchild of artists Brad Tinmouth, Lili Huston-Herterich (who met while studying at York University), and collaborator Kaitlin Till-Landry, Butcher is a space as experimental as the practices of its directors. Started in Till-Landry and Tinmouth's old apartment, the space is still housed in a residence, but much has changed in the year or so since its inception.
The gallery moved from what is arguably the roughest stretch of downtown Queen East, to a quirky residential lane near Dundas and Lansdowne, in late 2010. The move was partly to get out of the difficult neighbourhood, but also came simultaneously with a few changes within the gallery as well. Till-Landry left Toronto to study at SAIC, and Tinmouth and Huston-Herterich were moving in together.
Looking for a new space presented all kinds of possibilities, and while the pair considered renting a storefront for the appearance and accessibility of an "ordinary" gallery, they ended up choosing the small house at 4 Northern Place, which offered the most freedom: less interference with neighbours, and more room to expand the exhibition area. "We like living with the work that we show," says Tinmouth. Both believe that the viewers' knowledge that the gallery is also their home fosters a certain intimacy between the art and the audience.
Wall space is not the main concern--Butcher Gallery focuses on collaborative projects, installations, screenings, and happenings. "Pretty well all of our exhibitions are event-based," explains Tinmouth, which makes sense for a gallery without regular visiting hours. And, since he and Huston-Herterich are both artists, they are continually looking for ways to integrate their own practices into the shows at Butcher. "We see each exhibition as a collaboration between the artist, the space, and ourselves," says Huston-Herterich of their approach to programming.
In addition to running the gallery, both co-directors have administrative jobs in the arts: Tinmouth handles title distribution at Vtape, and Huston-Herterich co-directs gallery programming at O'Born Contemporary. Though they both acknowledge the occasional difficulties of divided energy and time, these roles both help them to finance Butcher's shoestring budget, and to glean valuable insights about gallery practices.
When the gallery started, its mandate was to exhibit the work of online artists in real-world space, but they no longer limit themselves to this. However, there is a certain pervasive reach of Internet-related themes, and a self-referential and performance aspect to much of the work. Huston-Herterich says the artists they exhibit "have a consciousness of contemporary viewing practices"; indeed, an understanding of the difference between looking at art online, and looking at art in physical space, is palpable in previous works shown at Butcher.
Plans for future projects include commissions, artworks that are thematically linked to the Dundas West neighbourhood, and international collaborations. "We don't want Butcher to become hermetic," says Tinmouth.
Installation photographs of the exhibition "Manifest Destiny," courtesy of Butcher Gallery.