XPACE is one of the more recent victims of Ossington's rapid gentrification, having closed its doors at the end of last year due to rent increases. Thankfully, it did, however, reopen again this February in new digs near Dundas and Landsdowne. Previously the home of Vinh Hoa Bakery and Restaurant, XPACE's current location promises lower rents, a larger space and a much longer lease to ensure that its innovative programming can continue for years to come.
Founded in 2004, XPACE was originally located in Kensington Market before it made its way to Ossington. Over its numerous relocations, it's remained a non-profit, non-commercial gallery, funded entirely by the OCADU Student Union and programmed by its alumni. Typically, XPACE's exhibitions highlight local, emerging artists who are making waves within the larger artistic community, while maintaining short exhibitions runs allow it to "respond to contemporary issues in theory and aesthetics, keeping an up to the minute response to what is going on directly in our community," as reads its mandate.
Of course, current students are a major presence within the centre. When artist students from OCADU display at XPACE, they're provided with support system that follows them throughout the exhibition process. Ultimately, their work is displayed alongside those of more established and international artists, placing their work in a professional context that goes far beyond the typical student gallery experience. Volunteers from the student body staff the centre, ensuring that even students in the curatorial programs get valuable hands-on experience.
When I first paid a visit to XPACE two weeks ago, I arrived just in time to catch the end of the centre's spring programming. Though it had to jockey for attention on a strip blazoned with amateur graffiti tags and massive Tim Horton's billboards, Ella Dawn McGeough's stunning window display "Blinded By the Light" commanded attention. Formed by a collage of seemingly endless layers of holographic patterns, its kaleidoscopic effects were altered by how the viewer moved to catch the light. Inside, Laura McCoy's sculptures reworked mundane materials into a compelling challenge to traditional gallery displays and aesthetics.
Of course, XPACE's rapid exhibition lengths mean that they're now already well on to the next batch of shows. When I paid my visit, XPACE hosted work from local darlings VSVSVS , a film from Videofag founders Jordan Tannahill and William Christopher Ellis, and a group show curated by David Hanes on cultural identity and individuality in an increasingly digitalised world. As always, it looks to be a diverse lineup that shows the full breadth of Toronto's artistic output.
Of anything that survived the move, I'm most happy to see the Zine Library alive and thriving. The brainchild of artist and illustrator Alicia Nauta (who's also responsible for founding the OCAD Zine Library), XPACE's collection of literary miscellany now can now be found embedded within the custom-built bookshelf/couch hybrid that resides against a wall in the gallery's main space. It's cozy enough that one easily spend an hour or two perusing the work, all the while listening to selections from the Boogie Woogie Mix Tape Library, a curated sound project in which themed mix tapes are provided alongside the requisite Walkmans.
Though the new location is certainly spacious, I've got to admit that the basement of the Ossington place was a major loss. Its eerie vibe contributed a lot to the works displayed, and it was a great venue to catch a play. Most memorably (though Google is failing me right now), I caught a fantastically immersive installation that transformed the entire downstairs into a veritable forest, complete with artificial trees, bonfire, and woodland creatures.
Now that XPACE has joined fellow Ossington expats TPW, MKG127, and Art Metropole, its clear that Toronto's traditional art crawl has found a totally new path. One can only hope that with the establishment of this "new Ossington," the condos take a little longer to roll in.
Photos by Lindsay Lauckner
Game Night with Golboo Amani
Join us for our first game night facilitated by artist Golboo Amani. You are invited to play, laugh, and connect while reflecting on how board games generate very specific platforms for familial and social bonding. Come and experience the inherent differences in collaborative and competitive play!
Cash Bar and snacks will be provided.
This event is free, all are welcome.
Image by: Ochopika
It is my interest in pedagogical practices that led me to think about games as sites of peer-produced aesthetic experiences. One of the oldest leisure activities, designed to develop skills of strategy through social engagement, games are sites where social practice and pedagogy collide. Games are performative spaces that condition very particular skills like team building, developing strategies and assessing risk. Having found infinite ways to discipline ourselves through practice and rigor, games recognize competitive co-operative spaces as sites for social pedagogy and performance analysis. Game space is a virtual landscape that allows us to perform in ways we wouldn't in real life. Often games require of us to take great risks, cut our losses and enhance our competitive drive with less at stake than real life. Many of the strategies employed within the field of knowledge production are related to games, which are effectively used as teaching aids and tools for conditioning field specific skills. As we become more and more proficient at the games we play we must ask ourselves, what narratives are we accepting by engaging with these games? What skills are we enhancing by playing the rules of the game?