DEMO-GRAPHICS The Biennial Art Event of the Greater Toronto Area

On July 6th, the organizers of DEMO-GRAPHICS, the biennial art event of the Greater Toronto Area, held a first Think Tank in order to present the ideas behind the event and the main figures leading to its development. The think tank was successful in bringing together many of the GTA's cultural leaders, including artists, museum directors, leaders from the educational world, curators, representatives from governmental agencies and from the corporate world. The day of presentations and discussions was held in one of the GTA's most active cities, culturally speaking, Mississauga. Mayor Bonnie Crombie came in to speak of her support and enthusiasm for DEMO-GRAPHICS.

Chantal Pontbriand, Canadian curator, editor, and art consultant working internationally, will act as artistic director and curator of DEMO-GRAPHICS 1 to be held in the spring of 2017. Pontbriand spoke in detail about the ideas leading to the innovative concept she is putting forward. She first reviewed the history of international art events in the field of contemporary art, including biennials, triennials such as Manifesta, the quinquennial documenta, and other interesting historical events such as Chambres d'amis and the Munster Skulptur Project. DEMO-GRAPHICS will build on the lessons taken from that history. But mainly, it aims at rethinking the international art event phenomena and retooling it into an unprecedented concept inspired by the workings of globalization in the specific context of Canada and the GTA.  Canada has the largest immigrant population of all G8 countries (20,4%) and contains a diversity of 200 ethnic groups. Much of this phenomenon is concentrated in the GTA, the third largest economic region of North America. This creates a unique world phenomenon that impacts the arts. For this reason, DEMO-GRAPHICS will be inherently global as well as local.

The title DEMO-GRAPHICS includes dèmos, the Ancient Greek word for the public space, the place where democracy and learning is exercised.  It also includes "graphics", which refers to visuality, the visual arts and writing. Artists from the GTA, Canada and the different countries reflecting the demographic diversity of GTA will be convened to imagine projects. These will be presented in participating institutions throughout the area, including the City of Toronto. Museums, art centers, foundations, social spaces such as public libraries, schools, colleges and universities, hospitals, shops, social centers, factories, production plants, corporate headquarters, public squares and gardens, abandoned lots, as well as private homes in the GTA will constitute the multiple venues where the event will be happening. Different modes of transportation are being thought of in order to connect the venues and enable visitors to access the sites easily, considering the geographical expanse of the GTA.

On the whole DEMO-GRAPHICS, throughout its different editions will be mapping out the new geo-politics that affect the world today. Every two years, it will take the temperature of global and local issues through contemporary art practices.

Contributing to last Monday's discussion, the think tank gathered the following speakers including:

Bonnie Crombie (Mayor, City of Mississauga), Brian Crombie (Crombie Capital, Evolution Optiks), Paul Damaso (City of Mississauga, Culture Division), Dora García (artist, Barcelona), Andrew Hunter (AGO), Matthew Hyland (Oakville Galleries), Sarat Maharaj (Professor Lund University, Malmö, Sweden, and London, UK), Arshad Mahmood (Invis), Asma Mahmood (artist, director-founder of CCAI), Bernice Morrison (City of Brampton, Arts and Culture), Jérôme Poggi (Les Nouveaux Commanditaires, Paris), Chantal Pontbriand (Pontbriand W.O.R.K.S.), Mandy Salter (Art Gallery of Mississauga), Bohdan Shulakewych (Pellman Shulakewych, Macri Barristers), Yvonne Singer (Visual Arts, York University), Thomas Smart (Peel Art Gallery), Ann Webb (ROM), Gaëtane Verna (The Power Plant), and Carolyn Vesely (Ontario Arts Council).

The core group steering the development of DEMO-GRAPHICS is made up of Asma Mahmood, founder and executive director of the event, and director of CCAI and Yvonne Singer, co-director of the event, associate professor in Visual Arts at York University, together with Chantal Pontbriand as artistic director and curator of the first event, and Sarat Maharaj, curator, writer, professor, London, UK, as advisor.

CCAI (Canadian Community Arts Initiative), based in Mississauga, is developing the project with PONTBRIAND W.O.R.K.S, based in Montreal.

CCAI is a non profit organization that has successfully pioneered arts and cultural events in Mississauga such as TD Mosaic Festival, Rock the Coliseum (Indie Music Festival) and Mosaic International South Asian Film Festival.

Chantal Pontbriand was a founder of PARACHUTE contemporary art magazine in 1975 and acted as publisher/editor until 2007, publishing 125 issues. After curating several major performance events and festivals, she co-founded the FIND (Festival International de Nouvelle Danse), in Montreal and was president and director from 1982 to 2003. She was appointed Head of Exhibition Research and Development at Tate Modern in London in 2010 and more recently founded PONTBRIAND W.O.R.K.S [We_Others and myself_Research_Knowledge_Systems]. In 2013, she received the Governor General of Canada Award for an Outstanding Contribution in the Visual and Media Arts, in 2014, an Honorary Doctorate from Concordia University, Montreal, and the distinction of Officier de l'Ordre des Arts et Lettres in France.

Most recent exhibitions (selection) : Mark Lewis Above and Below, Le Bal, Paris, 2015; PER/FORM : How To Do Things with[out] Words,  CA2M, Madrid, The Yvonne Rainer Project, Jeu de Paume, Centre d’art de la Ferme du Buisson, and Palais de Tokyo, Paris, Photography performs: The Body as the Archive, Centre de photographie d’Île-de-France (CPIF), co-curated with Agency, Dora Garcia, Of Crimes and Dreams, Darling Foundry, Montreal, 2014, Mutations, Paris Photo Platform, Grand Palais, Paris, 2011, Higher Powers Command, Lhoist Collection, 2010;  HF|RG [Harun Farocki|Rodney Graham], Jeu de Paume, Paris 2009.

Recent publications (selection) : Mutations, Perspectives on Photography, Steidl/Paris Photo, 2011 ; The Contemporary, The Common : Art in A Globalizing World, Sternberg Press, Berlin, 2013; PER/FORM : How To Do Things with[out] Words, CA2M/Sternberg Press, Madrid/Berlin, 2014; PARACHUTE : The Anthology, JRP/Ringier, Zurich, 2012-2015 (4 Volumes.); I See Words, I Hear Voices, a book by Dora Garcia,  Sternberg Press, Berlin.

Website for DEMO-GRAPHICS : www.demo-graphics.net

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