Born Out of Pleasure

Exhibition at The Power Plant
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Curated by Senior Curator of Programs, Helena Reckitt
20 September–2 November, 2008
A ten day project (and six week show) with an event series, involving an out of town artist, and various local people, translated into cake form, with photographs, text descriptions.  Another title could have been: It Will Just Lead To Disappointment

Harrell Fletcher , Augusto Bastos, Thomas Brandt, Sean Frey, Hannah Miami Jickling, Alison SM Kobayashi, Helen Reed, Kerri Reid, Kristin Shaw, Swintak, Maiko Tanaka, Amy Wah, and Karen Wielonda, Darren O’Donnell

Harrell Fletcher has always enjoyed making art with other people, especially those outside the art world.  This September, Fletcher invited six Toronto-based artists, who in turn invited six people who don’t identify as artists, to devise an exhibition from scratch together. The group includes a lawyer, a mathematician, a baker, a computer engineer, a puppeteer and clown, and an economist and former Angolan freedom fighter, as well as six artists who work in various media.  Over the course of ten days, participants bicycled, walked and even boated around Toronto, encountering people, places and objects that shaped the exhibition’s form and content.

Creative decisions were reached through a process of discussion, if not always consensus, with group members’ skills and experiences informing the project’s direction.  For instance, Karen Wielonda’s expertise as a baker stimulated the use of cakes as a sculptural element and commemorative device, while the lemon-shaped cake derived from mathematician Kristin Shaw’s lecture about geometry and infinity. An accompanying lecture series presents individuals that the group encountered speaking on a range of subjects from surviving traffic accidents to the study of medical herbalism.

Contrasting with stereotypical ideas about the isolated, introspective artist, the project presents a down-to-earth picture of the artist as outward-looking and sociable, a facilitator rather than an auteur.  For Fletcher, a self-described ‘shy person,’ this way of working diverts attention away from him towards other people whose experiences and accomplishments are generally not celebrated in public.

The title ‘Born out of Pleasure’ (taken from a group member’s account of his conception) captures the project’s emphasis on spontaneity and chance. Treading a fine line between amateurism and professionalism, sentimentality and seriousness, the project values the activities of people from all walks of life and evokes a sense of collective learning and knowledge. Within this context, the creative impulse is less about originality than with adapting existing resources, or, as Fletcher says, “pointing to things that I think are interesting so that other people will notice and appreciate them too.” The world is full of drama, intrigue and complexity, the exhibition suggests, if only we take the time to stop, listen and look.

—Helena Reckitt, Senior Curator of Programs