Museumglitcher, May 18, 2022

I've been trying to reconcile my individual voice with my institutional voice. 

This difference has long been engrained in me: beginnings with my Venetian dialect Italian mother-tongue at home; English at school; and into adulthood balancing a DIY art practice and aesthetic centered mostly on words and images and the coming together to make, largely unhindered by economic or cultural differences; to an institutional dialogue that has privileged the well-to-do, upper-ruling-class, of which I am in service. 

And yet there are far more identities, or tentacles as described by Donna Haraway in her book, Staying With the Trouble (2016), that I embody and that further entangle me to being read, reading; being produced or used and using, that suggest a different space altogether from which I could operate fulsomely in the present. I was introduced to the first Chapter of Haraway’s book by Ivetta Sunyoung Kang, the AGO’s 2022 spring artist-in-residence, who engaged 6 friends in a virtual game of string figures across continents for her residency research and work. 

Haraway writes, 

String figures are like stories; they propose and enact patterns for participants to inhabit, somehow, on a vulnerable and wounded earth…SF is a sign for science fiction, speculative feminism, science fantasy, speculative fabulation, science fact, and also, string figures. Playing games of string figures is about giving and receiving patterns, dropping threads and failing but sometimes finding something that works, something consequential and maybe even beautiful, that wasn’t there before, of relaying connections that matter, of telling stories in hand upon hand, digit upon digit, attachment site upon attachment site, to craft conditions for finite flourishing on terra, on earth. String figures require holding still in order to receive and pass on. String figures can be played by many, on all sorts of limbs, as long as the rhythm of accepting and giving is sustained. Scholarship and politics are like that too – passing on in twists and skeins that require passion and action, holding still and moving, anchoring and launching. (2016, p. 10)

And it is in this moment – three precise moments, where my determination to keep my many selves begins to crumble in favor of SF: these 60 photos that I am writing through ended with the final in February, 10 months from the first image. There was only a feeling upon visiting the pool after that February visit, where it felt almost like the pool and I said we were done with walking photos. Over the following months I thought about how much my knowledge had expanded in my first year of doctoral studies, and that I turned back to the AGO to ask what this pool had to do with the museum. And while I believe that the politics of civic space and of the public museum are different, they both must nonetheless aspire to being in dialogue or engagement with people and land upon which they sit, or as Haraway suggests, with Terrapolis, critters, and their stories (Haraway, 2016, p.10). As I considered this further, I began to imagine the AGO’s central space, Walker Court, as a


Indeed, one descends down a small number of stairs into the open court, sun filled by natural skylights. I am reminded of the baths in Budapest, decorative and political, and I am also reminded of the colonnade’s inner fa├žade that once erroneously named indigineous people. Today it is host to colourful drum paintings, Seven Grandfathers (2014), by Robert Houle. Flanking this strange pool’s outer perimeter walls are streams of donor names facing outward, or away from the pool (they would be left of the image, noting column on left lined with Douglas fir wood). Looking into the pool are an array of sculptural representations of animals, people – including Johnny Cash -- and fantastical creatures by artists of Inuit background.  This panoramic image is not the first I made of Walker Court beginning in April. However, this “Mediterranean” blue (an in-camera glitch evoking my own familiarity with Venezia and the Veneto in Italy) offers a new imagining of museum story. It becomes the image with which I can frame myself as storyteller, or more playfully perhaps, as museum glitcher.  

This May, I was joined by my two AGO colleagues, and my two friends in Venezia for La Biennale. Themed “The Milk of Dreams,” foundational Surrealist artists who identified as women and whom were marginalized from the central narrative of the movement, were centered nearly 100 years since Surrealism was established as an art movement. A lower level room in the central pavilion of the Giardini, a golden carpeted room, buffering noise, creating a sanctuary, or another pool in my worlding, became a way to weave through novel readings of contemporary practices inclusive of my own, which has largely insisted on surrealist practice and knowledge making. 

Over 5 days we spent countless hrs looking at art with surrealist undertones and over-the-topness too, such as Naomi Rincon Gallardo’s Vermin Sonnett at Mexico’s Pavilion, described by the artist as a “manifesto for unwanted species” (Rinaldi, April 19, 2022, Venice Biennale: Attacking Mexico, With Mexico’s Approval, New York Times). The art from Mexico and other Pavilions fanned out from this deep time capsular space, intermingling with locally sourced fish and vegetables for supper, while receiving sonic fragments of my native language, and acting as a playful translator for friends and colleagues well versed in both food and art, and easily received by our Italian English-speaking hosts catering to tourists from around the world. 

I also visited my family, staying with my aunt Carla and uncle Carlo, paying respects at my local cemetery for those who have passed since my last visit 3 years back. This intimate assemblage of people, voices, smells, tastes both familiar and surprising, suggest a way to live in the present.
This coming year marks the 60th anniversary of bi-lateral relations between Korea and Canada. The Korean Cultural Centre in Canada issued a call for curatorial projects to mark this occasion. I proposed a project with Ivetta Sunyoung Kang, whom I just met following a jury selection within the AGO for our 2022 AGO X RBC Artist-In-Residence program, and Paul Hong (my life partner) and Jake Kennedy. 

Kang’s work entitled Proposition 2: Index (2020-), is a re-indexing of maybes found within National Geographic Magazine between 1986-2000. Hong and Kennedy’s work, entitled Mr. Cho Stayed for Tea (2020-), is inspired by 33 farm journals of Mary Stewart, a woman living in Southwest Ontario, written between 1923-56. Her journals, bequeathed to Kennedy, leads the writers on a sleuthing journey to piece together the life of Mr. Cho who appears rather surprisingly amongst the entries (what’s a Korean fella doing in Canada before the war?). These indexes, and fragments of living, offer ways to tell new stories, and more importantly, for us four to entangle ourselves in geo-cultural pasts…. And to make something new, perhaps beautiful, together. 

This exhibition will be presented in September, 2022, and here too my selves collapse as I play curator outside my institutional framework, albeit entangling Kang in an inside AGO/outside AGO proposition. Furthermore, Hong is my life partner and this new entanglement of private/public space becomes both thrilling and risking perception that  I am breaking the roles of institutional distance, voice and/or propriety. 

This is where I begin to think that it is in my reframing of my own selves -- my extended tentacular entanglement -- and my ability to make with artists, audiences, people, communities in me, that has also the possibility to further inform and transform the museum in which I work. What does “nothing for us without us” impart for instance, through a disability lens, where privilege becomes multi-dimensional and perspectival? What does co-creation allay when a design idiom is applied to museum studies? What does it mean to be a practicing artist working in a museum? And what does a sustainable give and receive really feel like? 

glitch15, nov 24, 2021, may 21, 2022

text, june 10, 2022