Maiko Tanaka

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Maiko Tanaka

Maiko Tanaka is curator of Public Programs at InterAccess. She has held curatorial positions with the Justina M. Barnicke Gallery, Casco—Office for Art, Design and Theory in Utrecht and produced numerous independent curatorial projects. Maiko received her BFA from OCAD in 2006 and completed a Master’s of Visual Studies from the University of Toronto. In 2013 she wrote a column for FUSE magazine on the political economy of public programming in contemporary art. These days Maiko is co-editing the publication, The Grand Domestic Revolution Handbook with Binna Choi and is co-developing workshops, a screening series, new artworks and a publication around the problematic concept of the “Model Minority” as a member of Gendai Gallery’s board and programming committee.


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Hart House 2007–2010
  •  Technical Coordinator and Curatorial Assistant for Projections, Justina M. Barnicke Gallery 2007–2008
  • Curator-in-residence, Justina M. Barnicke Gallery 2008–2010
  • Advisory member of Art Committee Education & Outreach Sub-committee and  2008–2010


“The committee structure of Hart House is really unique. The Education sub-committee runs like a student-run collective that shares work in researching, communicating and programming events related to contemporary art and professional development. I got to meet many students with different interests—some were coming from studio, others from history and some weren’t studying art at all—yet they were curious about what goes on behind the scenes at galleries and wanted to experience the process of programming. Some highlights include a panel on the lesser-known trajectories that can be taken in the master’s program in the Arts and inviting emerging arts writer Minna Lee and local Toronto performance artist Annie Onnie Chung to discuss the exhibition that was happening at the gallery as well as Will Kwan’s Multi-lateral, curated by Barbara Fischer. The latter created a nice physical discursive effect, having the audience travel between Will’s work in the gallery and his installation in the Great Hall. That was another feature of Hart House that was a part of my work as curator-in-residence. I enjoyed that process.”



Cultural Politics

“With the kind of work I was doing around cultural politics and alternative education, you need to know something about the places or communities that you are working in. How to get to know the place in a way that is meaningful and where the process can be productive or tap into its inherent participatory nature, not in a bureaucratic way, not in a top-down or a statistical way. I think that because Hart House has such a long history of having so many different kinds of groups coming through and having different programming, it could seem overwhelming. The challenge is finding your method of research, getting to know your surroundings and starting to make connections between things, such as artwork, people and collective memories, and not through preconceived ideas about community or generic programming about what should happen in a place. It’s even necessary to architecturally understand how to work with a space.”


Spaces and Social Memories

All the types of rooms, histories and moods, artworks and eras, lighting and sound quality in Hart House—it takes a while to understand the infrastructure of the place, but then it feels kind of like home. I think that’s the potential of Hart House, too, though the spaces and social memories of the place. I think it’s amazing to be able to draw from that. It’s not just a generic banquet hall or conference room or hotel where you can rent things and there isn’t a history tied to it. You can’t escape the history at Hart House because it’s so embedded in the architecture and even within the names of things.”



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Maiko Tanaka Project Highlights


Instructional Tapes by Artists (2007)

“I was part of the curatorial team for Night School, the Justina M. Barnicke Gallery’s Nuit Blanche exhibition in Hart House, which featured programmed instructional audio and video pieces from the 1970s to 1990s by artists who took on the popular format for their own, sometimes sardonic, ends. We exhibited works throughout different spaces in Hart House. An emphatic, repetitive, motivational video You Can Do It! by Toni Latour greeted visitors at the front entrance. Adrian Piper taught Funk Lessons in the Reading Room. Janet Merewether presented some romance tips on making out in Japanese along with Brenda Goldstein’s First Kiss in the student lounge and Semiotics of the Kitchen was down the hall from there in the entryway for Hart House food services staff. Vito Acconci’s audio piece Under History Lessons in the first floor alcove was drowned out by the masses of people coming through the house. Outdoors in the quad, Baldessari was teaching a plant the alphabet while William Wegman was giving his dog a spelling lesson and some art lessons too. A hypnotic ode to Bob Ross played near the Justina M. Barnicke Gallery and Suzy Lake’s face, which was used as a canvas for a drawing lesson in The Natural Way to Draw, looked like it was floating in the stairway landing.”


Empty Orchestra (2008)

“During my first year as the curator-in-residence at Hart House, we collaborated with Gendai Gallery and the Reel Asian Film Festival on an international exhibition and commissioned video work and a performance series on karaoke. Artists such as Candice Breitz, Wang Gongxin and Iichiro Tanaka were looking at the medium of karaoke as a social and technological phenomenon, but also in terms of resistant moments in different cultural and social contexts. The works also speculated on the imaginative possibilities of the reinvention-of-self against the tension between sociality and indulgent, individualistic self-fashioning.

We designed and built immersive media rooms for each work, and two of them were participatory—where you could actually sing some songs in a karaoke-parlour environment. For instance, one media room offered a Christian Janknowski piece called “The Day we Met,” where the Berlin artists collaborated with a huge karaoke video company in Korea to star in melodramatic videos, another showcased Karen Tam’s “Tchang Tchou Karaoke Lounge” work, which played old ’50s Chinese versions of western golden oldies that she found in record shops people’s archives in Quebec.”

Extracurricular  (2010)

“In my second curatorial residency term, I put on a two-part conference, screenings and artists residencies exploring the relationship between art, education, research, and activism with visiting artists Annette Krauss and Xu Tan and Documenta12 Education Director Carmen Mörsch. The project took place in two parts. The first part had artists, curators and programmers experimenting with the space between art and education. In attendance were Amos Latteier, Milena Placentile, Mammalian Diving Reflex, Andrew Hunter, Srimoyee Mitra and members of the AGO Youth Council, to name a few.

The second part of the conference was like an alternative summit of self-organized schools or educational collectives (artists, designers and activist groups) experimenting with radical pedagogical methods from different places. There was Ultra-red from London,  The Pinky Show from Honolulu, a prison justice performance group called La Lleca from Mexico City and Rev collective from NYC. We also had groups and initiatives from Canada, such as the Toronto School of Creativity and Inquiry, Dodolab and Colouschool.”


Reading Room installations  (2010)

Accompanying Extracurricular were two art instillations mounted at different times in the Reading Room. For both installations, programmed and adhoc discussions and events took place with the artists, regular Reading Room users and various student groups. The first installation was by the thenn-Guanzhou-based artist XuTan, Keywords School, a mobile project that invites participants to discuss and generate new sets of keywords that have local purchase. Later, with Adrian Blackwell’s architectural installation Model for a Public Space [knot], we built a structure that resembled an amphitheatre, but with a curving, winding and sloping seating structure so that wherever you sat, you were never in the same position as anyone else, a proposal for non-hierarchical conversations.



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