Indigenous and diasporic Canadian artists explore the radical potential of the alter-ego in subverting dominant narratives.
About the exhibition
To a certain extent, every self is performative—a cast of characters we can summon or mould to serve our needs as we face the world. We each contain potential multitudes that can express or withhold different sides of ourselves, adapt to specific contexts, determine or respond to a boundless range of human interactions. Both individual and collective identities are formed by inner drives and outside pressures, relationships and constraints, nurture and oppression, dreams and fears.
Navigating the complexities of selfhood, agency, and representation, THE COUNTER/SELF brings together a group of artists who create and embody imaginative alter egos to examine, perform and subvert identity constructs and politics. Through the use of make-up and elaborate costumes, the artists transform their own appearance and stage layered photographic, video, mixed media, and sculptural scenes that destabilize viewers’ presumed realities and points of reference to expose prejudices with regards to gender, race, ethnicity, and nationhood.
Shaped by personal and communal histories entwined within the artists’ life experiences, their counter/selves bring forward irreverent perspectives that disrupt enshrined national narratives, cultural legacies and social expectations. Sometimes flamboyant, sometimes enigmatic, these characters reveal the fallacies of dominant discourses and counteract their harmful sways. Probing power structures, asserting belonging, or obscuring presence, the counter/selves are invoked to reclaim space or to protect the vulnerable. In all their incarnations, they epitomize resilience, resistance and renewal.
We gratefully acknowledge operating support from the Canada Council for the Arts, the Toronto Arts Council, and the Ontario Arts Council, with additional project support from Yvonne and David Fleck, Debra Campbell, Janice Lewis, Catherine Barbaro, Judy and Craig Jarvis, Jane L. Thompson and Tim Murphy.