I went to three art shows in Toronto this past weekend and Hacking Black Futures at BAND Gallery and Cultural Centre was by far my favourite. I'll be doing a post about the other two soon. It was a busy weekend for art and design in Toronto. The show was part of Toronto Design Offsite Festival and featured twenty OCAD University Black-identified designers/makers and partners. Curated by Andre Baynes and Chiedza Pasipanodya, the exhibition explored ideas pulled from a Black-centric future society and offered viewers a chance to explore each artist's personal vision for the future. Show themes were afrofuturism, speculative design, food sovereignty, social technology, artificial intelligence, storytelling, and fashion.
BAND (Black Artists’ Network in Dialogue) is dedicated to supporting, documenting and showcasing the artistic and cultural contributions of Black artists and cultural workers in Canada and internationally. The gallery is located on Brock Avenue in a painted black Victorian house that I have passed by many times. Their vision is connecting black culture to communities to inspire, enlighten and educate through the arts. On the wall in the lobby, you'll find a laminated copy of this article in The Toronto Star that details the organization's struggles to find a permanent home. Reading it I went from angry and disappointed to happy and hopeful. I'm happy for them that they've found a place to call home.
Here are my favourites from the show:
Untitled Studies, 2018
The installation was an ode and a celebration of the artist's home of 18 years, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
I liked the artist's concept of the future laying in the past, as that is so often the case with fashion and style.
The scale of these photos was striking, the subjects are all beautiful, and I'm always a fan of black and white photos. Here, the artist imagines a future where the subjects have achieved a high socioeconomic status, going from lower class citizens to higher class citizens (note the high fashion clothing and accessories), and the woman is presented as the one that has the most power in this dynamic, indicating a future where women are viewed differently.
Denim Wigs, 2018
This inventive exhibit was the winner of the Toronto Design Offsite Juror's Award. This one really spoke to me since (like most black women) I've been on many hair journeys in my life. In the artist's ideal future, society has moved away from Eurocentric beauty standards, black hair is not shamed or policed, and people are free and safe to express themselves. The hand made wigs are made of old, deconstructed jeans and propose an alternative to the current, waste producing synthetic hair options. I loved these.
Top: Living Lab, 2018 by Andre Baynes & Ashley Jane Lewis
Middle and bottom: Tree Tank, 2018 by Ashley Jane Lewis
Living Lab simulates a living ecosystem and makes nature a part of the home.
The concept for Tree Tank addresses the current issues with food systems. In the future of Tree Tank, people of colour are actively addressing food sovereignty and are able to design solutions to their own needs, growing and harvesting fruit in their own homes, like this Jamaican orange tree. Tree Tank emulates the natural climate of Jamaica. I asked the artist if she could make something similar for me, so that during the Ontario winters I would feel like I was in Jamaica. Unsurprisingly, it wasn't the first time someone had made that request.
LOUD Micro Studio Kiosk by Kimani Peter.
LOUD is the future of record labels. Black owned and collectively operated, it's compact studios can be used from anywhere. Recordings are then sent offsite for mixing.
The exhibition explored many important and relevant themes. It would be wonderful to see these futures realized in our lifetime. If you had a chance to catch this exhibition, I'd love to hear about your favourites. Looking at the list of upcoming events, I know I'll be back at the gallery again soon.
Story and photos by Glodeane Brown
If you liked this post, please like, comment, and share.