TORONTO, September 14, 2023 – The Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery is thrilled to announce its upcoming fall season, featuring works by renowned artists from around the globe. The programming includes solo exhibitions from French artist Abdelkader Benchamma, Egyptian Canadian artist Anna Boghiguian, and American artist Aria Dean—the first shows in Toronto for all three artists, and the first in Canada for both Benchamma and Dean. The presentation of Aria Dean at The Power Plant is organized and developed in partnership with The Vega Foundation. The three exhibitions will open on October 13, 2023, and run until January 7, 2024, with free admission to the gallery.
Each artist featured in this season’s programming provides a different generational perspective while engaging with intellectual discourses about time, history, and architecture in their respective work, seeking to decipher new meanings from them. Visitors can look forward to thought-provoking installations, paintings, drawings, and film that ask fundamental questions of humanity, and reflect on topics such as our interconnectedness with our world, revolutionary upheavals, and the role that industrial architecture plays in our lives.
Free public programs will accompany the Fall 2023 season, including artist talks with curators, guided exhibition tours, and creative workshops for children aged 7–12 on select Sundays. Detailed information about all public programs will be announced on The Power Plant’s Event Calendar.
“This season’s exhibitions at The Power Plant will offer visitors entry points into what we hope will be meaningful encounters with art, inspiring reflections on the impact of time, history, and artistic creation on our humanity. Through a range of accessible free talks, workshops, and events, everyone will have the opportunity to engage with the powerful work of these three artists for the first time in Toronto.”
— Adelina Vlas, Head of Curatorial Affairs, The Power Plant
Solastalgia: Archaeologies of Loss
Curator: Noor Alé, Associate Curator
Location: Canadian Tire Gallery, McLean Gallery, and Fleck Clerestory, first floor
Envisioned as a geological epic of our universe, Solastalgia: Archaeologies of Loss is a solo exhibition by French artist Abdelkader Benchamma that conjures enigmatic worlds and elemental forces at the precipice of transformation, evoking a yearning for worlds yet to be. Like an archaeologist, Benchamma unearths symbols–found in ancient mythologies and legends–that humanity has from its earliest moments inscribed onto the land, sky, and celestial bodies. In doing so, he creates an elusive topography of dreams that centres our spiritual ties with nature, reclaiming our interconnectedness with the world.
Gestural and lyrical, his primarily monochrome murals, drawings, and installations, depict undulating terrains, tectonic movements, and gravitational forces that harness the dynamism of the universe. Indebted to the language of physics, his linework is an embodiment of the arrow of time, marking a fateful trajectory of perpetual motion. Immersed in the themes of natural philosophy, geology, astronomy, alchemy, art history, and existential literature, his works reflect an encyclopedic repertoire of interests. At times an architect of unruly universes, and an archaeologist of dormant memories, his elusive works unravel the relationships between humanity and the cosmos, both equally endowed with the generative powers of creation, change, and destruction.
Solastalgia: Archaeologies of Loss will be Benchamma’s first major solo exhibition in Canada, and the most comprehensive to date in North America, featuring existing and newly created works, as well as an immersive, site-specific mural for The Power Plant’s Fleck Clerestory Commissioning Program.
Time of Change
Curators: Adelina Vlas, Head of Curatorial Affairs, and Noor Alé, Associate Curator
Location: Royal LePage Gallery, first floor
Time of Change maps Egyptian-Canadian artist of Armenian origins Anna Boghiguian’s interest in revolutionary upheavals spurred by political, social, and cultural ideas in the Americas, Europe, and North Africa. Drawing inspiration from her vast travels throughout Canada and the globe, Boghiguian, examines the impact individuals have on history and how history impacts individuals. This exhibition presents installations and drawings—some newly commissioned for this exhibition—that reference historical characters and events that have played a role in shaping our modern world. This exhibition presents installations, sculptures, and drawings that chronicle seismic geopolitical shifts, and their aftermaths in our world order. Collectively, these works respond to overlapping histories of power relations, societal transformations, and the birth of political ideologies.
Conceived as a world stage, The Chess Game (2022) is an oversized chess board with cutouts of historical figures from opposing and correlating schools of thought who quarrel for power. The rise of revolutions and falls of oppressive regimes is depicted in Time of Change (2022), a suite of ninety-six densely layered drawings. Notions of democratic ideals, and independence movements that galvanised upheavals across centuries is at the heart of these drawings that inspired the exhibition’s title. A small mobile, The Uprising (2022), features contemporary inventors and intellectuals whose ideas transformed society. A rare selection of early artist books of Boghiguian’s life in various Canadian cities illuminates the artist’s nomadic life and artistic processes. While the exhibition primarily addresses societal upheavals, it also draws attention to the contemporary artworld evolving in response to these revolutions, and the role of artists in safeguarding our delicate democracy.
With the global rise of dictatorial regimes and conservative governments that infringe upon freedom, Boghiguian’s works bring to light the issue of historical amnesia, and the shared efforts needed to unseat power. Time of Change resonates powerfully in our Canadian context, as emigration strains to Canada are prompted by warfare, military occupation, and economic instability—consequences of the abuse of power. Far beyond our immediate borders, Time of Change has a universal appeal, as it reframes events in the history of humanity—from the birth of the French Revolution to the Suez Crisis—evincing similarities with current struggles for liberation around the world.
Organized and developed in partnership with The Vega Foundation
Curator: Julia Paoli, Executive Director at The Vega Foundation, guest curator
Location: North Gallery, second floor
Aria Dean is an artist and writer who has created a multi-platform body of work based in trenchant critiques of representational systems. Confounding binaries such as abstraction and figuration, individual and collective, Dean’s sculptures, installations, videos, and essays trouble received ideas of race, power, and form. Concerned with what art objects can do, and have done, for their producers and receivers, Dean tracks artistic innovations against an array of theoretical positions, from poststructuralism to Afropessimism, not just to parse the social and material bases of art but also to grasp its impact on the ontology of Blackness.
In her newest film Abattoir, U.S.A.!, Dean draws on her long-term research on agricultural and industrial architecture, surveying the interior of an empty slaughterhouse. The slaughterhouse in Abattoir, U.S.A.!, is animated using Unreal Engine, a 3D computer graphics tool used to create real-time environments for a wide range of platforms. The work considers the importance of these structures in the development of modernist architecture and urban design that influenced the work of a generation of European architects such as Walter Gropius and Le Corbusier. The omission of the slaughterhouse, or abattoir, from this narrative leads to questions about the relationships between modernism and death, as Dean engages with one such site and its entanglements with fundamental questions of humanity.
Dean was initially inspired by philosophers Georges Bataille and Frank Wilderson, each of whom address the slaughterhouse in their writings—whether as a metaphor or paradigm—as crucial to the constitution of civil society. Abattoir, U.S.A.!, also builds on Dean’s own research into the slaughterhouse and industrial architecture, and the ways they reveal modernism’s intimacy with death on conceptual, political, and material levels. The film ruminates on this through the slaughterhouse’s presence as both an allegorical structure and a literal place where the boundary between human, animal, and machine is produced and reproduced.
Installed at The Power Plant, the work has particular potency set against the backdrop of Toronto’s industrial history along the waterfront. The Power Plant was originally constructed in 1926 as a powerhouse, to hold the heating and refrigeration equipment for the massive cold storage warehouse facility next door. Not far from The Power Plant’s location were once corporate and municipal abattoirs, which gave some truth to the city’s old nickname “hogtown” for its large-scale industrial landscape that was once common to Toronto. Dean takes the slaughterhouse as its subject and projects its forms into a virtual space, Abattoir, U.S.A.! ultimately explores how meaning is produced through moving images, working across material, symbolic, and technological registers.
Crucial to these considerations is the film’s immersive 8-channel score by composer Evan Zierk, which weaves together field recordings, samples, pop melodies, and algorithmically generated sequences. Influenced by Romantic-era classical composition and Hollywood melodrama, this multidimensional score plays a vital role in developing the film’s landscape, and its experimentation with the construction and limitations of narrative.
Abattoir, U.S.A.! was commissioned by the Renaissance Society at the University of Chicago, where it was curated by Myriam Ben Salah with Karsten Lund and Michael Harrison and presented in February 2023. The film was co-produced with The Vega Foundation.
The exhibition at The Power Plant is organized and developed in partnership with The Vega Foundation. Founded in 2021, The Vega Foundation is dedicated to supporting and promoting artists through the production and acquisition of new moving image works and to facilitating their presentation through institutional collaborations.
lead photo Anna Boghiguian, The Chess Game, 2022. Installation view first floor, Kunsthaus Bregenz, 2022. Photo: Markus Tretter. Courtesy of the artist ©Anna Boghiguian, Kunsthaus Bregenz.