A Big Heritage With A Glorious Past
Eleana Antonaki and Marina Xenofontos
Curated my ma ma
Critical Distance Centre for Curators
February 13 - March 29, 2020 / OPENING: Thursday, February 13, 6:00—9:00pm
image: Marina Xenofontos, Sunlight Vandalism, 13:10min, single channel video, 2019.
A Big Heritage with A Glorious Past presents the work of Eleana Antonaki and Marina Xenofontos in an inconclusive dialogue around the migratory experience. In their practices, both artists explore transnational feminist perspectives, honing in on the adversities of migration and strategies of settling and creating homes while in exile.
Antonaki’s film Haunting Is An Act of Love (2019) takes place in the distant future where women’s bodies have evolved so drastically to adapt to migration that they have become water. The video functions as a portrait of a woman, a block of water, who tells her story. Drawing connections between archaeology and displacement, which are both considered in their politically motivated sense, Antonaki’s character explains that the women of her time like to return to the sites they were excavated from. This is both their matriarchal heritage and an act of “cheating historical time.”
In Xenofontos’s work, she examines everyday stories that are inflected with insight into the power structures of civic spaces. For her documentary-style film Sunlight Vandalism (2019), Xenofontos presents two narratives woven together to reveal a diverse portrait of Cyprus and the intricacies of Mediterranean migration. This exhibition also includes found images from the artist’s archive depicting the “lemon-dance.” This peculiar annual event was created by Greek-Cypriot immigrants living in New York City, where couples dance while balancing a lemon between their foreheads until it drops. Through these vistas, Xenofontos reflects on the labour of domesticity and the precarity of settling during politically motivated migration.
Through their work, both Xenofontos and Antonaki explore how notions of home exist in relation to the migratory subject. They ask: How can the body stabilize in the face of exile? How can women’s labour question the precariousness of borders? And, what are new forms through which we can understand dispossession? In bringing their work together, this exhibition reflects on strategies of adaptation, resourcefulness, and survival that occur as a result of, but not in direct dialogue with, political governance.
about the artists
Eleana Antonaki is a Brooklyn-based artist. She holds an MFA from Parsons, The New School and has been a fellow at Ashkal Alwan HWP Program in Beirut and the Whitney Independent Study Program in New York. She works with a variety of media such as drawing, sculpture, textile, and video. The concerns of her work stem from the politics of representational practices in connection to national identity, historical trauma, and displacement. Her research revolves around matters of postcolonial and transnational feminism in relation to domestic cultural practices amongst women in the refugee communities in Greece.
Marina Xenofontos’work employs the mediums of video and sculpture to consider the inevitability of failure and the marginalisation of personal narratives within civic spaces. By shaping interpretations and meanings, she explores interrelated facets of simulations, objects, and translations that allow a diagrammatic approach to the remembrance of dysfunctional symbols. Within this approach, traditional methods and processes embrace the ephemeral individual position towards representations of collective memory. In order to unravel the mechanisms of canonical representations, Xenofontos researches vernacular processes related to architectural forms and specific social contexts. Power structures of civic spaces are reimagined by way of exploring anecdotal stories and coincidental epitomes that represent sardonic reflections on mechanisms of production and understandings of history.
In The Air: Steffani Jemison + Julia Phillips
October 19 - November 12, 2018
Opening reception: Wednesday October 17, 6-9pm
Artist talk with Steffani Jemison: Saturday November 3. 5pm
Steffani Jemison, Escaped Lunatic (still), 2010-11. HD video, colour, sound, 7:41. Courtesy of the artist.
ma ma’s final exhibition at their first space on Campbell Avenue is In the Air, an installation of two videos: Steffani Jemison’s Escaped Lunatic and Julia Phillips’ Shake (A Choreography for Flying Hair).
Escaped Lunatic takes cinematic cues from early chase scenes, in which a “lunatic” character is running, having escaped imprisonment. Jemison’s video casts parkour practitioners and films them traversing various urban landscapes in Houston, each taking a different approach to navigating the architecture and obstacles physically. As Jemison points out, there is an element of magic to how these individuals leap, flip, and climb over structures that we are programmed to move through in specific ways. This gesture of exceeding or reorienting around established structures has a methodological resonance. Julia Phillips’ looped video Shake (A Choreography for Flying Hair) depicts a woman with short hair swinging her head to an irregular, silent rhythm, as if she has long cascading hair that her movements are meant to showcase. The absence of her ‘flying hair’ draws attention to the bodily movements that index this imagined physical feature, and is emphasized by the use of silhouette. With limited reference to identity, this work and Phillips’ practice explores how physical, social and psychological relations are constructed, and in this case, recognized phenomenologically.
In the Air brings these two works together to be considered separately as well as in dialogue. The works raise a number of questions about the potentials of the body, imagination, and structural critique that are not self contained in the exhibition’s curatorial statement. The exhibition is accompanied by a booklet of essays.
Steffani Jemison uses time-based, photographic, and discursive platforms to examine "progress" and its alternatives. Jemison's work has been exhibited nationally and internationally. Solo exhibitions and performances include MASS MoCA, Jeu de Paume, CAPC Bordeaux, the Museum of Modern Art, Nottingham Contemporary, LAXART, and the RISD Museum. Her work is in the public collections of the Whitney Museum, the Museum of Modern Art, the Brooklyn Museum, the Studio Museum in Harlem, and the Kadist Foundation. Jemison was born in Berkeley, California, and is currently based in Brooklyn, New York. She holds an MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (2009) and a BA in Comparative Literature from Columbia University (2003).
Julia Phillips was born and raised in Hamburg and is the citizen of Germany and the United States. She recently relocated from New York to Chicago, where she lives, work, and teaches. Phillips describes her intellectual interests to be framed by psycho-analytical and Black feminist thought, as well as Postcolonial questions and issues of social belonging. Her most recent exhibitions are her first institutional solo exhibition 'Failure Detection’ at MoMA PS1, her participation in the 10th Berlin Biennial ‘We don’t need another hero’, and her participation in the New Museum Triennial ‘Songs for Sabotage’. Her next upcoming show will be a group exhibition at Matthew Marks gallery L.A. Phillips’ work has been reviewed in Art Forum, The New Yorker, Frieze, FlashArt International, Contemporary& Magazine, and CURA magazine.
Slay All Day: Tanya Lukin Linklater
September 21-October 15, 2018
Opening reception: Thursday September 20, 6-9pm
Artist talk with Tanya Lukin Linklater: Friday September 21, 6pm
Tanya Lukin Linklater, Slay All Day (still), 2016. HD video for web (silent), 4:16. Courtesy of the artist.
ma ma is pleased to present Slay All Day: Tanya Lukin Linklater, the first solo exhibition of the artist’s work in Toronto.
Slay All Day delves into Lukin Linklater’s practice through the adjacency of three works, each centred on the Indigenous female body, movement, and knowledge transmission. In Slay All Day (2016) contemporary dance is informed by gestures from Robert Flaherty’s problematic 1922 film Nanook of the North and Inuit athletics. These two sources have a dialectic relationship that resonates with the work’s presentation as a diptych, and the dancer’s traditional versus contemporary dance attire. Silent due to cultural protocols, the video The treaty is in the body (2017) centres on Omaskeko Cree families in North Bay, Ontario who gather to discuss the transmission of Indigenous knowledge through orality and understandings of treaty through the body. Finally, Lukin Linklater will create a site-specific installation of her text work A Girl (2012), that was written in response to the attempted assassination of girls’ education activist, Malala Yousafzai, in the region of Swat Valley, Pakistan. Together, these works create dialogue about intimacy, strength, violence, and bodily memory.
Tanya Lukin Linklater's performances in museums, videos and installations have been exhibited in Canada, the United States and abroad. In 2017, as a member of Wood Land School, she participated in Under the Mango Tree - Sites of Learning, a gathering for documenta14 in Athens and Kassel. In 2018 she was the inaugural recipient of the Wanda Koop Research Fund administered by Canadian Art. Tanya originates from the Native Villages of Afognak and Port Lions in southwestern Alaska and is based in northern Ontario.
Eleana Antonaki, Nomaduma Rosa Masilela, Sofia Mesa
August 24 - Sept 17
Opening reception - Thurs August 23, 6-9pm
Artist talk with Sofia Mesa - Thurs Sept 6, 7pm
Eleana Antonaki, Uncanny Gardening II, 2017. Gold thread on silk, cotton fringe, metal rod. Courtesy of the artist.
ma ma is pleased to present their second exhibition Gardening, a group show that includes the work of Eleana Antonaki, Nomaduma Rosa Masilela, and Sofia Mesa.
Bringing together textile, sculpture, and moving image, Gardening considers practices of gardening and planting in relation to politically motivated migration. The three participating artists take varied conceptual and material approaches to exploring the physical and metaphorical role flora plays in immigration, displacement, and revolution.
Eleana Antonaki’s series Uncanny Gardening considers the role of gardening practices during the Turkish and Greek population exchanges, an interest stemming from her family’s practice of planting Persian Silk Trees during their relocations within Turkey and eventually to Greece. Sofia Mesa’s film Field Walkers looks at the landscape of Palomino, La Guajira, Colombia, and meditates on the relationship between the young women who walk there and the violent histories that preceded, and continue to affect, the peaceful vistas. Nomaduma Rosa Masilela’s project Strange Attractors, is a dialogue of divergent contemporary artists’ works and archival material that engages with ideas of cosmology, relationality and scale. There is particular emphasis on Rosa Luxemburg’s Herbarium, which was created while she was imprisoned at Breslau penitentiary using plants brought to her by her secretary, Mathilde Jacob.
Together, the artists’ works consider the temporal friction between movement and gardening, suggesting a counterpoint to the notion of rootlessness as a finite politicized concept. Each artist works to unknot histories of personal and collective trauma, and attempts to articulate new conceptual strategies for understanding such entanglements. The exhibition is accompanied by a booklet - A Complete Guide to Seeds, Gardening and Rootlessness, with contributions by contemporary artists and curators.
Eleana Antonaki was born in Greece in 1989. She works in a range of media including drawing, sculpture and painting. Through her work she investigates the ways that narration can be constructed through fragmented representational elements. Antonaki received an MFA from The New School, was a studio participant in the 2016-17 Whitney Independent Study Program, and in September will be a fellow of the Ashkal Alwan Home Workspace Program in Lebanon. She currently lives and works in Brooklyn, New York.
Nomaduma Rosa Masilela is an artist, writer, and art historian. She was on the curatorial team of the 10th Berlin Biennale for Contemporary Art and is writing a dissertation on public and performance art of 1980s Dakar at Columbia University in New York. Her art interests converge around ideas of the uncanny, absurd, and dissonant; collective work and strategy; and the ambivalent nature of history and identity production.
Sofia Mesa is a multi-disciplinary artist from Colombia, based in Toronto. Her practice is derived from the need to centre marginalized women’s experiences, capture and preserve, and to have proof of life and evidence of existence. Recent projects include working collaboratively to create cyanotype photograms of vulnerable peoples in Toronto, and films that document the city’s housing crisis. Mesa has exhibited at the Art Gallery of Ontario, Allan Gardens Conservatory for Contact Photography Festival, Gallery 44, The Loon and more.
Elizabeth M. Webb
July 13 - August 20
Opening reception Thursday July 12, 6-9pm
Artist talk Sunday August 19, 5pm
Elizabeth M. Webb, For Paradise (film still), 2016. Courtesy of the artist.
ma ma is pleased to present the work of Houston-based visual artist Elizabeth M. Webb for its opening exhibition.
For Paradise is part of Webb’s ongoing project that examines structures of visibility. By meticulously investigating the triangulated narrative of her family’s history of racial passing, her African-American great-grandmother’s refusal to have her photograph taken, and the Alabama landscape, Webb accesses larger issues around structural erasure and negation. For Paradise will include Webb’s film of the same name and a series of stereographic photographs taken in Alabama that engage in a dialogue around visual legibility and representation.
This will be the first solo presentation of Webb’s work in Canada. In conjunction with the exhibition, ma ma will host a reading group as well as an artist talk on the closing weekend.
Elizabeth M. Webb is currently a fellow in the Core Program at the Museum of Fine Arts Houston, and has previously completed the Whitney Independent Study Program and an MFA at the California Institute of the Arts. In 2014, she was the recipient of the inaugural Allan Sekula Social Documentary award.