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The aleatory object

An exhibition-as-research

in relation to a selection of objects from the
Malcove Collection
at the Art Museum at the University of Toronto


The aleatory object

May 11–July 30, 2022

Curated by Shani K Parsons

In conversation with

Betty Julian
Dawn Cain
Emily Cook
Jasper Parsons
Jennifer Brethour
Jeremy Laing
Jules Lewis
Liz Ikiriko
Maureen Hynes
Mira Berlin
Nahed Mansour
Susan Low-Beer

University of Toronto Art Centre

Originating in an encounter with a psychoanalyst’s collection, The aleatory object makes visible a curatorial process that is critically oriented toward the unknown. Unfolding as an open-ended assemblage of images, objects, and ideas, it is a process that values attention over intention, curiosity over comprehension—resulting in a curatorial selection that defies easy classification. Through an intentional embrace of uncertainty, and pursuit of associative and improvisational approaches to research and presentation, The aleatory object proposes a different kind of curatorial engagement with knowledge production, one that does not simply restate what is known or strive to demonstrate expertise in any conventional sense. This does not mean that knowledge won’t be produced or shared, but rather that the process will not be so constrained, to paraphrase Freud, by the “imposition of reason on the imagination.”

The aleatory object thus occasions an unconventional co-existence between ambiguous and anomalous things, transcending normative cultural, historical, and disciplinary divides. Underlying the obvious question of how to treat “artifacts” vs. “artworks” within a single exhibition is a deeper, more vexing issue: when not much is known about a thing, it tends to languish in academic and museum contexts where value is often tied to knowability. Objects about which much is known are simply easier to teach and talk about. But what is lost to a culture that only teaches and talks about what it already knows? Ultimately the questions such a project asks may be unanswerable, but the untold possibilities it engenders are the reasons for asking.

This exhibition is produced as part of the requirements for the MVS degree in Curatorial Studies at the John H. Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape, and Design, University of Toronto.

Opening Reception: MVS Studio Program and MVS Curatorial Studies Program Graduating Exhibitions

Wednesday, May 11, 5pm–7pm
Opening remarks at 5:30pm
University of Toronto Art Centre

Writing by choice or by chance

Saturday, June 4, 5pm–7:30pm
University of Toronto Art Centre and University College Quad

Exhibition Resources

Press Release
Exhibition Brochure
Exhibition Audio Description
Large-Format Text

Our Supporters

We gratefully acknowledge operating support from the Canada Council for the Arts and the Ontario Arts Council with additional project support from the Reesa Greenberg Curatorial Studies Award and International Travel Fund.



Upcoming Exhibitions