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The Centre Cannot Hold: Labourious Memories

Interior view of a Chinese restaurant with vibrant red curtains, chairs, and divider walls

Works by

Mary Kavanagh, Morris Lum, Soledad Fátima Muñoz, Bélgica Castro Fuentes, and Amaranta Ursula Espinoza Arias

The Centre Cannot Hold: Labourious Memories

September 14, 2022–June 30, 2023

Curated by Atif Mikhail Khan, Sherry Chunqing Liu, and Erin Storus

The Jackman Humanities Institute
170 St. George Street, 10th Floor

In conjunction with the Jackman Humanities Institute’s 2022-23 research theme, The Centre Cannot Hold: Labourious Memories considers artistic labour in relation to community building, activism, and memory. Curated by three MVS graduate students, the exhibition is composed of three sections. 

Mary Kavanagh: Unsettling Sites of War
Curated by Atif Mikhail Khan
Mary Kavanagh’s archival assemblages re-cast settler imaginaries of technological progress. Her work highlights post-nuclear traces at historic and active sites of military industry, research, and training. The White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico, test site of the first atomic weapon in 1945, remains chemically contaminated in the twenty-first century. The Enola Gay Hangar, Wendover Air Force Base, housed the B-29 bombers that dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki a few weeks later. Juxtaposing military signifiers such as desert flora, architectural relics, and atomic pilgrims, Kavanagh’s work activates sites of remembering nuclear landscapes of decades past into the nuclear present.

Morris Lum: Those Unforgotten
Curated by Sherry Chunqing Liu
Toronto-based artist Morris Lum has been photographing Chinatowns across North America for nearly ten years, developing a personal as well as collective archive of these community-embedded landscapes. The works in this exhibition, spanning different times and geographic areas, focus on Chinese restaurants that have disappeared over the years. They unearth the stories and labour behind Chinese restaurants as gathering spaces and a cultural signifier integral for community building. Lum’s artistic labour gestures against the forgetting of local stories of labour, made invisible due to the gentrification of the city and the never-ending transformation of our urban landscape.

Soledad Fátima Muñoz / Bélgica Castro Fuentes / Amaranta Ursula Espinoza Arias: These Walls Hold Our Wounds
Curated by Erin Storus
Embedded in the histories of protest, the three artists in this exhibition invoke craft as an urgent form of women’s labour. These textile works, called arpilleras, are testimonies to the lived experiences of the artists during both the brutal regime of Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet—as evidenced in the work of pioneering arpillerista Bélgica Castro Fuentes—and the ongoing destruction of South America as instigated by North American capitalist systems. In particular, the artists bring attention to Canada’s role in global resource exploitation, including the current political instabilities prevailing within Chile as a result of the modern history of capitalist neoliberalist intervention within the country. Often relegated to the realm of vernacular or popular culture, these textile forms of artistic labour quite literally “craft” notions of resistance through the slow threading of discourses of power, gender, and identity. 

Opening Reception

Wednesday, September 14, 4pm–6pm
Jackman Humanities Institute

Our Supporters

We gratefully acknowledge the operating support from the Canada Council for the Arts and the Ontario Arts Council, with additional project support from the Jackman Humanities Institute.

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