Tomorrow at 1pm, the Art Gallery of York University hosts a symposium titled CEAC: Radical Experiment or Exercise in Self-Destruction: An Afternoon of Discussion.
The Centre for Experimental Art and Communication was active in Toronto from the fall of 1975 (when it emerged out of the Kensington Arts Association) to mid-1978, when it abruptly ceased operation. The CEAC organized exhibitions, conferences, workshops, screenings and performances. The group presented a wide-range of projects, including works by artists Vera Frenkel, Joseph Kosuth, Dennis Oppenheim, Martha Rosler, Carolee Schneeman, Michael Snow, and Lawrence Weiner, and composers Philip Glass and Steve Reich.
The CEAC publication Art Communication Edition, later re-named Strike, was a vehicle for promoting the centre’s radical political program. In their May 1978 issue, they featured a lengthy article on the The Red Brigades, an Italian militant organization notorious in the 70's for their violent attempts to destabilize the country through acts of sabotage, bank robberies, and kidnappings. Kneecapping - the crippling of your enemy with a gunshot to the knee - was another favourite tactic, reportedly used as a method to punish at least 75 people by 1978.
Robert MacDonald, a conservative columnist who helped found The Toronto Sun newspaper in 1971, wrote a series of articles attempting to erode support for the arts councils by highlighting what he deemed the the group's advocation of such violent terrorist acts. A scandal ensued that saw funding cuts to the Ontario Arts Council and the Canada Council for the Arts, both of whom (alongside Wintario) pulled their funding to the CEAC, costing the group their building, the first owned by an artist-run centre in Toronto.
The AGYU symposium brings together the surviving "original protagonists" of the CEAC experiment—Diane Boadway, Peter Dudar, Lily Eng, Bruce Eves, John Faichney, and Ron Giii. They are joined by curator and AGYU director Philip Monk, Dot Tuer, and artist Mike Hoolboom (whose website provided the above images).
The event is held in conjunction with Monk's exhibition Is Toronto Burning? 1977/1978/1979 Three Years in the Making (and Unmaking) of the Toronto Art Community. The extensively researched exhibition examines three pivotal years in the local art community, and its increasing engagement with politics, punk rock, fashion and advertising. Housed in the show's many vitrines are the original CEAC publications, alongside related newspaper clippings from the Toronto Sun and Globe and Mail. Other publications include Image Nation, FILE megazine and Carole Condé & Karl Beveridge's ...It’s Still Privileged Art.
Alongside the CEAC, the exhibition includes Susan Britton, David Buchan, Colin Campbell, Elizabeth Chitty, Carole Condé and Karl Beveridge, Judith Doyle, General Idea, Isobel Harry, Ross McLaren, Missing Associates (Peter Dudar & Lily Eng), Clive Robertson, Tom Sherman, and Rodney Werden.
The AGYU is located in the Accolade East Building, 4700 Keele Street, Toronto. CEAC: Radical Experiment or Exercise in Self-Destruction: An Afternoon of Discussion takes place at 1pm on Wednesday November 12th. Is Toronto Burning? continues until the 7th of December, 2014.