Invited by Mercer Union – A Centre for Contemporary Art in Toronto, Goll & Nielsen went on a research trip to Toronto in April 2004. During the trip we realized that while Toronto is one of the most multi-cultural cities of the world, inhabited by appr. 160 different ethnic and cultural groups, its art scene is still dominated by WASPs.
Although we acknowledged that this is not a problem specific to Toronto – rather it is a common trait of almost every art scene of the Western World – we still felt that Toronto, with its diverse population was ripe for “The Niagara Falls Artist Host Program”.
The program got its name from the nearby location Niagara Falls (NF) because NF has a significant position in Canadian and US culture. We call it “the site of love and deportation”. Love, because of the romantic tradition which compels North American lovers, to travel to NF in order to confirm their relations. Deportation, because many of the illegal immigrants and rejected asylum seekers are being deported to the US through NF’s border station.
During the show, we turned the gallery into an office space for the organization NFAHP, which had the purpose of matching artist newcomers from beyond Canada, with etablished artists who were already well connected to the Torrontonian art scene. Goll & Nielsen set up office space in a corner of the gallery, and offered all the artists that signed up as Host or guest, that they could display a work of art on the gallery walls.
Consequently, the gallery space was virtually empty at the opening night, except for our practical installations and the interior design. But not for long… Soon a very strange and challenging exhibition grew on the walls and floors. With an open curatorial concept, which accepted art works from all over the world, the Western hegemony had to fall in favor of an acknowledgment of cultural pluralism as the starting point of any critique.
The back room of the gallery was used to screen an instructional video, in which we explain the concept, and invite prospect participators.
A folder was printed 3 months in advance of the opening. It was distributed to the art scene and to shelters, refugee centers, cultural projects, and other locations where we expected to find recently immigrated artists. During the 3 weeks of the show, we managed to match 40 people, 20 of which were young professional artists, 20 of which being young immigrant artists from countries in Asia, South America, Eastern Europe, the Middle East, and Africa.
It was was commissioned to Joachim Hamou, who did the instruction, filming and editing.
On display below, a few slides from the show…
While Goll & Nielsen on a daily basis were preoccupied with the matching process, every Saturday and Sunday was reserved for public events. Some of these events were organized and conceptualized by Goll & Nielsen, while others were proposed and executed by the participating artists.
Other speakers are Ulysses Castellanos (Toronto-based artist), Xandra Eden (Assistant Curator, The Power Plant, Toronto), and Janna Graham (Toronto-based educator, writer, and organizer).
The excursion included a visit to the Falls and the Canadian/US border, a tour of the local sites by native Fallsian Roula Partheniou, a casino visit, lunch, and dinner.
Please check out the below pdf files:
The Niagara Falls Artist Host Program folder (download)
The Events Calendar (download)