Thursday 30 August 2012

Syracuse SPARK Resident - Ursula Handleigh

Jessica Cappuccitti:  What was your favourite part of this residency?

Ursula Handleigh:  Experiencing a new city, especially one like Syracuse which was nothing like what I had expected.  I wasn’t expecting it to be so abandoned and so big... so different from Toronto.

JC:  What was your favourite thing about Syracuse?

UH:  I biked around a lot so everything was really different.  My favourite place was this really old camera store in the middle of this suburban setting.  It had all of these really old things that no one ever bought... except for me!

JC:  Was it an antique camera shop?

UH:  No.  It was THE camera place.  I think it wasn’t very popular so there was stuff that had been sitting on the self for like thirty years.  The antique feel wasn’t intentional at all which was what made it so cool.  The signage was old, everything about it was old.  But it also sold digital cameras and stuff.  It was this weird mix of old and new.

JC:  Tell me about the work you created – from inspiration to final product.

UH:  I was really inspired by the house.  It was the first home that was restored in the area and was surrounded by dilapidated buildings and houses that had been turned into government housing.  It was a really interesting mix.  I was also inspired by the fact that film was dying there.  I had known that film was dying but it was kind of almost dead there.  The closest place to develop film was Rochester.

JC:  Not even at the mall?

UH:  No.  There was this drug store down the street that had a sign that said "1-hour" photo and then when you went there it turned out it wasn’t an hour because they sent it out to be developed.   You also couldn’t get any photographic colour paper anywhere.  The camera store sold some black and white stuff because you could do it yourself.

JC:  Tell me about the work itself.

UH:  I experimented with a few things while I was there.  When I first arrived I made anthotypes which are made from plants – you make this plant-based photo emulsion that you coat paper with and then instead of developing it, where the images come through, you put something on top of it and the image fades away in the places that are not covered.  This didn’t turn out very well because I wasn’t there long enough for it to work properly – it took so long for the images to fade.  I left it there for the entire 2 weeks and in the end you could kind of see the leaf that I had put on top, but really it needed a few weeks more.  I also made slides – I rented a slide projector and made fake slides which I got for really cheap from the camera store that sold old things.  This project was inspired by the house we were staying in which was restored to look like it was old but with new materials – so I would take new materials that I could find in the city and make these old slides.

JC:  Did you have any ideas of what you wanted to create coming into this residency?

UH:  I knew I wanted to work with the anthotypes, just because it was something I always wanted to try and I had heard that Syracuse was really lush and had a lot of greenery so I wanted to work with that, but once I got there it all kind of changed.  I wasn’t expecting it to be as abandoned as it was and I think that really inspired me. 

JC:  What are you currently working on?

UH:  I’m working on this film projector that looks like it’s really old but is made from stuff I found around my house.  Again, it is inspired by the house we stayed at and this attempt to hold on to the past.

JC:  What kind of things did you use?

UH:  This old lamp, like a living room lamp, a work bench from the garage, some hangers, this piping thing for the vent... I think that’s it.  It looks really make-shift, but that’s the point.

JC:  How did you know how to make a projector?

UH:  I didn’t – I just made it up!  I figured if I had a lens and a light, it would project.  So I did that and then I figured out how to move the film – I got a motor and just glued a whole bunch of stuff together so it actually moves the film!

JC:  Do you think that you and Adrienne influenced each other’s work?

UH:  Yea, definitely.  Especially, because we were the only 2 people living in the house and we were the only 2 people experiencing what we experienced, which is pretty unique.  We’re the only ones that really understood each other... at that time.  We were both inspired by a lot of the same things.

JC:  Is the work you are going to show at XPACE in September going to differ from the work you showed at the end of your residency at SPARK?

UH:  I feel like my work has grown a lot since I’ve come back.  When I was there I would think a lot about things and I was very inspired, but I think it took me some time to be away from there for my work to develop.  So I feel that my work is probably going to be very different from the show in Syracuse, because I’ve been making so much stuff since coming back.

JC:  Do you think that this experience will continue to affect your future work?

UH:  Yea definitely.  The restrictions I felt while I was there, like the limited access to things helped me to become more creative in my use of materials – that is really helping my work to grow.

Syracuse SPARK Resident - Adrienne Crossman

Upon their return from Syracuse, I sat down to chat and catch up with our SPARK Residents, Adrienne Crossman and Ursula Handleigh.  Both artists discussed the important influence of their surroundings on the artwork they created and the unique shared experience in Syracuse.  They also gave me a sneak peak into the work they created for the exhibition, Neither Here Nor There opening at XPACE on Friday September 14, 2012.

 Neither Here Nor There will be up until October 6th, 2012

Jessica Cappuccitti:  What was your favourite part of the SPARK Residency?

Adrienne Crossman:  I think what I liked about it was that I was in a different place.  When you are having trouble finding inspiration, it’s kind of helpful to be in a new environment.  Syracuse was completely different from Toronto in so many aspects.  Being in Syracuse was isolating in a way because I didn’t know anybody and there’s not much to do but it gave me all of this time to just constantly think about, and do my work, which I have never had before. So I would probably say that was the best part.

JC:  What was your favourite part of the city itself?

AC:  The city is small and kind of abandoned and there’s not a lot going on there, but the nights when something is going on, everybody that’s interested in it, is there.  SPARK is beside this hardcore music venue called Badlands which was having a concert / travelling film festival that was screening films the same night we had our show.  We had our opening and then they had that event, so everyone that was at either event was kind of comingling.  It seemed like it was the only thing of that kind going on in the city that night.  That was what was cool about Syracuse. 

JC:  What was your favourite thing to do or see?

AC:  Dinosaur Bar-B-Que - I went 3 times... (laughter)

(See “XPACE visits Syracuse !” blog post from Tuesday July 3, 2012 for pics of Dinosaur Bar-B-Que and more...)

JC: (jokingly) What was your favourite thing to eat there?

AC:  It would have to be, pulled pork and brisket with a side of mashed potatoes and gravy, and a side of macaroni and cheese... with a Syracuse beer.

JC:  That’s incredible!

AC:  It was incredible – it’s worth the 6 hour drive!

JC:  How did your surroundings affect your work?

AC:  The work that both Ursula and I did took a lot from our surroundings.  Because the architecture, the layout and the feel of the city were so different from Toronto... but also, different from any city I have ever been in.  In one block, out of 5 buildings, 3 will be abandoned and boarded up.  You can walk for 20 minutes and not see anybody.  So there’s something about that feeling... We’re in this kind of desolate, abandoned city.  Also, we were housed in the attic of this 200 year old historic mansion that had been restored - so we were staying in this really, really expensive house but our neighbourhood was kind of run-down, so it was the clash or the mix of really nice stuff versus this run-down environment.  

There’s wood everywhere, all of the windows are boarded up and I would just see wood grain everywhere.  The floors and doors of this house we were staying in had fake hand-painted wood grain on it, so it was like, people had been hired to hand-paint this unique wood grain all over the floors and all over the doors to make everything look more expensive.  So a lot of my work came from making faux wood grains and taking a picture of that wood grain and replicating it in different ways, because I think it’s really weird to hire somebody to paint fake wood on wood to make it look like wood.  So there was this whole contrast between rich and poor, fake and real.  So in terms of my surroundings, I made work in Syracuse that I never would have made outside of that environment.

JC:  How did you like working in SPARK Contemporary’s space?

AC:  At the beginning we both spent a lot of time in the house.  I ended up doing some printmaking - some lino cuts - so I would just carve them at the house.  We would work during the day at SPARK and sometimes I would stay up late working in my sketchbook or working on stuff in the house.  Everyone told us that you don’t really want to be out at night, so if you’re working in the studio during the day and you want to take some stuff home then it’s better to not be walking or biking after it’s dark.  We didn’t run into trouble though.  As we got closer to the show and I had a lot more stuff to do that was messy, I would work a lot in the studio.  It was great because it was a really open space and there were 2 big open spaces so there was a lot of room to work. 

JC:  How did you like working with the people at SPARK?

AC:  They were really helpful because they picked us up from the bus station and Casey, one of the girls that runs SPARK, brought us to the grocery store, and after that we were given a lot of freedom.  They gave us the key and the space was ours for 3 weeks, to do whatever we wanted with.  It was good because we had to be very independent and come up with creative solutions.  It was very undirected.

JC:  Tell me more about the work you created – the final product.

AC:  I bought 5 large pieces of thin cardboard and made wood grain on them.  Ursula told me about this wood graining tool – you take a flat surface and you put wet paint on it then you run this tool through it and it makes wood grain.  I did a brown one, so it really looks like wood and I did a red, yellow, and blue one.  So I did panels of that, and then I did 4 lino cuts with different representations of different kinds of wood grain.  I also found pieces of a broken down desk that was made of that fake wood, cardboard stuff that desks are made of, so it looks like wood but it’s not wood, and I wood grained those so they look like wood but they look fake and real at the same time.  And then I hung everything on the wall and made a video piece that I was projecting in the other room. 

JC:  What was the video piece?

AC:  I took footage of different kinds of wood grain all around the city and the spaces I was in.  And then I edited it together.  The video I made is a rough sketch for what I am going to be showing at XPACE in September, because I didn’t have enough time to complete the piece. 

JC:  Which leads into what I wanted to ask you next –you seem to have done a lot in a short period of time
how were you able to complete so much work in such little time?  

AC:  In terms of the prints, I made all of those prints 2 or 3 days before the show.  3 weeks is not a lot to make a body of work; to come up with the idea, make work, have a show.  So, I think in terms of the prints and the wood graining stuff, all of that as is will be up here, but in terms of my video – video work because it’s time based just takes more time.  I took a lot of footage there, but  there’s a lot more tweaking I have to do before it will be totally done.

JC:  Did you and Ursula inspire each other?

AC:  Yea we did actually.  The house we stayed in interested us both a lot.  We had a lot of similar ideas in terms of how our surroundings were inspiring us.  She was really good to bounce ideas off of and vice versa.

JC:  How will this residency affect your future work?

AC:  I think it will be good in the sense that, it was really good to come out of Thesis which was so serious and so academic and so long, to go into something that felt like it didn’t have a lot of pressure; it was just like," we believe in you enough to go create somewhere".  It was undirected and it felt very freeing.  I think it was good to have one extreme situation and then another extreme situation, because I think my practice is going to be somewhere in the middle.  I usually approach things very academically, but you need a lot more time to do that and you can’t really work that way in 3 weeks.  It was really good to have so much freedom after being so constrained in Thesis. 

JC:  Any final reflections?

AC:  Just to emphasize the importance that going to another place and taking yourself outside of your norm is really good for your work.  


Friday September 7, 2012

Artists Involved:
MANGO PEELER and Exploding Motor Car

5PM  Tour Commences at OCADU (100 McCaul Street, out front of the main doors) 
6PM - 10PM  Tour gets to XPACE Cultural Centre (58 Ossington Ave.), party starts! 

As a feature of OCAD U's Orientation Week, First Year OCAD U students will be led on a HOT POT TOUR by MANGO PEELER ('Nabe-Bugyo' or 'Hot-Pot-Master').  The tour will begin with a Secret Map for students to discover some of Toronto's hottest and hidden gems.  MANGO PEELER will lead the journey with a JOGGING WARM UP down Dundas to Spadina followed by a PSYCH BIKE TOUR to XPACE.

XPACE will be transformed into a HOT POT SHOPPE.  Inspired by hot springs, saunas, aerobic videos and cooking shows, students will learn the art of cooking a communal hot pot.  Performance and installation by MANGO PEELER and Exploding Motor Car!  

Vegan and Meat options available.

Dancing and dessert with DJ's Ding Dong & Lady Bro spinning hot jams.

Tuesday 28 August 2012

September Programming at XPACE Cultural Centre

Upcoming events and exhibitions at XPACE!

Opening Reception: Friday September 14, 2012 - 7pm - 11pm

Ursula Handleigh, Mirror Mirror, 2012

Neither Here Nor There
Adrienne Crossman and Ursula Handleigh
September 14th- October 6th, 2012

Based around a residency in Syracuse, NY at SPARK Contemporary, Adrienne Crossman and Ursula Handleigh created work responding to their surroundings. Neither Here Nor There explores themes of isolation, disorientation, interpretation and nostalgia. Deterioration created by countless abandoned homes and businesses; the landscape of the present, contrasts sharply with signs of the city’s former prosperity. As observers in a foreign yet uncannily familiar landscape, seemingly insignificant details – meticulously hand painted wood grain, an anomalous conch shell, boarded up windows – became emblematic of how the artists related to their surroundings.


Bigger Leak Than Expected
Joƫle Walinga
September 14th- October 12th, 2012

In the spirit of absurdity, Bigger Leak Than Expected explores the half-thought, makeshift solutions of the lazy or preoccupied. A leak from the ceiling is caught by a metal bucket, which has become full. A tube attaches the bucket to another, channelling the over-flow from the first bucket to a second and again, to a third. Walinga's work comically highlights the amount of time taken to create this three-bucket structure instead of simply emptying the first bucket. By constructing the leak, Walinga adds a performative element: the paradox of creating, and indirectly maintaining the problem that you also seek to solve.


After Homer's Odyssey
Vikki Dzuima
September 14th- October 6th, 2012

Originally from The Simpsons episode "Mom and Pop Art," Dziuma's pieces replicate the accidental sculptures created by cartoon character Homer Simpson. After Homer's Odyssey is a series of planned recreations that maintain the humour inherent in Homer's work. Dziuma emphasizes the reference while extending the context of the originals; transforming them from failed to successful attempts at art. Through their failure, Homer's work parodies contemporary art and criticism, which Dziuma questions as an inherent aspect in contemporary art making.

Zines, Zines, and more Zines!

Come check out our newly catalogued zine collection!

Our extensive zine collection here at XPACE is continuously expanding, so to keep up with it and provide user-friendly access, we catalogued it.  Our Summer Gallery Assistant Joanna Labriola, a 4th year printmaking student at OCAD U tackled this project head-on!  Visitors are now able to easily browse the collection and read about the individual artists/creators of the zines.

Thursday 23 August 2012

The Last Art College

The Last Art College: Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, 1968-1978

by:  Garry Neill Kennedy
MIT Press, 2012

Garry Neill Kennedy’s book, The Last Art College: Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, 1968 – 1978 is a rich, detailed archive of ten of the most interesting and active years in NSCAD’s history.  The synopsis asks,How did a small art college in Nova Scotia become the epicenter of art education--and to a large extent of the postmimimalist and conceptual art world itself--in the 1960s and 1970s?”  Kennedy’s book responds that it was through a flexible, innovative approach that combined the creative talents of faculty, students, and professional artists.  His compilation of essays, artist interviews, class assignments, project proposals, exhibition posters, images and film stills illustrate this point.  The book is structured around a chronology assembled in 1979 by David MacWilliam, compiled using the Now Bulletin, a notifications page posted daily around campus that included, gallery openings, artist talks, and academic meetings. 

Each chapter is devoted to an entire year beginning with 1968-1969 through 1978 concluding with an afterward by Les Levine; an article published in Art in America (July/August 1973) titled, “The Best Art School in North America?”.  Levine asserts that the school’s openness to new ideas and goal of flexibility with regards to educational needs are its greatest strengths and implies that indeed it is the best art school in North America and hopefully it can keep it up.

From the dictionary-like tabs that separate each chapter, to the running timeline of exhibitions, artist talks, and publications throughout; this book is painstakingly and beautifully put together.  Not one detail is overlooked.  Kennedy’s compilation is reminiscent of a scrap book kept over the course of ten years; complete with handwritten letters and snapshots of performances, lectures and exhibition openings.  One of the most interesting things included are copies of instructions for making art.  Submitted to the Projects class by artists like Sol LeWitt, Lucy R. Lippard, and Robert Smithson, these submissions yielded some of the greatest conceptual art.  Instructions from Robert Barry had students “gather together in a group and decide on a single common idea” (p. 14) which would be known only to them and would exist for as long as the idea was kept within the group.  The moment the idea was shared with anyone outside of the group, the piece would cease to exist.  Decades later while studying at the California Institute of the Arts, Mario Garcia Torres created his own work about the student’s response to Barry’s instructions.  What Happens in Halifax Stays in Halifax (in 36 Slides) (2005) involved the reunion of the Project class and consists of 36, 35mm slides with text.  It was created on the occasion of the IX Baltic Triennial (2005) and was exhibited in the Venice Biennial (2007) and the Taipei Biennial (2010).

The Last Art College explores a fine arts school in the radical years of the late sixties and seventies as it successfully pushed the boundaries of art education and fostered creative relationships between students, faculty and professional artists.  This timely book is even more interesting read in light of the recent financial and administrative issues faced by NSCAD.  Named “Halifax’s financially challenged art school” by Allison Saunders in an article published in The Coast, for a deficit of over $2 million.  The pre-existing financial woes of the independent art school which received 60% of its funding through government grants were worsened when the province cut funding for all universities in early 2011.  The school currently has an acting president, Dr. Daniel O’Brien and recently released what they are calling, the Framework for Sustainability, a “plan for the continued vitality and financial sustainability of NSCAD University” (which can be viewed on NSCAD’s website:  It seems as though Garry Neill Kennedy is speaking directly to the current challenges faced by the College, when he nostalgically concludes:

“I feel I am fortunate to have been president at the College in more heady days, when security, confidence, and accountability came as rewards for taking risks and for dealing directly with the issues that were of primary concern to committed artists and designers...  We took seriously the admonition not to look back, and we committed with our heads, our hearts, and our hands to engage the new art in truly new ways. [The motto of the college is: “Head, Heart, and Hand.”]  Perhaps time has begun to show that our enthusiasm and our optimism were not sustainable.  But even if this should be the case, I think that everyone associated with the College in its formative period can be proud of our shared commitment not to make any more boring art... and not to make any more boring art colleges!” (p. xxiii)

This book presents a fascinating era in NSCAD’s history and illustrates an idea of what a fine arts school should and could be.      

The Last Art College: Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, 1968-1978 belongs to "Anthology", Stefan Hancherow's curated collection of books at XPACE's Library.

To read more about the collection:


Last Satuday's papermaking workshop with Elija Montgomery was a huge success! 

Here are some pics...





Opening - Whippersnapper Gallery - tonight 7pm-10pm

Richard Muller

Sunrise Sunset
Opening - Thursday August 23, 2012  7pm-10pm

Whippersnapper Gallery
594b Dundas Street West

Richard Muller, Sunrise Sunset (photo:

Thursday 16 August 2012

PAPERMAKING WORKSHOP - Saturday August 18 - 1-5pm

Papermaking Workshop with Elija Montgomery

Saturday August 18th, 2012

here at XPACE!
58 Ossington Ave.

Space is limited - please RSVP to

For more info:

FEAST IN THE EAST - Tomorrow!!!! Friday August 17th, 9PM

Burn Down The Capital & Eastern Promises present:
Feast in the East 16

Friday August 17th, 2012

at Polyhaus
388 Carlaw Ave.

Tickets: $7
available at Circus Books and Music, The Film Buff, and Soundscapes

Free Italian dinner by Anni Spadafora (with advanced tickets)

For more info:

Wednesday 15 August 2012


Zine Making Workshop, Listening Party, and Panel Discussion on DIY Self Publishing

This past Saturday XPACE hosted a Zine Making Workshop, Listening Party and launched our new library project which includes THE CURATED LIBRARY – Texts curated on a bi-monthly basis coinciding with exhibitions; THE ZINE LIBRARY – Zines, comics, bookworks, and anthologies from local and international artists; and the BOOGIE WOOGIE MIX TAPE LIBRARY – Curatorial project by Sarah Butterill devoted to cassette tape music and sounds.
The Panel Discussion presented by Zine Dream featured artists involved in various kinds of publishing including,  DIY self-publishing, running experimental record labels, and publishing international distributed art magazines.  The panel featured Jamie Q, Dimitri Karakostas, Antonio Lennert, Symon Oliver, Eva Michon, Jacob Horwood, and Shannon Gerard as the moderator.

Here's a peak...


Thanks to all who participated!

Tuesday 14 August 2012