JHI Spotlight—Dallas Fellini

October 16, 2023 by Sonja Johnston

Meet U of T student Dallas Fellini, curator of the JHI's Art Exhibition Mnemonic silences, disappearing acts, which includes works by Kasra Jalilipour, Jordan King, Kama La Mackerel, Hazel Meyer and Cait McKinney, and Lan “Florence” Yee. Responding to the JHI’s 2023-24 research theme Absence, the exhibition explores the marginalized queer and trans archive, highlighting the surveillance, erasure, and censorship that shape histories. Through modes of fiction-making, critical imagining, and revisionism, the exhibition proposes strategies for a future of queer and trans history-making that challenges oppressive narratives and fills the gaps in the archive.

Can you tell us a little about your background?

I'm a second year Master of Visual Studies student at the University of Toronto. My Master's research looks at the relationship between trans histories and the archive, interrogating the compromised conditions through which trans lives have been recorded. Outside of my work in this program, I have a practice as a writer and an independent curator. I also co-direct Silverfish, an arts publication devoted to interdisciplinary collaboration, skill-sharing, and cultivating sustained dialogue between emerging artists and writers.

The JHI theme this year is Absence. What attracted you to this theme?

I was interested in how absence can inform our understandings of history, and how archival silences, censorship, and omission affect how queer and trans histories are remembered. It can be devastating to seek out these histories only to be met with immense voids, but I was more interested in how these gaps in the archive could provide artists with a space to speculate on the historic record and explore new strategies for transforming relationships with archival silences.

What drew you to the artists in your exhibition?

The artists that I worked with in Mnemonic silences, disappearing acts each respond to and reinterpret the queer and trans archive in ways that transform existing histories that are insufficient, compromised, colonial, or simply absent. Though their methods are distinct—including critical fabulation, fiction-making, and revisionism—these artists each speak to the unreliable qualities of stored memory in thought-provoking ways, generating new entrance points into queer history.

What are your plans when Mnemonic silences, disappearing acts is over?

Currently, I'm developing my MVS thesis exhibition, which will similarly consider the relationship between queer histories and the archive, but will instead hone in on the conditions through which trans lives specifically have been recorded. This project will focus on representational and archival approaches that specifically counter trans hypervisibility. The exhibition will open at the Art Museum in May 2024.

Mnemonic silences, disappearing acts is a co-production of the Art Museum and the Jackman Humanities Institute that is on display from September 13 to June 21, 2024.

The exhibition is open to the public during regular business hours - Monday to Friday from 9am to 4pm. Tip: Call ahead (416-978-7415) if you are planning to come see the exhibition to make sure that all works are accessible. Since the JHI is a working space, some of the rooms may be in use.