Art at the JHI

The Centre Cannot Hold: Labourious Memories

In conjunction with the Jackman Humanities Institute’s 2022-23 research themeLabourThe 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.

Mary Kavanagh, Trinity Equivalent [Yucca, White Sands National Park, New Mexico | Observatory, White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico], 2019. Chromogenic print on Canson Infinity Rag Photographique, 78.1 x 153.7 cm (30.75 x 60.51 in). Photo by Mary Kavanagh. Courtesy of the artist © Mary Kavanagh.

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.

Morris Lum, Remembering the Forestview, 2011 and 2021. Dibond mounted print, 36 x 28.5 inches. Courtesy of the artist.

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.

Soledad Fatima Muñoz, Amaranta Espinoza Arias, and Lula Almeyda. La parte de atrás de la arpillera (stills), 2022. Video, 23min. Courtesy of the artist.


The Centre Cannot Hold: Labourious Memories is a co-production of the Art Museum and the Jackman Humanities Institute that is on display from September 14 to June 30, 2023.

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.

Jackman Humanities Institute
Tenth Floor, Jackman Humanities Building
170 St. George St., Toronto, ON, M5R 2M8

We are grateful for the contributions of the Art Museum, both financial and in-kind, through the contribution of expertise, planning and implementation. The curators—Atif Mikhail Khan, Sherry Chunqing Liu and Erin Storus—are students in the MVS Curatorial Studies program at the John M. Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape and Design, and have produced this show under the faculty supervision of Professor Barbara Fischer.

The Art Museum team that made this exhibition possible, extending their normal frame of work, includes:

  • Maureen Smith, Business Coordinator (finance and administration)
  • Marianne Rellin, Communications Coordinator (publication and didactics)
  • Dan Hunt, Interim Lead Preparator (Installation and Logistics)
  • Kate Whiteway, Interim Exhibition Coordinator

This exhibition would not be possible without all of their collective work.

Operating and project support: the Art Museum, the Canada Council for the Arts, the Ontario Arts Council, and the Jackman Humanities Institute.