Art at the JHI

pleasurehome: desiring queer space

Evan Sproat
Wood and rope, (8” x 30” x 2”). Photo by Brigitte Patenaude.

pleasurehome: desiring queer space at the Art Museum at the University of Toronto explores the unique textures of queer belonging in an online exhibition from January 6 to April 30, 2022. Navigating the complexities of queer home, four artists (John Greyson, Evan Sproat, Kaeten Bonli, Shawné Michaelain Holloway) present new works in a variety of media, exploring the unique textures of queer belonging by creating an intimate online space. Curated by Master of Visual Studies student Logan Williams, pleasurehome: desiring queer space will unfold over January, February, March, and April 2022. The following descriptions are provided by Logan Williams.

Welcome to the pleasurehome, an online exhibition responding to queer desire, prompted by Catherine Opie’s 1993 photograph Self-Portrait/Cutting. Carved on the artist’s back is a vision of home, made in a childish scrawl, illustrating two women, hand in hand, in front of a house, under a timid sun. Oscillating between desire and violence, the image establishes a politics of pleasure that guides the presentation of four new artworks, released in sequence over a four-month span. One by one, each artist thoughtfully weaves their own experience of queerness into various forms (video, photography, painting, and digital arts), resulting in a textured exploration of home. Beginning in January 2022, viewers will have the opportunity to view each work on a month-by-month basis through an accessible online portal, converging at the hearth of queer home through its many extensions and interpretations. We look forward to having you over.

John Greyson, International Dawn Chorus Day | Thursday, January 6

In Greyson’s film, the sound of birdsong amidst the Zoom Room backdrop encapsulates the isolation of a year come and gone (and now again); as we trepidatiously return to real shared spaces, the film elicits the potential for affective experiences in the virtual world. The ‘jail bird’ (the isolation of the home office compared aptly to that of a prison cell) speaks across space and time to communicate to others, begging for an understanding of what is happening beyond their respective nests. The appearance of the body is questioned by these birds, curious and restless, as bodies enter in and out of the reconstituted frame. Queerness here rings through— temporary homes built out of necessity for belonging—to make sense of what is beyond the front door, longing for community. Watch the film here.

Evan Sproat | Thursday, February 3

The praying mantis eats her partner after the act of making love, devouring the lustful encounter that gives life to a new generation. Interested in play and childhood, Vancouver-based artist Evan Sproat stages environments that encourage curiosity and play, highlighting the mechanistic extensions of gender conformity within the filmic frame of a staged scene. Experimenting with costume, sets, photography, and character-building, this work speaks to the dangers of pleasure made manifest in childhood bedrooms and playrooms. Working through his own experience of alienation from his community, Sproat injects his work with a palpable vulnerability that speaks to the desire for queer acceptance and a wrangling free from the binaristic system that separates us from them.

Kaeten Bonli | Thursday, March 3

New York artist Kaeten Bonli patches together a scene from time past: his grandmother’s house is the scene in which he places his queer body to confront the generations-long anxieties surrounding the queer body. Through methodologies of opacity and transparency, the artist layers painting with textile and photography in a virtual environment to call upon the multidimensional process of coming to terms with his identity within a family whose love was conditional, where his body was always destined to not belong. The triptych of works obliterates a linear narrative in lieu of a patchwork of coming and going, not only through a remembering of his grandmother’s home but the negotiation between the real and the virtual, the art gallery and the webpage.

Shawné Michaelain Holloway | Thursday, April 7

The Mighty Jill-Off sets the scene for Chicago-based artist Shawné Michaelain Holloway’s work where the artist unpacks a video game in which she has always been fascinated. Set in a castle, the game begins with two women. The servant desires to kiss the boots of the Queen, but to do so, she must climb to the top of the castle through an array of trials and tribulations and win the prize before any such affection be shown. For the artist, this experience has the potential to reveal the queer experience of longing for something which can never be achieved. Within the infinity-loop of the video game world, of gaining more ‘lives’ after countless deaths, Holloway questions whether queer desire is ever really attainable. Weaving together this narrative with digital work, the exhibition will close with the same question in which it opens: how did you get home?

Presented in conjunction with the Jackman Humanities Institute’s 2021–2022 research theme, Pleasure.

pleasurehome: desiring queer space is a co-production of the Art Museum and the Jackman Humanities Institute that is on display from January 6 to April 30, 2022. We are grateful for the contributions of the Art Museum, both financial and in-kind, through the contribution of expertise, planning and implementation. The curator, Logan Williams, is a student in the MVS Curatorial Studies program at the John M. Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape and Design, who has 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 labels)
  • Esther Simmonds-MacAdam, Exhibition Coordination (exhibition logistics, installation, shipping, coordination)
  • Dax Morrison, Exhibition installation
  • Heather Pigat, Collections Manager (involved in all works borrowed from the UofT and Hart House Collections)

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.