Marian Penner Bancroft, VISIT: Site of former Indian Residential School, Birtle, Manitoba, 2000. Courtesy the artist; Althea Thauberger, Marat Sade Bohnice (detail), 2012. Photo: Jan Faukner; Gabi Dao, Exceprts from the Domestic Cinema, Ch. 1, (video still), 2018. Courtesy the artist; Lili Reynaud-Dewar, My Epidemic (performance at the 56th Venice Biennial, Biblioteca dei Giardini), 2015. Courtesy the artist.

Cruising the Archive

May 14 – June 20, 2020

Institutions across all sectors of society have experienced unprecedented upheaval in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic, as have the publics that these institutions serve. On scales personal and systemic, it is clear that a so-called return to normal will not be possible, and nor would it be desirable for those who have been dispossessed by these previous ways of living and relating. In response, many galleries and museums insist that art can provide both solace and provocation, building a bridge from now to what comes after. Others question what efficacy art can have beyond its modest audiences or in the realm of politics.

At SFU Galleries, our work is rooted in the belief that there are meaningful lessons to gather from the practices of artists. We approach exhibitions as a space where paradigm shifts can be incited, both viscerally and intuitively. At this particular moment in time, where the world is undergoing enormous and irreversible change, it is imperative to interrogate how we understand our work: what have we gleaned from art, what have we missed and how might these insights shape our actions moving forward?

Cruising the Archive addresses these questions through a series of interactive online reflections of past SFU Galleries programming. Guided by the thinking of José Esteban Muñoz in Cruising Utopia: The Then and There of Queer Futurity (2009), this exhibition mines the past as a source of critical and hopeful optimism that believes cultural institutions should be held accountable for what the presentation of art produces in the world. Muñoz declares that “we have never been queer, yet queerness exists for us as an ideality that can be distilled from the past and used to imagine the future. The future is queerness’s domain.”[1] Here, queerness is not a matter of the identities of our bodies, chained to the present, but an imagined and attainable future in which our bodies are organized in ways that orient us to new possibilities of relation.

Muñoz proposes that a queer aesthetic can “spark new ways of perceiving and acting on a reality that is itself potentially changeable.”[2] Cruising the Archive investigates exhibitions where this notion of a queer aesthetics might be found in a work’s visual or conceptual regime, its method of production, or its mode of dissemination. Through critical reflection and public discussion, this exhibition aims to untangle the ways in which the institutions of art are implicated in the very structures they claim to challenge, and what opportunities for change are produced through this embeddedness.

Cruising the Archive will look back upon — and pose questions to — the following exhibitions: Relations of Responsibility (2019), Unsettled Sites (2016), Lili Reynaud-Dewar: My Epidemic (Teaching Bjarne Melgaard’s Class) (2015), and Althea Thauberger: Marat Sade Bohnice (2014).

Each week, Cruising the Archive will explore the central concepts and propositions of one of these exhibitions. This will be followed by a series of questions that instigate conversation around the exhibition’s social and political engagements, as well as its potentials for imagining new futures.

You can engage in discussion in the following ways:

1. Comment on our Instagram posts.

2. Reply to our Instagram stories by clicking the camera icon on the bottom left of your screen and typing your reply. We will repost your reply to our stories.

3. Reply anonymously: send a message to our Instagram inbox and we will post your reply anonymously.

4. Repost our Instagram posts and stories to engage your network.

Curated by Christopher Lacroix

[1] José Esteban Muñoz, Cruising Utopia: The Then and There of Queer Futurity (New York, NY: New York University Press, 2009), 1.

[2] Ibid, 135.