Xpace Cultural Centre: January Exhibitions 2020

January is filled with exhibition openings, and I want to go to all of them! But that is impossible, obviously, so I usually have a small list of go-to galleries and centres that rise to the top of my priority, and Xpace Cultural Centre is always one of them. 

I first heard of Xpace back in my university days, since the centre is supported by the OCAD Student Union - it was a pretty popular place to visit to see who is up and coming. But just in case you haven’t heard of them before, here is a little summary. Xpace is a non-profit artist-run centre near Lansdowne and Dundas St. West, in Toronto. They are extremely dedicated to creating and finding opportunities for emerging and student artists, curators, writers and designers to share their work.

Currently, there are four main sections to their January Exhibitions: Emotional Objects curated by Emily Grove (main space), * Screams Internally * (for Attention) by artist Samirra Sada (project space), Hopping for Hope by artist Ahreum Lee (external space), and Ha ha wall by artist Erika Verhagen (window space). Each space stood out in its own right, and if I wrote about all of them this blog post would be as long as my thesis paper. So I’m going to focus on the piece that I can’t stop thinking about: Verhagen’s Ha ha wall

Before I jump in, here is the artist statement for the piece provided by Xpace, to give you a base for the work. 

A glass, knocked off your bedside table falls onto your hardwoods and your downstairs neighbour retaliates with a broom handle to his ceiling. The glass falls onto your area rug and you pick out the pieces by hand for an hour.
Named for the 18th-century wall, designed to both preserve the sightline of pastoral farmland and to minimize the interruption of unwanted visitors, Ha ha wall is an installation that explores the tactile and sonic experience of living spaces through rug-making. Your rug hushes your anxious pacing footsteps, a quiet conversation through a door with a roommate. It preserves the cherished silence of your living space, minimizes the unwanted intrusions of the outside world.

Ha ha wall is presented as part of DesignTO 2020. 

(This statement for Ha Ha Wall was found on Xpace’s website, as of 2020-01-24) 

There are not many things that will make me voluntarily stand outside in winter weather, especially when the wind is whipping me in the face. However, when I visited Xpace - I spent most of my time doing just that - standing outside in the snow, staring into the river of rug-hooked textiles that filled the bubble of glass. 

My eyes raced through the stream from left to right and back again, amazed by Verhagen’s play of shadows and delicate technique. At first, I didn’t even see the chair, it was an object that these textiles ran through, its shadows playing on the soft textures, altering their colour. The rugs became the chair’s shadow, the water, and the floor, they were everything - and not, the wooden chair just slightly covered in their warmth. They are the barrier to this environment, a protective casing that stops the viewer from entering. 

We cannot sit on that chair. We can only see this world that Verhagen has created behind not only the wall of glass but across the winding river that flows through the piece. This space is not for me, I am just a stranger passing through, who is allowed to glimpse into this private moment in time. Maybe this is why I didn’t want to leave.

I have continued to visit this piece a few times since the opening, in better weather might I add, and I’m still entranced as I was the first time. Still noticing new details, and admiring how the sunlight affects the piece - especially at sunset, since the window space faces west. 

So go see it! You only have until February 22nd, to visit this work, along with the other exhibitions currently inside Xpace. There are also amazing essays to go along with each space, and even if you can’t make it out - they are available to download on the Xpace website. Let me know what you think of the exhibitions, and I hope to see you at their next opening!

- Sarah Zanchetta

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