Holding Up Front

Shannon Garden-Smith

August 6-20, 2016

Saturday, August 6 at 7pm


As for us, we too want something that’s neither inside nor outside, neither a space nor a site. In an inhabitable surface that recognizes us, we’d like to gently sway. Then we would be happy.¹


These are the materials of the inessential. Polyester throw-blankets, faux flowers, simulation-plaster wallpaper: mimicry at the level of texture and surface. Through her “Office for Soft Architecture”, poet and essayist Lisa Robertson writes about such surfaces as “ancillary or ornamental phenomena that have no meaning in themselves.”² —Subjectivity, identity and individuation are at stake; rendered irrelevant, even. There is dissolution into materials and preservation becomes decomposition. Here, our bodies merge into the things with and within which we live.

Still, strands, branches, threads and pieces add up. Amassed bodies congeal and fold into themselves or hold onto something else. Lodged in the non-space of the storefront, agglutinating into too-solid form, they are pressed into the service of surface.

Holding up.
Hanging in.

Aspirational normalcy—writes affect theorist Lauren Berlant—is a desire for stability, for a life that does not require continuous reinvention. In pursuit of this ideal we become “…survivalists [and] scavengers bargaining to maintain the paradox of entrepreneurial optimism against defeat by the capitalist destruction of life.”³ Fixity is tenuous. Materials survive as pictures, and pictures deliquesce into materials—hollow, content-less, obfuscating.


[1] Lisa Robertson, Occasional Work and Seven Walks from the Office for Soft Architecture (Toronto: Coach House, 2003) 166.
[2] Geoffrey Hlibchuk, “Delirious Cities: Lisa Robertson’s Occasional Work and Seven Walks from the Office for Soft Architecture,” Studies in Canadian Literature / Études en littérature canadienne [Online], 36.1, 2011, 17 Jun. 2016: 231.
[3] Lauren Berlant, Cruel Optimism (Durham: Duke UP, 2011) 172.


Shannon Garden-Smith is a Toronto/Guelph-based artist. She received her undergraduate degree from the University of Toronto in 2012 and is a current MFA candidate at the University of Guelph. She recently participated in the Saas-Fee Summer Institute of Art and an accompanying exhibition in Berlin. Her work has been exhibited at the Art Museum at the University of Toronto Art Centre, University of Toronto Mississauga in collaboration with Blackwood Gallery, Nuit Blanche (Toronto) and Gallery Stratford. She will be presenting a collaborative installation with Polina Teif in TRUCK Gallery’s window space in Calgary this fall.