August 31, 2021

The Art Gallery of York University to present Jess Dobkin’s ‘Wetrospective’ exhibition

The Art Gallery of York University (AGYU) will reopen its doors this next month with the first-ever retrospective exhibition of Toronto’s performance art matriarch Jess Dobkin, curated by former AGYU director/curator Emelie Chhangur (now at the Agnes Etherington Art Centre in Kingston, Ont.). The exhibition, titled Wetrospective, will run from Sept. 2 to 26, with an opening party on Friday, Sept. 10 from 7 to 10 p.m. A signed and numbered artist multiple will be given to the first 200 visitors to the gallery.

Jess Dobkin’s Mirror Ball performance, 2008
Jess Dobkin’s Mirror Ball performance, 2008

“I’ve been thinking a lot about how to undo, redo, reimagine, represent, activate, upcycle the archive,” says Dobkin. “For my purposes I’m not interested in the archive as presentation of historical documents. I am interested in how it can be performed. How it can be in conversation with the living present and also speak to the future.”

Dobkin has been a working artist, curator, community activist, mentor and teacher for more than 25 years, creating and producing intimate solo theatre performances, large-scale public happenings, socially engaged interventions, and performance art workshops and lectures. With Wetrospective, Dobkin welcomes the public into 25 years of her playful and provocative practice with animated “litrine vitrines” (portable toilets) and a custom-designed augmented reality app.

“Dobkin upcycles her own archive of past performances in ways that constitute her concept of ‘bendy-time,’” says Chhangur. “This exhibition demands of archives what we expect from performance: the live encounter of experience in a ritual of transformation.”

The exhibition’s Collective Effervescence Opening Party will feature an outdoor celebration with DJ Cozmic Cat, Nik Red, Sasha Van Bon Bon and John Caffery spinning archives of Toronto’s favourite parties, plus Jewish Performance Food Truck with Guillermina Buzio and Bar Bacan.

Ancillary events and activations

Jess Dobkin’s Wetrospective includes the following constellation of talks, tours and engagements featuring seminal cultural critic Ann Cvetkovich; artist and scholar Jehan L. Roberson; artist and archivist Joyce LeeAnn; and York University Professor Laura Levin, associate dean of research in the School of the Arts, Media, Performance & Design (AMPD):

  • You’re Welcome Wetro Tour with Emelie Chhangur and Jess Dobkin: Thursday, Sept. 9 at 3 p.m. at the AGYU.
  • Portals, Potions and Archives with Jehan Roberson: Saturday, Sept. 18 at 3 p.m. at the AGYU (and livestream).
  • The Live Encounter Performative Gallery Tour with Laura Levin: Monday, Sept. 20 at 3 p.m. at the AGYU.
  • Archival Alchemy with Joyce LeeAnn (in collaboration with the FADO Performance Art Centre): Tuesday, Sept. 21 at 7 p.m. at 401 Richmond Street West, Toronto (and livestream).
  • Hemispheric Encounters with Performance Art Archivists – Roundtable Discussion: Thursday, Sept. 23, 3 to 4 p.m. via livestream.
  • All the Feels with Ann Cvetkovich: Friday, Sept. 24 at 3 p.m. at the AGYU (and livestream).

Wetrospective was produced by the AGYU with the support of Sensorium: Centre for Digital Arts and Technology at York University and the AMPD Makerspace, along with the collaborative help of affiliated computational arts students who assisted in the conceptualization and development of the Wetrospective app.

For this exhibition, the AGYU will be open seven days a week from 12 to 5 p.m., with extended hours until 7 p.m. on Wednesdays. Pre-registration will be required to attend the exhibition and related events, and AGYU visitors will need to pre-screen before coming to York’s Keele Campus. For more information and to register, visit agyu.art/project/wetrospective. For accessibility and accommodation assistance, email agyu@yorku.ca.

Note: This exhibition and related events contain mature content.

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