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People move throughout an exhibition. Text on the wall reads "Archival Dialogues"
Fig. 1

Archival Dialogues: Reading the Black Star Collection launch party, 2012 © Clifton Li, Ryerson Image Centre

Internationally acclaimed Canadian artists premiere new work in Archival Dialogues: Reading The Black Star Collection

Sep. 25, 2012

Toronto’s newest art gallery, the Ryerson Image Centre, opens on September 29th with an exhibition showcasing a first rate selection of leading Canadian contemporary artists: Stephen Andrews, Christina Battle, Marie-Helene Cousineau, Stan Douglas, Vera Frenkel, Vid Ingelevics, David Rokeby and Michael Snow. Archival Dialogues: Reading the Black Star Collection features new work from eight extraordinary artists, commissioned and created for the grand opening of the Ryerson Image Centre. Each artist has interacted with the legendary Black Star Collection at Ryerson University, a world-renowned archive of historic black and white photojournalism and one of the most valuable repositories of collective global memory captured in visual form.

By commissioning new works for the grand opening of the Ryerson Image Centre, curators Doina Popescu and Peggy Gale have facilitated vibrant examinations and exciting contemporary reinterpretations of the historic images.

“It’s not often Canadian artists of this stature have their work curated in one exhibition, let alone an exhibition using such extraordinary source material,” says Sheldon Levy, President of Ryerson University. “The depth of talent and the international stature of these artists makes the opening of the Ryerson Image Centre doubly exciting.”

There is a tremendous range of scope in the multi-disciplinary work presented in Archival Dialogues: Reading the Black Star Collection. Vera Frenkel’s video-photo-text piece, The Blue Train, was inspired by Frenkel’s mother’s escape from Europe at the outbreak of World War ll; Michael Snow’s TAUT features a video projection of extraordinary crowd scenes on a classroom setting; David Rokeby’s installation, Shrouded, on the Salah J. Bachir New Media Wall, reconstructs the way our eye passes over an image and selectively reveals details; Stephen Andrews presents cinema as a forensic tool; Christina Battle’s multi-media examination of photographs of disastrous events takes us into the realm of science fiction; Stan Douglas’s Midcentury Studio chronicles a photographer in the postwar years; Marie-Helene Cousineau’s work is inspired by portraits and snapshots taken in Baker Lake during the 1960s; and Vid Ingelevics explores the contradictions inherent in the archiving process and the preservation of “original” photographic images.

“The opportunity to examine and re-contextualize diverse aspects of the historical material in the Black Star Collection has been a remarkable journey for both the artists and the curators,” says Doina Popescu, Director of the Ryerson Image Centre, who co-curated the exhibition with Peggy Gale. “These commissioned works offer the public the chance to witness the coming together of one of the world’s most important photo historical archives with the analytical and creative subtleties at the core of eight unique contemporary art practices.”

The Black Star Collection was the single largest donation of cultural property ever made to a Canadian university. Archival Dialogues: Reading the Black Star Collection is a gift to its viewers, allowing us to see the past through the eyes of some of Canada’s most exceptional artists.