Is art something you frame on the wall, or an experience to remember? In Holding Patterns (1655 Dupont St., various hours, until Oct. 21), art appreciation is found in the unlikeliest of places – a storage facility. Note I said art appreciation, not art storage – who knows how many masterpieces collect dust in those places?  Holding Patterns presents series of storage lockers with commissioned and site-specific art projects.

Recognizing the shifts and upheavals often associated with storage lockers, Holding Patterns explores movement, space, belonging, material culture, and transition. The exhibition investigates consumerism and the glorification of materialism, and touches on forms of marginalization in reference to issues of site-lessness, connoted by storage facilities. Storage lockers often house a unique range of objects from the precious to the useless, their contents acting as a metaphor for memory and forgetting, or the conscious and unconscious. Drawing together these varied realities of space, storage, excess, and access, Holding Patterns examines not only the personal stories, but the histories of urban development and community migration that accompany them.

Twenty art installations are spread amongst three floors, within twenty storage lockers of various sizes. Co-curator Layne Hinton from Art Spin guided two friends, their dog, and myself through the maze-like warrens to highlight a few of these pieces, and was able to shine a light on some of the practical details of working with a storage facility to host an art show. The artists and exhibitors applied to Art Spin to be a part of the show, and were instructed to have as little impact on the facility itself as possible – no permanent alterations and minimal electricity usage were just some of the constraints artists had to work with.

Valentin Brown, “Unidentified Remains” – reflective of Brown’s transgender experience

The majority of the pieces appear to address issues around impermanence and transiency. For many immigrants, a storage locker may be the only safe, permanent location for prized possessions. Intergenerational bonds and the experiences of immigration are present in a number of pieces here, including audio recordings of Alexandra Hong’s parents discussing their old life in Vietnam, and a particularly striking piece by Serena Lee, which addresses her recently-passed grandfather’s “estate.”

Of course, immigrants are not the only ones who make use of storage lockers. Any of us may need to seek refuge in a storage locker to address trauma. This was a principal idea for the Dream Video Project, which, in their locker, hosts a space for people to discuss immigration and eviction experiences public broadcast style (I appreciate the attention that was given to me there.). You can even be exorcised of bad juju in the space.

Johannes Zits, “Excess”

Three floors up is Johannes Zits, who is performing even as I write this piece, and who will be present for the duration of the exhibit running until Oct 21, 2018. Found in a state of undress, he has a variety of fabrics that he is urgently assembling and dissembling. A seemingly contradictory series of actions instills the sense that simultaneously, he has too much and not enough. His space is also reminiscent of those who have called and who now call storage lockers home (this facility has attempted to discourage this practice by making outlets obsolete in the storage units).

I would like to give a shout out to the pieces that highlight disability, and to Art Spin, for wanting to create an accessible exhibit. As Hinton remarked, Art Spin does a lot of work in inaccessible locales, such as abandoned buildings and rundown areas, so making use of an accessible location was a highlight. That being said, some pieces may not be accessible in the instance of viewing them, since they make use of auditory features which Deaf folks may not hear. However, staff and volunteers are available to assist those that need assistance, and transcriptions are often readily available. I particularly enjoyed Mitchell Akiyama and David Bobier’s deconstruction of Alexander Graham Bell’s audist tendencies, as presented by the Deaf Culture Centre. Also stop by Danielle Hyde’s unit to see another “lived space,” and learn how an artist addresses her OCD.

My failure to mention a piece or artist is in no way intended to mean that I did not enjoy their work. With time and space constraints, I mentioned what resonated with me today. However, should I return tomorrow, other artists and pieces will pique my interest: I may, quite possibly, linger in PALACIT Design Studio’s envisioning of an Agora, the ancient Greek town square, and plan with my friends further explorations of the many storage lockers turned into pieces (including a few “unofficial” hangers-on, as Hinton told me today).

Michael Simon, “Inner Light”

In closing, I am reminded of one of my favourite film quotes: “there are a thousand stories in the naked city, and this is one of them.” Well, there are more than a thousand in the city of Toronto, and there are at least twenty stories to reflect on here.

In 2010 Art Spin presented their first-ever group exhibition in the same industrial building where Holding Patterns will be presented, animating a 10,000 sq ft. space. This time they are opting for a smaller footprint through a series of 5×5 to 10×20 units, and are excited to revisit this building in their tenth year of programming.

Holding Patterns: an exhibition by Art Spin

Planet Storage – 1655 Dupont St.
Exhibition runs: October 11th – October 21
Artist & Curator Talk and Tour: Saturday October 20th, 3pm
Click here for more details

Exhibition and related events are all FREE
Art Spin will be accepting PWYC donations at the door to assist with exhibition costs

About the Author

Michael McNeely is a 2nd year law student; entertainment and accessibility critic; filmmaker; and aspiring actor. He enjoys meaningful representations of LGBT folks and those with disabilities in the popular media, and is waiting for the day where nuance, instead of stereotype and prejudice, is the norm. Michael is deaf-blind, meaning that he enjoys the presence of subtitles and other accessibility features.