In Collaboration with the Blackwood Gallery

January 27 – March 7, 2010

Curated by Christof Migone

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Photos by Sandy Plotnikoff and Christine Swintak

Three sites. Three stages. Three locations, and one event intertwines the three. First, in one location, a cottage is demolished. Second, the cottage is reconstituted in our two gallery locations as a temporary display which functions simultaneously as an architectural autopsy, a time capsule, a resuscitation, a dump display, a scavenger manual, a surgical dismantlement, a reverse gentrification, a study of inefficiency, an erased erasure, and a memento mori. The second stage enacts a delayed forgetting, it forestalls the inevitable discarding, it impedes the third unknowable stage of oblivion from ever occurring. Christine Swintak and Don Miller intervene in the course of a campus in the midst of a growth spurt; they balance the equation whereby as new buildings break ground and emerge, others fade underground. The cottage in question, the Thomas Cottage, is a small late 19th century building that sits in the middle of the UTM campus and precedes the establishment of the campus and even its predecessor, Erindale College. The artists methodically take apart the dilapidated and maligned cottage and not only stage a slowing down of its destruction, they also animate and transform it into a chimerical entity. The cottage, now in a post-mortem state and no longer listed in the property registry, enters the realm of sitelessness. Robert Smithson described his non-sites as “maps of material” which not only delimit space but also “involve a consciousness of time.”(1) Swintak and Miller provide a similar sensitivity to this continuum. The layered histories of the cottage, from the banal to the apocryphal, are present in both gallery spaces. Their tripartite rant (good cop, bad cop, no cop) anthropomorphize the cottage in order to address it as the subject of their ire, their desire, and their baffled silence in the face of this anachronistic presence. The installation presents a portal to a pastoral past, but also reflects its university-based gallery setting as a white cubed cog in the knowledge industry. Neither narrative is idealized or demonized, in other words, the project acknowledges the fissures and fractures inherent in architecture. The invisible structures of society are made manifest in the structures of our buildings. In Georges Bataille’s pithy and peculiar definition of architecture, he argues that the human form is but an intermediary stage of evolution towards the more advanced and authoritative form of buildings (he focuses on monuments in particular).(2) In short, architecture not only speaks volume, it also speaks power. Consequently, with a conviction that is both resolute and risible, Swintak and Miller pervert the conventions and dub the cottage a sovereign. In honor of what would otherwise be an unnoticed demise, they then produce an installation which proclaims, The Cottage is dead! Long live the Cottage!

Christof Migone, Director/Curator


Art Papers, May/June 2010, pp. 56-57 (pdf), review by Amish Morell