Space Shapes Place

A Letter from our Artistic Director


AA black and white photograph of a black man in side profile. His hand is holding the side of his face, and his eyes are looking downwards. The man is wearing a dark sweater and a newsboy cap. He appears to be in deep thought.s the new Artistic Director of Tangled Art + Disability and a ‘newcomer’ to Canada, I invite you to join me in experiencing Space Shapes Place: our national exhibition series of commissioned works by Deaf, Mad and disability artists, supported by Ontario 150 and the Toronto Arts Council’s Open Door program. Spanning nine months in Tangled Art Gallery, the series features multidisciplinary creations from artists throughout the country, exploring themes of disability identity, history, culture, community and legacies across Canada.

From the first moment of interacting with Canada’s cultural communities, I have experienced vibrant exchanges that compelled me to think more deeply about the role of arts in activating transformative social change. Centering the lived experience of disability identified, Mad and Deaf folk, I seek to cultivate opportunities that stimulate the evolution of contemporary culture and aesthetics. Opportunities informed by communities that affirm intersectionality: ways of articulating and understanding our humanity.  It is through this lens – mindful of our coexisting intersections – that I curate.

In May, work officially began in Toronto. Immediately this meant reviewing proposals expressing an expanse of artistic mediums. In Tangled’s call for submissions,  we asked artists to reflect on the past, present and future of this country as it relates to the currently celebrated anniversary. The responses were overwhelming, passionate, and insightful. Thank you to each artist who shared their distinctive creative practice and vision.

Through this curatorial process, I found myself settling on three words: Space. Shapes. Place. The space these artists shape profoundly places us in their world. A world that heals, inviting us to take it in and take time to wonder. A world that acknowledges how some homes we create are delicate and precarious, while others are vulnerable yet powerfully built. A world that asks us to tune into the everyday moments we may take for granted. To consider how we were and how we might be, if the world truly welcomed us. And in the act of shaping of these spaces, their artistry beautifully evolves. We get to witness this evolution.

We might imagine in these spaces that the stigmas often associated with disability, madness or being deaf are lifted or go away. Not necessarily. The challenges are visible, the pain is real, and the struggles revealed in ways that are magnified. Acclaimed writer and thinker James Baldwin stated that “the place in which I’ll fit will not exist until I make it”. The making. This is the place where the artists thrive. This is a place we desire. To belong. To be ourselves. With all of our intersections of being. Infinitely.

                   Barak adé Soleil