À la recherche (in search of practice-based research) curated by Barbara Balfour
The working title of the show À la recherche (in search of practice-based research), suggests a call in honour of research, as something to be celebrated, and also alludes to the title of Marcel Proust’s novel À la recherche du temps perdu. Etymologically, there is a sense of “search” within “research,” which curator Barbara Balfour is keeping in mind in undertaking this curatorial project. Research has been at the heart of Balfour’s practice for many years, but she has also been thinking about it in a more concerted fashion lately, in terms of the notion of “practice-based research.”
Balfour has asked thirty or so artists (including Diane Borsato, Tara Cooper, Jenn Law, Gwen McGregor, Patrick Mahon, David Merritt, and Joy Walker, among others) who she believes already have a relationship to research in their own work to participate in this project. At the same time, they might also take issue with this particular terminology. Roberta Smith, for one, has decried the undertones of professionalism that inflect the term “art practice,” suggesting something similar to a medical practice; others, including Owen Chapman and Kim Sawchuk, have underlined how “research” has been traditionally understood in the academy as scholarly rather than creative. Balfour is reluctant to offer a definition, even her own working definition, of practice-based research, as she does not want to over determine or limit participants’ responses. She is primarily interested in how they envision, interpret, and represent it on their own terms—what practice-based research might look like.
Balfour acknowledges that she is quite blatantly taking her curatorial model from Mel Bochner, in particular his Working Drawings exhibition of 1966. The full title is Working Drawings And Other Visible Things On Paper Not Necessarily Meant to Be Viewed As Art. Following Bochner’s example, she is asking for contributions in the form of digital files that will materialize in the exhibition as part of a larger group of printed documents, this time in a print-on-demand publication involving around thirty participants. Although digitally printed from electronic files rather than photocopied, the 8.5” x 11” work in À la recherche will have an aesthetic likely bearing some similarity to that of Working Drawings. With the form and content up to participants to determine, the submissions could be visual and/or text-based, as well as representing past, current or future practice-based research.
Barbara Balfour, a Toronto-based artist, is Associate Professor in the Print Media Area of the Department of Visual Art and Art History, York University, where she is Graduate Program Director, MFA/PhD Visual Arts. Her recent research, funded through SSHRC Research/Creation, involves text-based art practices and print’s relationship to multiplicity. Balfour has exhibited her artwork internationally and has printed for artists including Leon Golub, Robert Indiana, Komar and Melamid, and David Rabinowitch. Selected curatorial projects include Keren Yuan/ Guest Garden (Beijing, China; with Stephanie Shepherd); In the Stacks (Queen*Specific, Toronto); Printing Errors (akau Gallery, Toronto); Printapalooza (Gales Gallery, York University, Toronto); and text (TYPE Bookstore, Toronto). Other activities include artist residencies, conference presentations and critical writing, including an essay in PUBLIC 51: Colour. An Art Metropole lifetime member, Balfour’s most recent publication, The Inkiest Black, launched at Katzman Contemporary, Toronto, and the LA Art Book Fair, Los Angeles.
The accompanying brochure can be found below.
List of artists in À la recherche
Marcus Boon and Christie Pearson (collaborating one one project)