Native Art Department International, Bureau of Aesthetics
KADIST has invited Mercer Union, a non-profit artist-run center in Toronto, Canada for an Art-Space Residency and exhibition in San Francisco. Mercer Union has conceived the residency as an incubator to consider the approach to institutions working small-scale. Together, both organizations take up a series of questions around collaboration with Native Art Department International (NADI), a collaborative project by Toronto-based artists Maria Hupfield and Jason Lujan.
Mercer Union is considered a leader amongst artist-run culture in Canada, placing artists at the center of the organization’s activities to operate as an exhibition space, production platform, research site, and resource for the dissemination of knowledge. Mercer Union’s approach focuses on long-term and close collaborations with artists to articulate the stakes in their practice. For Mercer Union, this ethos is vital to working small-scale and enables the development and mediation of critical and complex artistic endeavors. This main objective offers the starting point for Mercer Union’s residency at KADIST and NADl’s exhibition, Bureau of Aesthetics.
At KADIST, NADI presents a selection of objects that highlight, through their art-making process, how collaboration and cooperation might interrogate art history and strengthen communities. Through a multi-disciplinary practice–comprising performance, sculpture, and video–NADI engage collaborative and collective action as strategies to challenge essentialist readings of contemporary artworks projected onto Indigenous cultural producers. Working across international contexts, NADI’s projects and exhibitions work to liberate artworks and aesthetics from reductive classifications and fetishization ingrained in colonial systems of power and interpretation.
Each work on view takes up varying methods of collaboration that NADI has employed throughout their practice. In a gesture of acknowledging the long history of collective action that underpins institutional critique within the history of art, the artists have connected with collectives based in the Bay Area. These conversations will continue throughout the course of the exhibition evolving in myriad ways including a display of ephemera in KADIST’s library and street-facing windows. The collectives include Borderline Art Collective, East Bay Alternative Book and Zine Fest, ONE+ONE+TWO, Project Kalahati, Sanctuary City Project, Slingshot, Street Sheet/Coalition on Homelessness, and 3.9 Collective.
Bureau of Aesthetics is NADI’s first solo exhibition on the West Coast and precedes NADI’s first solo exhibition in Canada at Mercer Union in March 2020. Mercer Union’s residency marks the launch of KADIST’s Art-Space Residency in San Francisco.
Native Art Department International is a collaborative long-term project created and administered by Maria Hupfield (Canada) and Jason Lujan (United States). NADI focuses on communications platforms and systems of support in the art world while at the same time functioning as emancipation from essentialism and identity-based artwork. NADI seeks to circumvent easy categorization by comprising a diverse range of activities such as curated exhibitions, video screenings, panel talks, collective art-making and documenting, and an online presence, however, all activities contain an undercurrent of positive progress through cooperation and non-competition.
Mercer Union is a non-profit, artist-centred space in Toronto that was founded by twelve artists in 1979. The organization has a unique track record of presenting innovative exhibitions and programs with Canadian and international artists in formative and established stages of their careers. Mercer Union is dedicated to supporting the production of new and experimental work, assisting artists in realizing pivotal projects. Mercer Union has the will and flexibility to take on ambitious projects and fosters an intimate and supportive space for artists to develop and take risks with their work.
The residency at KADIST takes place within the framework of Aggregate, a series of programs initiated by Mercer Union that aims to foster dialogue with like-minded organizations, combining knowledge and resources to expand the potential of the work of the organization.
Offering a space for experimentation, KADIST’s Art-Space Residency delocalizes context-relevant practices in order to foster new perspectives on discussions taking place locally and beyond. Prior art spaces in residence at KADIST Paris are States of Concepts, Athens (2018) and Hangar, Lisbon (2019).