Syrus Marcus Ware and Ultra-red
as part of the exhibition Everyonce curated by Mitchell Akiyama
29 June – 12 July 2019
Opening Reception: Saturday, June 29 6–8PM
“This moment: it is unlike any other moment in time. How can we understand what it offers so that we can make the best use of it? How have people used moments in the past to push toward greater social justice?”
With the above questions, artist and popular educator Deborah Barndt began her 1989 handbook, Naming the Moment: Political Analysis for Action.
For organizers and activists building the movement for harm reduction, needle exchange, and poor people’s power, the current rightwing counter-offensive threatens to undo significant gains of the past thirty-years. But as Barndt reminds us, periods of political reaction must be met with critical reflection on how to not only defend our victories but how to advance our struggle.
In late June 2019, Toronto artist and activist Syrus Marcus Ware will collaborate with the political sound art collective Ultra-red in mounting a multi-channel sound installation at 401 Richmond as part of a series of installations titled Everyonce, curated by Mitchell Akiyama.
The basis of the Syrus Marcus Ware and Ultra-red installation, titled “Street Hassle,” will be a series of intimate listening sessions in which invitees will seek to name the moment for harm reduction in Toronto.
The Los Angeles team of Ultra-red has been involved in harm reduction since the collective’s inception in 1994. The collective’s two founding members helped launch the Los Angeles needle exchange program, L.A. Community Health Project (originally named, Clean Needles Now). For the past seven years, Ultra-red members have conducted annual listening sessions with L.A. Community Health Project outreach workers and community members. More recently, Ultra-red has helped form an alliance between the needle exchange and the Los Angeles Tenants Union as part of an effort to organize an Unhoused Tenants Union.
For their installation at 401 Richmond, Syrus Marcus Ware and Ultra-red founding member, Dont Rhine invited a diverse group of individuals from various political groups and organizations that intersect with harm reduction. Participants came together in small groups for a one-hour listening session and conversation about the current conjuncture for harm reduction in Toronto.
All of the recordings come from the extensive archive of interviews and field recordings produced by Ultra-red in Los Angeles’ harm reduction movement. After hearing each recording, participants described what they heard, then articulated the meaning of the recording and reflected on the ways that the recording resonates with or contradicts their own experience.
The audio-only installation will include excerpts from all of the listening sessions as well as the original recordings used in the sessions. The installation will open to the public Saturday, June 29 and will remain open until July 12.
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Syrus Marcus Ware is a Vanier Scholar, a visual artist, community activist, researcher, youth-advocate and educator. For 12 years, he was the Coordinator of the Art Gallery of Ontario Youth Program. Syrus is currently a facilitator/designer for the Cultural Leaders Lab (Toronto Arts Council & The Banff Centre). He is the inaugural artist-in-residence for Daniels Spectrum (2016/2017). Syrus is also a core-team member of Black Lives Matter Toronto.
Ultra-red is an international political sound art collective founded by two AIDS activists in Los Angeles in 1994. After releasing multiple albums and mounting numerous exhibitions, in 2005 Ultra-red research teams in Los Angeles, New York, Berlin, and the U.K. collectively shifted focus from organizing sound to organizing listening; investigating the ways political movements use organized listening to reflect on lived experience, analyze those reflections, and take action to test their analysis. More recently, the Los Angeles Ultra-red team has immersed itself in movement building through the L.A. Tenants Union, founded in 2015, presently with eight neighborhood chapters and close to seven thousand members and supporters. For the installation at 401 Richmond, Ultra-red will be represented by founding member Dont Rhine.
Everyonce is generously supported by the Toronto Friends of the Visual Arts.