Lara Almarcegui Guide to the Wastelands of Toronto

    Lara Almarcegui, An Empty Terrain in the Danshui River, Taipei, (photograph from the video and guidebook An Empty Terrain in the Danshui River, Taipei), 2008. Courtesy of the artist

As acclaimed Spanish artist Lara Almarcegui’s first solo exhibition in Canada, this project serves as a guide to the Leslie Street Spit, an artificial peninsula formed by the dumping of waste deposits from Toronto’s construction industry into Lake Ontario. Accordingly, the project addresses a subject of vital interest—construction, development, and the use of the land and water.

En tant que première exposition solo au Canada de l’artiste espagnole de renom Lara Almarcegui, ce projet sert de guide à la Leslie Street Spit, une péninsule artificielle formée par le déversement des déchets de l’industrie de la construction de Toronto dans le lac Ontario. Par conséquent, le projet aborde un sujet d’intérêt vital : la construction, le développement et l’utilisation de la terre et de l’eau.

In her artistic practice, Almarcegui examines processes of urban transformation brought on by political, social, and economic change. Specifically, she studies those characteristics of cities that are not typically the focus of attention: wastelands, construction materials, and underlying structures. Since the late 1990s, her projects have fallen into two main categories: installations comprising mounds of raw materials of the type that were used to construct the buildings in which they are housed, and guides to the wastelands of various urban centres throughout the world. For the latter category, which is the approach taken for this project, Almarcegui explores the history, geology, and ecology of neglected or overlooked sites, carefully noting their lack of urban planning while cataloguing and highlighting each site’s tendency toward entropy. Her original research culminates in a major installation consisting of a video in the style of a slide show and a publication in the form of a guidebook, the latter of which serves as an interpretive tool that visitors may take away.

In Guide to the Wastelands of Toronto, Almarcegui uses each of these old-school formats to tell the story of the Leslie Street Spit, as yet little known or broadly understood, in an unexpected and engaging way. Initiated sixty years ago as a breakwater for harbour expansion, the spit was ultimately not required for this purpose due to a decrease in lake shipping. Today, it has been claimed by all forms of life, both human and wild. The evolution of the spit—largely accidental and unplanned—provides an extraordinary example of the processes of urban and ecological succession. As such, the site offers an ideal subject for Almarcegui’s practice, seamlessly integrating the City of Toronto into the continuum of her work on wastelands in the cities of London, New York, Rome, São Paulo, and Venice, among others.

*Exhibition venue TBA — please check back soon for updates!

Curated by Scott McLeod

Presented by Prefix Institute of Contemporary Art in partnership with CONTACT

Lara Almarcegui (b. 1972 in Zaragoza, Spain) is a visual artist living and working in Rotterdam. She studied at the Universidad de Cuenca (Spain), École supérieure des beaux-arts de Nantes Métropole (France), and de Ateliers (Amsterdam). Her artistic practice focuses on urban transformation brought about by political, social and economic change. More specifically, she is interested in features of the cityscape that are usually overlooked, such as wastelands and construction materials. Recent solo exhibitions include Casino Luxembourg, CA2M (Madrid), Mor Charpentier (Paris), Centro Andaluz de Arte Contemporáneo (Seville) and Secession (Vienna). A participant in Manifesta 9 and the 27th São Paulo Biennial, she represented Spain at the 55th Venice Biennale.