Memory Work Collective Memory Work
Situated at the Strachan Gate entrance to the Bentway, Memory Work is a mural made up of twelve embellished photographic portraits of revolutionary figures from a future Toronto. Initiated by From Later studio with artist Rajni Perera and Memory Work Collective, this speculative monument imagines a world characterized by collective care and politics that value nurturing over growth.
Memory Work commemorates a speculative world. The people depicted in these portraits belong to a group known as the Mothers of Invention, abbreviated as MOI, and pronounced like the sound of a kiss. They are a group of revolutionary scientists, healers, creators, entrepreneurs, engineers, and organizers, represented in photographs taken by Omii Thompson of Mecha Clarke, Jennifer Maramba, Xiyao (Miranda) Shou, Zanette Singh, Cheyenne Sundance, and Dori Tunstall. Each is a leader spearheading change in their community, a present-day seed of the character they portray, prefiguring a transformed city. Each wears their own apron, designed by Tala Kamea and Naomi Skwarna, as a distinctive uniform that is both protective and decorative, offering clues to the values, aesthetics, and labour of their time. Rajni Perera has applied a textured layer of mythical landscapes and organisms onto the portraits, envisioning the environments of these destined luminaries.
Unlike many futuristic artworks, Memory Work is grounded in research and interpretations of actions and events observable today. The project began with a research phase led by Toronto-based studio From Later, which examined emerging forces of change—analyzing their potential effects, cataloguing uncertainties, exploring scenarios, and dreamscaping with communities. This pattern of research and imagination is echoed in the processes used to create the mural. The individuals photographed and embellished in Memory Work are people whose lives and work demonstrate the world that Memory Work Collective is anticipating. The mural reflects a process of elaborating, exaggerating, and extrapolating from lived experience and present-day signals of change and glimmers of hope.
Memory Work offers multiple portals of entry. The double-sided mural at the Bentway site is supplemented by a phone number that visitors can call to hear more details about the commemorated figures. The Memory Work website contains a soundscape and offers a network of sources that inspire, ground, and inform this potential world. Both physical and virtual, Memory Work is intended as an exploratory platform, and the beginning of a possible story. It invites participation.
A monument recalls and engages. It asks viewers, “do you know the story of these people who take up public space in remembrance? Do you know why they are important?” As a monument to a future Toronto, this collaborative artwork asks the public to engage with the changing city. It asks how we can go beyond idyllic or heroic images of the future; it presses us to ask who will nurture this new world. In a world full of images, how can we be more deeply invested in understanding what we’re seeing? How do visions change alongside an evolving city? Memory Work offers a means toward understanding our relationship to the future, so that we might see ourselves creating it.
Exhibition essay by Mandy Harris Williams
For more information, visit memory-work.com
Curated by Memory Work Collective
Co-presented by From Later and The Bentway with support from CONTACT, as part of ArtworxTO: Toronto's Year of Public Art 2021–2022. Additional support by the Canada Council for the Arts, City of Toronto, and the Toronto Arts Council
Memory Work Collective (Rajni Perera, Tala Kamea, Naomi Skwarna, Omii Thompson, Macy Siu, Robert Bolton, Emily Woudenberg, Erica Whyte, Jac Sanscartier, and Sydney Allen-Ash) is a community of artists and writers. Concerned equally with the relational and the imaginary, the Collective engages in the mutual recounting and reconstruction of lived experience to contemplate possible worlds. Their research-based practice creates material for meditation, critique, and new ways of living — negotiating ethical and moral imperatives across (past, present, and future) time.