Living and working in Vancouver and Vienna, respectively, the artistic collaboration of Sabine Bitter and Helmut Weber addresses urban geographies, architectural representation, and related issues of visual politics. Citing the ideas of Henri Lefebvre, the French Marxist and sociologist, as an influence, the artists state: “space is never given as a physical container; we understand space as a process … space is produced through social actors.” The contribution architecture makes to the construction of public space inevitably influences one’s experience of “the public.”

Presented as a billboard on The Power Plant’s south façade, Super Students #1 (2010) is a component of the artists’ project The University Paradox (2010) showing concurrently at the University of Toronto Art Centre (UTAC). This large-scale work is sourced from an archival photograph of a student protest at Vancouver’s Simon Fraser University in 1967. In the image, the artists substitute architectural space with a black-and-white line drawing. A related work shown at UTAC is subjected to the reverse operation, with the human figures replaced by their silhouette, while the architecture remains untouched. Altering the historical photo in this manner, the artists shift its meaning, suggesting a possibility of different relationships between space and actors. Created in response to student demonstrations against university cuts in Vienna and Vancouver, the work today takes on added resonance within the context of a new global culture of street protest.

Bitter / Weber’s work Autogestion, or Henri Lefebvre in New Belgrade, is included in The Power Plant’s archival project Dissenting Histories until June 3.

Presented in partnership with The Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery.

Supported by Ernst and Young LLP.