Interview with Stuart Keeler, one of the curators for Scotiabank Nuit Blanche, 2011

Interview With Stuart Keeler ( SK )
Curator & Director LEITMOTIF

An Independent Project Produced for Scotiabank Nuit Blanche  2011 .
Sponsored by: The Parkdale Village BIA.
Questions are from Phil Anderson ( PA )

 PA: You also have 6 site-specific projects that are “the result of integrated community collaboration”.

SK: Those projects are funded by “The Brazilian Biennial Foundation”, by Marcia Vaitsman, from Sao Paolo, held a community series of workshops at the Parkdale Library.  The artist is interested in how Parkdale is portrayed in the media, and what the local resident thinks of this portrayal.  What began this approach is the vast number of languages that are spoken in Parkdale Village on a daily basis.  How can an artist project touch upon and engage with what people are thinking?  Can this culling of information be realized into a sculptural and audio experience? The interviews will culminate into a series of radio broadcasts the night of Scotiabank Nuit Blanche – LEITMOTIF with video, audio, and other interactive tactile gestures. The artist also has cemented herself with numerous visits to Parkdale and Toronto to collaborate with residents and has held several round table discussions – all to be revealed the night of the LEITMOTIF. Another interesting and smart project is by Caroline and Gord Langill, a work about AIDS, Opera and the power of the archive to record a friendship, activate our group memories as a culture. A very powerful and memorable work.

(Truckstop), Alexandre David, Concept Sketch for LEITMOTIF


SK: The goal is to not use– LEITMOTIF as a “plop art” experience of working or as an exhibition experience.  Yes, the projects are temporary in nature, however the process leading up to the dawn to dusk event can be interesting, inclusive in the production and planning. The goal is to introduce the artist into the neighbourhood and then create an in situ “residency” within the urban fabric of Parkdale.  This allows the neighbourhood as a site to inform the artist in the final development of the piece.  This connection creates stronger community activation, a dialogical action where art and the residents and merchants of Parkdale Village engage.

Another interesting project is by Patrico Davila and Dan MCafferty – operating as Public Design Unit , the team is using Google Maps as a platform of how people see, experience and view the intersection at the Parkdale Public Library along Queen Street West at Brock Avenue. The artists are interested in a series of visioning workshops to spur dialogue about the aesthetics of the intersection and how it is viewed.  The final result is an engaging, relational work of video, based upon ongoing urban conversation and more to be composed by the artist team the night of Scotiabank Nuit Blanche.  The multiple workshops are free, and the computers are loaned from OCADU.

PA:Have any of those projects started? How are they integrated in the community? Would it be something that is very obvious or is it meant to be more subtle?


PA: The exhibition you mention is about how we relate to the city. Is this a way for the public to become more aware of public art and installation? Do you think the public is becoming more aware of this kind of art experience?

SK: Many people have not been to Parkdale Village.  How do we conceive, think about and explore the city of Toronto?  LEITMOTIF is an exhibition platform based upon how viewers see the familiar in a new way. What is the ultimate déjà vu experience?  How does repetitive experience offer a new insight?  Can art really assist with this as a haptic experience?… With all these questions, the historic aim of Scotiabank Nuit Blanche should allow us as viewers a chance to see our territory in a new way.  Artists can assist us in doing this….Maybe the spectacle of previous years can be culminated to allow us a particular freedom to connect with art, ideas or even discuss the experience of living in Toronto in a thoughtful manner which encourages dialogue about the legacy of art.  Perhaps on some level the potential of art in public space on this night event will create questions and how citizens can re-imagine the future of this event itself.

 PA: You also refer to the future of social connectivity and the exhibition lending opportunity for people to think about it through this project. How do you see this happening?  Will people be able to participate in some portions of the project?

 SK: The social projects which may last in the community for some time will be evident, while others are temporary…here and gone.  The déjà vu experience of LEITMOTIF is to be experienced or translated by the viewer.  There are many interactive works, an interesting collaboration with The Gladstone Hotel as well as numerous Parkdale Village merchants and restaurants.  For example: The Workroom, an amazing concept sewing studio boutique along Queen Street West in Parkdale, is supporting two projects:

One project by New York based sculptor Amanda Browder which is a community based sewing project – in a conceptual vein…this is not your grandmother’s sewing circle….this is a very amazing sculptural accumulation!

The other project, is a theatrical production by Quality Slippers – led by Bekky O’Neil with live music, based upon a conceptual interlude with scale, artifice and humour…..The goal is to create an exciting environment, and to see the urban landscape in a new way – with an experimental artist project, we can expect repetition and alternative forms of looking and experiences to unfold.  Great for all ages, the piece is captivating and strong.

PA: Has this project been different from others for you? What has the experience meant to you at this point in time?

SK: Working with the Parkdale Business Improvement Association (BIA) has been a tremendous asset and learning experience.  Many people do not know what a Business Improvement Association does, or what this mini institution might be interested in. I encourage others to find out.  The urban fabric of Toronto is comprised of many BIA’s which produce festivals and other happenings.  The Village of Parkdale has a great source of energy in their local BIA, a group of people who program events, think and care about the area and the people who live and work here….I encourage people to get involved.

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