Archive:HollyJo | The Wisdom of Ruins: Special exhibition in conjunction with DesignTOJanuary 17–26, 2020

HollyJo | The Wisdom of Ruins: Special exhibition in conjunction with DesignTO

January 17–26, 2020

Curated by Michelle Beck and Dana Snow
A co-presentation with Taboo Health, the Health Design Studio at OCADU, and DesignTO

Opening Friday, January 17th from 6–9 pm | On view January 17–26, 2020

Weaving together threads of an unsilenced grief through ceramics, photography, sculpture, audio, and found materials, The Wisdom of Ruins is an installation by Toronto-based artist HollyJo that bears witness to unconventional grief and rituals of mourning.

The medieval Sicilian city of Salemi—both the birthplace of the artist’s mother, and the site of a destructive 1968 earthquake—provides an alternative framework for considering grief. In the mid 1980s, architects Roberto Collova and Alvaro Siza began public interventions to attract residents and tourists to the area. Rather than following the Italian architectural tradition of d ov’era e com’era (reconstructing exact replicas of damaged buildings) the duo created structures that allowed for the previous damage of the earthquake to be expressed. Rubble was cleared away and new public spaces were adopted; the intact ruins remaining within them as quiet witnesses to trauma in the historical fabric of a place and a people. Using the ruins as a grounding element from which to explore her own experience of mourning her infant daughter, HollyJo presents a methodology of leaning into grief through the act of witnessing. The works delicately investigate the porosity of intergenerational grief, using Sicilian tradition juxtaposed with objects that acknowledge mourning as a process of entanglement between community and familial relations. Existing outside of traditional Western funerary practices, The Wisdom of Ruins offers a holistic approach from which to begin a process of bereavement and healing. Grieving motherhood, childhood, and inherited trauma, the works help to interpret the private space between repression and radical acknowledgement.

The Wisdom of Ruins is a part of the DesignTO festival, co-presented with Dying. exhibits; an exhibition series on end of life. Dying.exhibits invites participants to think about their relationship with life and death as a process; encouraging heart-level conversations about difficult, often taboo topics. Dying.exhibits is a collaboration between the Health Design Studio at OCAD University and Taboo Health.

Exhibition-related events

Tuesday, January 21st, 4–5 pm
The Learning Zone, OCAD University
122 A St. Patrick Street

Taboo Health presents Mr. Dak: The Tale of a Special Turtle, a family-friendly story-time reading and Q&A with author Dayna Saba. Saba’s first children’s book broaches the topic of death through narrative storytelling. After experiencing the loss of her grandfather, Saba created the picture-book as both a playful biography and a tool by which to explain his passing to her young nephew. Written as a reminder that great love endures even after we are gone, Mr. Dak: The Tale of a Special Turtle is a compassionate introduction to concepts of loss and remembrance and provides an entry point for young children to express and process emotions surrounding the death of a loved one. This event is FREE—please register on Eventbrite.

Dying. poetry
Monday, January 21th, 6—8 pm
The Learning Zone, OCAD University
122 A St. Patrick Street

What is a “Good” Goodbye? is a collaborative poetry workshop facilitated by Mediator and Regenerative Design Facilitator Kathy Porter. During the program, participants take part in a presentation about Medical Assistance in Dying and the option to control one’s end of life experience. After the presentation, they are given a policy document to cut and paste, restructuring the regulated language to make room for their own synthesis of the material. In an effort to raise awareness around the choices we have over our lives—and in turn, deaths—Kathy Porter creates a space for much needed conversation around planning one’s own “good” goodbye. This event is FREE—please register on Eventbrite .

Exhibition location, accessibility, and gallery hours

Critical Distance
Suite 302 at Artscape Youngplace
180 Shaw Street (between Dundas and Queen Streets)
Toronto, Ontario M6J 2W5 Canada
Google Map

Artscape Youngplace and Critical Distance are fully accessible by Ontario standards, with a wheelchair ramp at the 180 Shaw Street doors, an elevator servicing every floor, and a fully accessible washroom on every level. The nearby 63 Ossington bus on the TTC is wheelchair accessible.

Critical Distance is proud to partner and collaborate with different organizations to realize a number of short-term special projects in addition to our annual program of exhibitions. However, given the different priorities and resources of these partnerships, some carry accessibility standards that differ from those of our regular program. In the interest of transparency, we would like to indicate that this project does not offer ASL interpretation or audio description of the exhibited works. If you have any questions about this, please do not hesitate to contact .

Gallery hours for this exhibition are Wednesday–Friday, 12–6pm, Saturday–Sunday 11am–5pm, and by appointment through January 26th.

About the Artist

HollyJo is an interdisciplinary artist who holds a BFA from OCAD University in Sculpture and Installation, with a minor in Ceramic Arts. By leaning into the emotional atmosphere of memory, trauma, identity, and mourning, she explores themes of intimate vulnerabilities, bodily integrity, and time travel as a source of empathic healing and honouring experience. HollyJo finds solace in storytelling through object making and forging rituals that celebrate the wisdom of impermanence.

About the Curators

Michelle Beck is a photographer, writer, and curator. Her practice explores wellness as relational processes that transcend sociocultural and physical boundaries and the perception, performance, and commodification of identity. Beck received her Bachelor of Fine Arts in Criticism and Curatorial Practice and a minor in Creative Writing from OCAD University and her work has been shown at the Scotiabank CONTACT Photography Festival, Ada Slaight Galleries and OCAD University.

Dana Snow is an emerging curator and writer. Her practice centres around postmodern identity politics with an emphasis on the healing possibilities and importance of seeing our stories reflected through art. Snow received her BFA in Criticism and Curatorial Practice from OCAD University in 2019 and has shown her work at Xpace Cultural Centre, Ada Slaight Gallery, and OCAD University.

Thanks to our Partners

Taboo Health
We are comfortable with the uncomfortable. We are a non-profit collective of health educators, creatives, and advocates. We curate public and and interactive art events that explore the most difficult health topics. 

DesignTO Festival
Canada’s leading (and largest) annual design festival celebrates design as a multidisciplinary form of creative thinking and making, with over 100 exhibitions and events forming Toronto’s design week, January 17-26, 2020. Since 2011, DesignTO has been bringing communities together to celebrate design, by taking art and design out of the studio and into the urban realm. 

The Health Design Studio at OCAD University
Focusing on areas of health that involve significant challenges regarding the effective design of tools to support dynamic, often critical, experiences and work practices.

 Taboo Health logo