“Since 1983, we have worked in relation to each other: we collaborate as artists, as administrators, as organizers, and as teachers; and we work in relation to others – in artist run centres, festivals, publications, and public institutions – in the spirit of collectivity where we share experience and knowledge and accept the same from others while ideas, statements, and direct acts are developed together and put into action where they evolve over time, never static.
Each of the three parts of “…before I wake,” the work on display at Toronto Biennial of Art, is a contemplation on collaboration itself. We see the bodies of the artists in “We’re getting younger all the time” using the digital devices to mimic the quest for eternal youth; in “Practicing Death” the artists are displayed in a type of suspended sleep; and finally “Entranced” finds the artists under hypnosis, each walking through a door where the collaboration will cease to be.”
In the walkabout, the artists engage in questions of representation of collaboration and “the collective”— suggesting how collaboration itself contradicts or at least undermines the idea of the individual artist-as-creative-genius — and discuss the ways that artists have confronted death in their work, from Brueghel to Caravaggio to Warhol to Rebecca Belmore.
Image credit: Lisa Steele + Kim Tomczak, Practicing Death, 2003.
Lisa Steele (born in Kansas City, MO, USA; lives in Toronto, ON, Canada) and Kim Tomczak (born in Victoria, BC, Canada; lives in Toronto, ON, Canada) have worked exclusively in collaboration since 1983, producing videotapes, performances, and photo/text works. They have received numerous grants and awards both individually and collaboratively, the latter case including the Bell Canada prize for excellence in Video Art, a Toronto Arts Award, and in 2005, a Governor General’s Award for lifetime achievement in Visual & Media Arts. They were awarded an Honorary Doctorate by the University of British Columbia, Okanagan in 2009.
Learn more about Lisa Steele and Kim Tomczak’s practice by listening to episode 7 of the Toronto Biennial of Art Podcast “Short Format”, available on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, and Spotify.