Sex/ism: ECHoes & ReVERBS@Ivory Towers


Solo Exhibition at the CWSE Gallery, OISE, University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada.

In 2016 Black worked on a solo exhibition called Sex/ism: ECHoes & ReVERBS@Ivory Towers, supported by WIA Projects. Black examined political/feminist issues and extant prevalent sexism within Canadian academia. The abundance of articles and reports about longstanding persistent sexist problems in our universities informed the content of this work. For this exhibition in particular, attention has been given to the University of Toronto (U of T).

Sexism at U of T was established in the university’s founding year, 1850. Its illustrious professor and president John McCaul firmly exclaimed at the time that the university doors would never be open to women in his day! (Canadian Encyclopedia, 2016). Even though the doors have been opened–and indeed during his day no less!–today’s glass ceiling remains intact: existent sexist attitudes are prevalent, and old boys’ networks stand strong at universities across Canada and internationally (ACPPU Bulletin, March 2016).  

For this exhibit, images are made using a stream-of-consciousness approach, in which text and imagery interact. Appropriation, multi-layering, ‘gazing’, and contextualization are used to create montages in which digital photographs are interlaced with grouped text and digital screen shots. The mundane, ubiquitous computer screen is stilled and magnified making it more distant and unfamiliar.

Black’s intent, in using this approach, is also to address the challenges resulting from the democratization of photography: our society has created streams of cheap imagery and easily accessible digital multimodal texts.  This results in an image proliferation or what Bielicky (2008) calls, ‘cultural pollution’. We often do not take the time to gaze at these fleeting digital images. 

We live in an era where so many images proliferate in our culture yet we have saved so few. Creating playfully montaged, layered, and appropriated digital texts, using humour and paying homage to the well-known feminist artist group The Guerrilla Girls, Black highlights sexism within our academic walls.