Special Works School

January 13–February 24, 2018
Opening Reception: Saturday, January 13, 2:00–5:00 pm

Through performance, video, and installation, Bambitchell (Sharlene Bamboat and Alexis Mitchell) has developed an expansive research practice working with national archives and historical narratives, informing the duo’s rigorous yet playful approach to querying power. For Gallery TPW, Bambitchell has produced a multi-part installation exploring the intricately linked histories of surveillance technology and artistic practice.

Bambitchell’s first major solo exhibition, Special Works School takes its title from a codename used by the British War Office between 1917 and 1919. The original moniker denoted a military unit of artists—painters, textile artists, scenographers, designers, sculptors, and scenic painters—employed to develop camouflage technology. Instead of rendering their surroundings with utmost accuracy, the artists in the Special Works School were charged with making things disappear.

Special Works School transforms Gallery TPW into the speculative workshop of a surveillance artist. Throughout the gallery, objects and experiments stage the problems and possibilities of camouflage, and the accompanying video delves into its multi-sensory potential through an operatic, polyphonic exchange. Through this new body of work, Bambitchell asks: what is the sound, feel, and smell of surveillance? What does an aesthetic approach to surveillance render visible or, indeed, invisible? Framing surveillance as an aesthetic practice, Special Works School hones in on its psychic, material, and embodied dimensions, working from the positions of both surveillor and surveilled.

This exhibition is produced with the support of the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council as part of the research-creation project “Surveillant Subjectivities: Youth Cultures, Art, and Affect” directed by Dr. Dina Georgis (University of Toronto) and Dr. Sara Matthews (Wilfrid Laurier University). In addition to the commission of this new work by Bambitchell, the grant supports associated programming activities with youth participants from the Toronto region.

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Bambitchell is the artistic collaboration between Sharlene Bamboat and Alexis Mitchell. Working together since 2009, their works have been exhibited at festivals and galleries such as Articule (Montreal), The Images Festival (Toronto), and The Art Gallery of Windsor and included in a number of publications such as C Magazine, the Los Angeles Review of Books, and the forthcoming Routledge publication Contemporary Citizenship, Art, and Visual Culture. The duo recently completed a residency at Akademie Schloss Solitude in Stuttgart, Germany (2015–17) and have an upcoming fellowship at The MacDowell Colony.