Ulysses Castellanos

The results of a curatorial residency by Ulysses Castellanos. Castellanos brings together two of his primary interests in this unique series of programs. I SEE A DARKNESS looks at contemporary art interested in “dark” subjects such as death, violence, the occult, and evil. Simultaneously, in this age of global do-it-yourself communications, Castellanos looks at the way information technologies, for better or for worse, have shaped a generation of aesthetic and narrative practices.


Do you sometimes get the strange feeling that someone is in your room with you, but you are the only person there, so you get the urge to turn on every light in the house? Did you ever get creeped out by a certain TV show as a kid, maybe a science program with a spooky soundtrack that was only meant for the “grownups”? Were you ever afraid of clowns? The “I SEE A DARKNESS” curatorial residency takes these feelings and explores its possibilities for and in contemporary art.

As part of my residency I am using multiple sites of dissemination. Alongside a gallery exhibition in February 2007, I’m exploring the use of the Internet — in the form of YouTube, Blogspot, and the TPW website — for programming and outreach.


The clown in contemporary art is used as a symbol for the current reaction and opposition against the austere formalist purity of high modernism. Clowning is a form of lowbrow popular entertainment, so a clown is an affront to all things classical and sophisticated. The clown is ridiculous, pathetic, and demonic. He is seen as the lowest common denominator for entertainment. The clown is a perfect vehicle for artists who explore the dark side of life; because the clown, with his horrible makeup, oversized shoes and bulbous nose is, in the words of Candice Bergen “A compendium of creepy.”

Click here for a discussion of video works by Scott Redford, Chantal Rousseau and Robert Ellie.


St. James Town is a public housing neighborhood located in the North East corner of Toronto’s downtown area. Comprised of a predominantly non-white immigrant population, the neighborhood is known as “The world within one block”. The neighborhood consists of several gigantic apartment buildings, clustered in close proximity to one another, housing thousands of people. The buildings dominate the skyline when viewed from surrounding areas.


I conduct interviews with different artists, curators and cultural figures around the themes of “darkness in art”, the grotesque, and the role of technology in creating evil or good. I interview figures who have used the themes of darkness, technology, political dissention, nihilism and the occult in their practices. Current subjects include David Liss, Director of The Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art (MOCCA), Governor General’s Award winner and provocateur Istvan Kantor, multi-media artist Jubal Brown and painter Matt Bahen, with more exciting subjects and interviews to come.


DEATH…IT’S OUT THERE turns to contemporary artists to explore the ways in which our culture looks at this inevitable phenomenon. Video and photography combine to present an omnibus of the chillingly bizarre, the transcendent and the unforgiving landscape of death. Through themes such as violence, loss, popular culture, nihilism, ritual and the afterlife, nine artists touch upon our culture’s renewed interest in death.

With DEATH…IT’S OUT THERE curator Ulysses Castellanos proudly proclaims: “I die, therefore I am.”

THE BUSINESS OF DEATH | Watch Video Documentation

PANEL DISCUSSION: In a world where death and its byproducts are kept as far away from our daily experience as possible, some people have made a conscious choice to experience this unsavory reality as part of their quotidian life. This panel presented a range of experiences from professionals acutely aware of the collapsing dichotomy of the body as material object and the body as person.

YOUTUBE | View Channel | View Playlists

I see YouTube as a populist means of sharing video images with millions of people around the world. I am interested in putting contemporary art content among the many videos of dancing dogs and parties and sitcom excerpts that are found on YouTube. With the nature of search engines and the opportunity for people to stumble upon the strangest items through random key word searches, my hope is that unlikely viewers will stumble upon these videos and take a look. In a sense, these YouTube contemporary art interviews are like bottled messages floating in cyberspace.

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