Context

As a site of changing production, the suburban house historic and obsolete can serve as both a type of fulcrum or container for an examination of the eclipse of modern European-North America moral and aesthetic hegemony. We can think of domestic rituals, gardening and landscaping practices (GNOME-N-CLATURE), aging parents, emigrants, malls and so on. We are reminded of a couple of lines in Horkheimer and Adorno's essay "The Culture Industry: Enlightenment as Mass Deception" where they note how the new bungalows on the outskirts [of the concrete city centers] are at one with the flimsy structures of world fairs with their praise of technical progress and their built in demand to be discarded after a short while like empty food cans (see The Culture Industry). Horkheimer and Adorno could easily be speaking of the type of Canadian Mortgage Housing Corporation (CMHC) houses of the 1950s and 1960s that proclaimed a type of cookie cutter rationale of middle class architectural progress across the nation. That these buildings and their planned environs (think of the cul-de-sac as trope) have been rendered obsolete and cleared away so that monster houses with their disproportionate massing to lot size and their ersatz historicism (beige stucco and molded plastic architectural details) can rise in their stead is a powerful image that the proposed exhibition will address.

The exhibition eschews those representations of urban life that harbour a nineteenth century cliches of the centralized metropolis, which all too often obfuscate the fact that suburbs are an intrinsic part of North American cities. In much of the literature on the culture of cities (from Lewis Mumford to Richard Sennett to Jane Jacobs to Richard Florida), the experience of suburban spaces is either cast in a particularly critical light or marginalized in discussions of what is characterized as urban culture. Our exhibition will work with artists to present innovative articulations of the complex and differentiated spaces we call suburbs and to offer thoughtful, provocative and stimulating commentaries on what have been, are and will continue to be vitally important enclaves of social existence. We will also situate the exhibition in the context of Toronto's 175th anniversary celebrations so as to extend the history of the city to include among other things its suburbs.

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