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Sara Graham: Civic Disturbances

With security preparations for the G20 summit cordoning off Toronto’s downtown core, residents have had no choice but to rethink the way they use the city. Some see this disruption as a necessary inconvenience or a healthy dose of global reality; but it also raises questions about the mutability of basic urban infrastructures. Toronto artist Sara Graham takes a closer look at this notion of disrupted networks in the exhibition “The London Series,” currently on view at MKG127. In past works, Graham has deconstructed the psychogeographies of institutional architectures and urban planning for installations grounded in real, if obscure, regional histories. For “The London Series,” Graham brings together the utopian and the historical in an investigation of what she calls the “invisible urban infrastructures” of London, Ontario. In a suite of digitally rendered drawings on Plexiglas that are based on a late-19th century fire-insurance map, Graham reorients and updates the city’s historical urban grid into a three-dimensional play of line and shadow. Here, basic city networks have been expanded and abstracted, with overlapping foundations and distorted verticalities adding up to a new view of civic cartography. Showing alongside the drawings is a set of three sculptural works constructed from industrial-grade pipe. Citing the hidden network of underground gas lines as a prime example of “arbitrary systems that privilege economics over urban aesthetics,” Graham’s sculptures propose to reverse this polarity in a beautified version of an otherwise unsightly fixture of the city environment. In all, Graham’s work offers the insight that—G20 or not—there is beauty in and beneath the city that perhaps only a disruption of the expected can reveal. (127 Ossington Ave, Toronto ON)

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