Thank You, Come Again (2011)
“Introduction: Thank You, Come Again,” Fastwürms: Donky@Ninja@Witch, Toronto: Art Gallery of York University, 2011.
Thank You, Come Again
Over an under-the-counter whiskey in Blood Clock, FASTWÜRMS’ unconventional “shop”—or should I say “shoppe”—in a hotel-room booth at the 2005 Toronto Alternative Art Fair International (TAAFI), I asked Kim and Dai about the possibility of a retrospective exhibition of all their Queen Street storefront installations. They must have thought I was joking and it took them a year to realize I wasn’t. So began the saga of Donky@Ninja@Witch, one of the grandest extravagances in Canadian art history.
Actually, I now remember I first proposed an exhibition of their storefronts juxtaposed to a simultaneous exhibition of their widespread influence on a generation or two of Toronto artists—mainly of the queer, crafting sort (by now its own full-fledged, glorious art community): artists such as Will Munro, Allyson Mitchell, and Andrew Harwood, to mention only a few. But I quickly realized that the scope of a retrospective alone exhausted the AGYU’s exhibition space. Nonetheless, I still think of FASTWÜRMS’ solo Donky@Ninja@Witch as an oblique Toronto history exhibition of the kind I periodically concoct (FASTWÜRMS having been in my Rococo Tattoo).
Perhaps it was the lunar lure that made me finally propose this extravagant exhibition concept to FASTWÜRMS while in their makeshift installation. Maybe I should have been warned, rather than bewitched, by the unsettling anomalous combination of scythes and axes with dildos and horseshoes hung on the pegboard walls, each silhouette outlined as if in a workshop. An exhibition controlled by witches makes everything “over under sideways down.” It was a retail investment worth making, though: this strip-mall of FASTWÜRMS’ storefronts, where there were no “for lease” signs in evidence, rather plenty of the creative economic coupling one might find in small towns or the country where an entrepreneur can open a hair salon and a pet food store under the same roof!
During the two-and-a-half months of installation—when the artists sometimes lived in the gallery—and the two-and-a-half months of exhibition, the AGYU was transformed into Witch Nation under FASTWÜRMS’ guidance. There was a kinship in the DIY ethos by which these artists made their work and constructed their AGYU installation that this hard-working gallery could understand; there was something deeply satisfying in their glorification of the lowly shop format with which a public gallery that ran itself like a mom and pop convenience store could empathize.
Welcome to Witch World—a mini-mall of Unisex: House of Bangs (1999), Blood & Swash (2002), Pirate Head (2004), Gusset Nation (2004), and Blood Clock (2005), as well as a backlot Quonset hut, Pink Donky (2007), which houses the video Ninja vs. Witch—and … please, come again!