My exhibition Picturing the Toronto Art Community put into practice what I had learned through The American Trip of the fascination through the image of attraction to a distant underground scene. Toronto’s own construction of an art scene from the mid-1970s to mid-1980s was to be my example, and I used this unconventional exhibition to create an “archive” of its images. Selection of “work” followed three principles: that it be photographic (but photography also meant video and film, print and magazine advertising, posters, etc.); that it be basically portraits; and that these portraits be about theatricalizing self-presentation. These were the images that sustained the fiction of an art scene—and that through them the art community performatively instituted itself. Needless to say while celebrated, at the same time the nature and aims of the exhibition were misunderstood. (See “Get Down Toronto” for my unpublished response.) The principles of this exhibition were revisited and refined years later in my exhibition and book Is Toronto Burning?.


I often talked in my early texts of the problems of writing a history of contemporary Canadian art, but in the end I was really always talking about Toronto art. My institutional and curatorial work in large part has been devoted to this history.