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GTA24: Re-igniting Diverse Creatives in Toronto’s Visual Art Scene



25 artists of diverse backgrounds are coming together to create an exhibition representing Toronto. Its history, its culture, and its people. 

However, what defines Toronto art?

According to MOCA’s upcoming exhibition, GTA24, Toronto art is about community; “caring ways of living together, [and] building solidarity.”

According to art curator, Kate Wong, Toronto art is about a city that is “energetic, responsive, and resistant. It is compassionate and resilient.”

Coming from London, Wong works as an art curator for the Museum of Contemporary Art [MOCA]. Currently preparing for their second edition of the triennial exhibition, Greater Toronto Art 2024, Wong is taking this as an opportunity to dive deep into Toronto’s art and artistic practice.

This exhibition was developed by Wong and two other guest curators, Toleen Touq and Ebony L. Haynes. She tells us that their process of curating this exhibition began by thinking about the formation and designation of this place known as the GTA. “We considered how the amalgamation as a technique of urban management in the late 1980s and 1990 led to greater inefficiency and bureaucracy, and with resources and investment concentrated in the downtown core, greater economic disparity,” she tells us. GTA24 explores the arbitrary lines drawn to create borders and the hazards that arise for those who fall displaced in the process. This conversation around displacement and diversity is prevalent through each piece chosen. “I hope that GTA24 reflects my dedication to and belief in art as a vessel for social change,” Wong shares. 

The discussion between wanting social change and art movements is interconnected. Art is an inherently political creation. Not only in what is being created but in who is doing the creating. This is why having voices like Wong highlighted in the art world is important. Art plays a major role in the struggle for liberation. That is why songs such as Dammi Falastini exist and have been censored. Or why the West Bank graffiti wall is so important. Those who have banned art movements and targeted artists to dox or kill do so intentionally: art is used as a form of resistance by those under oppression. 

One of the artists who Wong believes in to help guide the message of social change is artist Theo Jean Cuthand.

Cuthand is an Indigiqueer artist whose experimental videos are being featured in GTA24. “[These pieces],” he shares, “are both about personal experiences with mental illness; Love & Numbers is about my first hospitalization for mania.” Cuthand’s other piece, Sight, also takes a look at disability. This piece is about a relative of Cuthand’s who had an incident during an episode that left him blind. Cuthand reminds us that disability could come for anyone; “even people who lead “healthy” lives could one day grow old and need mobility assistance. I think disability is a universal issue.” While there is work being done around normalizing disabilities–visible and invisible–there is still a stigma and misunderstanding of those who have a disability. There is also a massive weaponization and romanticization of mental illness. This can be seen in the romanticization of Van Gogh’s suicide attempts and disabling depression. It can also be seen in the weaponization of mental health towards those like Aaron Bushnell, whose actions have been dismissed under the stigma of “mental illness” as if those with mental illnesses are inherently unreliable and unaware of their actions. Normalization has not yet resulted in acceptance and open conversation. This is Cuthand’s message through his art. 

Cuthand allows his personal experiences to guide his creations. However, like Wong, Cuthand is interested in political narratives as well as personal ones. Particularly as he is a part of the Indigiqueer community, a term coined by Cuthand for Indigenous LGBTQ+ people. In an industry that is still predominantly white and heteronormative, Cutland found that experimental videos are a great way to avoid being censored. “I’m always conscious of the communities I belong to,” he reveals, “and while I won’t censor myself for a community, I will take things into consideration.” 

As Cuthand creates pieces based on subjects that may be triggering, there is often a bluntness to his videos. “[Love & Numbers] was the first video I made after my manic episode, so I guess part of me wanted to explain things about what I had learned from that episode,” a vulnerability that not many understand. 

Both Wong and Cuthand strive to create an exhibit that allows people to ponder biases and uncomfortable feelings. Cuthand says, “I think some people like to distance themselves from people with mental health issues like bipolar disorder, and I would just like people to examine those biases when they are watching.” 

Toronto is the most diverse city in the world but the art scene, globally, still holds a restrictive attitude. GTA24 is a project to change that persona of the art world. Art is meant to be as vulnerable as Cuthand sharing his experiences while in a manic state and as political as Wong’s de-colonization perspective when curating. Toronto art is meant to be as diverse as the Toronto community. That is what GTA24 is all about. The exhibition runs from March 22nd, 2024 – July 28th, 2024.


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