press release

A new contemporary art space at the site of Sugar Beach in Toronto

SUGAR opens within Toronto’s emerging East Bayfront neighborhood at the Daniels City of the Arts. The area’s historic Redpath Sugar Refinery provides the conceptual framework for SUGAR: a 3-year curatorial project directed by Ala Roushan and Xenia Benivolski. Between 2019–22, SUGAR will feature exhibitions, performances, publications and new commissions from local and international artists with a focus that challenges the related notions of site specificity and public art.

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Slavs and Tatars: Pickle Politics
17.10.2019 - 31.01.2020

Opening: October 17, 6–10pm

Pickle Politics is the inaugural exhibition at SUGAR by the artist collective Slavs and Tatars. In the context of our site, the artists activate a cycle of work that uses fermentation to consider the transformative conditions of politics and culture. Ogórek Trocki posters, repeating the image of a lost pickle-cucumber specimen, desired for its high sugar content, set the stage for a lecture marathon by Slavs and Tatars. Six consecutive lectures punctuate the exhibition, connecting the subject of fermentation with transliteration, language, cultural transference, and colonialism. Hamdami loops to illustrate the coincidences of language as simultaneously political and metaphysical. And the Pickle Juice Bar provides an opportunity to consume other life as microbiomes: Pickle Politics looks to the practices and symbolism of fermentation, constructing a political argument using notions of the rotten, the spoiled, and the soured. (Slavs and Tatars, 2016).

Slavs and Tatars’ practice has been devoted to the area east of the former Berlin Wall and west of the Great Wall of China, known as Eurasia. Fermentation is emblematic of our current times, as political forces in Russia, Asia and the Middle East challenge traditional axes of power: this cosmo-political balancing act continues to shape, reflect and drive forward ideologies that square the East and the West with contingent processes of life and death. The notion of fermentation offers another space between cultural and geographical territories, shifting beyond the Levi-Strauss trichotomy of the “raw,” the “cooked” and the “rotted.” Fermentation is that life-giving, death-driven process that takes place outside of what we think of as progress: a problematic historical approach that conflates the raw/cooked with the primitive/advanced. Activating the microbiomes that comprise a critical mass within the human body, fermentation affects our biological, ecological and political boundaries with generative potential.

SUGAR is a city-based project that tracks urban transformation through diaspora, public intervention and political potential. The city is changing; its public spaces, expressions and attitudes have an opportunity to transform. Pickle Politics is a project about fermentation, about the forming of culture anew, through engaged transformation, conversation, and the inclusion of other forms of life.

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Slavs and Tatars is an internationally-renowned art collective devoted to an area east of the former Berlin Wall and west of the Great Wall of China known as Eurasia. Their work has been the subject of solo exhibitions at the Museum of Modern Art, NY; Salt, Istanbul; Vienna Secession; Kunsthalle Zurich; Albertinum Dresden; and Ujazdowski Centre for Contemporary Art Warsaw, among others. The collective’s practice is based on three activities: exhibitions, publications and lecture-performances. In addition to their translation of the legendary Azerbaijani satirical periodical Molla Nasreddin (currently in its 2nd edition with I.B. Tauris), Slavs and Tatars have published ten books to date, most recently Wripped Scripped (Hatje Cantz, 2018) on the politics of alphabets and transliteration. Their work is currently on view at the 58th Venice Biennale: May You Live in Interesting Times.