Toronto specializing in contemporary photography

Robert Bean

Robert Bean
Thing Site

April 14 – May 7, 2016
Circuit Gallery @ Prefix ICA
401 Richmond Street West, Suite 124
Toronto, ON, M5V 3A8

Artist Talk (informal): Saturday, April 16, 1-4 PM
Closing Reception: Friday, May 6, 6-9 PM
Gallery Hours: Tuesday – Saturday, 11 AM – 5 PM

Circuit Gallery is pleased to present, as a Featured Exhibition in the 2016 Scotiabank CONTACT Photography Festival, a solo exhibition of new work by Canadian artist Robert Bean which considers the importance of ‘Things,’ historic sites used for social and political gatherings.

In Nordic and Germanic culture, the Thing was a public assembly where governance, laws, and dispute resolutions were discussed and negotiated. The gatherings were organized in open-air locations with distinctive characteristics as well as effective acoustic resonance. The practice of “making things public,” a description initiated by French philosopher Bruno Latour, has contemporary implications for how we represent, experience, and utilize public space for the potential of expressing democratic principles.

The exhibition is based on two Thing sites: the Althing in Iceland and the Thingstätte in Heidelberg, Germany. The Althing is one of the most celebrated tourist attractions in Iceland, while the Thingstätte in Heidelberg recalls the propaganda narratives of the Third Reich prior to the Second World War. The original purpose of these sites, however, is not reflected in their contemporary uses. Tourism, access to the natural landscape, geological landmarks, walking paths, ruins, outdoor concerts, theatrical reenactment, training locations for athletes, and festival venues are just some of the current uses of these Thing sites.

The exhibition is accompanied by the essay ‘Rendering Things, Gathering Sites,’ by Jayne Wilkinson, a Toronto-based writer, editor and curator. In her essay, she explores Bean’s exhibition as a multifaceted interpretation of “the thing,” by considering the etymological fluidity of things – as objects, sites, landscapes and assemblages.

In combining traditional photography with computer-generated imagery, an architectural model, and a short video, Bean’s project asks how we might render difficult histories visible in the present. Through shifts in language, form and perception, the works offer new ways to interpret things, and thing sites, as objects entangled within the histories of politics and the politics of history.

Robert Bean: Thing Site runs April 14 through May 7 at Circuit Gallery @ Prefix ICA, Toronto. The artist will be at the gallery on Saturday, April 16 from 1-4 PM and will give an informal talk about the work. There will be a closing reception for the artist on Friday, May 6 from 6-9 PM.


Robert Bean is an artist, writer and curator living in Halifax, Nova Scotia where he is a Professor at NSCAD University.

Bean has edited books and published articles on the subject of photography, contemporary art and cultural history. He has been an active contributor to the Cineflux Research Group at NSCAD University and the Narratives in Space and Time art and mobility project. Bean is a recipient of grants from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) and the Canada Council for the Arts. He was the Artist in Residence at the Canada Science and Technology Museum, Ottawa, in 2010.

Utilizing public archives and collections, Bean considers the temporal uncertainty that photographs and digital media evoke in relation to experience, technology and language. Specific to this project is the production of artwork and publications influenced by the culture of networks, mobile computing and obsolescence.

In 2011, the CONTACT Photography Festival and the McLuhan Centre for Culture and Technology commissioned Bean to complete a site-specific multimedia installation titled “Illuminated Manuscripts” at the McLuhan Coach House, University of Toronto. This project was also exhibited at Canadian Cultural Centre/Centre culturel canadien in Paris. In 2012, Bean completed the solo exhibition at Circuit Gallery titled “273 (brushing information against information)” in conjunction with the centenary of John Cage. In 2013 he completed a collaborative installation titled “Obsolescence and Inscription” at Saint Mary’s University Art Gallery, Halifax. In 2014, Bean curated the exhibition “Stan Douglas Photographs” in conjunction with the Scotiabank Photography Award. Installed at the Ryerson Image Centre during the CONTACT Photography Festival, the exhibition was accompanied by a monograph of photographs by Stan Douglas published by the Steidl Press. In 2014, Bean was invited to present a solo exhibition at ZKM (Zentrum für Kunst und Medientechnologie) in Karlsruhe, Germany.

Robert Bean’s work is in public and private collections, including the National Gallery of Canada, the Canada Council Art Bank, the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, ZKM (Zentrum für Kunst und Medientechnologie) Karlsruhe, Germany and the Donovan Collection, University of St. Michael’s College, Toronto, Ontario. He is represented by Circuit Gallery, Toronto.

Artist Page: Robert Bean

Jayne Wilkinson is a Toronto-based writer, editor and curator. She holds an M.A. in Art History and Critical Theory from the University of British Columbia (Vancouver) and her research interests focus on the intersection of aesthetics and politics in contemporary photographic practices, with specific attention to the interaction of visibility and obscurity in the surveillance state. She is currently director/curator of Prefix Institute of Contemporary Art and editor/publisher of Prefix Photo magazine.

Works Exhibited


Thing Site

Visible Speech

Visible Speech (Hannah Arendt) 1 — works of art are thought things

Visible Speech (Hannah Arendt) 2 — to live together in the world means essentially that a world of things is between those who have it in common

Visible Speech (Hannah Arendt) 3 — everything that appears in public can be seen and heard by everybody

Visible Speech is an on-going project that utilizes the obsolete script of phonographic shorthand to create non-linear knots or entanglements from written language. The language objects reference the history of writing machines and technologies that were fundamental to the apparatus of bureaucracies and institutions during the twentieth century.

Hannah Arendt used a German form of cursive shorthand known as Sütterlin script when writing. Sütterlin was derived from an earlier form of blackletter cursive writing known as Kurrent. The Nazis banned all variations of blackletter writing in Germany.

All quotations by Hannah Arendt are from The Human Condition published in 1958.

Remote Sensing

The Remote Sensing landscapes are created from Landsat data used by the application Google Earth. Implemented in 1972, the Landsat program is an original source for public, non-military access to satellite imagery of the Earth. The Landsat archive is fundamental to research on climate change.

The Remote Sensing images represent the point when the satellite algorithm that interprets vantage point fails to render a location based on human perception and is forced to interpolate the data into fictitious landscapes.

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