YYZ Artists' Outlet
Toronto, Ontario

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YYZ in the 90s



During the early 1990s, YYZ remained committed to programming time-based or media artworks on an equal basis with the "visual art" in the main gallery. West, a screening room complete with a projection booth was central to the gallery's design when YYZ moved in 1987 to 1087 Queen Street West. The space demanded regular programming. Video works premiered in the main gallery a week prior to the visual arts' opening, while films were projected in the screening room. Media-works would then be available for library-style viewing concurrent with the "visual arts" exhibition in the main gallery.

In roughly the middle of the decade, a decision was made to divide the board-at-large into visual arts, time-based, and publishing committees. Board members were expected to sit on at least one of these three committees. Not unlike YYZ as a gallery itself, YYZ's Media-Art programming did not have a declared mandate. While quality of work was an assumed priority, programming approaches varied since both the board-at-large and the time-based committee were composed of different individuals with varying aesthetics and priorities. Identity issues were on the table during at least the early-nineties, but selections were not made simply on the basis of the artists' identities or affiliations. The time-based committee contained many media artists who observed what was in production and in circulation, so committee members initiated and curated programmes in addition to reviewing the submissions. These media-artists included Steve Reinke, Milada Kovacova, Su Rynard, Wrik Mead, and Dennis Day, but other board members with non-media practices contributed to the time-based programming. YYZ's media-arts programme tried to avoid duplicating what was being programmed by other galleries or festivals, while not being oppositional to these other venues or organizations. The committee considered applications on their own relative merits while seeking out individual or group works which they felt could benefit from gallery visibility, while occasionally collaborating with other galleries as well as festivals.

In 1994, Media-art openings began to be scheduled for the same night as visual arts exhibitions in the main gallery, to make things easier for the staff. The lease expired at the Queen and Dovercourt location in 1997 and YYZ relocated into the artists' complex at 401 Richmond St. West. At this new location, a screening facility was devised which made use of a retractable wall. Video and film-projection equipment could be installed within this space, while the wall could be removed whenever a visual arts exhibition required the entire gallery.

By the late-nineties, other Toronto galleries had begun including greater degrees of media-arts programming. Videotapes were frequently included within multi-media programmes as much as within strictly video exhibitions. Many single-channel media-artists and filmmakers had by now switched their focus to film festivals, television, or other non-gallery formats. Also, several of the submissions to YYZ's time-based programme were arguably not time-based, but installations involving looping or even freezing time.

Video-installation and/or film-projection had become quite prevalent within gallery systems, and separate committees for visual arts and time-based media no longer made sense. Single-channel video and film screenings became more and more infrequent as works were programmed in terms of how they addressed the gallery, although there was never an official directive to shift away from theatrical screenings. Nor was there now a quasi-permanent screening room requiring constant programming. While continuing to encourage submissions (and also to curate programmes) involving film and video, YYZ, in keeping with the times, became less media and material specific in its programming.

Andrew J. Paterson


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