Coco Riot, Los Fantasmas #6, Ink and Acrylic Paint on Paper, 2013, photographed by Salma Al Atassi

Unburying Our Histories

Alicia Coutts, Coco Riot
Exhibition runs May 31 2013 - July 13 2013
Opening: May 31 2013: 6:00 PM - 8:00 PM
Essay by: Rachel Gorman

Unburying Our Histories lays bare the devastating intimacy of political violence, and the centrality of its denial to our unequal social and political reality. In works that trace their families’ histories in meticulous detail, Alicia Coutts and Coco Riot have created vivid, trans-generational archives of genocide that confront us with the violence of their disavowal. Coco Riot’s Los Fantasmas (2013) documents the 200,000 civilians killed by fascist troops and buried in mass graves during the Spanish civil war of 1936-1939. Alicia Coutts’s The House in which Florence Sabina Jantina Coutts-Zawadzki Grew Up (2009) takes up the post-war disavowal of Jewish identity, and the intimate enactment of racism within mixed families. Unburying Our Histories turns us toward the affective work of the political. We might think of these apparitions as matter out of place: European hauntings in a middle-class Toronto household; Spanish genocide reproduced on paper and placed on walls. These works prompt us to unbury our dead and acknowledge that their disavowal continues our unequal social and political reality.

Toronto artist, Alicia Coutts, received her MFA from NSCAD in 2009. Her work investigates the cultural and psychological identities of people in post conflict societies. Her photographic series, The Lost Synagogues of Poland, documented former synagogues, which are now being utilized for various secular purposes such as swimming pools, movie theaters and mechanic shops. With a deep interest in secret historical spaces, she pursued an Art Conservation post-baccalaureate at SACI University in Florence. Her thesis, The Destruction of Cultural Heritage in a Time of War, examines strategies for the conservation of war affected UNESCO sites. Coutts is the Director of a conservation company dedicated to the preservation of cultural icons.
Born and raised in Southern Spain, Coco Riot grew up surrounded by pencils, comics, and stories of social revolutions. Using drawing, Coco focuses on the visual storytelling of political histories and mythologies through open and playful visual conversations. Coco's capacity for telling visual stories has been acknowledged by art professionals at an international level. Their art has been shown in contemporary art museums, artist-run centres, political events, and friends’ living rooms. From Toronto to Berlin, from Seoul to Buenos Aires, from New York to their small hometown, Coco’s art has received the support of different artistic and activist communities.
Rachel Gorman is Assistant Professor in the Graduate Program in Critical Disability Studies at York University, with a background in dance theatre and performance art. Since receiving her PhD from the University of Toronto in 2005 with a dissertation on cultural production, disability, and class consciousness, she has held a Lectureship at the Women and Gender Studies Institute of the University of Toronto, and Fellowships at Manchester Metropolitan University and the University at Buffalo. She has worked on the programming committee at A Space and the editorial committee of Fuse Magazine. She has two decades of anti-occupation and anti-violence activist experience.


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