The Canadian Art Database

TRAFFIC | Conceptual Art in Canada 1965-1980

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Centre for Experimental Art and Communication

Developing out of the Kensington Arts Association in fall 1975, the Centre for Experimental Art and Communication (1975-1978) provided an important venue for the production and circulation of experimental art in Toronto during the 1970s. In its brief existence, the centre drew artists, musicians, and activists from across North America, organizing exhibitions such as Language & Structure in North America (1975), Body Art (1976), and BOUND, BENT, AND DETERMINED (1976). With its "Contextual Art Conference" (1976), CEAC seemed intent on signalling a turn away from Conceptual art proper (as represented by New York Conceptualists, Joseph Kosuth, and Sarah Charlesworth, who came to defend it against Contextualism). Major figures from Toronto and New York were deeply divided over the possibilities for politically-engaged art.

In addition to an active exhibition program, CEAC served as the centre of a constellation of related and sometimes amorphous activities: along with video production facilities, workshops, screening and performance series, there was the publication of Art Communication Edition, STRIKE, and The Body Politic, as well as related organizations such as the Glad Day Bookstore and Toronto Gay Action. Before closing its doors in 1978, CEAC had collaborated with and exhibited artists such as Sarah Charlesworth, Joseph Kosuth, Anthony McCall, Dennis Oppenheim, Martha Rosler, Carolee Schneeman, and Lawrence Weiner, and had organized concerts by Philip Glass and Steve Reich.

Under the direction of Amerigo Marras, Suber Corley, Beth Learn, Bruce Eves, John Faichney, Ron Gillespie and a host of others, CEAC provided an important—if often controversial—site for the exchange of ideas around advanced art in Toronto. Its closure followed funding cuts from the Ontario Arts Council and the Canada Council for the Arts, which were prompted by media outrage over an issue of STRIKE—believed to advocate support for Italy's Red Brigades urban terror—as well as CEAC's often fraught relations with fellow artists and artist-run centres. The final issue of STRIKE proclaimed: "As the futurists were in fascist Italy; as the Bauhaus was in Nazi Germany; as the constructivists were in the Soviet Union, the CEAC was banned in Canada."

Further Reading
CEAC: Centre for Experimental Art and Communication: Programming Activities 1975-1977. Toronto:
    Kensington Arts Association.
Kostelanetz, Richard, ed. Language and Structure in North America. Toronto: Kensington Arts
    Association, 1975.
Learn, Beth. "Language and Structure. "Queen Street Magazine 3, no. 1 (1975).
Marras, Amerigo."Notes and Statements of Activity, Toronto." Europe, Art Contemporary 3, no. 1
Tuer, Dot."'The CEAC was banned in Canada': Program Notes for a Tragicomic Opera in Three
    Acts." In Mining the media archive: essays on art, technology and cultural resistance,
    55-92. Toronto: YYZ, 2005.