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Exhibition at Art Gallery of Guelph : Temporary Territories

Temporary Territories, Art Gallery of Guelph, May 19.2023 / September 3.2023

Curated by Shauna McCabe and organized by the Art Gallery of Guelph with the support of the Canada Council for the Arts and the Ontario Arts Council. 

The constructions of José Luis Torres evoke the prolonged ambiguity and estrangement inherent in experiences of immigration and exile. Repurposing found materials, the Quebec-based Argentinian artist transforms spaces with large-scale installations that offer possibilities to both see and engage familiar objects in new ways. Collecting and recontextualizing objects of daily life, his DIY architectures point less to home than to informal settlements, where sedentary spaces of stability associated with belonging give way to nomadic spaces of risk and vulnerability. For Torres, this geography of temporary territories offers insight into deterritorialization – the deep transformation of everyday cultural experiences compelled by the dislocation and relocation associated with cross-border movement and migration at both local and global scales.

Integrating aged and discarded furniture – doors, windows, mirrors, and chairs – sourced within the community to preserve their association with local ways of life, Torres uses strategies of reconstruction and assimilation deeply familiar to im/migrants as they shape and are reshaped by new territories. The very simple gesture of “making do” that informs the construction of this built environment belies the profound precariousness of relationships to home, to identity, and to bearings produced by immigration, as well as the essentially ephemeral intersections of object and human biographies through time and change.

Photo credit: Toni Hafkenscheid.

A year marked by issues of immigration

In 2019, artist José Luis Torres presented three solo exhibitions in Ontario, Québec, and Alberta, each time touching on issues linked to immigration, exile, and notions of identity.  

Population movements around the world are not new. Since the dawn of time, migrants have left their homeland to find a better life elsewhere. Canada has welcomed immigrants for a long time. However, the number of landed immigrants has significantly increased and fluctuated with the global economy, the international conflicts, and the migratory policies. It is this very phenomenon that Torres wanted to explore in his work.

He started in Toronto,from June 21 to August26, 2018, where he was invited bythe curator and director of the Koffler Gallery, Mona Filip, to create Question d’adaptation (A Matter of Adaptation). This large sculptural installation focussed on three essential notions of the migration experience: camouflage, reflection, and reconstruction.

Trying to merge into a new cultural setting and to reflect its social conventions is a familiar process for the newcomers. As assimilation permanently affects the issue of identity, layers of individuality may become nearly invisible, or be redesigned and reconstructed towards an increasingly complex self-expression.

Metaphorically exploring the strategies of adaptation and reinventing the immigrant identity, Torres transforms the exhibition space with sculptural interventions, creating an immersive context that shakes up the visitors’ expectations. His installation presents itself as a seemingly endless embedding construction that reflects the state of precariousness and constant change inherent to immigration. 

Back in the province of Québec, over the month of July, the artist produced Errances (Wandering). This artisticproject was specifically designed for the Centre d'Art Jacques-et-Michel-Auger in Victoriaville in partnership with the Biennale nationale de sculpture contemporaine - 2018. 

In this installation, symbols originally designed to guide us turn into elements intended to deceive or mislead us. Inventing a new topography, the artist sets up esthetic and conceptual apparatuses that question the visitors and invite them to move and to be moved on a site interpreted as an object, among objects interpreted as sites. 

Well aware that movement is also about self-construction, José Luis Torres is attentive to the bifurcations and changes of directions that shape lifestyles in our era. 

The correspondence between the components of the installation, as well as the references borrowed from geography and the science of cartography, create a space to question migratory realities, in which movements call upon frailty, instability, and the adaptation capacity of human beings. 

In Alberta, in the month of September,the artist was invited by Josephine Mills, curator and director of the University of Lethbridge Art Gallery, where he created and presented The Everyday Future

This exhibition took the form of a large-scale installation made by deconstructing two caravans. As part of a creation residency, the whole interior space of the gallery and exterior space of the university campus became the support for an amalgam of short-lived interventions. The objective of this project was to bring the population to question the occupation of space, the human precariousness and the issues linked to immigration. 

The artist used the reconstructed caravans to push the utopia of habitat to its limits, pretending to jeopardize the notion of comfort associated with the notion of home.

The Everyday Future questions the relationship between the notion of habitat, that implies stability, and the notion of campground, which implies a state of vulnerability.

For further information: 

University of Lethbridge Art Gallery :

Koffler Gallery :

Centre d'Art Jacques-et-Michel-Auger :

Biennale nationale de sculpture contemporaine - 2018 :