Comfort Zones is a unique curatorial proposition. Strategically, it skips over the conventional presentation of an exhibition and replaces it with a year-long experimental research program designed to study the complexities and potentials of a university campus. The project is informed by Cohabitation Strategies (CohStra), a non-profit cooperative for socio-spatial research, design, and development based in various international cities. The first stage ofComfort Zones took place in July 2014 when CohStra members Lucia Babina and Miguel Robles-Durán led a series of participatory workshops at the University of Toronto Mississauga campus with students, staff, faculty, and community members. Through the lens of urban theory, the workshop included presentations on CohStra’s transdisciplinary approach to facilitating transformative social projects, physical explorations of public spaces on UTM campus, and roundtable discussions on how the potential for public engagement and collective use of these spaces can be re-examined and re-imagined.
The second stage of Comfort Zones took the form of four “behind-the-scenes” walking tours to trace the visible and invisible forces that have transformed the campus since its inception. The tours were led by a cross-section of UTM community members (faculty, students, and staff) who shared their professional knowledge and personal experiences of the campus, as well as their visions for its future. Each tour were followed by a mapping exercise facilitated by CohStra where participants reflected on the tour experience and collectively re-chart the campus through a congruency of personal and institutional narratives. The results of this group activity is compiled and translated into a single map that will be made public at a later date. Stay tuned! Behind the Scenes is designed to explore the networks of social relations and the collective uses of space on campus and their combined potential for knowledge production and exchange.
Tuesday, March 10th, 3pm – 5pm
Linda Stroble, staff member of Chartwell’s food service team, led a tour “down memory lane” to re-visit the food service stations she has worked at over the course of her twenty-five years at UTM. Some are still operational while others have disappeared to make room for the new. Linda’s tour is punctuated by a few stops at her favourite “hideaway” spots where she has found peace and joy between shifts.
Wednesday, March 11th, 10am – 12pm
Michael Brand, historical archaeologist and Sessional Lecturer in the Department of Anthropology, relays his research interests into a historical tour of the campus and the urban forest surrounding Lislehurst (used today as the Principal’s residence). The expedition unearthed physical traces dating back to the early nineteenth century to explore how previous owners of the property lived and altered the land.
Wednesday, March 11th, 3pm – 5pm
Members of UTM EDSS (English and Drama Student Society) view the campus as a movie set. President of EDSS, Siddharth Singh Chaudhari, led a tour of where and how EDSS TV creates self-produced short films on campus, while offering a sneak-peek (in action!) of the current production Shattered, a 30-minute psychological horror.
Material and Immaterial
Thursday, March 12th, 10am – 12pm
Paul Donoghue, Chief Administrative Officer of the University of Toronto Mississauga, conducted a tour of new architectural landmarks on campus, while sharing his insights into the University’s master plan and how public spaces on campus are envisioned from the administration’s perspective.
The project took place March 10 to 12, 2015 in UTM Campus, Canada. Tours designed by Cohabitation Strategies and curated by MVS candidate Yan Wu in collaboration with Blackwood Gallery.
The students newspaper about the tours.