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Exhibit dates: 

Thursday, June 16, 2016 to Friday, September 23, 2016

Reception date & time: 

Thursday, June 16, 7:00pm

VHS, queer porn and digital histories at The ArQuives


Tape Condition: degraded is an immersive installation and community digitization station that engages with The ArQuives’s collection of more than 3,000 VHS tapes, about one-third of which are porn. From commercially produced movies, to homemade tapes and hand-dubbed compilations, these cassettes are vital records of the archives’ role in preserving and protecting queer desires, sexual subcultures, and the pleasures of collecting.  As VHS tapes age and degrade, what kinds of digital strategies might bring the histories they record into the present? How might digital interventions broaden, diversify, or queer the kinds of bodies, pleasures, and identities the archives collects?

Throughout the summer, a working digital transfer station will be situated in an immersive installation designed to evoke The ArQuives of the 1980’s—the heyday of both VHS and Canadian police censorship of queer porn. Hidden behind a “false wall” that references the archives’ attempts to protect the porn collection from police raids in the 1980s, this station will be staffed by a technician and available for community-use on select days throughout the summer. New video work by Aidan Cowling titled Landscapes of Infinities will screen on a loop within the installation.

A publication with essay, drawings by Hazel Meyer, comic by Morgan Sea, and “Dream Tape” archival interventions written by 11 queer and trans artists and activists available online and in print. Publication Designed by Cecilia BerKovic. Dream Tape Contributors: Anthea Black, Derek McCormack, Ginger Brooks Takahashi, Guillermina Buzio, jes sachse, Jessica Karuhanga, Kiley May, Morgan M Page, Nica Ross, Nick Matte, Syrus Marcus Ware.

A series of public programs throughout the summer will invite artists, activists, porn makers and scholars to think about VHS, porn collecting, and digital histories at the archives:

Digitize your Tape
Digitize your VHS tape (free) at The ArQuives. Make an appointment by completing this form: http://goo.gl/forms/cFXvB4EH68. Email mckinneycait@gmail.com for questions.

June 16, 7pm
Opening Party at The ArQuives, 34 Isabella Street, 2nd Floor
Remarks and Digitization Demo at 8pm

July 8, 2016, 7:30pm – Midnight
Artist Talk and Party at Buddies in Bad Times, 12 Alexander Street

7:30pm: Performance Lecture by Cait McKinney and Hazel Meyer

9pm: VJ Party with tapes from The ArQuives collection, Nica Ross and Ginger Brooks Takahashi

Accessibility Note: The second-floor gallery space of The ArQuives building at 34 Isabella is unfortunately not currently wheelchair accessible; the building’s elevator broke this year and is being rebuilt. All public programming events for this show will be held either on the first floor of The ArQuives (accessible by ramp at back of building) or in off-site accessible venues. Documentation and a take-away publication are also available.


Hazel Meyer is an interdisciplinary artist who works with installation, performance, and textiles to investigate the relationships between sport, sexuality, feminism, and material culture. Recent projects include a solo exhibition at MacLaren Art Centre (Barrie) and a public art commission for Cambridge Gallery’s Idea Exchange. In 2015 she was Scrap Metal Gallery’s (Toronto) inaugural artist in residence. She is currently at work on an iteration of her ongoing project Muscle Panic (2014– ) for the CAG in Vancouver. Hazel holds an MFA from OCAD University (Toronto) and a BFA from Concordia University (Montréal). http://hazelmeyer.com

Cait McKinney’s research examines the media practices of feminist and LGBTQ social movements, emphasizing the late-20th century adoption of digital and online tools. Recent writing appears in Feminist Theory and the Radical History Review’s special issue on queer archives. Cait is the 2015/16 Media@McGill postdoctoral fellow at McGill University, where she has also taught at the Institute for Gender, Sexuality, and Feminist Studies. http://caitmckinney.com

Hazel and Cait’s collaborations explore their shared attachments to queer histories through research, writing, and archival interventions. Past projects include an essay in Little Joe: Queers and Cinema (2015)the Muscle Panic Handbook (2014), In the Equipment Room, a performance workshop for art)work(sport)work(sex)work by YES! Association/Föreningen JA! (The Power Plant, Toronto 2015), and a forthcoming feminist tool catalog to be published in No More Potlucks.

Aidan Cowling is a Toronto-based artist who works in a variety of media exploring the intersection of queerness and materiality on the web.  He is a part of various collectives and has exhibited at Yogiga Gallery, Gallery 44, Visual Aids, YYZ, Xpace, The Hangram Design Museum and The Canadian Gay and Lesbian Archives.  Aidan has aslo worked for many festivals such as Tiff and The Images Festival and currently works as the Head of communications and development at Gallery 44.

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