Shows of Solidarity: 50 Years of Video and Performance at SAW




2Fik, Marina Abramović, Arthur II, Ron Athey, Benoit Aubry, Cindy Baker, Bear Witness, Marjorie Beaucage, Rebecca Belmore, Colin Campbell, Theresa Hak Kyung Cha, Candy Chang, Marie Chouinard, Dana Claxton, The Clichettes, Steven Cohen, Jackson Couse, Allen Deleary, Evergon, Michael Fernandes, The Flators, Nicholas Galanin, General Idea, Juan Geuer, Mona Hatoum, Greg Hill, M. Lamar, Claude Latour, Tanya Mars, Matt Miwa, Rehab Nazzal, Richard Nigro, Harold Offeh, Clive Robertson, Rachel Rosenthal, Paul-André Schabracque, Carolee Schneemann, Annie Sprinkle, Lisa Steele, Stelarc, Beth Stephens, Rémi Thériault, Dennis Tourbin, Tavi Weisz, Laakkuluk Williamson Bathory, Paul Wong, Justin Wonnacott, Keigo Yamamoto, Lawrence Paul Yuxweluptun, and many others  

Mirror Mirror cable television series  

Host: Dennis Tourbin. Featured artists: Marc Audette, Lance Belanger, Marion Bordier, Barbara Brown, Jonathan Browns, Mimi Cabri, Susan Close, John Cooke, Dawn Dale, Tim Desclouds, Peter Dudley, Pat Durr, Susan Fiendel, Tony Fouhse, Angèle Gagnon, Diane Génier, Adrian Göllner, Gerry Grey, Ray Hagel, Agnes Ivan, Kareen Jackson, Donna James, Catherine Kavanagh, Jennifer Kawaja, Steve Kempton, Eva Manly, Afua Marcus, Deborah Margo, Mark Marsters, Penny McCann, Matt McCutcheon, Robert McFadden, John Moffat, Chris Mullington, Lynne Nicholson, Sue Pearson, Mary Pfaff, Paulette Phillips, Leslie Reid, Suzanne Rivard Le Moyne, John Sadler, Dan Sharp, Blair Sharpe, Thane Shubaly, Harold Sotomayor, Jim Thompson, Rob Thompson, David Tierney, Jean-Yves Vigneau, Karen Watson, Paul Weber, Tom White, Carla Whiteside, Diane Woodward and Russell Yuristy 


Stefan St-Laurent

Advisors Penny McCann, Jason St-Laurent and Tam-Ca Vo-Van  

Opening reception Friday, May 5, 7PM-midnight 

With performances by Ron Athey (Los Angeles), M. Lamar (New York), Tanya Mars (Toronto) and DJ Trinidaddy (Ottawa)

Food prepared by Chefs Jamie Stunt (Arlo) and Chloé Berlanga 

SAW is delighted to present its major 50th-anniversary exhibition featuring art and ephemera from over 100 regional, Canadian and international artists who have made their mark throughout the centre’s enthralling history.

Founded by a group of eight regional artists in 1973, SAW (formerly Sussex Annex Works) began its operations on the second floor of the world-renowned performance venue Le Hibou Coffee House, a dynamic hub for musicians, artists and poets of the counter-culture movement that attracted the likes of Joni Mitchell, Jimi Hendrix and George Harrison.

Over the years, SAW has stayed true to its roots, maintaining a multidisciplinary program of exhibitions, performances and concerts and becoming one of Canada's most vivacious artist-run spaces, each year attracting over 40,000 visitors and presenting the work of over 1,200 artists and musicians. In 2019, SAW completed a multimillion-dollar expansion featuring new museum-grade exhibition spaces, a state-of-the-art concert venue, a printmaking studio and an artist residency.

A pioneering space for contemporary art with a particular focus on video and performance, SAW has, over its half-century of existence, presented many seminal and idiosyncratic exhibitions that forever changed the visual and performance art landscape in the country. Projects such as Yellow Peril: Reconsidered, curated by Paul Wong, Solidarity: Art After Oka, curated by Lee-Ann Martin, and Access Denied, curated by Farouk Kaspaules, forefronted the work of many artists who were being overlooked by other artistic institutions, giving voice to many generations of creators pushing the boundaries of art and addressing critical concerns around race, identity, politics, gender and sexuality.

Some highlights of the exhibition Shows of Solidarity include: 

  • Never-before-seen photographs, printed matter, performance remnants and videos from SAW exhibitions and events, including documentation of Cristallisation, Marie Chouinard’s first choreographic work, presented in 1979 with Rober Racine, and Bars, Barbs and Borders: The Negotiating Table, one of Mona Hatoum’s first public performances, presented in 1983;
  • The ever-stirring video installation The Named and the Unnamed by Rebecca Belmore, on loan from the National Gallery of Canada;
  • Richard Nigro’s controversial photographic series Of Intimate Silence, presented as part of his solo exhibition in 1978. The show was threatened to be shut down by the Ottawa police following complaints of indecent material being exhibited. The work was cited during a review of Canada’s pornography laws, which now permit the presentation of explicit images if the artist has “honourable intentions”;
  • All three seasons of Mirror Mirror, a cable television program produced by SAW with AXENÉO7 and Gallery 101 and broadcast on Rogers Community Television from 1991 to 1994. The series was recently restored and digitized by the Digital Arts Resource Centre with the generous support of the City of Ottawa.

Highlights of the opening reception include: 

  • A 40-minute preview of The Asclepeion, a multimedia performance created and performed by acclaimed American artist Ron Athey. Currently in production in Athens, Greece, The Asclepeion will be completed later this year;
  • Influential performance artist Tanya Mars will come out of retirement to present a revised and expanded six-hour version of In Dulci Jubilo, which will this time consist of a feast of 50 cakes;
  • Composer and artist M. Lamar will reprise his 2008 performance Funeral Doom Spiritual, which the New York Times describes as an “otherworldly, goth-tinged projection into the distant future of our violent, racially and sexually charged present offers a space of melancholic, alluring, ultimately stirring reflection.”

Shows of Solidarity: 50 Years of Video and Performance at SAW is the first in a series of special projects celebrating our centre's milestone anniversary. SAW recognizes the crucial role regional artists, collectives and organizations have played in its development and in shaping its unique identity as a multidisciplinary space now home to many artistic and cultural communities. SAW's most fervent collaborators have joined forces with us to present an exceptional program throughout 2023, honouring our intertwined histories and envisioning our shared futures.

Partners: National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa Art Gallery, Digital Arts Resource Centre, Arts Court, Canada Council Art Bank and Produced by Youth

Sponsors: Arlo, Adapt Ag, The BBQ Joint and Display Laminating 

Funders: Canada Council for the Arts, Ontario Arts Council, City of Ottawa, Government of Canada, Government of Ontario, Ontario Trillium Foundation and Ottawa Community Foundation

Image: The Named and the Unnamed by Rebecca Belmore © 2002. National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa. Purchased 2009.