In the Rhubarb

Works by:

Ashley Guenette, Cecilia McKinnon, James Knott, Kristi Chen, Maddie Alexander, Marc-Oliver Hamelin, & sarah koekkoek

Words by: 

Akosua Dufie Adasi, Gizem Candan, Na'ama Freeman, jaye simpson, Adrien Crossman, Alexander Rondeau, & Steacy Easton

In the Rhubarb brings together 7 artists and 7 writers making this exhibition of 14 voices Between Pheasants Contemporary's largest to date. Electing to forego a curatorial framework -- curatorial practice can often fall short in community building given its necessary exclusion of important works that perhaps too distantly approximate a central context or might waywardly shift an exhibition's cohesion -- to instead pair artists and writers in an experimental, open-ended dialogue working towards collaborative co-production. Vernacularly, to be "in the rhubarb" is to be off the beaten path, in the ditch, or off course. As an 8'x8'x8' square, the pheasant coop is a nesting ground to artists that, mostly through spontaneous conversations, offered works-in-progress or experimental pieces or even old works ready to breathe new life. Each writer was randomly asked to respond to one of the artworks in the coop in whichever way most inspired them, similarly taking us further and further into the rhubarb.

^ Na'ama Freeman responds to James Knott's score:

Crescendo, ah, reprieve

Without a singular, legible reality, a place diffuse of tension,

A score in which human intensity prevails, as pathways transform following the ever-flow of

Crescendo, ah, reprieve

Fluidity of sound melds alternative systems of existence,

What is truth if it exists in multiples?

What is prayer if not a wish for solace?

Crescendo, ah, reprieve: moments of release deposit in mundane gestures
Crescendo, ah, reprieve: within an illegible reality, collective ties form, twist, tie, and tangle
Crescendo, ah, reprieve: ending in collective applause

Gestural points toward alternative systems of existence, solace in skin.

Crescendo, ah, reprieve

^ Akosua Dufie Adasi responds to Ashley Guenette

Ashely Guenette’s series Put a finger down if you’ve ever been personally victimized by social media algorithms takes its
title in part from a scene in Tina Fey’s seminal 2004 film Mean Girls, in which the school’s principal asks a auditorium full
of high school teens if they had ever “felt personally victimized” by the school’s Queen Bee, as well as a popular social
media quiz that asks participants to put a finger down for each scenario presented that they have experienced. Guenette’s
work emulates the sobering moment of Fey’s film, placing it alongside social media’s penchant for playfulness to highlight
the ubiquitous nature of “digital microaggressions.” A term coined by Guenette, “digital microaggressions” reveals how the
negative aspects of social media are manifestations of already existing sociocultural hegemonies of sexism, racism, and
mental health stigma that underpins social media trends.

This piece from Guenette’s wider series Put a finger down if you’ve ever been personally victimized by social media
presents a rich and critical work of art that engages with the various complexities of social media trends
promoted by Tik Tok algorithms. Utilizing pastels, a typically traditional medium, Guenette generates a piece of art that is
reminiscent of the upending nature of pop art. Guenette uses an everyday object, a bag of chips, as a means to critique
sociocultural hegemonies that underpin social media trends. Additionally, Guenette’s work challenges traditional
representations of human sexuality by replacing the traditionally nude/naked, typically female, (Edouard Manet’s Olympia,
1863 comes to mind) with a parody of the mass produced commodity of Lays potato chips. Similarly, she appropriates the
social media phenomena of memes to pinpoint the harmful/oppressive potential of social media, making the meme a
locus of the playful and destructive nature of social media and its algorithms.

^ Gizem Candan responds to Cecilia McKinnon

The current structural and sentimental desolation that modern humans experience in the
Anthropocene era is set amidst the freedom of nature, interlaced with perpetual concrete. In this
conflict, one tries to create a life while also impeding the environment. As a result of both
cultural destruction and globalization, McKinnon no longer considers the landscape as merely a
frame on the horizon but rather as something that provides an essential function. These
landscapes now reflect society and remain connected to the moment. She introduces a sensory
experience to the audience and uses a material strategy to produce a three-dimensional
What does it mean to settle in a place and make it yours? How do the adaptations that settlers
make to the surroundings alter the space's meaning? Since life is placed on top of everything
terrestrial, it creates a flow, and everything touches each other—whether done consciously or
unconsciously. McKinnon’s work provokes spectators to think about the consequences of
settlement in both time and space. In this sense, the place serves as a hub for interactions
between humans and non-humans.

^ jaye simpson responds to Kristi Chen

ah ah ah ah ah
              ah ah ah ah ah
ah ah ah ah ah 

                            ah ah ah ah ah

a hitched lung under prying sore finger // nail
               a tight touch
                              the drawing estrogen
               a swirling soft prickle of futurity

how many raw red digits
              have we bent to weave us
                           a baby basket
              a blanket
                             a bucket                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            a way to hold or to cover or to contain

             ah ah ah ah ah
                               ah ah ah ah ah
            ah ah ah ah ah

                                                              ah ah ah ah ah

warm their finger
               prodding this melting flesh
                                the needle doesn’t bite
                                                a splash of warm                                                                                                                                                                                                                         tight touch as sesame oil hormones fill the pocket of flesh                                                                                                                                                                   can you taste the estradiol                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   the blood pooling in the mouth                                                                                                                                                                                                            a body woven                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                a body prickled                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              a body                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                a                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            a  


                                         ah ah ah ah ah                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                ah ah ah ah ah                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  ah ah ah ah ah

                                                            ah ah ah ah ah

^ Adrien Crossman responds to Maddie Alexander

There is no arrival point. Disappointment is okay. Your anger is important. You deserve to
make your body feel like home.

A few moments after our friend Nik and their dog Billie climb into the car, I get a phone call I’ve
been waiting on for years. The call is from the clinic that will be doing my top surgery
procedure. After months of waiting – first for approval of government funding, then for my turn
in the queue of the clinic’s backlog of hopeful future patients – they finally call me to schedule a
consultation. It felt like Kismet. Nik and Maddie are dear friends, both of whom I hadn’t seen in
person since before the pandemic. They are also both trans and non-binary and have been
undergoing similar steps in physical transition. I’m visiting Halifax, where they now live, and
we’re driving through a snowstorm, on the way to a winter beach day trip to bond. A T4T

Every part of you is whole. Every choice you make to care for your body is the right one.
The shame projected onto you is not yours to hold.

I received a deck of Maddie Alexander’s T4T Care Cards earlier in 2022 through the mail.
Spending time with these objects feels sacred. Every time I see a vibrant colour paired with an
image and text, I think I’ve found a new favourite, until I land on the next one. They feel like
memories. The use of cyanotypes created with meaningful objects from Maddie’s possessions
give the cards an aura – exuding an intangible quality of trans experience that feels both
expansive yet pointed. What started as a pandemic project has grown into a network of
relational care through Maddie’s sourcing of text via community conversations, the
dissemination of the decks to trans folks, and the subsequent gifting of the cards to those
within the circles of the initial recipients.

Through the creation and circulation of this project, Alexander is prompting us to consider what
our relationships are to our bodies and our genders when we aren’t being perceived by others,
and by extension, creating new community connections through the sharing of these
sentiments. While they can act as affirmations, these cards also remind trans folks that it is
okay to feel our feelings – whatever they may be – and that there is no right or wrong way to
care for yourself, to affirm your gender, or to be in your body.

^ Alexander Rondeau responds to Marc-Olivier Hamelin

I was sitting by a window in a bright room, watching lilies die and listening to him, in French, on an old television, talk about the bed as a place of healing // death — intimacy // loneliness.

I’m at the airport in Buffalo now, uninspired, drinking an espresso martini waiting for my next thoughts to hit me when I’m somewhere much queerer in San Francisco.

Ok, sitting down to write in the Castro.

Marc-Olivier Hamelin drove to Kerns Township to see Corbin Elliot’s show He Blossoms, and the very next day I drove to Rouyn-Noranda to see Hamelin’s exhibition Il faut le dire: Perfect Lovers est aujourd'hui un espace fictionnel at L’Écart and go downhill skiing. We talked about a strange gravitational pull that Northern queers orbit launching us in many different directions.

Hamelin’s work is somewhere between a vigil; an homage to Félix González-Torres; a living room; a question that can never fully be answered.

An image of a book — well lived-in, probably cherished, probably also where many of Hamelin’s questions are prompted — floats in a matting above an empty white block as if the image has been cut in half. But there’s nothing visual expressly cut out, we can’t conjure what Hamelin is hiding from us, but we can feel an absence haunting within the frame.

Queerness has an inheritance of loss, of melancholia; a sort of anti-presence of haunting from the deaths of an entire generation of writers, artists, and lovers. All the queer artistic material that we do have from preceding generations is scarred and conjures ghosts: the blank spaces lingering in many frames, canvases, and empty pages. 

^ Steacy Easton responds to sarah koekkoek

Oniatarí:io in Kanien’kehá:ka means lake of shining water, in Ojibwe it is gichigami, or roughly a large sea or lake. Thinking about the system of lakes, when I am standing in Chicago, or Buffalo or Toronto or Hamilton (western names, I am still western, colonial names, I am still a settler), the line between the lake and the sky disappears, is absent, there is not really one lake or one sky, but the sky reflects the lake and the lake reflects the sky. 

I think about them as one lake, as not five great lakes, but as a system that elides borders, a system that is best understood as an inland sea.  How the lake and the sky erase each other, and how the lake erases geographic interventions, an interlacing, a different kind of geography. 

Thinking of this erasure and thinking about how we create works about landscape, thinking about the idea of this inland ocean, sarah koekkoek’s collages, dismantling the hierarchy of sea and sky, upsetting that horizon line, gives me a similar feeling—one of expansiveness, even despite their modest size. (

Artist Bios

Ashley Guentte

Ashley Guenette is a Franco Ontarian artist from rural Northern Ontario. Her recent work draws from algorithmically-generated social media content in order to reveal their hidden forms of oppression and reframe them in critical, feminist contexts. Using analogue methods to interpret digital content, her drawings, paintings and multiples challenge aesthetic conventions of painting while engaging in an ongoing dialogue with its histories. Guenette holds an MFA from the University of Waterloo.

Cecilia McKinnon

Cecilia McKinnon is an intermedia artist, primarily working in sculpture, installation, and video. She is based in Tio’tia:ke/Montréal, with ties to occupied Chumash and Tewa land (California and New Mexico). She is a member of GRAFT Collective, based in Albuquerque, Philadelphia, Louisville, and Montréal, who were Fulcrum Fund recipients in 2017 and CiCA Practitioners in Residence at Concordia University in 2020. McKinnon has shared work at Center for Contemporary Art (Santa Fe), Vox Populi (Philadelphia), and Amos Eno Gallery (NYC), with solo shows at Small Engine Gallery and Harwood Art Center (Albuquerque). She holds an MFA in Fibres and Material Practices from Concordia University in Montréal, and a BFA from the University of New Mexico.

James Knott

James Knott is an emerging, Toronto-based artist, having received a Bachelors of Fine Arts in Integrated Media from OCAD University. Their performance-based practice employs tactics of self-mythologizing, and auto-iconographic aestheticism, as a means to bridge personal narratives into communal ones. Their work combines theatre, video, and audio with an emphasis on movement/gesture to create immersive and emotionally resonant experiences, exploring themes of paradoxical and queer identity, archetypes of desire, and the commodification of the femme body. An alumnus of The Roundtable Residency, they’ve exhibited/performed at Xpace Cultural Centre, Trinity Square Video, the Toronto Feminist Art Conference,  the 7a*11d International Festival of Performance Art, the Art Gallery of Hamilton, and the AGO’s First Thursdays. They've received project and grant funding from The Artist Project Contemporary Art Fair, The National Arts Centre, The Ontario Arts Council, and The Canada Council for the Arts.

Kristi Chen

As a Toronto based multi-disciplinary cultural producer and artist, I am interested in themes of intergenerational, ancestral archives and how it relates to experiences of the diaspora. I was raised living in Singapore, then the United States, Canada, Hong Kong (SAR) which has made me cognizant of constant migration, influencing the subject matter and materiality in my practice. I seek to find comfort within my diasporic experience using sculptural forms to communicate identity. Imaginative creatures and dystopic, surreal environments are drawn from notions of my collective and personal experiences. Basket-weaving is a big part of my sculptures, as it is a lost technique in my paternal side of the family.  It is important for me to address cross-cultural perspectives, trans-generational traumas and re-interpretations of ancient Asian ideologies. I currently use traditional weaving techniques with synthetic materials to speak towards the relationship of the ancient and the anthropocene. 

Maddie Alexander

Maddie Alexander is a trans artist, arts facilitator, archivist, and educator.  Their artistic practice focuses on embodied queer and trans experiences while exploring larger themes of archiving, queer representation and analogue to digital technological processes. After graduating with a BFA from OCAD University in 2016, they went on to pursue an MFA at NSCAD University where they received The Reznick Family Fund for Student Creativity and the Joan Catherine DeWolfe Graduate Fellowship, and are currently a guest on the unceded territory of Miꞌkmaꞌki.  Their work has been exhibited locally and internationally including The Khyber Centre for the Arts, RYMD Reykjavik, Xpace Cultural Centre and The Anna Leonowens Gallery. In support of their artwork, they have received grants from the Canada Council for the Arts .They have always had a distinct interest in methods of translation; through text, language, and analogue to digital technological processes. This process of translation connects to their personal experience of transness: fluctuating and creating through patchwork to make something that feels real and whole. They were the Chair of Programming at Eyelevel Gallery from 2018 to 2022 and an active member of the NSCAD queer collective from 2018 - 2020. They currently work as the Research Assistant and Public Art Manager with IOTA Studios based in Halifax, NS. 

Marc-Olivier Hamelin

Marc-Olivier Hamelin is a visual artist and author based in Rouyn-Noranda. He received his MFA from the Université du Québec en Outaouais (2019) and his BFA from Concordia University (2015). Recent solo exhibitions include Musée d’art de Rouyn-Noranda, Rouyn-Noranda (2016); L’Écart, Rouyn-Noranda (2018, 2023); and Galerie UQO, Gatineau (2018). Group exhibitions include L’Écart, Rouyn-Noranda (2015, 2016); Galerie UQO, Gatineau (2017), Musée d’art de Rouyn-Noranda, Rouyn-Noranda (2019); and Centre d’exposition de Val-d’Or, Val-d’Or (2021). Residencies include L’Écart, Rouyn-Noranda (2018); Homesession, Barcelona (2022) and AXENÉO7, Gatineau (2022). His practice ranges from installation to video, photography, and writing, where he weaves his voice to those of artists, authors, and peers.

sarah koekkoek

sarah koekkoek is an ecology focused multidisciplinary artist and educator based in Tkarón:to. In her former life as a classically trained ballet dancer, sarah performed with many of Canada's largest ballet companies (Les Grands Ballets Canadiens, Ballet Jorgen and The Royal Winnipeg Ballet). Currently, sarah is interested in creating work that explores our punctured relationship and existence within the abused and exploited natural world, developing an environment of (physical) emotions surrounding climate change and the anthropocene.

Writers Bios

Akosua Dufie Adasi

Akosua Dufie Adasi is a writer and art historian currently based in Edmonton, Alberta. She specializes in Black feminist theory and contemporary Black art in visual and popular culture, focusing on the construction of the Black body as it relates to hybridity.

Gizem Candan

B. 1996, Turkey. Gizem Candan is an artist and researcher based in Toronto. She earned two undergraduate degrees, one in Plastic Arts and Painting and one in Graphic Design from Yeditepe University in Istanbul in 2019. She is currently pursuing her master's degree at OCAD in Criticism and Curatorial Practice, as well as working as a Research Assistant at Cooper Cole.

Na'ama Freeman

Na’ama Freeman (she/they) is an independent curator, artist-researcher, and cultural programmer based in Tkaronto/Toronto. Her practice is rooted in intentional community-building, collaborative processes, and strategizing through non-traditional and non-hierarchical curatorial methods. A graduate of OCAD University’s Criticism and Curatorial Practice (MFA, 2022) and from McGill University’s History and Communication Studies (BA, 2018), Na’ama has curated many self-initiated projects and cultural public programmes and contributed to exhibitions and cultural events at institutions including the The Power Plant Gallery, Art Gallery of Ontario, Myseum of Toronto, Museum of Jewish Montreal, KiN Gallery, Gallery 1313, among others. 

jaye simpson

jaye simpson (she/they) is an Oji-Cree Saulteaux Indigiqueer from the Sapotaweyak Cree Nation. simpson is a writer, advocate and activist sharing their knowledge and lived experiences in hope of creating utopia. she is published in several magazines including Poetry Is Dead, This Magazine, PRISM international,  SAD Magazine: Green, GUTS Magazine, SubTerrain, Grain and Room. They are in four anthologies: Hustling Verse (2019), Love After the End (2020), The Care We Dream Of (2021), and Queer Little Nightmares (2022). Their first poetry collection, it was never going to be okay (Nightwood Ed.) was shortlisted for the 2021 ReLit Award and a 2021 Dayne Ogilvie Prize Finalist while also winning the 2021 Indigenous Voices Award for Published Poetry in English. their next collection of poetry, a body more tolerable, is forthcoming Fall 2024. she is a displaced Indigenous person resisting, ruminating and residing on xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), səl̓ilwətaɁɬ (Tsleil-waututh), and sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish) First Nations territories, colonially known as Vancouver. 

Adrien Crossman

Adrien Crossman is a queer and non-binary white settler artist, educator, and curator currently residing on the traditional territory of the Haudenosaunee and Anishinaabe peoples in Hamilton, Ontario. They hold an MFA in Visual Art from the University of Windsor (2018), and a BFA in Integrated Media with a Minor in Digital and Media Studies from OCAD University (2012). Crossman is interested in the affective qualities of queerness, investigating how queerness can be felt through specific aesthetics and sensibilities. In addition to having exhibited across Canada and internationally, Adrien co-founded and co-runs the online arts publication Off Centre with collaborator Luke Maddaford. Crossman is an Assistant Professor in the School of the Arts at McMaster University.

Steacy Easton

Steacy Easton (they/them) is a writer and artist, living two blocks from Lake Ontario. Their work is about sex, money, and pleasure, or the challenges about the lack of any of those things.

Alexander Rondeau

Alexander Rondeau is a queer curator, writer, and artist from a rural farming community known as Kerns Township — past, present, and future home to Ojibway, Cree, and Algonquin in Northeastern Robinson-Huron Treaty land. Rondeau is currently serving as Executive Co-Director at the Near North Mobile Media Lab, while working towards his PhD in Cultural Studies at Queen’s University. He holds an MFA in Criticism & Curatorial Practice from OCAD University (2021), and a BFA in Photography Studies from Toronto Metropolitan University (2017). Rondeau’s research driven curatorial practice is dedicated to championing and developing exhibitions by queer, trans, and two spirit artists in and from the North. He has curated exhibitions for artist-run centres and galleries such as la Galerie du Nouvel-Ontario (Sudbury, 2023), Union Gallery (Kingston, 2022), the Near North Mobile Media Lab (North Bay, 2020), and the White Water Gallery (North Bay, 2019). Additionally, he has independently and co-curated several site-specific exhibitions in such places as a construction site, public hiking trails, a beach, a pheasant coop, downtown streets, and even atop a frozen lake. In 2021, Rondeau launched Between Pheasants Contemporary: an experimental gallery and presentation space in a pheasant coop in Kerns Township.

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