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Public Volumes

Small Arms Inspection Building: Joi T. Arcand, Cathy Busby, Stephanie Comilang, Sheena Hoszko, Germaine Koh, HaeAhn Paul Kwon Kajander,  Morris Lum, Dawit L. Petros, jes sachse, Kara Springer


Bradley Museum: soJin Chun (interior), LeuWebb Projects (exterior)


City Hall: Amanda White

Collaborators: Letticia Cosbert, Nicole Hanson, Sajdeep Soomal, Anu Radha Verma

April 6 – May 5, 2019

Public Volumes looks to projects that support an alternative spatial awareness. Tending to the ways that space might be re-entered and re-oriented, the artists here propose that space is politically, emotionally and ethically transformable. By proposing that space can be shaped and experienced in multiple ways, this multi-platform program is concerned with the possibilities that exist in spaces known and unfamiliar.

Public Volumes references the concept of spatial justice, a theory that acknowledges the connection between space and justice as integral to understanding how we arrive at our relationships. Spatial justice recognizes that how space is organized reflects social realities and injustices that profoundly impact on our lived experiences. Whereas spatial justice tends to be framed in terms of urban planning, Public Volumes suggests that bringing together ideas connected to space and justice is more meaningfully realized across wider frameworks. In reframing spatial justice more openly, the artists within this exhibition and programming series make visible how space is felt, used, lived-in and challenged. These spatial insights shift focus towards the many communities that emerge in, around and by way of space. What becomes clear through these many viewpoints is that space is co-created. Through the process of imagining new entry points we might be able to reconcile ideal and real uses of public and institutional space and to co-create something entirely new.

Taking place over three sites within Mississauga and featuring collaborations with Koffler.Digital, writers Nicole Hanson and Sajdeep Soomal and independent curator Anu Radha Verma, Public Volumes featured existing and newly commissioned work from artists working across a range of media.

Curatorial Statement:

“Space is socially produced and can therefore be socially changed”
-Edward W. Soja [1]


Spaces function differently for different communities. Understanding how urban, architectural and public space is created and for whom requires a sharpened locational attentiveness. The concept of spatial justice, with its roots in 1960s writings on the right to the city, emerged in the 2000s as one particular strategy for helping to better comprehend the ways in which official and unofficial spaces operate. Under the umbrella of this widely used term, spatial inequities help to clarify other faults as well, including those operating at a democratic, social and historic level. Conceptually, spatial (in)justice is made evident through many subjects, including geographically uneven development; gerrymandering electoral districts; locational discrimination created through biases imposed on certain populations; digital redlining and ‘gray urbanism’ in which particular communities are denied full membership in politics and resource sharing. As such, spatial justice recognizes certain causalities whereby “justice and injustice are embedded in spatiality, in the multi-scalar geographies in which we live, from the space of the body and the household, through cities and regions and nation-states, to the global scale.” [2]

There are many examples that detail the complicated ways that space and (in)justice intersect. In the mid-1990’s, for instance, the Bus Riders Union (BRU) of Los Angeles challenged the biases of the Metropolitan Transit Authority and their plans for creating a fixed rail system that served an affluent suburban population over the needs of low-income employees who require flexible transportation networks for multi-location employment. The BRU is often used as a case study to demonstrate how spatial injustice and constricted decision-making directly impacts on people’s lives and livelihood. Looking more locally, we can see that the issues raised by the BRU manifest widely and expansively. In Toronto, loss of affordable live-work spaces for artists has incited larger discussions around the workings of gentrification. And across Canada appalling lack of access to basic health care and clean water for Indigenous communities has made clear the segregated distribution of resources on a national scale. These examples articulate the non-neutrality of space. Whereas spatial justice cannot claim to address every mode of injustice, it might be fair to say that injustice frequently involves spatial dimensions. From the built environment to land use, negotiated and contested space continues to foreground discourse around power, citizenship, sovereignty and public participation.

Public Volumes brings together exhibitions, public programming and writing that centre around broad interpretations of spatial justice and that reference some of the spatial concerns noted above. These many projects focus in or out from a particular location or series of locations, fostering deeper insight into why space matters. From thinking through ideas around memory and different ways of living to community mobilization and immigration, Public Volumes espouses the multiple meanings folded into the spaces of everyday life and those of unexpected circumstance. This program looks to the tangled means by which we defend the spaces that offer support and the efforts we take to transform those that fail.

Notes: [1] Edward W. Soja, “The city and spatial justice,” justice spatiale | spatial justice (2009): 2. [2] Ibid.

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