Blackout: A Manual

From the beginning of the winter 2020 semester until the shutdown, students in the Critical Curatorial Lab at the Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape and Design were engaged in developing an exhibition format to be deployed in an emergency scenario. Conceived as pre-mediation for a moment when patterns of life are radically disrupted, their aim was to examine the affordance of art during a power blackout. Running throughout this thought experiment, radically reduced energy dependence and its possible culture was at issue. Addressing social relations, spectacle, and consumption, the project outcome was conceived as an emergency kit (exhibition) and instruction manual (catalogue) to be activated during a future power outage.

In light of COVID-19, only the second part of the project was realized. To mark the 50th anniversary of Earth Day we are pleased to share this playful manual (featuring student essays, artworks, and archival material) in digital format. While ultimately consuming energy via UofT servers, we offer this document (as polemic) to the time of Novel Corona Virus. As the shutdown drives a dramatic reduction in energy demand, causing the largest ever drop in recorded CO2 emissions, this sudden change is also bringing instability to electrical grids worldwide. Blackouts may yet be
a flow-on effect of this pandemic. However, beyond any outages, we propose the relevance of our speculative method for broader reflections on cultural life during our present crisis: Attempting to exhibit the critical moment in advance is a way to better handle its emergence in real-time. Curatorial pre-mediation is one bulwark against intercession by panic or shock doctrines, when everyday society and culture are up for grabs. Download the manual here.

Visiting Professors Dr. Dehlia Hannah & Dr. Nadim Samman
John H. Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape, and Design
University of Toronto

Curators: Lilian Ho, Kaixin Li, Leona Liu, Jiaxin Mai, Olivia Musselwhite
Artists: Simon Fuh, Talia Goland, Eli Kerr, Seo Eun Kim, Matthew Nish-
Lapidus, Yoko Ono