Andil Gosine: All the Flowers

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Andil Gosine All the Flowers

The Robert McLaughlin Gallery, Oshawa

Andil Gosine All the Flowers © 2018 The Robert McLaughlin Gallery 72 Queen Street, Civic Centre Oshawa, ON  L1H 3Z3 Photo credit: the artist and Toni Hafkensheid Catalogue design: Emanuel Alec Ilagan Printing: Sonic Print Catalogue of an exhibition held at The Robert McLaughlin Gallery, January 13 –March 18, 2018 Library and Archives Canada Cataloguing-in-Publication Data Gosine, Andil, 1973 – [Works. Selections] Andil Gosine all the flowers. Catalogue of an exhibition held at Robert McLaughlin Gallery from January 13, 2018 to March 18, 2018. ISBN 978-1-926589-96-1 (softcover) 1. Gosine, Andil, 1973- --Exhibitions. 2. Exhibition catalogs I. Jansma, Linda, 1962-, editor II. Treen, Lanie, writer of added commentary III. Robert McLaughlin Gallery, issuing body, host institution IV. Title. V. Title: All the flowers. N6549.G676A4 2018  709.2  C2017-907379-6

Foreword & Acknowledgements


Donna Raetsen-Kemp

A Complex Bouquet


lanie treen





Artist Acknowledgements



Foreword & Acknowledgements

The exhibition All the Flowers is a homecoming of sorts for Andil Gosine. Born in Trinidad, Gosine arrived in Oshawa as a 14 year old and was forced to navigate the turbulent teenage years in a new country while, simultaneously, discovering his personal voice. The exhibition is clearly about Gosine’s journey, but it is also a universal one — all of our paths will intersect with his at some point. We would like to thank Andil Gosine for sharing this project, one that is both emotionally powerful and poignant with a sadness that is often presented with underlying humour. This project was introduced to us by Matthew Ryan Smith, another important cultural connector from Durham Region; we are grateful for the introduction. We would like to thank guest writer Lanie Treen, also an Oshawa native, who has contributed an insightful essay that stems from her personal connection to this area, as well as her interest and knowledge of contemporary art practices. The catalogue has been sensitively designed by Emanuel Alec Ilagan who clearly understands the artist’s vision. At the gallery I would like to thank Senior Curator Linda Jansma, who has been instrumental in working with Gosine throughout this project, and Preparator Jason Dankel for his respectful sensitivity of the work throughout the installation process. Finally, we are grateful to our funders: the City of Oshawa, the Ontario Arts Council, and the Canada Council for the Arts for their continued support. donna Raetsen-Kemp Chief Executive Officer, The Robert McLaughlin Gallery

A Complex Bouquet

Lanie Treen

A Complex Bouquet

All the Flowers explores artist Andil Gosine’s formative teen years in Oshawa, following his family’s move from Trinidad. The unifying icon in the exhibition is the Ixora. This delicate flower, which blooms throughout Trinidad, is in fact indigenous to India and parts of Asia. Gosine’s ancestors, indentured labourers who came from India to Trinidad between the mid-19th century and early 20th century after the abolishment of slavery, brought the flower with them to the Caribbean island, where it proliferated. Gosine in turn brings the Ixora to Oshawa as an offering to the people and experiences which shaped him. He takes these lovely little flowers with him on his journey to the past and transplants them, as he himself was transplanted from one home to another at the age of fourteen. He repurposes the Ixora to respond to and reflect on the experiences of his adolescence. By doing so, he infuses his memories with new life and new meaning, both for himself and his audience.


Gosine deliberately situates the Ixora flower at the entrance to the exhibition with the installation Offerings, setting the stage for the visitor’s journey by establishing what the flowers look like. As one moves through the exhibition, the Ixora play a role in subsequent installations in various ways: as markers of remembrance, symbols of isolation and community, offerings to a place which could be both nurturing and hostile. The image of the artist’s outstretched hand (taken while in Trinidad, a space and place which informs the rest of the exhibition) reaches out to his past self and to the people and places which made an impact. His hand is open, neither condemning nor particularly nostalgic; he is open to the possibility of rediscovery and reconciliation. However, a deep sadness underpins the bright colours, symbols of confidence and achievement, and gifts of this exhibition. As Gosine says, the confidence he exuded and the warm smiles he spread throughout his youth and adulthood often masked a great disappointment and unhappiness: the result of meeting with so many instances of racism both subtle and overt, and such indifference to his desires and ambitions. Gosine fearlessly examines his experiences of loneliness and longing for connection in what seemed such an uncaring new country, and juxtaposes the stereotypes and prejudices he constantly bumps up against throughout the course of his life with creative expressions which, despite a deep vein of ambivalence and darkness, are infused with great generosity and hope. Gosine recontextualizes the Ixora multiple times in All the Flowers in the desire for connection, and in response to the various injustices, lessons, and desires of the past. As a contemporary artist, he has a particular skill for this kind of extended, shifting conversation between a recurring symbol and the many facets of his narrative. In addition to the Ixora flower, physical memorabilia tied to his high school years recur frequently throughout the exhibition. From yearbooks to awards, election posters and walks to school, the physical elements he chooses to incorporate represent past achievements or invoke nostalgia, but are amassed and interrogated with a contemporary eye. Caution: Will Bear No Fruit/One I Missed presents a cascade of medals, felt

A Complex Bouquet

‘bars’ and trophies which were bestowed on Gosine for his high school accomplishments, both academic and community involvement-based. These objects signal achievement, and in the case of participation in an organization, belonging. But do they mean anything? My own public and high school bars and medals had been lost in a fire. When the fire occurred over fifteen years ago, I remember mourning the loss of other things — gifts from friends, books, things I’d collected or written as a teenager or young adult. I hadn’t ever taken a moment to lament the loss of the couple of science fair medals or public speaking plaques I had been given. Gosine still has all this stuff, and yet, was he any richer for it? This waterfall of materials, as it were, “bears no fruit.” What did bear fruit was the material with which he chose to offset the achievement cascade: an inscription in one of his yearbooks. A friend writes: Andil, Andil, Andil... I don’t know how you do so much at school! It’s incredible ... P.S. -make sure you party with me sometime this year Gosine says he doesn’t spend much time regretting his choices from high school, but one wonders, if he had picked up a few less pieces of hardware and gone to the occasional party, would he have made more meaningful memories, or deepened a connection that benefited him far more in the long run? His diligence and ambition certainly brought him accolades and afforded him opportunities, but the potential to connect and the sense of belonging he sought, and continues to seek, is the regrettably unripened, unpicked fruit of the installation. The second half of this piece, a strippeddown medal contrasted with a photo of the artist engaged in a kiss drives this idea home. Haven’t we all questioned our choices? Do we not continue to do so? Gosine invites us to reflect on the paths we choose, and to compare them with the ‘no fruit’ arguably borne of his adolescent labours. One of Gosine’s significant triumphs in All the Flowers, however, arises from his entertaining re-imagining of high school moments through his skillful interruption and recreation of potentially painful memories. With a bit of


contemporary cross-pollination, he reinvigorates and reinvents narratives for himself and for the people who interacted with him. Now, & Then (aka Blow) is a cheeky, fun reimagining of the impact of some nameless joker’s graffiti on youthful confidence and optimism. A few months after arriving in Canada, Gosine ran for student parliament in Grade ten. He made posters that said VOTE FOR ANDIL! THERE’S NO JOB HE CAN’T HANDLE. Predictably, except to Gosine, someone had inserted the word ‘blow’ before ‘job’ on one of the posters. At the time, Gosine’s confidence took a kicking. “I didn’t know what that was,” he says, laughing, “so I asked my English teacher, Mrs. Bergstrom. She replied, matter-of-factly, ‘Oral sex.’” The optimistic, smiling young man who arrived in this new country had something taken from him, resorting to a smiling veneer to cover his unhappiness throughout his high school years. The adult artist, in his wisdom, upends the hurtful juvenile joke which inspired Blow, infusing the poster with glorious new life by inserting the word ‘GLOW’ in pink neon before ‘job’. The result is celebratory and utterly delightful. If only more of us could reclaim our teenage traumas with such hot pink creative joy. A less overt means of reimagining a high school event, the piece George and Jones (Audition) and its companion, Me As Mo, She as Sonia, He as Hermann, rewrites an adolescent disappointment. In Trinidad, Gosine’s favourite childhood pastime was acting, and for many years he participated in local community theatre. When Gosine arrived in Canada as my new grade ten classmate at R.S. McLaughlin CVI, I was casting Purgatory, a play I had written. He had wanted to audition for it but the teacher running the drama club had discouraged him. “She told me, ‘don’t bother, no one will understand your accent.’ And that ended my favourite childhood fun.” In the teacher’s likely good-hearted yet casually racist attempt to protect him, in the end, we did not have a chance to work together. I had never heard a whisper of this at the time. Through George, Gosine auditions for me some thirty years later, this time for a play-in-progress he wrote about Gandhi, one of the only figures of brown masculinity circulating in North American popular culture during his youth. The other was the Simpsons character Apu. Gosine says he

A Complex Bouquet

“felt pulled into the expectations of brown masculinity that emerged from them: disrespected, an object to humiliate, like Apu, and saintly, like Gandhi: earnest, hardworking, destined to make a difference in the world. I think Gandhi has hung over all of my existence as a kind of God-like aspirational model. More than anything, I feel like they explain my sense of feeling desexualized: both positioned me in Canada as asexual labour.” Gosine explores the power dynamics and ambivalent nature of Gandhi’s relationship with Hermann Kallenbach, both in the script and in the way he alternately anchors and shifts the emphasis of those elements through his audition. At the same time, he establishes a powerful contrast between the confident, ‘alpha’ Gandhi with Jones’ cynical contemporary banter and naked yearning for intimacy. Gandhi and Jones, both deeply connected to the men in their lives, express commitment and (in the case of Gandhi, sublimated) desire in vastly different ways, which bodes well for the exploration of these characters in future productions. Akin to his loss of acting, a favourite childhood pastime, Tick Tock, a triptych of photographs, demonstrates an erosion of magic: a flower clock in Niagara Falls which was once a symbol of optimism and opportunity for the artist. As a child, his family gravitated toward this representation of a happy future, foregrounding themselves with the floral display in personal photographs. Gosine re-visits the floral clock as a young adult man accompanied by his then partner. The role of the floral clock has shifted; it takes up less real estate in the photo, and does not share primary subject status with the people in the shot as it does in the first image. By the third photo, the clock completely languishes in the background, unnoticed. Both floral clock and photographer are greeted with utter indifference by the human subjects of that final photo; they are focused on something else entirely. With this installation, Gosine explores the varying degrees of significance assigned to the people and places in our lives — how time can build or erode a connection to a person, location or moment. One of his video installations, Our Oshawa Walks, takes a literal step back in time as Gosine has a conversation with Sue Seto, a queer-identified


Chinese woman who grew up in Oshawa. Recalling their experiences, dread emerges as the dominant feeling. The anxiety of waiting for a stranger to shout a racist epithet, the mundanity and potential for menace of that daily twenty-three minute walk to school, is still palpable. Many of Gosine’s works explore expressions of desire: the constructed intimate encounter of Natures; the collateral damage of a search for connection via Tinder in the amusing 1200 Matches, No Flame; the poignant, seen-from-afar snapshot of a private conversation in the context of a hidden relationship in Florent. The exhibition’s closing work, All the flowers of Canada (could not), questions how a white serial killer, Luka Magnotta, can attract and sustain relationships from prison, while despite the artist’s efforts to connect with Canadians, he fails. The works convey a wry resignation that is both amusing and heartbreaking. The works in this exhibition not only bestow gifts, they also reflect the artist’s yearning for gifts in return. This often unequal yet vital exchange is the key to the entire show. Consider the baffling first stirrings of teenage queer desire, beautifully encapsulated in the dedication to ‘Peter of the sweatpants’ on one of the large Ixoras in Flowers for Oshawa. The charismatic kindness and kinetic joy of a (perfectly oblivious) attractive boy five lockers down produced this bewildering thrill of sexual awakening — and who among us doesn’t recognize that sensation? (In fact, during a conversation with Gosine about this experience, I acknowledged that I had felt the same thing for the same boy, so I’m especially pleased to note that he received one of the flowers.) Flowers for Oshawa is the most moving of the works in the exhibition. An achingly vulnerable and open-hearted piece, its thirteen flowers are each dedicated to a person or people who had an impact on the teenage artist’s life, for good or for ill. Some offered life lessons or a friendly ear (“Lesley who listened and laughed”); others had a negative impact through their xenophobic behaviour or indifference (“The neighbours who called me Paki”). The simultaneous mystery and transparency of this large-scale work and its sincere, honest dedications reminds us of all the people who put their stamp on our own lives, knowingly or otherwise. Gosine packs

A Complex Bouquet

this piece with all the ambivalence, gratitude, anger, disappointment, and burgeoning desire that suffuses the entire exhibition, and invites visitors to look back on their own adolescent experiences — to recall those warm friendships and casual cruelties that stay with them to this day. He gives a powerful gift to the Ixoras’ recipients. Gosine’s creative process over these past six years of practice has become much more sure-footed about what drives him as an artist, and what experiences haunt and nourish him. Recontextualization, reimagination, connection, and re-connection — he handles these methods of making and presenting art with thoughtfulness and creativity. Above all, however, he resists. He resists being locked into one perspective on his teenage years in Oshawa, whether it be nostalgic, resentful, or otherwise. He resists both the romanticization and the condemnation of the people and experiences who shaped him during his formative years. He resists being pigeonholed by external projections of identity. The gifts that Oshawa, and more broadly Canada, did not give back to Gosine, the yearned-for and denied connection and community, inhabit every corner of each installation, both the shadowy and the illuminated. In the glowing pinks, yellows and reds of the Ixoras, darkness lurks, and yet, there is optimism and persistence. In the bewildered and exasperated commentaries on failure, there is humour and wisdom. Andil Gosine’s exploration of his relationship with Oshawa gives us, his audience, double vision; we simultaneously see through his eyes, and ours. We recognize the fear and anxiety, the triumphs and failures, the yearning for acceptance that characterizes that tumultuous time of life, and what teenagers subsequently often feel after their high school years come to a close: the urgent desire to get out. For those of us who also spent our teenage years in this city, this exhibition inspires us to ask ourselves: what makes up our own multiplicity of Oshawas? How have those Oshawas impacted us and made us who we are? Who are all our flowers for? Lanie Treen


All works in the collection of the artist

Offerings (Rose) 2014 –2017 digital print, textile 160 × 112.5 cm

Coolie Colors 2016 digital print, textile, clay, wood installation size variable

Tick Tock 2017 photographic prints each of three: 25 × 20 cm

Now, & Then (aka Blow) 2017 digital print on textile, neon 240 × 240 cm

Me As Mo, She as Sonia, He as Hermann 2017 digital photograph 20 Ă— 15 cm

George & Jones (Audition) 2017 video 22 minutes

Apu, Roi des Fleurs 2017 plastic and textile installation size variable

Caution: Will Bear No Fruit/One I Missed 2018 paper, metal, wood, plastic installation size variable

Our Oshawa Walks 2017 digital video (excerpt) 13 minutes

The Beginning and the End 2017 (next page)

textile 180 × 60 × 60 cm

Florent 2017 photograph 45 × 60 cm

1200 Matches, No Flame 2016 matchboxes installation size variable

Sehra (Headdress for a Groom Who Never Arrives) 2017 textile with flower detail installation size variable

Natures: A Guerilla Girl Story 2014 digital video 7 minutes; audio excerpted from an interview with Lorraine O'Grady

All the flowers of Canada (could not) 2017 bouquet of artificial flowers, paper 30 × 60 × 15 cm


wood, wool, metal each of 13: 120 × 90 cm


Andil Gosine (PhD, MPhil, BES) grew up in George Village, Trinidad, until he moved with his family to Oshawa, in 1988. He has since lived in France, Britain, the United States of America, and Canada. Associate Professor in Artistic and Cultural Practices at the Faculty of Environmental Studies, York University, Dr. Gosine’s research, writing, and arts practices consider imbrications of ecology, desire, and power. His many scholarly publications include articles in the journals Small Axe, Topia Journal of Cultural Studies, Alternatives, South Asian Studies, Sexualities, Caribbean Review of Gender Studies, and Canadian Woman Studies, as well as contributions to numerous anthologies, magazines and newspapers, including Art in America and ARC. His more recent arts practice started in 2011, and his work has since been performed or exhibited at the Museum of Latin American Art, Fashion Institute of Technology, Jamaica Performing Arts Centre, Supernova and Queens Museum in the USA, Transmission and Golden Thread galleries in the UK, and O’Born Contemporary, Glenhyrst Gallery and the Art Gallery of Ontario, in Canada. His upcoming exhibition Coolie Coolie Viens opens at the McIntosh Gallery at Western University, London, in November 2018. For more information, see


Artist Acknowledgements

Thank you to the Canada Council for the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, the Ontario Arts Council, and York University. I try to allow subconscious impulses to lead my practice, allowing for shifts all the way through, and sometimes only a clear sense of what has been created emerges after the works are long finished. The RMG team led by curator Linda Jansma (and including Jason Dankel, Lucas Cabral, Sonya Jones, Maureen Marshall, and Saira Knowles) has been patient and kind in allowing things to unfold and in indulging my many deviations. Very special thanks to folks who contributed to the project in many different ways: Matthew Ryan Smith, Emanuel Ilagan, Lanie Treen, Sue Seto, Mimi Shulman, Nikola Strbac, Mallory Kotik, Julien Dubuys, William Ellis, Abel Gerrits, Reiner Bello, Aria Popal, Jane Walsh, Frédérick Routier, David Scott, Alexandre Tharaud, Leor Grady, and Lorraine O’Grady. And love and gratitude to Sharma and Jerry Gosine, Rondil Gosine, Millie, Rajiv and Balin Gosine, and Florent and Lulu.


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