V and I went to the Art Gallery of Ontario to visit the Theaster Gates exhibition entitled How to Build a House Museum. We had seen it some weeks earlier and we had a plan to take some House Music for a walk – specifically the music of Frankie Knuckles, the “Godfather of House”.
I read up a bit about Frankie. I recognize his music, but knew nothing about him. I gave V the option of pressing play on our music device and then just going where the music takes her, but after telling her a bit about Frankie she agreed with me that a walk from the AGO to one of Toronto’s other contemporary art galleries, the Power Plant, would be a good destination – the same name as one of the clubs in Chicago that he founded and played in in the 80’s
We sat in the exhibition for a while first visiting the Progress Palace – an approximation of a club. The text accompanying the show describes a club as a place “where you have permission to fully be yourself, to dance and shout, without hurting others”. V and another boy about her age did just that while his dad and I watched.
On our last visit to this show we noticed that there was no bass in the music. We couldn’t feel the music in our bodies and we thought this strange. Maybe it is because we are in an institution and not in a real dance club? The music and the experience are only up in our heads, not in our bodies. I mentioned this to the man next to me and he agreed and said that he had noticed something was missing and was not quite right. V did her fair share of running and shouting. V also did some drawing in this room.
We headed over to the Reel House in an other part of the exhibition to have a look and listen. The Reel House is an homage to Frankie Knuckles. Knuckles’s DJ equipment is set up inside a wooden structure made from a reclaimed church interior.
We took out our headphones linked together by a splitter and our playing device and clipboards and pressed play. We could definitely hear the bass now.
I came across this quote from Theaster Gates in Canada Art. I think he (and Frankie) would approve of our walk:
“The AGO show is this kind of meta-demonstration of, ‘What are the iterations of what we might want a house museum to look like?’ Is the club not the house museum? Why use the word ‘museum’ at all? What Frankie needs is a club, and those albums need to keep spinning. Don’t lock that shit up. People want to honour him. I’m saying, ‘He should be honoured through our bodies. Ten months from now, you should be 15 pounds lighter because you honoured him.”
“You go to a house museum about a sergeant in Massachusetts and you are going to see the sergeant’s sword, and his gun, and you’re going to see what food implements he used,” says Gates. “All of that shit just gets fixed: it means killing it so that it can live forever. My stance is, ‘No. Let it live forever and then die. Let it live so big.’ My investment in the canon has to do with releasing it from eternal death.”
https://canadianart.ca/features/theaster-gates/ Theaster Gates Builds a House Museum by David Balzer July 20 2016
In retrospect I wish we had had a small cassette tape player blasting his tunes. Using mix-tapes was the way in which this music was shared and discovered.
With Your Love blasting we strutted out of the exhibition, and onto the streets. Our first encounter was a Chinese dragon parade moving to the pulsing beat along Dundas St.
The Power Plant is pretty much directly south from the AGO. We walked south down McCaul Street, occasionally breaking out in a dance. We crossed Queen Street and continued south down Simcoe Street. We found ourselves in the middle of a charity run with jogging participants all around us blowing whistles.
We stopped at a patch of grass near the CN tower for a break. V was not interested in wearing the headphones anymore. She had glimpsed herself in a reflection and decided against it. We listened to the music coming directly from the device now, but it was almost inaudible with all the surrounding noise. V did a drawing of the blimp hovering up near the tower. She asked me what the city looked like “in the old days” and if the train tracks we were sitting next to would have been there and been used.
We continued south – quick stop in a play ground – then under the Gardiner and directly to the Power Plant. We entered the doors to the gallery, had a last dance, and then stopped the music. V had had enough of me going on about Frankie Knuckles. She has moments of brilliant insight, but at times is also resistant to my enthusiasm. I am impressed with her stamina and ability to walk that distance at such a pace.
I asked her what it felt like to walk while listening to loud music on headphones – her first time. She said she felt like she was in a film and that it made her walk faster.
V did some drawings of “the music”, the blimp, and a bird’s eye view of our walk.
(Click photo to enlarge)