The following are visitor accounts of Chroma Lives, a performative exploration of Toronto’s 1983 exhibition Chromaliving: New Designs for Living curated by Erin Alexa Freedman and Lili Huston-Herterich. Freedman and Huston-Herterich are undertaking this project as part of If I Can’t Dance’s Performance in Residence research programme, Edition VI – Event and Duration (2015–2016).
Taking place in the Camrost Felcorp Yorkville Plaza Sales Centre in downtown Toronto, the exhibition Chroma Lives brought together work by contemporary artists based in the city whose practices cross visual art and design. The resulting mise en scene formed a stage from which Freedman and Huston-Herterich conducted interviews with original Chromaliving participants, spectators and critics towards the production of a publication and online archive.
By way of introduction Andrew James Paterson writes in his account:
Chroma Lives is not a re-enactment of the original exhibition.
Chroma Lives is hosted or “remobilized” in a staged workplace in the sales centre of the new Yorkville Plaza, just around the corner from the Colonnade in which Chromaliving was mounted (or flaunted). Chromaliving was held in an abandoned and suddenly available large space in a retail complex. There were one hundred and fifty participating artists, although co-curators Tim Jocelyn and Andy Fabo had originally intended closer to twenty in a much smaller space. Chroma Lives is mounted in a sales centre for some (or more) brand new shiny condos. There are eighteen artists who are not at all cramped into the office-sized sales centre. Both exhibitions theatricalize domestic space. Decorative impulses usurp objects that are supposed to be functional, and fashion gains the upper hand in a not quite seamless collaboration with the fine arts.
In her account of Chroma Lives Rosemary Heather comments:
Throughout the exhibition, the curators used the showroom during off hours to conduct interviews with Chromaliving participants, from which they will produce a book and online archive about the project. This focus made Chroma Lives function like something of a portal into the past. A photo archive and catalogue provided documentation of the original exhibition. Presented in the vacated space of a bankrupt department store, Chromaliving was a maximalist endeavor. If that show’s contemporary incarnation presents mostly as decor, the latter exhibition was staged to serve an entirely different purview. Chromaliving aggressively positioned art and artists as values in and of themselves. In the documentation, one sees aesthetic excess that, among other things, might have pointed to a lack of infrastructure for the Toronto art scene of its day. If this art rawness is little in evidence today, this is perhaps an insight Chroma Lives helps to illuminate.