by Becca Lemire
It takes something pretty intriguing for me to get on the northbound Bathurst bus on a Saturday night, but I’m really proud of myself that I did, because The House That Masons Built opening was probably one of the greatest, rarest gems I’ve ever seen. As a die-hard vintage collector and kitsch junkie, this was like one big pink orgasm of retro memorabilia, paired with a ton of exhibits, installations and performances by 20+ artists. Here’s a She Does The City exclusive interview with curator Melissa Koziebrocki.
When did you inherit the house and under what circumstances?
I inherited the house less than a year ago when the economy went to shit and I couldn’t afford my own rent. My relatives who lived there have been dead for years. Still, my ma kept it for sentimental reasons and let some cop live in it in exchange for fixing it up. When the massive holes in the ceiling were patched up…I moved in.
Andrea Diodati – Family Matters
Who lived in the house, and what can you tell us about the house and it’s inhabitant’s basic history?
The house has a strange history of an unconventional family who had the intentions of being as conventional as possible in this new-found Jewish suburb in the late 50’s and early 60’s. When my mother’s mother died from breast cancer, her father moved into this house with her three aunts who collectively raised her. These domesticated women (secretaries for Woolworths, Goodyear, Revenue Canada, etc.) ended up spinsters who spent their last days together, in this house.
How do you feel about the vintage memorabilia in the house?
The objects found within the house, including thousands of archival materials, furniture, snapshots, clothing, kitchen appliances, etc., were the catalyst for remembrance. They were the (other) actors: able to tell the house’s story and share these histories. I myself am a huge collector of 1940’s to 1960’s items and have always fetishized objects. In recent years I have come to the conclusion that it has something to do with a desperate need to retain a connection with something (or even someone) that has been lost.
Do you have any ideas/plans with what you’re going to do with the house and the vintage memorabilia in the house?
I can just picture myself reliving the lives of the women before me…sitting in that living room all by my lonesome, surrounded by my spoils, a spinster with too much time and nothing to occupy it with. ‘You can look, but you can’t touch!’ I’ll say to the one neighbourhood kid who musters up the courage to visit me from time to time. In exchange for their youth, I may bestow upon them a trinket. I’ll make a good documentary subject, that’s for sure.
Allyson Mitchell – Dyke Pussy
What made you decide to use the house for your thesis art installation?
Moving into this house far away from the downtown core was very novel. Everything was of interest to me: the layout of the neighbourhood, my Hasidic neighbours with 9 children, and the overabundance of delis. Then all these memories flooded back into my head. The mayonnaise salads my great aunts made me eat; the fact that I had to wash my hands if I ever touched my hair; the distinct memory of hiding in the closet wearing a million aprons and barrettes in my hair; the hard pillows I had to sleep with after making the choice as to who I wanted to sleep next to; and the deep-set wrinkles in their faces. I spent hours in the house as a child and after spending hours sifting through the past: it was a no brainer. I had always wondered if they ever lost their virginities and thought that getting artists to make up these answers would make me one step closer to actually getting them.
Lo Bill – Secrets The House is Telling Me
Can you tell me a bit more about your artistic background?
I studied Art History at McGill, went to OCAD for a blink of the eye, and am now, finishing up a Museum Studies degree at U of T. I realized that academic schooling has never been very important to me. Rather, my own artistic practice consists of focusing on gore, exploitation, nostalgia, a deep-seated fear of (sociopathic) manipulation, tough chicks, and the underpinnings of having a vagina and saggy tits. I do everything analog. I love to paint realistic paintings, make super 8 films about revenge, and do traumatic performances.
What does this show mean to you?
It is a great achievement to organize such a large event in such a personal domestic space with a cohesive narrative arch. As I wrote in the brochure, this show is dedicated to all the fights that you forgot the next morning and the shirt you folded one too many times.
Lo Bill – 2
What is your favourite part of the show?
I’d love to say the installation of my own painting in the basement cellar. But that would be conceited. So I would have to say the performance where two women play my great aunts Sadie and Mildred. They scripted these scenes that were repeated throughout the house. While people were milling around the house, without knowing, people were forced to be in the centre of a fight between two sisters who, stuck living with one another, voice their resentments, jealousies, and anger in the midst of a crowd of unsuspecting onlookers. They nailed it! Sheets were flying and heads were rolling.
Xenia Benivolski – Where The Wind Blows
Why should people come and see this?
The exhibition is quite unique. It leaves the white walled gallery behind and brings a whole new context to site-specific installation. It has a clear narrative that guides the viewer through the life, trials, and evidence of this unknown family through the eyes of many talented contemporary artists.
How long is it up for?
The exhibition is up till May 18th. There are random hours of operation that can be viewed on the Contact page of the exhibition’s website: www.thehousethatmasonsbuilt.com
You can also make an appointment with me by calling: 647.500.6354
What does the rest of your family think of this show?
Faye Mullen – The Door Way
All my mother said was “don’t use any pictures of me now!” Clearly, she too is comfortable dwelling in the past. They’re proud of me and what I am able to accomplish, but have some hesitation as the exhibit lands on the fine line between honouring and exploiting. Either way, they supported me through the whole entire endeavour. And, boy do I appreciate it.
What’s your next artistic project?
I recently have been writing and shooting several films including “Jailbait,” “Girl Gang of One,” “Cannibal Diary,” and “Atom Shrugged”; a Zine called “Fistful of Make-up”; a comic book called “Spinster Haven”; and have several photo-realist paintings in progress. I may curate Allyson Mitchell’s new gallery “Fag” in her back shed. I’m submitting a proposal to X-Space. I hope to convince the Exhibition to let me do a modern day freak-show (complete with a mother feeding her octuplets) and to stage a seedy strip club in the Don Valley jail. All I need is a few gutsy gals, preferably with switchblade donned beehives. Anyone interested?
The House That Masons Built
Hours of Operation
Monday: 12-3 | Tuesday: 12-4 | Wednesday: 4-7 | Thursday: 5-8 | Friday: 1-4 | Saturday: 1-3 | Sunday: 1-3
Neelam Kler – CPC – Converse Paradox Control CPC
Melissa Koziebrocki – Big…Green…