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July 7, 2021 - October 17, 2021

Provisional Structures: Carmen Papalia with Vo Vo and jes sachse

Content Advisory: This exhibition and description features language related to trauma, presented within the context of trauma informed care and access. 

Provisional Structures: Carmen Papalia with Vo Vo and jes sachse is a multi-faceted project that connects the artists, MacKenzie, and community. Composed of an exhibition, extensive public program, and the development of an accessibility statement for the gallery, this project pushes our understanding and imagination of how we interact with each other both inside and outside the gallery in a way that creates real, fundamental transformation.

Building on Carmen Papalia’s Open Access research and development, Provisional Structures uses the framing of a temporary architectural structure to explore ideas of access and interdependence. Visitors are guided by a red string along an ascending ramp that spirals towards the ceiling and overlooks a central circular gathering space. Built of temporary scaffolding, this ramp serves as a proposal for something not yet built, a provisional embodied experience. Rem Koolhaas states in his Elements of Architecture (2014) that “a ramp can be an architectural element that changes political systems, triggers revolution … encompassing two extremes as dreamscapes and as universal access.” The ramp in this case provides us with the ground floor for accessibility, a space to build upon through dialogue and relationships. 

The centre of the structure features a circular gathering space under a sound-reducing dome and an audio presentation on the principles of trauma-informed care, presented by artist Vo Vo. Papalia’s practice has been built on relationships in the spirit of collaboration; Vo Vo’s presentation offers us the chance to learn more about trauma and trauma– informed care, and asks us to consider how we support and rely on each other. This gathering space is surrounded by mirrors, creating an environment which encourages reflection and reminds us of the shared responsibility we all have within space and community.  

In addition to collaborating with Vo Vo, Papalia is celebrating artist jes sachse’s contribution to the discourse of disability arts and activism, acknowledging sachse as setting a context for his work and practice. In their installation of over 1300 brass plated metal plaques installed to bring to mind the aesthetic of a donor wall, jes sachse invites us to consider care through time in this repetition; the care we show ourselves and the care that we show to others. Through this work, sachse asks us to consider accessibility as a long unending process, one in which the time required is expressed by the person who needs support.


Scaffolding is normally the first step in the construction of strong foundations; in this case, it supports the transformative pursuit of equity and accessibility, basic work that organizations must now undertake.

The MacKenzie has continued our commitment to equity and access by working with Carmen Papalia towards the development of an accessibility statement. The MacKenzie Art Gallery Equity Task Force embarked on a series of workshops and research in the creation of this statement, led by Carmen and attended by community friends and colleagues David Garneau, Carla Harris, Peter Morin, and Elder Betty McKenna.

The statement will exist alongside the exhibition and will remain a priority for gallery engagement beyond the life of the exhibition, guiding our thoughts, relationships, and actions as we continue to reimagine the future of accessibility, Disability Justice, and agency.