What's inside these storage lockers? Just 20 original art projects that you can explore for free

Get a sneak peek at Holding Patterns, the latest project from Toronto's Art Spin. For 10 days, artists will take over a functioning storage facility in the city's west end.

Get a sneak peek at Holding Patterns, the latest project from Toronto's Art Spin

What's in "store" for you at Holding Patterns? (Installation view of a piece by Michael M Simon.) (Courtesy of Art Spin)

You don't have to watch Storage Wars to know that just about anything can be found in a 5x5-foot locker — but for the next few days, something especially surprising will be stashed inside one storage facility in Toronto's Junction neighbourhood. Between Oct. 11-21, the Planet Storage building on Dupont St. will host a free art exhibition called Holding Patterns, the latest project from curators Layne Hinton and Rui Pimenta — the duo behind Art Spin and 2016's In/Future, the festival that turned the long-shuttered Ontario Place into a sprawling, art lover's playground.

As for what's happening at Planet Storage, its dozens of tenants have hardly been booted out for an art show. The place is still operating as usual, but for 10 days, somebody's pile of Christmas lights might be next-door neighbours with an original installation that plays with ideas about memory, transition, consumer culture, displacement — any number of themes the building might suggest — with 20 site-specific projects programmed across three floors.

Actually taking it all in will probably have a "maze-like feeling," says Hinton, since discovering every corner of the exhibition requires a bit of roaming.

"We do like the idea that you may walk by someone getting out their winter tires or Halloween decorations, and you might for a second question if that's an art project or not," Hinton says. "Or you might come across an art project and think for a moment it's actually just a storage space as well."

Adds Pimenta: "The idea was really to blur the lines between the folks who are tenants at the Planet Storage building and the artists who are temporarily animating these storage lockers."

We do like the idea that you may walk by someone getting out their winter tires or Halloween decorations, and you might for a second question if that's an art project or not.- L ayne Hinton, Holding Patterns co-curator

Curating art that reacts to unexpected, alternative spaces has long been the duo's M.O. As Art Spin, they've worked in empty lots, a grocery store, the middle of Lake Ontario. Their first group exhibition, in 2010, actually took place on the same site as Holding Patterns, though back then it was a warehouse with roughly 10,000 square feet of wide open space. Planet Storage moved in a short time after — a development that's just one example of how the city has changed in a relatively short period.

Renting a spot to make art, to show art — just to live — can be a challenge. "When we curated the show in 2010," says Hinton, "we had more space than we knew what to do with at the time, and it's become increasingly difficult to find large spaces like that to play with in the city, and mount exhibitions or respond to." That's pushed the curators into "further-reaching neighbourhoods" and much different venues, at least where square footage is concerned. They're programming corrugated metal cubes, for example, instead of a cavernous old factory floor.

Of course, they're not the only ones who've had to adapt. Holding Patterns touches on how others in the city are being affected by the scarcity of space — "the many arts organizations who we see getting squeezed out of their neighbourhoods or who are forced to become nomadic or siteless organizations either by choice or by force," says Hinton.

"Sort of looking at all these things has led us to also be interested in looking at storage lockers and ideas of transition, but also thinking about a series of smaller spaces kind of mimicking how the city is being divided up into a series of smaller spaces," she says.

Storage lockers are, for us, so interesting precisely because of the transience that they suggest. They really do allude to a larger pattern of what's happening in the city.- Rui   Pimenta , Holding Patterns co-curator

In addition to the 15 projects curated by Hinton and Pimenta, Holding Patterns features five works presented by partner arts organizations: Tangled Art & Disability, Bunker 2, Creative Users Projects, Savac and the Deaf Culture Centre. Says Pimenta: "These partners either have priorities to show artist groups that are not necessarily part of the mainstream or who have been marginalized — or, in the case of Bunker 2, are siteless themselves. They have a gallery space, but it relocates constantly."

Some of the individual artists are tapping into their personal experience with displacement, too. Hinton mentions a piece by Dream Video Project, a new collective formed by some members of Toronto's Akin Studios. The non-profit offers affordable work space to artists in several buildings around the city, though they were recently forced to leave their spot at Dufferin and Queen Sts. to make way for condos. Most of the Dream Video Project folks have experienced rent eviction, she says. "A lot of them have experienced that in their own studio practices, leading them to join a group like Akin, and then to experience that again as a group is really challenging." For the duration of Holding Patterns, the collective will be doing live interviews on the topic — transforming their locker into a sort of pop-up pirate radio station.

"Storage lockers are, for us, so interesting precisely because of the transience that they suggest," says Pimenta. "They really do allude to a larger pattern of what's happening in the city — the ever-growing densification where space becomes more precious, more sort of sub-divided, if you will."

Take a peek inside.

Serena Lee. Installation view of "It Wasn't the Fire" at Holding Patterns. The project uses items that belonged to her grandfather. (Courtesy of Art Spin)
Sean Wainsteim. Installation view at Holding Patterns. (Courtesy of Art Spin)
Roula Partheniou. Installation view at Holding Patterns. The "Extension Cord" that's front and centre is a sculpture made of oil paint on copper and acrylic on wood. (Courtesy of Art Spin)
Presented by SAVAC, Kristina Guison will present the final chapter of a three-part performance at Holding Patterns. After moving objects into a locker, the artist will weather them one by one. (Courtesy of Art Spin)
Johannes Zits. Installation view at Holding Patterns. (Courtesy of Art Spin)
Valentin Brown. Installation view of Holding Patterns. The piece, which takes over a locker with hundreds of little sculptures, explores the experience of transitioning as a transgender man. (Courtesy of Art Spin)
Erin Vincent. Installation view at Holding Patterns. (Courtesy of Art Spin)
Heather Nicol. Installation view at Holding Patterns. (Courtesy of Art Spin)

Holding Patterns. Featuring Mitchell Akiyama and David Bobier presented by the Deaf Culture Centre, Kaitlyn Bourden, The Dream Video Project, Gustavo Cerquera Benjumea, Valentin Brown, Kristina Guison presented by SAVAC, Alexandra Hong, Danielle Hyde presented by Creative Users Projects, Serena Lee, Jess Lincoln, Taimaz Moslemian & Naomi Dodds, Heather Nicol. Rebecca Campbell, PALACIT Design Studio, Roula Partheniou, Lejb Pilanski and Sean Wainsteim, Michael M Simon, Catherine Telford-Keogh, aislinn thomas presented by Tangled Arts & Disability, Erin Vincent, Johannes Zits. To Oct. 21 at Planet Storage, Toronto.

More info and exhibition hours at www.artspin.ca/holding-patterns.

About the Author

Leah Collins

Leah Collins is the Senior Writer at CBC Arts.