18: Beckett Martin Arnold, Dorothy Cross, Stan Douglas, Gary Hill, Bruce Nauman, Gregor Schneider, Ann-Sofi Siden, Zin Taylor & Allison Hrabluik

November 9 - December 21, 2006

Curated by Séamus Kealy

Works from the exhibition
Special Events

Opening reception: Wednesday, November 8, 6 - 10 pm
A free bus leaves the Hart House (U of T Downtown) at 3:00 pm for the lecture
A free bus leaves the Gladstone Hotel (1214 Queen St. W, Toronto) at 6:00 pm for the opening.

Lecture followed by opening reception: Wednesday November 8th, 4:00 pm

Artist Talk with Gary Hill
Kaneff Centre 137, University of Toronto at Mississauga. Wednesday November 8th 4:00 - 5:00 pm.
Participating artist Gary Hill discusses his work with curator Seamus Kealy.


18:Beckett is an interdisciplinary exhibition project marking the 100th anniversary of the birth of Nobel Prize-winning Irish writer Samuel Beckett. The title refers to the eighteen years marked since Beckett's death and the eighteen sites where this project will take place in Mississauga and Toronto. These sites and events are an artist's lecture, eight artist projects, six weekly film/video art events, a film screening evening, a symposium and performance, and a publication; all of which arise out of Beckett's legacy.

Catalogue Forward

Inventing Obscurities:
Samuel Beckett & Contemporary Art

The question has been posed regarding Samuel Beckett and contemporary art, about their proper and improper relations, about how they get along, about how they keep company or part ways. Under the coordination of Séamus Kealy and the Blackwood Gallery and in celebration of Samuel Beckett’s centennial year, a number of visual artists working in new media and inspired by the texts and plays of the twentieth century Irish bard are haunting the spaces of the University of Toronto at Mississauga and filling them up with questions.

Searching for some dark illumination concerning the aesthetic posture that directs Samuel Beckett’s oeuvre, I turn to The Unnamable for some questionable and questioning advice that both demands and resists analysis at the limits of self-knowledge:

And all these questions I ask myself. It is not in a spirit of curiosity. I cannot be silent. About myself I need know nothing. Here all is clear. No, all is not clear. But the discourse must go on. So one invents obscurities. Rhetoric.

What does it mean to invent obscurities? I take this as a Beckettian approach to art and its making. To make contemporary art means for Beckett to invent obscurities. It is as simple and as complicated as that. This mode of invention has nothing to do with the satisfaction of curiosity that is somehow tied to the production of knowledge and to the discourse of enlighten-ment. In contrast, the discourse (like the show) that must go on is not at all clear. Whatever the technical means deployed (video, performance art, installation), what is produced is bound to be obscure. At odds with the bright lights of the enlightenment, the Beckettian discourse is the subject of an intermittent or an irregular light. The Unnamable rhetorically asks us to consider what is so strange and so wrong about these lights: “Is it their irregularity, their instability, their shining strong one minute and weak the next?” But there is a further question: Is this Beckettian mode of invention to be viewed as obscurantism, a rendering unto obscurity solely for obscurity’s sake? This is one of the questions that you must engage with when you approach the contemporary work of art under the influence of Samuel Beckett.

You also should not forget that rhetoric (standing alone by itself) substitutes for obscurities in the above citation. From the sophistries of the pre Socratic philosophers to the tragicomic characters of Samuel Beckett, the rhetorical arts (verbal and/or visual) are to be read as arts of obscurity that conceal/ reveal the truth under the cover of performance and theatricality.

Beckett once said that his favourite word was the one with the capacity to cast a reasonable or unreasonable doubt over each and every situation. This word has an uncanny and paradoxical power to push being over the edge of certainty and into the state of limbo where things become undecided. In this way (and in between), the unnamable Beckett text is transported into the undecidable. The word in French is peut-être. The word in English is maybe.

- Louis Kaplan, Director, Institute of Communication and Culture, University of Toronto at Mississauga

Installation Views

This exhibition was generously funded by the Canada Council for the Arts.