The Unfinished Conversation: Encoding/Decoding

The Unfinished Conversation: Encoding/Decoding

The Power Plant

John Akomfrah, The Unfinished Conversation (still), 2012. Film. Collection of the Tate: Jointly purchased by Tate and the British Council 2013. Courtesy the artist; Somking Dogs Films: and Caroll/Fletcher, London.

January 18, 2015

The Unfinished Conversation: Encoding/Decoding
24 January–18 May, 2015

Opening: 23 January, 8–11pm
With the artists: John Akomfrah, Sven Augustijnen, Shelagh Keeley and Zineb Sedira

The Power Plant
231 Queens Quay West 
West Toronto, Ontario M5J 2G8

Artists: Terry Adkins, John Akomfrah, Sven Augustijnen, Shelagh Keeley, Steve McQueen, Zineb Sedira

The Power Plant’s Winter 2015 season explores the concept of identity and cultural differences as shaped by the socio-political environment through the group exhibition The Unfinished Conversation: Encoding/Decoding curated by Gaëtane Verna and Mark Sealy, MBE. 

The curatorial premise of this exhibition is grounded in the work of cultural theorist Stuart Hall (1932–2014), who devoted his life to studying the interweaving threads of culture, power, politics, and history.

Taking Hall’s essay “Encoding and Decoding in the Television Discourse” as a point of departure, viewers will be invited to think about how meaning is constructed, how it is systematically distorted by audience reception and how it can be detached and drained of its original intent to produce specific or slanted narratives.

Hall’s interdisciplinary approach drew on literary theory, linguistics and cultural anthropology in order to analyse and articulate the relationship between history, culture, popular media, cold war politics, gender, and ethnicity. By presenting the work of artists who bring into play time, memory and archives so as to construct new readings of the past, the exhibition will lay emphasis on the idea that the visual is an assimilatory process continuously at work in the construction of cultural, political, personal, and national identities.

It is our curatorial intention to build an image map, a visual vehicle that will ferry the audience across the choppy waters of memory, images and politics to an undeterminable and un-chartable destination, where people often meet with a fatal end. The exhibition aims to take viewers on a journey in time, to bring them to encounter images, which act as both objects of art and ideas in flux, circulating in and out of the archive through the corridors of cultural re-construction.

This image map will be drawn by the work of Terry Adkins, John Akomfrah, Sven Augustijnen, Steve McQueen, Shelagh Keeley, and Zineb Sedira, artists whose practice is devoted to commenting on recent socio-political events and situations and relating them to the not so distant past in order to help us understand the world we live in.

By stimulating our personal and collective memory, these works will show us how history agitates and causes anxiety in our personal lives and in the political realm as they will reveal the fact that national identity is not an essence or a state of being, but a becoming, a process whereby subjectivities are formed in the interstices between such binary oppositions as us/them, black/white, or native/foreigner, and that it is in those in-between spaces that marginalized people are the agents and subjects of many possible futures, imagined or real.

The thread that connects all these art works is the artists’ involvement with the significant social issues confronting humanity today and their profound desire to push formal boundaries in order to tackle them.

The Unfinished Conversation: Encoding/Decoding is presented in partnership with Autograph, ABP

Presenting sponsor: TD Then and Now and Band

Support donors: Lonti Ebers, Yvonne & David Fleck, James & Margaret Fleck, Dr. Kenneth Montague & Ms. Sarah Aranha, Diversity Art Forum

About The Power Plant
The Power Plant is Canada’s leading public gallery devoted exclusively to contemporary visual art. It is a vital forum for the advanced artistic culture of our time that offers an exceptional facility and professional support to diverse living artists while engaging equally diverse audiences in their work. The Power Plant pursues its activities though exhibitions, publications and public programming that incorporates other areas of culture when they intersect with visual art.

RSVP for The Unfinished Conversation: Encoding/Decoding
The Power Plant
January 18, 2015

Thank you for your RSVP.

The Power Plant will be in touch.


e-flux announcements are emailed press releases for art exhibitions from all over the world.

Agenda delivers news from galleries, art spaces, and publications, while Criticism publishes reviews of exhibitions and books.

Architecture announcements cover current architecture and design projects, symposia, exhibitions, and publications from all over the world.

Film announcements are newsletters about screenings, film festivals, and exhibitions of moving image.

Education announces academic employment opportunities, calls for applications, symposia, publications, exhibitions, and educational programs.

Sign up to receive information about events organized by e-flux at e-flux Screening Room, Bar Laika, or elsewhere.

I have read e-flux’s privacy policy and agree that e-flux may send me announcements to the email address entered above and that my data will be processed for this purpose in accordance with e-flux’s privacy policy*

Thank you for your interest in e-flux. Check your inbox to confirm your subscription.