Rear-View Mirror is a project of "Cultcom" (the Culture Committee of the former Greater Toronto Workers' Assembly). It began as a one-day exhibition of Toronto activist art from 1976 to 1996. Why this particular time?
First, because it represents a period in which many of our members had been active. They had personal archives that could be drawn upon for the show.
Second, because our members shared the conviction that it was time to begin documenting this period of cultural activism. Despite its close proximity to our time, it was already falling victim to social amnesia.
Third, because it represents a political era that falls between two peak moments in recent labour history: the general strike of 1976, when a million Canadians walked off the job to protest wage and price controls, and Ontario's Days of Action against the Mike Harris regime’s "Common Sense Revolution." The Days of Action peaked on October 25, 1996, with a historic protest march of 250,000 people in Toronto.
Today, when workers’ rights and other hard-won democratic gains are under systematic attack by the corporate elite and their right-wing governments, it is important for contemporary workers movements to remember artists’ role in the recent history of our collective resistance.
Rear-View Mirror: a snapshot of Toronto activist art 1976-1996 was held at the Double Double Land gallery in Toronto’s Kensington Market on April 22, 2012. The event was an opportunity to learn about a generation of Toronto artists and cultural workers who intervened in a broad range of social justice issues, contributing paintings, posters, murals, cartoons, banners, collages, graphic designs, songs, skits and poetry, and who organized themselves into unions, artist-run centres, theatre groups, bands and professional associations to express their vision and articulate their collective interests.
Rear View-Mirror is the beginning of a project to document in images the history of an era, so that contemporary artists - who are engaged in social justice struggles under different conditions - can learn about the recent history of left-wing activist art in Toronto, and so labour and social justice activists can better appreciate the contributions made by artists and cultural workers. The struggle continues!