Unlike a lot of solo shows one expects to find at a gallery of the reputation of the AGO, the work of Theaster Gates is considerably more ephemeral, more disruptive, more inherently political. In asking his question, "how do we determine whose house to commemorate" and conflating this with the House Music movement, Gates demands that the viewer acknowledge our own limited purview of who "deserves" to be recognized.
Upon entering the main space, the music (which is at a quite loud volume) pierces the air, and draws you toward the Reel House, a tribute to Chicago musician and pioneer Frankie Knuckles. The joyful and energetic music creates a safe space, one where it is okay to relax and engage personally with the artwork, and contrary to many much more sterile and silent gallery experiences.
Surrounding the Reel House are several canvases with geometric shapes in primary colours. At first glance they appear to reference modernist painting, however upon further view into other rooms, you learn that these are visual representations of scientific charts which show statistics of black households in the period surrounding emancipation. Progress is the key underlying message, and this meters our response to Gates' initial question.
The final space, Progress Palace, is the culmination of these ideals. It is a separated room to enter, where a new group of sounds fill the darkened, purple-lit space. The large physical installation Houseberg creates fascinating reflection patterns on the wall as it turns slowly. The projected images cycle in tandem with the music which emanates from a skeleton of a DJ booth, playing the video House Heads Liberation Training, with dancers and singers in un-practiced sound and movement. This deconstruction of a nightclub space is wonderful to experience solo -- the absence of other people in the space highlights the potential that occurs when these forms intersect. The theatrical nature of the potential within this constructed (or deconstructed?) space is captivating.
Gates exhibition as a whole is absolutely work seeing -- runs until October 30th at the AGO.