The liminal as a concept was initially conceived by anthropologist Arnold Van Gennep (1873-1957) in 1909 to describe the in-between place of an individual in the middle of a rite of passage – not the person they were before, and yet not arrived at where they are meant to be.[2] The term was further developed by Victor W. Turner (1920-1983), and has evolved over time to encompass feelings of “inbetweenness,” or to describe any transitional space and time.[3] Today it can be understood as a useful tool for understanding and inhabiting intersectional spaces.

In this vein, María Lugones (b.1944) has more recently argued for the liminal as a space of coalition rather than divisiveness; as a space in which to move forward to fight oppression more effectively, rather than allowing it to divide and retain the status quo:

“(…)in the limen, to the extent that we lie outside structural descriptions, we are neither in the presence of power nor related to each other in terms of power. Since it is domination that creates barriers to intelligibility, then when we are conceptually outside domination, all barriers to intelligibility are gone.”[4]

The liminal is a concept with which we are all too familiar in the twenty-first century. The world waits as we enter a new decade to witness the effects of climate change, the rise of the far right, the effects of new technologies that have rapidly come to dominate most of our waking lives. Those who have felt on the margins find new spaces have become inviting, while some spaces continue trying to keep them out. The world feels very much on the precipice, in the midst of change, transitioning from the fin de siècle but not quite transitioned, as if it ever fully can.

The work presented in Liminal: Interstices Between and Betwixt all seek to explore the liminal as a safe space in which to express, explore, and challenge. Several artists navigate the boundaries of personal and cultural identity, as evident in Rojin Shafiei’s photography, Nicko Cecchini’s paintings, and Reem Al-Waleal’s video installation. Other works navigate the distance between the self, the body, and our relationships with friends and neighbours, as seen in the works of Alexa Gargoum, Francisco Lethrbridge, and Jeremy Saya. Many artists examine media and the institution to question the relationship between object and viewer, the nature of physical materials, and the space that we inhabit in the gallery setting, as is seen in works such as Esther Kim’s Severed Tongue and Charly Baxter’s paintings on metal. All of the artists in this exhibition tackle the theme of liminality from completely different perspectives, yet all use it conceptually to challenge preconceived notions of a status quo.

The works on display look at the liminal as a tool of the most vulnerable and most powerful, of inhabited and prohibited spaces, of critical thinking and mass acceptance. Together they coalesce in a temporary space, a coalition of creative perspectives in the liminal space that is this art gallery.

Rebecca Proppe,
Co-Curator, Liminal: Interstices Between and Betwixt, 2020

[1] Maria Lugones, Pilgrimages/Peregrinajes: Theorizing Coalition Against Multiple Oppressions. (Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield Publishers, 2003): 59
[2] See: Gennep, Arnold van. The Rites of Passage. 1909, translated by Monika B. Vizedom and Gabrielle L. Caffee: introduction by Solon T. Kimball. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
[3] See: “Betwixt and Between”: The Threshold Theories of Arnold van Gennep and Victor Turner” in Renger, Almut-Barbara, Duncan Smart, John T. Hamilton, and David G. Rice. Oedipus and the Sphinx: The Threshold Myth from Sophocles through Freud to Cocteau. University of Chicago Press, 2013: 27-32
[4] Maria Lugones, “On Complex Communication”, Hypatia vol. 21, no. 3 (Summer 2006): 76

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