Mark Kasumovic, The Battle of Wasaga Beach (detail), 2012. Image courtesy of the artist.

1812 – 2012: A Contemporary Perspective

Keesic Douglas, Thea Haines, Robert Hengeveld, Mark Kasumovic, Meryl McMaster

Curated by Curated by Patrick Macaulay

August 25 – August 25, 2019Hours

Time passes slowly. How we remember and how we understand the past is always in question. This exhibition invites five contemporary artists to explore the War of 1812 through its historical complexities and bring forward a contemporary perspective. These artists work in a variety of materials, including sculpture, video, photography, installation and textiles.

Produced in partnership with City of Toronto, Museum Services, as part of a citywide programme for the Bicentennial Commemoration of The War of 1812.


Keesic Douglas

Warrior’s Path – Marking the Trail, 2012

Indigenous Peoples, including the Ojibway (my ancestors) were asked to fight for the Crown during the War of 1812. They thought they were fighting for their own sovereignty. They thought they were fighting for their own lands. They thought they were fighting for their families.

There was much to do at home in their communities year-round. Each moon (month) called for a different activity. When the Crown called the people to fight they came. They left their homes. They dropped everything and they came. They waited. They waited some more. They were sent home to wait to be called again.

While waiting to fight, the berries were still gathered. The communities were still maintained. The fish were still caught.

The warriors waited.

My community, Rama – Mnjikaning First Nation, is north of Toronto, the home of Fort York. Spadina Avenue or Ishpadina, an Ojibway word for hill or mountain, was traditionally one of the routes for the Indigenous Peoples to travel from their homes to Fort York when they were called upon for battle.

Two hundred years later, the trail has been marked. Some of the trees have been cut while tall stumps remain. By creating a memorial, the City of Toronto has honoured those warriors and their families who stayed behind.

–Keesic Douglas

Keesic Douglas is an Ojibway artist from the Mnjikaning First Nation in central Ontario, Canada. He specializes in the mediums of photography and video. His work has been exhibited both across Canada and internationally. Douglas focuses on sharing his unique perspective based on his Aboriginal heritage in his photographic and video work. In 2009, his video, War Pony, screened at the Berlin International Film Festival in Germany. He recently exhibited a solo show at the Urban Shaman Gallery in Winnipeg of recent new landscape photographic works as well as photographic and video installation exploring the history of the Hudson’s Bay Points blanket. This past spring, Douglas was in a two-person show with a Mexican photographer that showed in Sudbury and in San Cristobal, Chiapas Mexico. Douglas graduated with a BFA from the Ontario College of Art and Design (2007) where he won the medal for photography and completed his MFA at UBC in Vancouver (2010).


Thea Haines

Field Dress, c.1812.

These artifacts comprise the costume famously worn during one lady’s perilous and circuitous journey made June 22, 1813, under the heat of the summer sun, over some 12 miles of wood, swamp and miry road between the village of Queenston and Beaver Dam.

FIELD [noun] an area on which a battle is fought : a field of battle.

DRESS [as adj.] denoting military uniform or other clothing used on formal or ceremonial occasions : a dress suit.

History is a study subject to interpretation, in which narratives become scattered and muddied, skewed and biased, altered and embellished, strewn and gathered, unpicked, and patch-worked back together.

The bicentennial of the War of 1812 is, in many ways, the bicentennial of an immigration that shaped my own family’s history. My English and American ancestors settled in this land, Southern Ontario, and here we have remained for the last two centuries. Some were soldiers during the war, given land in exchange for their services in the war; others were Englishmen granted land after the war in order to strengthen and expand the geographical reach of the Upper Canada. In the early days of settlement, often wholly unprepared for living in the near wilderness conditions, settlers endured back-breaking work and laboured to survive in a harsh climate, with few conveniences at their disposal. Landscape shapes the character of the people that inhabit it; the land leaves traces upon us as we traverse it, through fields, woods and rivers.

–Thea Haines

Thea Haines has an Honours Degree in Art and Comparative Literature from McMaster University, and previously studied Textiles at Sheridan College. She is a former Artist-in-Residence in the Textile Studio at Harbourfront Centre (2006-2009), and was a faculty member in Textiles in the Craft and Design Programme at Sheridan College (2007-2011). She currently lives in London, United Kingdom, and is a MA Candidate in Textile Design at Chelsea College of Art and Design.


Robert Hengeveld

The thought of creating a project to celebrate the war of 1812 was an interesting prospect, yet also an inherently dubious task – and only more so following some thorough research. What is there really to celebrate in a war?

I understand why we might. Canadians often seem to exist in a perpetual state of identity crisis. This historic conflict can, and certainly did, bring about a sense of national character, and this celebration is a good thing. Similarly, I wouldn’t fault anyone for not championing the blunders of their own past. Yet I find our corporate (and my personal) ability to glaze over certain events while highlighting others quite curious – particularly as it relates to the authority and authenticity assumed in the Nation’s retelling of its story.

Exploring the conflict of how we form and reform our histories resulted in the project dead or alive. Like most history, this, too, is fashioned within a tightly packaged framework, in this case a crate. The reality inside however is something much more uncertain – a figure that is not clearly dead or alive. It is uncannily familiar in its lifelike reproduction yet lingers in the reality of an uncomfortable scale.

–Robert Hengeveld

Robert Hengeveld is an installation and multimedia artist whose work explores the boundaries between reality and fiction, and where we find ourselves within that relationship.

He is currently living and working in Toronto, Canada. Hengeveld completed his MFA at the University of Victoria (2005) and studied at the Ontario College of Art and Design. He began his art practice at Georgian College, where he received a Certificate and Diploma in Fine Arts. Some recent and upcoming exhibitions include Hallwalls Contemporary Art Center (Buffalo), Circa (Montreal),  EyeLevel (Halifax), and Mulherin + Pollard (NYC).

Robert Hengeveld is represented by Katharine Mulherin Contemporary


Mark Kasumovic

The Battle of Wasaga Beach, 2012

War. Photography. Art. Together, they form a rich and complex history. My interest in war re-enactors and war re-enactment is neither a critical nor celebratory one – rather, I see the practice as a unique way to explore the extremely complex and multifaceted phenomenon of war and its many varied representations in art. The representation of war has, of course, a long-standing tradition in both painting and photography; one of extreme embellishments, falsities and misrepresentations. The camera, in particular, interests me as a mode of capture that has come to represent a somewhat realistic view of war, when nothing could be further from the truth. Even the earliest war photographers often fabricated scenes of war and manipulated elements on the battlefield, leading to misrepresentations in the hopes of creating dramatic imagery.

I have thus come to see the battlefields of the re-enactors as a stage; a theatre of war for the public that is rich in both metaphorical and ironic undertones. I use the camera to photograph many moments during these re-enactments, only to re-construct them into a single, long panoramic image that harkens back to historical paintings that celebrate the glory of war. The inclusion of spectators, the un-fitting elements within the contemporary landscape, and the expressions of enjoyment on the re-enactors’ faces and gestures all add to the ironic drama being depicted – creating a scene that feels both oddly authentic and inauthentic at the same time.

–Mark Kasumovic

Mark Kasumovic is a Toronto-based photographic and video artist. His work revolves around the inherent truth-value of the photograph and the many limitations within the medium.

In 2008, Kasumovic was selected as the Ontario winner of the BMO Art First National Competition and received the Snap! Stars Art Award sponsored by TD Canada Trust. The following two years, Mark was featured in Magenta Foundation’s annual publication, Flash Forward: Emerging Photographers. He is a recent graduate of the NSCAD University Masters of Fine Arts programmme, with work recently being acquired by the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, the Beaverbrook Provincial Art Gallery and the Art Gallery of Peel.


Meryl McMaster

Becoming Laura, 2012

Becoming Laura invokes both historical and mythical imagery in order to recall the memory and legend of Laura Ingersoll Secord, a distant relative of my family who is widely remembered for an act of bravery during the War of 1812. Shadows and text portray her journey as she makes the difficult decision to warn British soldiers and First Nation warriors of an impending American assault on Niagara and York. Assuming the form of Laura, I carry her tale on a symbol of the political and economic forces that lead to this critical moment in Canadian history – a ship’s sail. From this sail, words from the song “Secord’s Warning” drift away as if calling out into the night in hopes of reaching her wounded husband’s comrades on the Niagara Escarpment. Meanwhile, a messenger of “ill omen”, the Raven, appears on my head to guide me/Laura through this ordealAs history tells us, Laura’s warning was given upon reaching the encampment and the British and Mohawk allies met the American army two days later and were victorious.

–Meryl McMaster

Meryl McMaster is an Ontario-based artist of European and Plains Cree background. A BFA graduate from the Ontario College of Art and Design University (2010), McMaster is the recipient of various awards and scholarships including the Canon Canada Prize, OCAD Medal, and the Doris McCarthy Scholarship. McMaster has exhibited in various galleries including the Katzman Kamen Gallery, Gallery 44, MacLaren Art Centre, and the Station Gallery. Her work is in various private collections, the Canada Council Art Bank and the Donovan Collection. McMaster’s work goes beyond straight photography by incorporating manual production, performance and self-reflection to talk towards the ideas of identity, perception, myth, narrative, and the environment.