Under New Management: Video Rental Store

Suzanne Carte & Su-Ying Lee

November 21 – December 19, 2015

Under New Management: Video Rental Store is an exhibition that takes the form of a video rental store. Rather than offering popular entertainment, the store lends out artistsʼ videos.

The project employs the familiarity of the retail environment to connect to a broad audience while, repositioning the gallery’s intermediary role. The Video Rental Store positions the gallery as a conduit, giving viewers direct access to art, rather than limiting the space of engagement to the area within the gallery walls.

We are currently on the cusp of the dematerialization of the video rental business. Large corporate chains and family run businesses have shared in the same fate. The most unfortunate loss is that of the local independent operation that carried rare titles, cult favorites, documentaries, sections devoted to directors, experimental films, and foreign titles. Under New Management: Video Rental Store provides audiences easy access to content that is not produced strictly by Hollywood blockbuster aspirations.

The roles of artist, curator and audience can also be understood as akin to that of producer and consumer – terms that are typically applied to economics rather than to contemporary art and its audience. Under New Management employs this in an explicit manner to acknowledge that while cultural production is a mode of production with its own language and specificities, is not apart from or outside such systems.

The project is curated by Under New Management (UNM), the curatorial collective of Suzanne Carte and Su-Ying Lee.


From one thing into another

In his introduction to the book, Commerce by Artists, Luis Jacob describes commerce as “a flow or transfer of something to one place or another… to become another identity, a different role within a given field.” [1] That this occurs using money as a standard currency, as Jacob points out, is simply a convention. [2] Money creates almost unlimited numbers of people with whom we can trade, and an almost unlimited number of goods and services we can access. If we have money, it spares us the burden of having to engage in the direct transfer of goods we’ve produced ourselves, or the difficulty of making everything we need or desire. And it enables us to take advantages of changes in value, whether of real estate, grain or currency, so that we might profit through buying them at a lower price and selling them later at a higher price. If one doesn’t have any currency, one instead needs something non-monetary that can be transferred into currency, or traded for whichever good or service one needs. For example, in the early 1980s, my family needed a new car, but had no money. We did have a year-old beef steer, half of which was exchanged for a used station wagon, and the other half of which we ate the following winter. This transfer occurred without any cash being involved, mirroring exchanges that occur constantly and largely invisibly through elaborate market mechanisms.

Engaging in commercial exchange without having money to standardize this process requires both creativity and labour, which can only be one’s own. One must offer something that has value in the economy where the transaction occurs. While on the surface, Under New Management looks like a video store – albeit one that rents video art instead of action movies, romantic-comedies or horror films – it foregrounds the act of commercial exchange by enabling visitors to negotiate the amount of payment for the rental, the form of currency that is used, or for that matter, whether there is any payment to be made at all. It asks its audience to consider what value does this video have to them, and what kind of payment has value to the gallery, to the curator, and to the artist. These both require reflection on the meaning of the artwork itself – the video and the video store – and on the economies in which both artist and viewer are situated. The video may offer the viewer a different set of values and ideas from those familiar to them, provide a moment of poetic insight, or suggest a new way of narrating an experience. The artists and curators, on the other-hand, may need people to talk and write about their work, to incorporate and reflect their work and ideas so that it circulates and becomes known to others, and to critique their work so that it changes and develops.

In Under New Management the viewer is no longer merely a spectator, but is invited to intervene into and shape the production of value, and to define and participate in a set of economic relationships that might have previously been reduced to a standard monetary transactions. At once a video store, an exhibition venue, and an artwork, it presents a minor intervention into the endless alienated economic exchanges that occur at everywhere we go. It invites the viewer to enact a process of transubstantiation – changing one thing into another – completing the work with each rental transaction.

—  Amish Morrell

1. Luis Jacob, “Commerce by Artists,” in Luis Jacob (ed). Commerce by Artists (Toronto: Art Metropole, 2011) p. 1-2.
2. Ibid.


Suzanne Carte is a curator and cultural producer living in Toronto. After working for the Blackwood Gallery and the Art Gallery of Mississauga, she joined the Art Gallery of York University (AGYU) in 2008 as Assistant Curator. At the AGYU Carte integrates public programming and performance into the fabric of the academic institution to position artist’s work as a pedagogical tool. Within Suzanne’s independent practice, she has curated exhibitions in public spaces, artist-run centres, commercial and public art galleries including You Cannot Kill What Is Already Dead, All Systems Go!, Under New Management, MOTEL and Man’s Ruin. Suzanne sits on the Board of Directors for Images Festival, the largest festival in North America for experimental and independent moving image culture. Her critical writing has been published in Magenta Magazine, Art Writ, and Huffington Post. She holds an MA in Contemporary Art History from Sotheby’s Art Institute in New York and a BFA from the University of Windsor.

Su-Ying Lee is an independent curator whose projects often take place outside of the traditional gallery platform. Lee is interested in employing the role of curator as a co-conspirator, accomplice and active agent. She has also worked institutionally, including positions as Assistant Curator at the Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art (MOCCA) and Art Gallery of Mississauga, and Curator-in-Residence at the Justina M. Barnicke Gallery. Recent projects include Céline Condorelli’s (UK) The Company We Keep (2013-2014), an installation at the University of Toronto’s Hart House, and Your Disease, Our Delicacy (cuitlachoche), a year long (2012-2013) residency and garden installation at Hart House by Ron Benner (CA). Currently touring across Canada, the project Video Rental Store, begun in 2010 (co-curated with Suzanne Carte), gives audiences unprecedented access to artists’ videos requesting only a pay-what-you-want ‘rental’ fee. Lee’s exhibition titled TBD (Sep 6-Oct 26, 2014), at MOCCA, was begun as an inquiry into the definition of a museum/contemporary art gallery.

The exhibition How to Make Space (co-curated with Jennifer Davis) will be presented in Hong Kong in June of 2016 through apexart’s (NY) Franchise programme.

Amish Morrell is Editor of C Magazine and Director of Programs at C The Visual Art Foundation, and also teaches in the Criticism & Curatorial Practice program at OCAD University. Along with Pan Wendt, co-curated Doing Your Own Thing: Back-to-the-Land in Eastern Canada During the 1970s, an exhibition of documentary photographs, printed matter, and contemporary projects recently at the Confederation Centre Art Gallery in Charlottetown PEI.