The MacKenzie Art Gallery is set to present award-winning Toronto-based visual artist Annie MacDonell’s latest exhibition, The Beyond Within. Opening on May 25, 2023, the exhibition explores the potential of psychedelic experiences and artistic collaboration, while also delving into the intriguing history of the former Weyburn Mental Hospital in Saskatchewan, known for its groundbreaking LSD experiments, and new models of social medicine.  

The Beyond Within features printed documentation, including patient illustrations and medical transcripts from the former Weyburn Mental Hospital, adding a local connection to the exhibition. As a significant part of Saskatchewan’s progressive medical legacy, the Weyburn Mental Hospital’s controlled use of psychedelics provides a unique backdrop to the exploration of innovative ideas and expanded perspectives presented in the exhibition. By pushing boundaries and challenging established norms, The Beyond Within offers a thought-provoking experience, inviting visitors to reevaluate their understanding of themselves and their relationships with others. 

Curated by Crystal Mowry and Leila Timmins, The Beyond Within is organized and circulated by The Robert McLaughlin Gallery, in collaboration with the Kitchener-Waterloo Art Gallery. Positioned at the core of the exhibition sits the prominent installation work Set and Setting, featuring two interior environments inspired by clinically guided psychedelic trips conducted at Weyburn Mental Hospital. Within this immersive space, visitors are invited to watch the videos included in the installation that create a winding mediative journey wherein the distinction between a patient and nurse—or subject and guide—is made unclear. The installation suggests that the boundary between subject and viewer is not only thin, but porous and continuously shifting.

Set and Setting takes on a critical role as a physical and metaphorical bridge that connects the video works Communicating Vessels and OUTHERE, created in collaboration with Paris-based artist Maïder Fortuné. While the exhibition acknowledges the influence of the Weyburn trials, its overarching theme centres around new models of collectivity and collaboration, both portrayed through captivating imagery and the very process of collaboration itself. 

“Through a heady mix of narrative and documentary techniques, MacDonell hones in on the parallels between the worlds conceived in an artist’s studio and the worlds that form the backdrop for our daily existence,” says Director of Programs and Co-Curator Crystal Mowry. “Drawing on the narrative of a brilliant student as recounted by an instructor, the correspondence between two artists, and clinical protocols developed in collaboration, MacDonell suggests that our stories—and by extension, our lives—can be rescued from the dregs of predictability if we build them collectively rather than in isolation.” 

 The Beyond Within at the MacKenzie Art Gallery marks the final stop of its national tour, providing visitors the opportunity to question the status quo and imagine new ways forward. Running from May 25 to October 1, 2023, The Beyond Within draws on under-recognized sites of experimentation that are full of artistic and political possibility. MacDonell’s predominantly lens-based practice is underpinned by feminist conceptions of the everyday as a basis for political engagement with the world. Her work questions how images are constituted and circulated, and frequently uses found images to propose strategies for personal and political reorientations. 

A forthcoming publication on MacDonell’s work published by SFU Galleries, Robert McLaughlin Gallery, MacKenzie Art Gallery, Kitchener-Waterloo Art Gallery, and Art Metropole in partnership with Illingworth Kerr Gallery and Toronto Metropolitan University will be released in fall 2023. The first monograph on MacDonell’s work, this book will feature a selection of transcripts from the artist’s films, interviews, reproductions of artworks, and texts by Leila Timmins, Crystal Mowry, Clara Schulmann, and Yan Wu.  


Annie MacDonell is a visual artist and filmmaker. In 2012 she was short-listed for the AGO | AIMIA prize for photography, and she was long listed for the Sobey Art Award in 2012, 2015 and 2016. MacDonell was short-listed for the 2021 Scotiabank Photography Award. In 2020, she and Maïder Fortuné won the Tiger Award for Best Short Film at the Rotterdam International Film Festival, for their film Communicating Vessels. Annie MacDonell lives in Toronto with her family and is an Assistant Professor at Toronto Metropolitan University’s School of Image Arts. She is a founding member of EMELIA AMALIA, a feminist research and writing group.   




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