The Power Plant

Universal Code: Art and Cosmology in the Information Age

Adel Abdessemed, Franz Ackermann, Angela Bulloch, Mircea Cantor, Janet Cardiff & George Bures Miller, Cerith Wyn Evans, Henrik Håkansson, Antonia Hirsch, Thomas Hirschhorn, Ann Veronica Janssens, Kimsooja, Jed Lind, Iñigo Manglano-Ovalle, Josiah McElheny, Tania Mouraud, Gabriel Orozco, Adrian Paci, Trevor Paglen, Katie Paterson, The Otolith Group, Fred Tomaselli, Keith Tyson

Past Exhibition

Jun 11 – Aug 29 2009

Josiah McElheny, Island Universe, 2008.  HD video projection of super 16mm film, 9 min. Courtesy the artist and White Cube, London.

Josiah McElheny, Island Universe, 2008. HD video projection of super 16mm film, 9 min. Courtesy the artist and White Cube, London.


Nancy McCain & Bill Morneau


Laura Rapp & Jay Smith Elisa Nuyten & David Dime Garnet & Evan Siddall


Consulat Général de France à Toronto


Gregory Burke

Artists have long been fascinated with the origin and nature of the universe. Timed to coincide with the International Year of Astronomy, the exhibition Universal Code presents responses from a broad range of contemporary artists to cosmology and ideas of the universal in our current information age, a time of significant scientific and technological development as well as rampant globalization.

Whereas once the sky suggested the limitless, now a network of satellites enmesh the globe in a massive field of signals that unite the world in a "universal" web of telecommunications. Enabling instantaneous connection across vast distances, the new technologies also render visible what was formerly hidden at the bodily and even the cellular level. Corporate communications networks and digital technologies have in effect refigured the contemporary sense of the world and the universe by transforming historical understandings of time and space. In response to this current condition, Universal Code presents artists who look back on the modern era to consider the universe, the infinite and the eternal from a range of differing religious, scientific, philosophical, and cultural positions.

Works in the exhibition draw and reflect on scientific discoveries related to the universe and the nature of life, from the mapping of intergalactic space, through to research into the microcosmic world of DNA coding. However, the exhibition is not purely a celebration of scientific and technological advance. While many artists seek to engage the viewer in the awe and enigma of concepts of the universe, they are also concerned with shifts in the geo-political order brought on by the digital revolution, coupled with unresolved tensions that exist between differing belief systems.

Many of the artists look back to former times, including the pioneering era of space exploration, to elucidate aspects of the human condition in the current moment. Others address the increasing levels of surveillance that have developed in recent times and the incursion of satellite positioning systems into the private life of the individual. Still others ponder the disconnect that persists between differing cultural and religious beliefs, thereby questioning the myth of a globalized and connected world.

Universal Code is the latest in a series of summer exhibitions organized by The Power Plant that bring together Canadian and international artists from a variety of cultural positions to reflect on topics driving the development of contemporary culture. The exhibition includes artists who explore the intricate relationships between our evolving understandings of the cosmos; the production of scientific and cultural knowledge; cultural and religious belief systems; information technologies and global power relations. Universal Code considers the response of artists to these relationships in the aftermath of globalization, reflecting the current complexity of the world we inhabit. Ultimately their response is poetic, positioning the universe as a void full of potential but also as a field riddled by elision and enigma.

This exhibition is a proud recipient of the 2010 OAAG Awards in the Exhibition category. Jury Citation: "The Power Plant manages the near impossible task of taking on the entire cosmos in one project. The ambitious exhibition strikes a balance between concept, aesthetics and complex technical requirements. The result is an effective and deeply moving experience for the viewer."

Photo: Rafael Goldchain.

HD video projection of super 16mm film, 9 min. Courtesy the artist and White Cube, London.

35 mm film, 15 min. Courtesy the artist and Galleria Franco Noero, Turin. Photo: Rafael Goldchain.

Courtesy the artist and Galerie Dominique Fiat, Paris. Photo: Rafael Goldchain.

EME transmitter/receiver and Disklavier piano, dimensions variable. Courtesy the artist. Photo: Rafael Goldchain.

Wall painting and drawing on aludibond. Collection of Jay Smith and Laura Rapp. Photo: Rafael Goldchain.

About the Artists

Adel Abdessemed

Adel Abdessemed is an Algerian contemporary artist, whose work is represented in a variety of media, including animation, installation, performance, sculpture and video. Born in Constantine, Algeria in 1971, he now lives and works in Paris, France.

Adel Abdessemed Photo

Adrian Paci

Adrian Paci was born in Shkodër, Albania, in 1969.

Adrian Paci Photo

Angela Bulloch

Angela Bulloch was born in 1966 in Rainy River, Ontario, Canada. She is an artist who often works with sound and installation; she is recognised as one of the Young British Artists. Bulloch clives and works in Berlin.


Ann Veronica Janssens

Born in 1956 in Folkestone, United Kingdom, Ann Veronica Janssens lives and works in Brussels, Belgium.


Fred Tomaselli

Fred Tomaselli is an American artist, born in Santa Monica, California, in 1956.


Iñigo Manglano-Ovalle

Iñigo Manglano-Ovalle (born in Madrid, 1961) has had solo exhibitions at El Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Monterrey and Museo Tamayo Arte Contemporaneo, Mexico City (2004), the Art Institute of Chicago (2005) and the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, North Adams (2009), among many others. Group exhibitions include the Whitney Biennial, New York (2000), Liverpool Biennial (2004), documenta 12, Kassel (2007), and Universal Code: Art and Cosmology in the Information Age at The Power Plant (2009).

Tania Mouraud

Tania Mouraud is a contemporary French video artist and photographer, born in 1942, in Paris.


Thomas Hirschhorn

Thomas Hirschhorn was born in 1957 in Bern, Switzerland.


Trevor Paglen

Trevor Paglen was born in 1974 in Camp Springs, Maryland. Trained as a geographer and photographer, Paglen makes the invisible visible by documenting the American surveillance state of the 21st century.