Review Excerpts

“…Toby MacLennan removes events from their usual context in order to relocate them, to set them up in the perfect theatre of the mind, and thereby to invest them with multiple and endless connotations. Film–as immaterial stage–is the ideal medium for conveying such a transmutation, while in the accompanying gallery installation, the artist’s thought is embodied in sculptural forms which echo the film’s images, allowing the viewer to extend and explore, in a very concrete, physical way, the elements presented on the screen and to forge new associations between them….Toby MacLennan’s How Will I Know I’m Here not only illustrates a specific episode of mourning, but mourns our collective alienation, similarly, more than merely relating instances of deliverance, the film itself becomes for the viewer a cathartic and liberating experience.”
Jean-Francois Renaud

The Ottawa Art Gallery, Catalog for solo show

MacLennan’s performance work…”contained hints of Rauschenberg’s motorized dance pieces and Robert Wilson’s plays, but their essence is a blend of the writer’s paradox-riddled poetry and strange mechanical props and costumes….exquisite stagecraft…”
Jack Burnham

The New Art Examiner

“MacLennan invokes an altogether different cultural memory…one of plenitude. Its relationship to reality is found in traces from the rituals, animistic and sexual, of ancient cultures….Whether employing textual, visual, sculptural, or auditory elements (often all of these), she overturns their conventional associations, offering a poetic leap of imagination, the delights of an expansive wit, and a transformative realm of possibility. Her works have been concerned with suggesting a presence abiding within gaps and absences and with prompting a new consideration of the objects of everyday experience.”

Renee Baert

The Power Plant, Catalog, Toronto

“One must unclench the mind, unglue dense layers of habit and learning, de-activate the circuitry of commonplace perception and understanding, in order to connect with the questions and aspirations of Toby MacLennan’s work….She loves to play, would wither away without it, but anyone who plays with her soon sees that she is ruthless in her demands on one’s sense of the possible, one’s sense of the marvelous, and one’s capacity for pulling out all the stops.”
Avis Lang

Vanguard Magazine

“The work appeals to all of the senses. Things are brought to a sensual level of perception….The strength of the work is its ability to transcend and function independently of metaphorical interpretation and to allow itself to be experienced more directly. The objects speak for themselves in all the complexity of things in and of our world. Our experience of them is our experience of the world. We are not left to translate expressions of the artist’s experience but to experience for ourselves.”
Andrew Forster

Parachute Magazine, Montreal

‘In MacLennan the coherence—the repetition—of objects and images urges us to recall Freud’s passing dictum, “Repetition is desire.” And as if follows itself into new time, to new landscapes, through new concepts, desire in MacLennan’s work creates its clear scaffolding for an elegant lyric, and intensely pleasurable exploration of the transcendent world and of whatever in that world—beauty, meaning—exceeds the common functions, objects and images from which her work is garnered.’
Samuel R. Delany

“…The structure of the work resembles the dances of Merce Cunningham…. Toby MacLennan has a fey imagination and an incisive way of overturning accepted relationships, or to put it better, of changing the way these relationships are stated.”
Thomas Lask

The New York Times

“Toby MacLennan is a visionary whose feet are firmly planted in the ground. Her subject is metamorphosis. And…at Performance Space 122 she explored the subject in performance art and film filled with strong, poetic imagery.”
Jennifer Dunning

The New York Times

“The kaleidoscopic 45 minute projection leads the viewer through a series of astonishing, bodily and psychic states affected by the encounter with her mother’s death. Poetic mythic, surrealistically beautiful, the visual flow is doubly enhanced by the powerful soundtrack of classical and contemporary musical compositions.”
Jacquelan Ménard

Arts Alive

…“MacLennan’s film describes a paroxysmal moment at which a psychic and/or physical “dam” breaks. We are asked to rethink the connection of body and psyche, not as a hermetic unity, but as a porous field conducting intense levels of energy.…MacLennan’s fractured narrative evokes sensorial experiences so powerfully that they are, in affect, revalued. We may look as far afield historically as Maya Deren to find a filmic precedent for MacLennan’s descriptions of feminine space and relationship to time.”
Annie Martin

Parachute Magazine

“How Much Far Is There…filled with Dadaesque objects…is at heart a romantic ode to the hidden, instinctual voyages by which we navigate through life.”
Jennifer Dunning

The New York Times

“…logically, coherently insane….strange performing creatures, moving, manipulating wheels and levers, totally at ease in a mysterious, masked, theatrical environment of their own….these rare and occasional glimpses of other dimensions are tonics to the soul…They allow us to expand into another dimension…”
Burf Kay

Revue Magazine, Ottawa

“…a lovely piece by Toby MacLennan called Singing the Stars, originally performed in Canadian planetariums…. developed a mythology of a people whose boundaries and categories are more fluid than ours… This is a musical race that can put a staff over an object and “sing” it…”
Sally Banes

The Village Voice