Vince Ha, Toby Lawrence, Neven Lochhead and Paige Van Tassel
Moderator: Elyse Longair
This panel embraces the timely opportunity of Agnes Reimagined to critically re-examine the potentials of curatorial pedagogy and practice within our institutions’ social and cultural contexts and curatorial partnerships. Among different considerations, Curatorial Pedagogy and Practice focuses on the positioning for curatorial methodologies, the roles of curatorial practice as research-creation, “the education turn” in the curatorial, and the changing study of the curatorial in academia. In bringing together emerging artists, educators and scholars we hope to provide a conversational forum to share and analyze texts, issues, discourses and personal curatorial experiences that inform the futures of curatorial praxis.
Part of An Institute for Curatorial Inquiry
In-Person, 14–19 August 2022
Read more: https://agnes.queensu.ca/participate/…
Download the transcript:
https://agnes.queensu.ca/site/uploads…Vince Ha, Toby Lawrence, Neven Lochhead and Paige Van Tassel
Moderator: Elyse Longair
Use CTRL+F to find key words if it is a longer transcript.
>> So, my name is Elyse Longair. I’m an artist, curator and image theorist
currently pursuing my PhD here at Queens
in the Screen Cultures and
Curatorial Studies Program. I’ve had some several really
incredible opportunities here
at Agnes that I wanted to share with you. I’ve been doing an internship with Alicia where
I’ve been looking at collage in the collection.
I’ve spent over a hundred hours in the vault. And I’m really thankful.
Part of my final output is having
the privilege to curate an exhibition
for Count and Care in September.
Participating in Sunny’s hands-on
curatorial class has been really important. We developed our own curatorial encounters with
mentorship, support and resources here at Agnes.
Playfully haunting the Etherington House with
Neven’s Paranormal Playgroup has been really fun,
and being a research assistant
for the institute as well.
I found that I’ve been learning and growing
from the whole team and community here at Agnes.
And I mentioned this to not only to thank and acknowledge everybody
which I’m really grateful for.
Thank you. But also primarily because today we’re going
to be talking about curatorial education
and that’s been my experience
here in a year at Queen’s.
This panel embraces the timely
opportunity of Agnes Reimagined
to critically re-examine the potentials
of curatorial pedagogy and practice
within our institution’s social and cultural
contexts and curatorial partnerships. Among different considerations, curatorial
pedagogy and practice focuses on the positioning
for curatorial methodologies, the roles of
curatorial practice as research creation, the educational turn in the curatorial, and the
changing studies of the curatorial in academia.
This session is an opportunity both to reflect
on the potential of curatorial pedagogy
and practice and to look forward
to future transformations. Today we have four incredible
curators here with us.
Vince Ha, Paige Van Tassel,
Neven Lochhead and Toby Lawrence.
Vince is going to begin our conversation today. He is a writer and director who captures
fragmentary moments and uses them
to challenge issues of race,
class, gender, and representation. He’s currently pursuing his PhD in
Screen Cultures and Curatorial Studies
at Queen’s University, investigating
transnational media and its relationship
with queer diasporate sociality
with special attention to homoerotic representations in Asian cinema.
>> Good afternoon, everyone. Before I begin, I would just to thank Elyse,
Alicia, and Agnes for giving me this opportunity
to share my work and stories of the
communities that I am involved with. I’m sorry, I’m a little bit nervous.
So, I do apologize for my wavering voice. The Canadian Asian communities
especially the Queer Asian diaspora
in Toronto embrace many disparate
individuals who come from diverse cultures, religions, and political backgrounds.
What binds us together is a common
experience as immigrant subjects. An experience that is continuously tethered
to Asia, an imagined object we are often asked
to reject in order to assimilate. Many second generation immigrants and those afterwards must learn a
difficult lesson, particularly with the rise
of Asian phobia during the COVID-19
pandemic, that their social and cultural standings would not
protect them from racial discrimination,
that as Asian bodies they
are perpetually foreign. The mobility in diaspora, as some scholars
like Mel Y Chen have observed, can reverberate
to Queerness which can also be read as a
mobile category disrupting the stability of fixed identities.
It is precisely this concept, the
slippage between diaspora and Queer,
that can intervene our understanding
of an imagined Asian diaspora community or Queer Asian diaspora communities.
With the increased rate of globalization,
this movement can be seen as liberatory
or restrictive, frequently bringing forth
fissures and cracks between Queer and diaspora,
between those who were born in Canada
and newcomers, between the old guards of Queer liberation and the
young Queer cultural shakers.
What is unavoidable is that these conflicts
often result in a sense of hurting.
Why I also celebrate joy, fantasy, and futurity, this theme of Queer hurting is
most frequently found in my work.
I refer to Queer hurting as our capacity
to hurt ourselves, to hurt others, and for other Queer bodies to hurt us.
Here, I’m not referring to the physical
harm but will focus on the psychological and emotional residue that reside in us.
It’s imperative to observe why we feel the
greater emotional pain when we are hurt
by another person of colour or
community to which we think we belong.
For many Queers, it might be a second or
third time being hurt by a social institution, the first being our biological families.
When we cannot find comfort in our
blood relations, we hope that the at large
Queer community can be our
unconditional wish fulfilling refuge. And when that proves untrue some of us glance
further finding Queer diaspora communities.
We expect these members to understand the
challenges of what it means to be Asian —
to be Asian in Queer spaces and
to be Queer in Asian spaces. That this shared experience will make
us more seen, heard, and accepted.
When reality fails to meet our expectations,
we feel that we have made the wrong choice by putting our faith in the wrong people.
In late 2015, I was told by a prominent
white Queer artist reviewing my filmic work
that no one wanted to talk about race anymore. That the topic has the stale air of 1980s.
The comment prompted me partially
out of frustration to bring the Invisible Footprints
project to life.
The idea of intergenerational experiment within
the Queer Asian communities was burrowed In me since 2013 but at the time I did
not have the necessary relationship
to realize my aspirations. Motivated by the work of Queer
artists of colour such as Naomi Zack,
I was yearning to inspect fault lines and
blind spots within my own communities. In that same, year along with a close
friend I started Rice Roll Productions,
a light-hearted media initiative that
prioritizes socially engaged art.
It was through Rice Roll, with a few short
well-received undertakings, that we were able
to build trust in our communities and find
the necessary funding for the project. It was also through these interactions that
I met Alan Li, a well-respected figure
in the queer Asian community, a long time
HIV activist, and a gifted community leader.
In the early 1980s, he and a few friends started
a community newspaper called Celebration.
So, they start a newspaper called Celebration, in addition to other seminal projects, recording
and archiving Queer Asian lives in Toronto.
Along with novelists like Wayson Choy,
Paul Yee, filmmakers like Richard Fung, and organizer like Nito Marquez and Tony Souza,
he and his cohort represent the first wave of
documented Queer Asian heritage in the city.
Alan is also dazzling meticulous. Many of the artifacts that were
shown in Invisible Footprint 0.1 came
from his closet, including an original copy
of Gerald Chan’s article Out of the Shadows
from 1979, and Jonas Ma multimedia
project Invisible Visible from 1983.
If a Queer Asian community
archive is ever to be created in Toronto, it will be greatly indebted to him.
His experience and activism undoubtedly informed
the way he wishes the Queer Asian communities
to operate. When he participated as an advisory committee
member and was later assigned to be a mentor
to the young participating artist, I
could see hints of his frustrations. Mainly his disappointment that many young
artists do not understand the context
of the artifacts and events, lacking
the needed nuance to interpret them. During a potluck, another advisory member
added that the young Queers can see further
into the future but with a
limited view of the past. That it is the older generation who
has an extended view of history.
While I partially agree with
this generalization, I want to extract the underlining
assumption that is the unstated expectation
of the younger generations to
understand a history strapped to the queer liberation movement.
Scholars like Kadji Amin have noted this hum of
Queer liberalist ideology on Queer spaces.
It ranges from a gentle background vibration
to a dense bellow, muffling other voices.
In 2005, the special issue of Social Text
the editor David Eng, Judith Halberstam, and José Esteban Moñoz asked what’s queer
about Queer Studies Now?” implying a constantly recalibration
of not only our historical
but also our political understanding. This repeated nowness in Queer cultures feel
obligated to include social justice, tinged
by its historical echo and one that must
effectively outperform previous generations.
These restrictive expectations
are often time unmet. In the case of Invisible Footprints, many
of the young artists find it extremely
hard to access Queer Asian material. When they do, the material is often or the
material is commonly presented by institutions
and individual that are not part of the
Queer Asian diaspora, habitually missing the necessary contexts.
Young Queer of colours finds it
challenging to identify a lineage when much
of a community history might not be recorded,
or in some instances, recorded work of
and artifacts are embedded with biases that
are daunting for young folks to unravel.
Now these barriers are precisely
why projects similar to Invisible Footprint can help bridge the gaps.
Our goal was to present submerged voices,
voices of Queer elders’, transgender members,
and people of nationality that were
not previously given a platform. Mindful of the myriad expression
that Queer Asia can take,
we cautiously label the iteration
0.1, 0.2, and 0.3 from 2017 to 2020.
The work that you see here is from Heidi Cho. This was presented in 2017 at
the OCAD Open Space Gallery.
Though Invisible Footprint is regularly viewed
as a disruption to white heteronormative culture
and archival practices, at the heart
of the project is our intention to foreground the lacking within our
own communities, excavating the social
and economic factors that contribute to
queer asian collective distortions.
I met Yoichi Haruta two years prior to
working on the Invisible Footprint Project.
During our first meeting, he
shared that while he was part of the Queer Asian community during
the early 1980s, as a new immigrant,
he felt that he did not have the same
experiences as others, especially those who grew up in Canada, or came to
further their education.
He was constrained by financial
obligations, hindering him from social and political enrichment.
In the mid-2010, when it was time for
him to care for his ageing mother,
he sponsored her to come to Canada. At the beginning, he established two
apartments on the same floor allowing him
to slip away and retain some privacy. When her health declined, he moved her into his
unit, sold the other and they lived together
for many years in that arrangement. He had little to no contact during this period
with the Queer community and an
almost barren dating life. When his mother passed away, he felt
haunted by her wrinkle, ashy hands.
He spends most of his day
in retirement painting them. He tried reaching out to Queer spaces
but felt ostracized, constantly needing
to filter what he says at the
risk of offending young activists. He felt isolated from the
community that he was once part of.
[Inaudible] story present only a small sliver of the intergenerational
conflict happening in Toronto.
The older generation bemoaning
that the younger generation fails to understand the hardship of the past,
while younger generation feels
frustrated that the elders are uncritical of their own privileges, not questioning the
conditions that supported certain voices.
My curatorial work, especially in the Invisible
Footprint project, invite artists to engage with other community members, for
community members to examine how mobility
and other economic factors contribute to
their collective distortions, and for cultural and economic institution to consider
the people and spaces around them.
Before I conclude, I would to add a few
thoughts about working with organizations. While funding and institutional
support are helpful, not everything
that comes knocking is an opportunity. Sometimes it’s a Trojan horse. Sharing collective stories and institutional
spaces can be simmered down to reductive images
of community harmony, which can later
develop into it further hurtful dynamics. I’m not endorsing an over emphasis of
disunity or espousing a false dichotomy,
but we must make room for conflict. It is a
natural and vital element of our growth.
While my talk might lead you to believe that
I am against the commodification of care,
a phrase that many cultural
institutions will shrink from, good care and commodification of
care do not preclude each other.
Instead, a sweeping of these cultural and
economic conflicts under the proverbial rug,
we can reduce feelings of resentment by publicly
examining what it means to conceptually, ethically, and practically while not shirking
away from issues of extraction and exploitation,
for institution to commodify care, and to use
it under the right conditions to support others.
[ Applause ]
>> Thanks Vince. Next, we’re going to hear from Paige.
Paige Van Tassel is Anishinaabe
Ojibwe and Cree from Timmins, Ontario. She’s currently a PhD candidate in
Art History at Queen’s University.
She’s a member of the Indigenous Advisory
Circle here at Agnes Etherington Art Centre.
Her interests include storytelling through the
presentation and engagement with indigenous art
and artifacts to facilitate knowledge transfer. >> Yes, so, Elyse stated I’m Anishinaabe
Ojibwe from my mom’s side and I’m Cree
from my dad’s side who was
born in Thompson, Manitoba.
As you might have noticed I
guess we’re all academics. We all have scripts in our hands [chuckle]. I have mine on my phone.
And I’m currently doing my PhD in Art History. Recently defended my field, so I
guess that makes me a candidate now. Yay [chuckle]. [ Applause ]
And throughout my fields I kind of had this idea
to develop the show Land Protectors in response
to the experiential learning that I
wanted to have with the fields rather
than just writing an essay defending
it and then move on to the next thing.
So, I’m going to share with you some
excerpts from one of my fields titled Museums
in First Peoples is about
exploring that relationship between Indigenous communities
and museums across Canada.
And first thing I want to notice
is that in the title of my slide,
it’s Challenging the museum-goer
experience, Being comfortable with discomfort.
And that discomfort for me is a two-way street. It’s discomfort for me being one of the only
visible Indigenous people in my program,
and navigating walking in two worlds, the
academic and the spiritual emotional way of life
that I often encounter when
dealing with Indigenous topics.
Because, for me, it’s mostly
learning it for the first time.
You know, I didn’t have that experience growing up. Both my grandmas were in residential school.
My mother was a part of the 60s Scoop,
and I was in foster care growing up.
So, it’s very intergenerational and ingrained,
and it’s something that I always have
to face when dealing with this content.
The other discomfort is the
audience’s experience because they also have never maybe not
been taught this growing up either.
Or they just don’t know about it. And they would rather live an
easier life not knowing about it.
So, that is the other discomfort that we’re
that Land Protectors tries to sort of engage with.
From the early 1960s onwards,
there was a huge political shift
in indigenous self-representation, in tandem
with the American Civil Rights Movement
that was mentioned before, how Pamela mentioned
earlier in the first panel this morning.
A lot of activist rights movements have been
inspired by Black people and their movement.
And so Indigenous self-representation
and activism, I would argue, was inspired
by what was happening in the 60s. So, in the late 1970s there was a huge political
shift for Indigenous self-representation.
One of them being in response to The Spirit
Sings exhibition at the Glenbow Museum.
There, you see on the screen, is a performance
by Rebecca Belmore in response to what went
down at The Spirit Sings, and
for those who don’t know, Shell Corporation funded the exhibition
even though they were illegally drilling
on Lubicon Cree unceded territory. So, many people, many institutions
during this time were still unsure how
to respectfully engage and honour
telling Indigenous stories.
It didn’t fit within the framework
that they had at the time.
There’s also Into the Heart of Africa at
the ROM that happened and that was 1989,
had a huge backlash from the Black
communities there in Toronto, because of the large misrepresentation that
happened, and completely ignored the troubles
that they were having contemporarily in Toronto. On a positive note, coming into the 90s,
we have really powerful Indigenous-led
exhibitions that occur. So, INDIGENA and Land, Spirit,
Power both in Ottawa I think
and Anong Beam who was presenting on Monday. She mentioned that.
So, those were very influential in how
Indigenous-led shows are vastly different
from non-indigenous shows, like
what happened at The Spirit Sings.
And so, I just want to, I know I’m coming
up on my time, but I just want to end
with a quote by Daniel Heath Justice. Something that really moved
me and really inspired,
partly inspired the Land
Protector’s exhibition, is
in his book Why Indigenous Literatures
Matter points out that “stories
that will make a difference aren’t easy ones. If they don’t challenge us, confound us, or
make us uncomfortable, or uncertain, or humble,
then I’m not sure what they
offer us in the long term.” Miigwech. [ Applause ]
>> Thank you, Paige. Our third presenter is Neven Lochhead.
He’s an artist curator and PhD student in the
Screen Cultures and Curatorial Studies Program.
From 2017 to 2019 he worked as director
of programming at SAW Video Media Art
where he founded and operated
Knot Project Space, a discursive venue through which he engaged
artists in the presentation of a series of interrelated exhibitions,
performances, lectures, learning contexts,
residency platforms, and
offsite public art projects. >> Thank you.
Hi. Yes, I’m Neven. I’m a local artist here. And want to thank Elyse and everyone
at Agnes for keeping this afloat.
I also have a text I’m just
going to read to stay on time.
And I have one of these dreaded
artist-led educational projects to share
which I happened this past winter out of the
Etherington House called Paranormal Curation.
So, I’m just going to start by describing
the formal structure of this initiative,
and then if I have time, I’m going to share
a bit of collaborative writing that happened
on either side of it which remixed
and purposed some of its methods.
So, Paranormal Curation is a
project that was produced adjacent to an exhibition called A Guest +
a Host = a Ghost
which took place earlier this
year in the Etherington House, and on which I worked as its Shadow curator.
Shadow curating is a concept that was originally
proposed by the Scottish curator Nuno Sacramento
in 2011 on a long-term project
called The Town is the Venue.
So, the Shadow Curator is a
figure who Sacramento describes as constantly proposing a layer of inquiry and
analysis with regard to all aspects of a project
in order to contribute to a
consolidation of the methodology.
My own use of shadow curating
for the Agnes exhibition tried to push Sacramento’s idea a bit
further and evolve or mutate the figure
of the shadow into that of the ghost. Throughout my process the figure of the
ghost became a key avatar and collaborator
on the program’s design as well as on the
stated themes of the proposed activities.
So, with the ghost in mind I
initiated a learning platform for collaborative paranormal
curatorial experimentation which took
up the Etherington House’s Broom
Closet as its headquarters. The closet-based projects that emerged involved
12 Kingston based artists curators and writers
over the course of four months, who were
ushered into the exhibition through the portal
of Paranormal Curations Dusty Micro Institute.
Over time, the Broom Closet experienced its own
reimaginings with the humble nook functioning
for us as a writing room, a book, and
PDF repository, an amplification system,
a recording studio, and a radio station. The organizational structure for
paranormal curation tried to shape itself
around the complicated relationship
that ghosts have with their publics. I wanted to develop a program that, like the ghost, had
the ability to modulate and play with its forms
of publicness, operating on different
levels of visibility and legibility.
So, this resulted in the stacking of
three scales of collaborative activities, a micro activity, a meso activity,
and a macro activity with each
of these having their parameter of publicness
dialled up or down in specific ways.
So, first there’s the micro activity. This is called the shadow library.
And this functions within a relatively
closed guild of practitioners with members of the Shadow library acting
as one another’s public.
The activity explores the production of
handwritten marginalia and material alterations
of books and PDFs as ghostly acts of
mediation, haunting a texts future reader.
With the shadow librarians
Hillary and Peggy, various haunted and overgrown publications were
produced and some selections
from the Shadow Library are here
for you to peruse afterwards.
Secondly, there was the meso
activity. This was called House Band. This activity functioned more publicly
in the space of the exhibition itself.
Its aim was to covertly embed sound
into the Etherington House, haunting it from its own architectural margins.
Sound was explored as a tool through which
to alter the way in which a site is navigated and sensed by a visitor, sometimes imperceptibly.
This activity culminated in the
production of a collaborative soundscape with band mates Bojana, Jung-Ah, Mo, Brandon and Elyse
which builds around a deconstructed cover
of Madonna’s Country Dance Hit Don’t Tell Me. This was embedded into the staircase of the
Etherington House near the end of the exhibition
and will soon be released on other formats. Lastly was the macro activity
called Phantom Market.
This activity’s still ongoing and
has yet to really properly emerge.
But it has the highest publicness
parameter of the platform. So, in considering the aims of Agnes Reimagined
to return the Etherington House into a home,
the phantom merchants proposed to take
this idea to a somewhat absurdist point by placing the Etherington House
on the local real estate market
through the form of a Kijiji advertisement. So, the small working group that formed
around this idea with Bojana, Andrei,
and me together discuss the ethics, humour,
and performativity of this proposed gesture.
And we’re still in the process of determining if and how it could circulate
publicly as a good joke.
So, one last structural element to
note about paranormal curation is that the program is meant to haunt itself.
Each activity is intended to run at least
twice back-to-back and with different groups
when there’s enough committed participants. This creates a crease or fold in the platform
which becomes a point of translation.
So, in other words when one round of paranormal
curation ends, and another begins, the guild
that has previously formed around a
specific activity inducts its new members through the codification and
teaching of its shared craft.
With this translation aspect of the platform,
participants in paranormal curation are required
to become paragoges or “peeragoges” of their
own workshop environment, externalizing their otherwise ephemeral
homegrown methods in a way that allows for them
to be taught and used by the activity’s
future practitioners and beyond.
This is the closet in question. So, to make a slight pivot now on either end
of paranormal curation there were two critical
reflexive writing practices that took place.
The first was taken up by
myself through the production of what I called the infra ordinary journal.
This journal simply contains daily
entries of descriptive writing, inspired by Georges Perec’s An Attempt at Exhausting
a Place in Paris, capturing a steady flow
of minuscule events and sounds that
take place in the Etherington house over the first two weeks of the exhibition.
The other writing practice emerged
collaboratively near the end of the project between me, and the writer,
and curator Dylan Robinson.
So, I had been in conversation with Dylan
over the course of the project going on walks
when I would give updates on the exhibition
and the related learning platform.
We had discussions about the turning away
from a site as a site-specific response,
about the colonial loudness of the Etherington
House and about finding ways to break down
and interrupt insistent architectural ambiances. On one of those walks an affinity was generated
when discussing the marginalia relay method
that had been invented by the shadow librarians. Their activity was discussed as a haunted
interpretation of book thickening.
So, book thickening is an 18th century
material reading practice which results not in a reduction of a given text but rather its
wholesale transformation through amplification.
Significantly thickened books
and volumes often deranged rather than reiterated the conceptual
trajectory and goals of the printed text.
And I’m paraphrasing here from
The Multigraph Collective. So, on our walk a connection was made
between the shadow library’s practices
of haunted thickening with Dylan’s own
exploration of the dramaturgical tradition
of Regietheater, an act at radical adaptation
of an existing opera or play which doesn’t seek
to centre that which is being derived from. Following this, Dylan and I devised our own
altered process for the thinning, thickening,
and redirecting of text, building through this-
building this through remixing the dynamics
that were produced and tested
out in the shadow library. Our modified structure for
thickening was then applied to derange
and fully transform the infra ordinary
journal’s descriptive portraits of the Etherington House and its ambiances.
So, I wanted to end my presentation
today by reading first an excerpt from the original infra ordinary journal
followed by an excerpt of the altered text
that Dylan and I produced through this method. This is meant to highlight a unique
capacity of Paranormal Curations invented
and translated methods to be reapplied
and remixed in different contexts
and different scales where they can
mobilize sets of adjacent practices.
So, first, we’ll hear the infra ordinary
journal, describing a moment in the home in its early empty state, and then we’ll
hear the same entry after it’s passed through
and been haunted by the shadow librarian’s
paranormal process or a version of it.
Infra ordinary journal February 10th. There’s knocking on a door upstairs.
No one answers. Then a door opens, likely Agnes staff. Frost on the glass.
Bird sounds bleeding into the home. Someone has heard whistling a tune. Footsteps then enter the house.
A person wearing a long white parka. I emerge and say hi. They say nothing back.
They walk to the staircase as if
they’re looking for something. They peer up the stairs pausing for
about five seconds, looking and waiting.
They seem to see nothing, or
they see what they want to see. Then they turn around and walk in the
other direction without saying a word.
Now they’re walking away from the house. I hear them leaving through the atrium, the sound
of their wet boots on the polished concrete.
And so now to close is the same entry after
passing through the thickening method.
An open door opens to an open
door, to another open door.
This one has a view of more open doors and the
still chandelier and the frost on the glass,
flake scene through thick curtains. And the sound of a door opening
to another open door.
A handwritten note on the door
reads a score for a visitor. Approach the house and then suddenly walk away.
Then enter the house and then walk away. Then walk away again. Down the ramp hear wet boots on
polished concrete Terrazzo composite.
If you can leave and then do
leave and then see leaves, you’ve left it. And you can leave
the house again, just like this,
leaving it again, and again, and again. That’s all I have.
[ Applause ]
>> Thank you, Neven. Dr. Toby Lawrence is our final presenter today.
She is a settler Canadian curator
of mixed European ancestry. She’s a curator at Open Space in Lekwungen
territory where her work centres anti-racist,
decolonial, and intersectional
feminist methodologies, grounded through intuitive
and relational processes.
She holds an MA in Art History and Theory and
a PhD in Interdisciplinary Graduate Studies
from the University of British Columbia. >> Hello. So, I also want to extend
a really warm and grateful thank you.
A grateful thank you [laughing] to Elyse,
and Alicia, and Emelie, and the other folks
at the Agnes for putting this program
together, and building space to talk
about curatorial practice in a
really more or in an expanded way.
So, yeah thank you. What I’m going to do today is actually read.
I’m going to read some stories. I’m going to read four excerpts
from various publications.
So, Excerpt 1. I begin where I began in Secwepemcúecw.
I was born at the Royal Inland Hospital
Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc now Kamloops, British Columbia.
Although I have no familial ties to this
region, and I only lived there for a handful
of years before age six, the land has shaped me. The dry air, rolling hills and
unique cliff formations modelled
by sage brush cradled the city of Kamloops. I took my first breath there.
Yet it was not until adulthood that I realized
precisely why I am so elated and comforted
to come across landscapes resembling this place. To my surprise at the time, but somewhat
obvious now, a similar experience occurred
when I visited Toronto for
the first time as an adult. I had not been there since I was three or four,
but I immediately felt the same familiar comfort
and elation activated by
dry hills and sage brush.
Projecting into my own wanderings and
the memories of my father’s many stories
about growing up and as a young adult
in Toronto, I imagined my ancestors,
six generations in my paternal line born in
Toronto to the current extent of my knowledge.
I imagined these ancestors in the streets
of Toronto throughout the city’s history and wondered how they understood their own
relationships to the Haudenosaunee, Anishinaabe
and Mississauga territories on which
they lived, and their connections
to their own ancestral homelands in
Europe by way of these links are broken.
How did they enact these relationships?
Did they know about the pre-colonial
histories of trails converging at Tkaronto near the Lake
Shore traverse for over 10,000 years
by the many Indigenous peoples and non-human
inhabitants for resources and trade?
The main trail from the harbour front of Lake Ontario ran north to
Lake Simcoe, now Yonge Street,
like many others encased
under concrete roadways. Did my ancestors walk through those
trails too before they were paved over?
Excerpt 2. For mothers, grandmothers, weavers or radicals. My earliest memory of an art museum is
visiting an installation of art making machines
with my mother at the Kamloops Art Gallery
in the early 1980s at its previous location.
At least this is what I recall
I was 4, perhaps 5.
In first year of art history, I
came to learn about Jean Tinguely’s, Metamatics drawing machines
and made the connection.
I don’t know what the exhibition
was exactly but the association through this memory is real
enough to have influenced the way
that I understand embodied experiences of art. Recently my mother told me that, as a child,
I used to make artworks and build exhibitions
in discarded fridge boxes standing in
for what I imagined a gallery to be.
She confessed that she did not know then
how she could make this a reality for me.
What my mother didn’t realize, my mother
one of the first eight women allowed to take woodworking in high school in British
Columbia, allowed to take woodworking,
was that she was already teaching me
to work from intuition and imagination,
and to consider how one might build a gallery
differently based on circumstance and need.
Excerpt Three from Architecture of the
Bush, first published in C Magazine.
The teepee has been an ever-present
feature of Bush Gallery but it does not stand as the gallery.
Erected in 2015, the structure
has weathered, presented, and housed many of the actions of BUSH Gallery.
At the BUSH Gallery Writer’s Union Retreat
in August 2017, the structure was dismantled,
the canvas too brittle to maintain its
architectural function after having ripped apart
in a windstorm earlier that summer.
Following a Sunday afternoon
convergence of friends and colleagues at the annual Kamloops powwow, Tarah
Hogue, Tania Willard, Peter Morin,
and I gathered at Quaaout Lodge on little Shuswap Lake
which is now sadly burnt down.
And then at BUSH Gallery
the next day. The Powwow,
as a shared point of departure, centred
indigene and located experience as material
for making, performing and thinking together. At dinner, Tara expressed her need to
utilize acts of labour to connect to place
to land performance situation as she and Tania had done the night before
while dismantling the teepee.
At breakfast, Peter asked what
is it that we want to build?
Monday, we cut up the teepee. We laid out the teepee canvas.
We intuitively assumed roles. We marked the circumference of the
canvas, staking pink survey flags.
Peter, with a blue raven rattle,
and Tania, with tin can rattle, circumnavigated the canvas as Peter sang.
The canvas ripped easily apart along its
weave, and we made cuts to direct the tearing.
The canvas pulled by two of our bodies
to arrive at segments large enough for specific repurposed functions.
The largest uncompromised section was kept
being suspended in the trees as a movie screen.
Smaller segments were used to produce
solar prints and their edges finished with pinking shears; the
excess made into ribbons.
Crouched within the teepee’s flag outline and
then shrouded by the dense forest fire smoke
that permeated the region, we cut ribbons and
produced a series of solar prints out of rope,
rattles, rock, ribbon, collective writing,
laser cut citation text, and toys.
Ashok prepared meat bison meatballs,
shish kabobs and Chilliwack corn.
By Wednesday, the flags had been removed. The activities were now concentrated
around the forested area and the trees
that supported the large
piece of repurposed canvas. The screen became the conversational teepee.
The location shifted along with
the reference. Now in segments, the canvas marks as it is marked.
Material for objects, and surface for solar
prints, Lunar experiments, backdrop for movies,
foreground for shadow play,
hunting ground for insects. In one of my trips back and forth from
Kelowna to BUSH Gallery, I was charged
with transporting 12 large Mylar panels
produced for Ashok’s 2019 exhibition
of A Little Distillery in Nowgong. Together, we hung them to weather and to
remain in the trees at the edge of the forest
with cord coloured the same
pink as the survey flags. A twofold final installation.
The final action of the BUSH Gallery
Writer’s Union retreat took shape through our collective curation
of Ashok’s panels
and a collaborative performance
by Ashok and Peter. Backed by the layering of A Little Distillery
in Nowgong and the teepee illuminated
by a work light, Ashok read aloud accompanied
by strategically timed drumming by Peter.
The text from one of the Mylar panels was
incidentally visible through the canvas.
So, I’ll leave this up for visuals. Excerpt 4. From Plant Stories are Love Stories Too.
These words are not solely mine. I share them with Michelle Jacques. And to be honest I don’t actually
know whose words are whose anymore.
We’ve mixed them up so many times. So, in 2020, after a year of dreaming,
Michelle Jakes and I officially embarked
on the development of Moss Projects, an
itinerant educational platform that aims
to create knowledge and relationship building
opportunities for curatorial thinkers committed
to peeling away the colonial
layers of the art museum. As an alternative or parallel program
to academic curatorial training,
Moss Project supports inquiry and
learning by and with underrepresented and racialized curators alongside
through peer-to-peer learning and mentorship. Central to this program is the
valuing of knowledge systems and modes
of organization beyond and in dialogue
with dominant parameters of curation.
And the recognition of the
urgency with which we must learn to work otherwise in the museum field.
As white settler, and Black Canadian curators, Michelle and I utilize our professional
resources for curatorial incubation
and to establish spaces and
mechanisms for sharing cross-cultural and cross-disciplinary methodologies.
By engaging with our own ancestral histories
and by respecting cultural knowledges shared
with us, we are learning how our histories
fit within the places that we reside and work
to better advocate for and walk
alongside in support of Indigenous and non-Indigenous methodologies.
At a moment when the colonial foundations of
mainstream museums are being rocked in protest,
how do we prepare to build something new. In the Canadian context, curators continue to be
trained predominantly through settler colonial
and academic art, art historical and
curatorial paradigms which shapes and influences the historical narrative.
By inviting and compensating collaborators
with a range of experiences, ideas,
and worldviews to participate, we aim to create a
platform that promotes multidimensional readings
of the museum’s potential, countering it’s
legacy as a space devoted to a singular canon.
Similarly, Moss Projects is not
institutionally bound but presently operates
through the network supports and institutional
relationships that we hold and actively foster.
Our first host the Art Gallery of Greater
Victoria where Michelle was chief curator when we started, stands as an important
point of departure a public art museum
with a developing openness to examining its
own structure, and at the same time an example
of residual and prevailing legacies of
colonial systems throughout the arts in Canada.
Applying pressure, Moss projects nurtures
practices that require the art system to flex
to accommodate the needs of historically
underrepresented practitioners and communities rather than
the need to flex to a system
that is an uncomfortable
and sometimes unsafe fit.
We are co-learners in this process. Thank you. [ Applause ]
>> Thank you all for presenting and
sharing your knowledge with us today. Looks like we have about 35 minutes.
So, we’ll start off with a little bit
of a round table and then we’ll open it up for the last 20 minutes for a
conversation with the audience.
One of the questions I’ve been curious about,
as a student, and I know we’re all students
or recent graduates, is that within the
institutions where we research and study,
what practices already exist that
can help generate critical dialogue? So, feel free to just jump in
and respond as you as you feel. >> Apologies for anyone that is
a professor in Art History here
but I’m going to speak honestly here. There’s not really any form of critical space
for dialogues in Art History from my perspective
as one of the BIPOC students in Art History. I’m sorry, but it just doesn’t
exist in Art History, at least.
But I will say that one way
that we can create spaces
for critical dialogues is invite more elders in
our classrooms, because the courses that I took,
it was coming from a singular perspective. And I feel experience that
the elders have is a form
of research, and a form of critical inquiry. Miigwech.
[ Silence ]
>> Actually we’re in the same
program, the Curatorial Studies, and- Cinema Studies and Curatorial
And it was actually the curatorial side of the
program that really drew me to come to Queen’s.
And during my time here, I’ve seen
so many people with the expertise
and things that I can learn from. There’s actually so much
resources in our department.
And so many knowledgeable folks that we can try
to utilize to kind of start these conversations.
But one of the things that I wasn’t
prepared for was the emotional labour
that I was asked to do when I’m in this program.
Because it’s usually, especially Queer Asian
students, undergrads, they would pull me aside,
and they’ll share stories and they feel very
frustrated, or they want to leave Kingston, or they’re facing a lot of issues.
And for me, I don’t think, I think
people in our faculty is overworked.
They’re trying their best. They’re limited by resources and there’s
perspective I don’t know on the other side.
But then I also feel the student’s
frustration, especially students of colour,
or if they’re international students. And then there’s expectations from both sides,
both from the student, both from the faculty.
But I feel at times, we’re not
sitting down to talk to each other. And there’s a lot of friction that I feel that
could be easily solved, if we just sit down
and have an honest conversation with each other. And I think that hopefully this
conversation can then start,
and we can have those kinds of dialogues. >> This is a hard question.
>> They’re all hard questions, Toby. They’re big questions. >> I would agree with Paige.
Art History is an unforgiving discipline.
[Chuckle] It is — I do not call myself an Art
Historian even though I have two Art History
Degrees because it doesn’t fit.
And I don’t, I haven’t seen expansive
criticality in the way that it needs
to happen within the field of Art History.
I did my PhD at UBC at the Okanagan campus. And when I was there, Ashok Mathur
was the Dean of the Department
of the Creative and Critical Studies Department. I believe — now totally blanking
on what his actual title was
or what actual department he was. The department I was in anyways.
And much like this gathering although more
expansive, he worked alongside a number
of other faculty and graduate students to build a summer residency
space wherein courses were tied
to artist residencies and public panels. And there was a lot of space for conversation
and dialogue, and space for just being together,
and thinking through things
together and experiencing together. And I think that was a really
important space for a lot of people.
And people still talk about it. And it’s still running. It’s now running under the
direction of Tania Willard.
All that being said though, that space doesn’t
necessarily translate into the main school year,
the September to spring kind of school year. It really does, is really is
centralized within the summer months.
It’s called the Indigenous Art Intensive. I just realized, I probably didn’t say that yet.
So, there’s there are glimmers,
but for the most part, as a whole,
a program that really has the
appropriate kind of critical dialogue —
I don’t know if I’ve ever come across one yet. This is precisely why Michelle and I have
been trying to build alternative spaces
for discourse and learning within curation.
>> Yeah. I’ll try to say something positive.
In regard to our program, we have tethered
to our department this gallery called Agnes.
And so that’s available to
us obviously as an audience, you know.
I think about sites of critical dialogue
for me often happen within art scenes in the sort of informal clusters of friendship
that form through being part of a scene.
And so, the Agnes is here
doing great programming and activating those kinds of informal spaces.
And then there’s actual efforts
within the curatorial staff here
to create these playgroup structures which at least you participated
in my little thing was sort of a riff on.
So, Michelle and Sunny have been trying to
continue building these playgroups around each
of their exhibitions, which are kind of named
sites of where dialogue is meant to happen.
And I believe in that approach, I think. Like, that’s kind of why I like the shadow curator approach
is that it names, this is the place
where critique is going to happen, or some
kind of outside perspective is going to emerge.
And sometimes that’s necessary
to give a nudge in that way. I don’t know — do you have
anything to say about that.
Yeah, so, we have those things going at least. >> Yeah. Does anybody want to share?
I know we’ve started touching base
on it but is there any other thoughts about what areas might need re-imagining
or how we can care a little bit more
for our role in the institution?
[ Silence ]
>> I have like a thing that I’m working
on that I want to really reimagine which should present a resource
for curatorial education.
And that’s re-imagining the
afterlife of exhibitions.
I seem to have a kind of ghost afterlife thing,
but it’s something that I’ve been working
on in relation to the Guest +
a Host = a Ghost Project. And this paranormal curation thing which is to
recast learning programs or exhibition projects
as open educational resources, and think about
what that would mean to recodify an exhibition
in a way that it could be become a
resource to teach what actually goes down
or what goes on in exhibition cultures. And so, this could involve things like writing
scores about how a project came to fruition
or telling stories about this kind
of otherwise hidden informal context
where curating happens and things like that.
And so, I’m excited about that idea. I keep bugging Sunny about this. And it helps that we can explore it.
And another thing that I think this opens up, or another thing that I’m excited
about with that approach is
that it would also reimagine the
way that exhibitions get toured. And this is something I haven’t
talked to Sunny about,
but if you could codify an exhibition as
an open access resource, then you can share
that with other institutions of the same
scale and create this kind of opportunity for institutional remix where you’re playing
out a score for an exhibition or something
in your own way, and then modifying the
resource as you go and things like that.
So, those are some tangents that I wanted
to just share just stuff I’m thinking about.
>> Thanks, Neven.
>> Open-Source exhibition is a really compelling
and I imagine somewhat terrifying proposal.
I think what that really touches on for me
is this idea of authorship and expertise
that gets really tied into
the field of curation. I work collaboratively a lot and I think
within public art museums particularly
I mean that’s my experience —
the idea of collaboration is still
something that is a little bit,
it’s not as common perhaps as you would think. So, I mean there are organizations
that work together on exhibitions
but what does that actually mean? So, what does it actually
mean to be in collaboration or in dialogue in order to build an exhibition?
And, at times, in my own experience I’ve
found that I think that there is an assumption
that a collaboration indicates that
everyone is either doing the same thing,
or that somebody loses control
of their own authorship.
And so that’s why I think what Neven’s
proposing becomes a really compelling,
but potentially terrifying,
idea for a lot of people. But perhaps it’s a way to
really open up the space
of discussion around where ideas come from. So, ideation is never uniquely
within one person.
>> Hello. Okay. I feel I have to check every time now.
I’m thinking about something that was said in
the previous panel by Emelie about the way that architecture
plays to construct this narrative.
And I’m thinking about because I was in
a few meetings about Agnes Reimagined,
and they were consulting Indigenous students
about what kind of space you would want when you do engage with sacred, ceremonial
Indigenous objects within the Agnes collection.
And on the flip side of that, I was
also in meetings with the conservation
because I have a Master’s
in Conservation at Queen’s. And they wanted my experience as
a student being in that program.
And so now that I’m seven years here,
seven or eight years, and I’m very familiar
with the space, I would like to see a space, and
I’ve mentioned this in other meetings, [chuckle]
but I’m just going to make it public, a space that is more open and integrated
between conservation and curatorship
because I’ve worked in, interned
at a number of institutions
where the conservation work is dependant
upon what the curator and the show is on,
and has no respect for the
object that we’re working on.
Because there’s been a lot of times
were working with a senior conservator,
and they voiced their issues to a
curator, and the curator is like, “well,
it needs to be done, so, figure out a way.” And that’s just not healthy [chuckle] at all.
And I see it in this space. Conservation building is a completely
separate building from the Agnes,
and I feel like it would be really cool
if you had offices where both staff
and students are working more
collaboratively together. And the same with curatorial studies.
I am just finding out today that
there is curatorial studies. I had no idea [laughing]. I’m like there’s curator studies here.
What? I was very shocked. Anyway, that’s what I would like
to reimagine: our relationships
between the people within the museum field.
>> I guess I have to up myself. I did not come from an arts background.
I started doing this work before I started
reaching out for an arts education.
Most of these works are done prior to,
so I always feel I’m in a constant mode
of catching up, and try to educate myself.
I think for me, at the moment, it’s a very
privileged place to think about re-imagining.
You need to have the resources, and the
capacity to be able to think about re-imagining.
I’m also involved with the Vietnamese community. And we’re trying to build the
first elders care in Ontario.
And the sad fact is the task is
so momentous that by the time that we get it done we’re not going to be able
to serve the generation that
it’s meant to serve. So, in the meantime we’re thinking of ways
how can we still help them while we’re trying
to set this up. So, in the Queer communities, I also find that
so many of my peers are in survival mode.
So, I guess at the moment, I’m more
interested in this kind of working
in that mode, more so than re-imagining.
But I find that there are a wide
spectrum of what the now can look like,
and that I feel like it just it resonates
with me more than this kind of reimagining.
>>Thank you for generously
sharing with us your thoughts.
I’m going to open it up to the
audience while we think about the future
and reimagining for the last 20 minutes.
There’s the microphone that you can come,
ask your questions and converse with us.
>> While people are contemplating
their questions. I wanted to add an example thinking about
Vince’s, the work that you just shared.
I think one thing that I really desire when
I’m in these kinds of conferences or spaces
of dialogue is specific strategies. And I’ve been working with
modelling, not modelling,
but looking at different
models quite extensively
as thinking about the offering of precedent. And not necessarily as ways to replicate
these models but as just suggestions or pushes
into certain directions that maybe
hadn’t otherwise been thought through In the current exhibition that I
co-curated with Eli Hirtle at Open Space
which just opened a couple weeks
ago called for Love, Loss, and Land,
there is one artwork that is a fairly large
installation, and it’s called Laying Flowers
and it’s by a Michif
artist named Rain Cabana-Boucher.
And what it is is an installation of a tiny,
beaded orange flower for every single grave
that has been uncovered on residential school
sites across Canada, what’s now known as Canada.
And in thinking about installing this
work within the exhibition space,
Eli and I had extensive conversation
between ourselves as well as with our Elder
In Residence which Open Space
is really a privilege to have.
And Rain and the other artist Jinny Yu
whose work is paired with Rain’s work
in the exhibition space, about what
it means to support people coming
into the exhibition space
to experience this work. So, not only are we thinking about what
it means to support the general visitor
but also what does it mean to support the
staff going into that space every day,
our Indigenous staff, the non-Indigenous staff. What does it mean to support survivors
that are going into that space?
What does it mean to support the general public
who have knowledge to some degree I mean that
or the knowledge and understanding
of residential school and the history of Canada varies across every demographic.
And then how do we support people
in learning or learning further.
And one of the things that we actually built into the exhibition space was
a respite and resource room.
So, we have this funny little
mezzanine and a little resource room
space that we’ve been using it
as a resource room underneath it. And what we’ve done is curtain off one
section and we use soft white curtains.
We use curtains instead of doors because
curtains are something that most people are used
to using and touching, and so that people
wouldn’t feel uncomfortable opening
or closing the curtains. There’s a couch in there. There’re some reading materials.
There’s also some sage for
smudging and a smudge bowl.
And we separated it off because there are
people who have offices on the mezzanine,
but then they won’t have to pass
through this reading resource area.
And this idea actually came from another
colleague of mine in Victoria who works
at the Legacy Art Gallery Lorilee Wastasecoot,
who had organized a number of years ago
with Andrea Walsh in exhibition on
artworks by residential school survivors.
And one thing that she had said, while we
were converging in a gathering of curators
on Vancouver Island, was that she had wished
that there had been a space for people
to just step out for a minute and kind of catch
their breath, and have a little bit of a place
to be with their thoughts, or to regather
themselves but not have to leave the exhibition.
And so, what we did was we adopted and adapted
this idea that Lorilee had presented in order
to make this space within our gallery. So, thinking back to Emelie’s point about
architecture, and somebody else mentioned that,
about architecture, to think more about,
again, this flexing to what the exhibition
and the artist need, as opposed to what
is convention within an art museum.
So, it’s not really, I imagine that a lot
of spaces wouldn’t be able to do smudge,
we’re an artist-run centre, we
have a little bit more freedom. Plus we own that, Open Space owns its own
building, so there’s different parameters there.
But just adding these elements that
essentially are elements of care
within the exhibition space can make
a quite a significant difference,
and then can lead to other changes [chuckle]. [ Silence ]
>> Paige, I wonder if that’s an opportunity for you to talk
about the spaces you created in your exhibition.
>> Okay. [Laughter] Yeah, I wasn’t
sure if you had an actual question
because I was going to fill the silence. So, I didn’t really talk about my exhibition
layout in my talk, just what led up to that.
But yeah, the other part of the inspiration
for my exhibition was I participated
in the Wet’suwet’en March led by students
and faculty, and staff here at Queen’s.
And that was really powerful
for me because I was one of the drummers who was leading the march.
And then following that march, we
ended up at a talk with Ellen Gabriel
who is art and activist from Kanehsatake.
And she was one of the main
Alanis Obomsawin’s 270 Years of Resistance.
So, I got to meet her, and I
was wearing my full regalia. I had my drum. And then I just got up to
talk to her after her talk.
And I just I froze. I didn’t know what to say [chuckle].
And I was like hi
And then she was very natural,
and she reminded me of my auntie.
So, then we got to talking and it’s like
okay, you’re amazing, awesome.
And so, that really inspired me to create and
honour these indigenous people who are sometimes
at the face of extreme opposition, and
military violence, and racial bigotry.
Like I know a lot of Indigenous
students, not myself personally, but a lot of Indigenous students during the
Tyendinaga rail blockades were yelled at;
they were cursed at. They had a bunch of racial slurs
that were said to them in passing.
And so, it was a really tense time and,
obviously, it was mostly privileged people from Toronto who were inconvenienced
that the via rail was down.
And they couldn’t take the train
to from Kingston to Toronto. And they were complaining
that they had to take the bus.
So, I just wanted a space where we could
uplift these inspiring Indigenous people again,
and be proud of who we are. You know Because it was during that time, it was
really tense, and we were really down.
And there was another incident in Fall of 2019
in a residence in first year where they put
up on a bulletin board, a bunch of
god-awful things that I’m dare not repeat.
And so, I needed a way for
myself and to uplift others.
And so, I created this space. And the main aspect of this space was healing.
Because it’s not just, it wasn’t me
personally, but it was a lot of my friends.
And the only safe space that they had
to talk about that was Four Directions. There’s not really any other
Indigenous space on campus.
So, we came together, talked about
it, and then after those few weeks
of chaos, pandemic hits [chuckle]. And then I was isolated, and it
gave me a lot of time to think,
and I was ruminating for a long time. And then I realized I need an outlet
to uplift these people, my people,
Like just all friends that are
completely traumatized by this event.
So, it was really important for me
to have an ancestor, the water drum,
along with the sacred medicines because it
confronts you with a space of contemplation,
and reflection, and healing, first and foremost. A space where you can just breathe, and be
in the presence of those sacred medicines
and feel the energy that’s coming off of them. So, that when you enter that space, and when
you exit that space, it offers a way to,
like Jan Hill said in the welcoming reception, just release the burdens
that you have at the door.
You’re going to take on those burdens
when you go through the exhibition. You’re going to be confronted with those burdens.
But when you come back out, you leave it
at the door, or you can take it with you.
It’s your choice. Yeah. Miigwech.
Any other questions? >> Maybe that’s a nice place to end, and to
think about going into the next workshops.
And, tomorrow, as we move outside the
institution to FAR what that means
in this dialogue and conversation. So, thank you, for sharing your time
and knowledge, and your hearts with us.
[ Applause ]
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