Emelie Chhangur, Bopha Chhay, Pamila Matharu and Maiko Tanaka
Moderator: Nasrin Himada
This panel explores the practice of curators who are driven by process, collaboration, building relationships, and transforming the conditions of the traditional gallery space and public program. Invited speakers highlight curatorial methodologies that allow for indeterminacy in process and emergent forms of experimentation. This incentive takes on a timeframe in which the project itself demands as it unfolds, despite institutional limitations. These curatorial processes create conditions for us to gather, and their impetus is to activate community engagement and input from artists, students, community members and faculty. Inspired by Pamila Matharu’s concurrent exhibition at Agnes, Where were you in 92?, the invited panelists discuss the imperative ways in which exhibition-making and public art programming can be community driven, and can function, as Emelie Chhangur has expressed, “at the intersection of the civic and the pedagogical.”
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…Emelie Chhangur, Bopha Chhay, Pamila Matharu and Maiko Tanaka
Moderator: Nasrin Himada
Use CTRL+F to find key words if it is a longer transcript.
>> Nasrin Himada: This panel’s going to be
full of jokes and laughter, so just get ready. Welcome everyone to this fourth
day of the summer institute.
I’m so excited to see a lot of faces here
that I haven’t seen in the last few days.
And hi Michelle, hi Ellyn.
So I’ll get going. OK. So my name is Nasrin Himada, I’m
the Associate Curator here at Agnes
of Academic Outreach and Community Engagement. I’m also a curator of contemporary
art outside this institution as well,
especially my true love has
always been cinema and new media. And I’m very much connected to thinking
through that framework all the time.
I also want to acknowledge that we
are on the lands of the Anishinaabe
and the Haudenosaunee and
I am of Palestinian origin.
My ancestors come from Palestine. I’m always thinking about being in
between worlds that of Palestine
and that of being here on these lands. Thinking a lot about liberation,
through the ways in which I try to create
space when it comes to exhibition making
and programming and just in my life
generally, and in the relations that I build. Oh hi Sebastian.
So happy to see you. So yeah, thank you all for being here.
I’m going to just kind of do — because
I know all these amazing people. And I just — I’m going to in some
ways the entire panel is going
to be an introduction to their incredible work. But just to say a little bit about
why I organized this and my intention.
Emelie, Maiko, Bopha and Pamila have
been these great inspiration to me,
in regard to how we can think
differently about conditioning spaces
for gathering, and for being together. And for building trust and for thinking about —
we’ve been thinking a lot about care with Tian,
and I feel like their practice really is
such a good example of how we practice care,
how we practice being with each other, how we
practice, in some ways, trusting each other
and thinking together about
how to really conduct — like how to transform the spaces that we’re in.
And also how to transform ourselves. And I think often we’re thinking
externally, but I also feel like the work
that these incredible curators and artists do
is about also internal transformation that,
that also affects what goes on around. And so I want to — yeah, everyone
knows Emelie Chhangur
Who is the Director and
Curator at Agnes who’s my boss, but today,
But today I’m not talking to you as my boss. >> Emelie Chhangur: Right off the bat. OK. Got that out of the way.
>> Nasrin Himada: But who I
feel like I’ve been watching and thinking about Emelie’s work for years.
And I’m just so excited that you said yes to
this invitation to think also about in-reach,
which is a methodology that you practice, and
that you bring into the spaces where you work.
And thinking through the relationship between
pedagogy and the civic and we’re going to talk a little bit about that today.
And then Maiko Tanaka, who is
a close, dear friend of mine, who I feel like I became interested in curation
because of the work that Maiko did in Toronto
and in Buffalo and elsewhere, at TSV in Toronto. And one of the programs we’re
going to maybe hopefully talk
about today are — is extracurricular. That was the first time that I
was really introduced to the idea
of thinking about pedagogy and curation. And that that for me was such a — an
important event years ago, 2009, yeah.
And then Bopha Chhay is —
was the curator and director of Artspeak for many years in Vancouver.
And I have been in total admiration
of the work that you do on the ground,
in your neighbourhood, Artspeak’s neighbourhood. And the way that you think about community
relations and the art gallery as a space
that opens up onto community and thinking through the different relationships
that you’ve built in Gastown.
And then Pamila Matharu, who has been — who’s been installing her incredible research
project and exhibition space at Agnes.
Please if you haven’t yet checked
it out to do that afterward. The show is up until December.
It’s called Where Were You in ’92. And I feel like the ways in which you created
that space was this really incredible way
of thinking about counter archive, as you
have brought to my attention your practice
of counter archiving, and to thinking through
mentorship and the ways in which to give space
to someone that really inspired
you, who’s Winsom Winsom. To think about artists from programs
like Fresh Arts back in the ’90s,
in terms of how they have impacted
many generations, and continue to do
so through your own mentorship, and
the way that you are also a teacher.
I think that’s so incredible
to think about artist as curator and also as mentor and teacher.
So yeah, welcome. And I think I’ll get going on our first
question, and it’s for you, Pamila.
We’re going to start there.
OK. So since this panel’s inspired by your
research project, Where Were you in ’92.
And I wanted you to talk — just talk,
to us talk to this beautiful audience
about your trajectory as an artist,
your love for Winsom Winsom,
and yeah why archives are important to you?
>> Pamila Matharu: Started
from the margins now I’m here. That’s a joke guys.
Thank you so much for this
invitation, Nasrin, Emelie,
for inviting me to take up space here at Agnes. It’s my first solo museum project in
Ontario and Canada, and I, you know,
I guess those things don’t
matter in the long run. But yeah, yeah, here I am.
So I come from Treaty 13 Tkaronto,
Toronto, that’s where I live and work.
And I was born in the West
Midlands in the UK, aka Birmingham,
which is second largest city to London. It’s a beautiful city, you should definitely put
it on your itinerary next time you’re in the UK.
And at two and a half, in May of 1976,
my family arrived to Rexdale, Ontario,
and then we moved to Concord, North York. And then I moved out on my own
to Toronto around late ’30s.
So — which was, you know, for a Gen X that
wasn’t very common, but now for millennials
and xennials, sandwiching
and whatnot is very common. So I did it first.
No. So my roots are from
Punjab, and I’m Punjabi Sikh. And this is all important in terms of
how I got to Fresh Arts and Winsom,
so I’m just going to give
you some of that background. And West Punjab is now Pakistan, sorry, India.
And East Punjab is now Pakistan. So Punjab was split in two and then Punjab and India was split five times,
or a total of five times.
And we just had the 75th
anniversary of partition on Monday. So yeah, there’s still like active wounds there.
In around 1984, my family moved to
Willowdale in North York, I was in grade six.
But by the time I go through middle school
— junior high we called it in North York, and I got to A. Y. Jackson
Secondary School, the William Clark
and Roger Messenger were very much
trailblazers in art education. And I say this because they were also some
of my preliminary models, I would say.
But unfortunately, five days
before my 16th birthday, my father took his own life
and I found him hanging.
And that kind of froze me, I would say. And one day I’m in class, I mean I’m just
kind of playing class clown, as I do now too.
But you know — that we have learnt
through people and humans that, you know,
this is a mode of survival at times. And Mr. Clark saw through my depression
I think and before I even recognized it
and — that what I was dealing with. And I disclosed — he asked me to enter
his office, he saw me drawing something
and he asked me to enter his office. I was like OK. And his grandson was often around and
he’s like six or seven and I was like,
why is this seven year old
like here in high school? Like OK in the middle of the day. But what I found out was — after I
disclosed what had happened that summer,
Mr. Clark told me that his
daughter was suicidal. And so he has to take care of his grandson.
So he immediately then transfers me from
regular visual arts to the gifted art program
in A. Y. Jackson and it was
before we amalgamated our board. It was very much a — we went head to head
with like Earl Hague, you might have heard
like Claude Watson and Earl Hague like — I’m thinking of someone like
Carmel Clark Davis went to Hague.
So like, you know, there’s —
and Sherry, went to Wexford. So there’s like these five
kind of arts schools in TDSB.
But — and then there’s also enrichment
programs, advanced programs and gifted programs. So I say this because — yeah I mean
I was learning art history and art —
western art history for Mr. Clark,
but nothing was really reaching me. And then in 1992 my grades
didn’t really get me into York.
But I got this Herbert H. Carnegie award, who
is the first black hockey player in Canada.
So something to note. And scholarship — and then
I went — I bounced around. I wish I didn’t pay to bounce around the way
kids bends around high school these days.
But I went to Ryerson U of T Continuing
Education, OCA, when it was known as OCA,
and in spring of ’94 I end up at York finally. And I kind of went through the
backdoor through, you know,
Atkinson College, which doesn’t exist anymore. And then I have like two strikes
that I endured over eight years,
five failed courses, because I came out. It was beautiful. Which is like, a queer pedagogy in itself.
And then I get into consecutive BEd, I
don’t know how but I — they let me in.
And I finished with this distinction BEd,
but I failed five undergraduate courses. So I’m just shy of an honours.
I’m just disclosing this
publicly first time in my life. And then that summer of ’94, I see an ad at the
back of Now magazine, remember Now magazine?
And remember how thick the
sex ads were, oh my gosh. They had this little ad buried about,
you know, a youth arts program.
And it’s Fresh Arts. I start calling the office because pre-internet, which some of you might, in
the room, might remember.
And I’m calling, calling, calling
and they don’t answer the phone. And it’s like, they finally answer the phone.
And I’m like, I need to be in the visual arts. And they’re like, no, we’re at capacity.
We’re full. But we’ll ask the arts leader. And I’m like, OK. I eventually get on the phone
with Winsom and she’s like,
why do you think you need to be here? And I’m like, because I’m like bored as
fuck in North York and you got to let me in.
And what happened was between
the second time I called and the third time I called I’m
listening to the Masterplan Show.
Does anybody remember the Masterplan Show. It’s still existing. Oh hey, how you doing? And Masterplan Show is the longest running Hip
Hop show on CIUT radio, and it was cofounded
by Motion, Wendy Brathwaite, who
was one of the mentors in, you know,
she was only a couple of years older than me. But she was mentoring the spoken word. And so when you’ll see in my show, I speak
of the Young Street Uprising and whatnot.
I came in two years after right, so 1982. And that was because the government was, or the
funding bodies were going to cut the funding
if they didn’t raise the buns in the seats. So I get in — I get in as a racialized youth. That’s the year they allowed — so it was only
specifically for Black and Indigenous youth.
And I was the first cohort for
the really racialized youth. And basically, Fresh Arts was a very
groundbreaking multidisciplinary arts program
funded by Jobs Ontario Youth,
which was created by Bob Rae, after the report that Stephen Lewis wrote,
which was called Report on Race Relations.
So and this was a youth employment
strategy, Jobs Ontario Youth,
funded by the Ontario government. And then Fresh Arts came about because
four women came together with Bob Rae.
One of them was the advisor, a special
adviser to the NDP government, Lillian Allen, Marie Mumford, who is based in
Peterborough, Trent University.
And she’s like some special designated
funded — what is that call SSHRC,
or no is Canada Research
Chair, something, something. I don’t know. Me and academia, I don’t know.
[Inaudible] and Winsom Winsom. So this artist led program was specifically for
— made for Black youth and Indigenous youth.
And the Black Arts, I would say yeah, it’s part of the Black Arts
Movement in Canada, I’d like to say
But it’s not been recorded anywhere. So Emelie gave me an opportunity to
record — put on record, you know,
this existence that I have been embodying for
a long time and probably driving her crazy
because I always come back to, well
back in 1990s, and because, you know, she’s done work in Jane and Finch, of
course, with in-reach and Scarborough,
and all these amazing things, and I
always try to acknowledge the past, right.
Because she’s also worked with Mishime. And I’m like, you got to go before that. You know, so there is a trajectory there.
For me just to answer your
— rest of your question. So one other thing, it’s a
multidisciplinary program, writing, theatre,
spoken word, music, dance and visual arts. And I think visual arts has not gotten it’s, you
know, it’s play from like the way Kardinal Offishall
or Jully Black, or Saukrates, or all these
people have gotten to be on press and on record.
And then there’ll be one line about Fresh Arts. And I’m always like, dang, like why
can’t you guys elaborate, you know.
Like you’re here now. Because, you know, like we’re here but like
Toni Morrison says, your job is to lift.
You get here, now you lift, don’t waste time. Close the gaps, right, So it’s grounded me from
then to now informed and influenced my teaching,
my arts practice — sorry, I need notes
because I’m ADD, 100% community engagement
and collaboration, arts advocacy, artists led
facilitating coaching, teaching, mothering, caring, foster parenting, at times.
And cultural production. And a Fresh Arts summer Winsom looks at
me and says, I got something for you.
And I was like, what’s that? And she turns the corner
on Sweet 906 at 96 Spadina,
and she’s like, you need to meet some folks. And I was like, who are they?
It’s Desh Pardesh. She saw me coming out before
I saw my coming out, you know. So Desh Pardesh, and then, you know, from there
the next summer Jobs Ontario Youth were like,
you know what, we want you to get more exposure. I meet Dr. Amah Harris from
Theatre in the Rough.
From there I meet, in that cohort, I
meet Db Young, Clair Yao, who’s —
her mom was like a very amazing Asian social
justice leader in the Chinese community.
Tanisha Cherie Baghetta,
who’s Chris Chantiz’ niece.
He’s a poet. And I forget the last person
who’s based in San Francisco,
and now is like a council — city councillor. But anyways, we’re like these like young women. And we’re — our project was
to make a guide for youth.
How to deal with police. Right. So this trajectory for me, I’ve always
been adjacent and in proximity to black thought,
and black cultural production,
black feminist cultural production. And I guess this is my way of not just
like citing it, but saying it publicly
that we all learn from black culture. Let — you want to stop talking
about white supremacy, talk about the other communities you learn from.
Right. And share from. Like that’s it. So then I go back to Winsom,
and I’m like now what?
And she’s like, keep going, go
now and penetrate the centre. And I was like what does that mean?
Because, you know, when I hear
penetration, I’m just like — OK what are you saying to me, right?
And then I was — I meet Judith Tatar at
Tatar Alexander, and the rest is history
around my commercial kind of
— like I worked for dealers
and private collectors and
philanthropists after that. And I met the Greens and the Zeidlers
and, you know, they were very,
very influential around learning about in
proximity to philanthropists too, you know,
so I’m not going to discount that experience. Like rich white folks, oh my
God, yes, in the arts, you know.
And then 1997 out of Desh Pradesh, I was
a co-founding steering committee member
of South Asian Visual Arts Collective, which
is now called South Asian Visual Arts Centre. But it’s a gallery less arts — artist centre.
And then from there, I went to PADC. And then around — from PADC
I got, like that time period
which is Professional Art Dealers of Canada. And then I learnt about,
oh my gosh, like, donations.
You know, I had to write up donation reports. So I know the — I know who, you know, there’s
probably like less than ten families in Canada
that really contribute to
the visual arts sector. OK, and Bader’s.
And my first curatorial experience
was come out of SAVAC,
it was called Dirty Laundry
and Parting Thoughts. And I go back to one of the people that
Winsome introduces to me Zahoor ul Akhlaq,
who had just come back representing
Pakistan at the Venice biennial.
And he gave me those paintings. >> Wow. >> Pamila Matharu: Which for 25 — shy of
just — shy of 25 curator, I was like what?
You’re going to do what? And he’s like, try not to like, you know,
just make sure like the shipping containers
and like don’t break it up and all that. And I was like, that’s all
you’re going to say to me?
And that’s what he did. And then come 1998 — I just asked Emelie.
I’m like was Marilyn with me or did
we meet on our own at the power plant? She was trying to sell me this
multiple — and I’m like, what?
Power Plant handed a nonwhite brown woman. Like I got to meet you.
And then I just did — never
stop bugging Emelie since. But yeah, we — that’s —
we’ve been jamming since then.
Right Em? Yeah. Twenty years? >> Nasrin Himada: More than. >> Pamila Matharu: Like so the summer
of ’92, that’s 30 year anniversary.
So yeah, it’s like between 25, 28 I don’t know. >> Oh wow. >> Pamila Matharu: Who knows numbers.
>> Nasrin Himada: Thank you. >> Pamila Matharu: Let’s decolonize that. >> Nasrin Himada: Thanks, Pamila.
There are so many things there. And you know, there are a lot of, I mean,
there’s SAVAC and there’s so many organizations
that are just so important in
Toronto that have been such a space for many racialize artists and
continue to be so important.
And I feel like, yeah, it’s so
— thank you for mentioning that. >> Pamila Matharu: Yeah, for sure, for sure. >> Nasrin Himada: OK, I’m going to
actually read out this question, Maiko,
because I don’t want to mess it up.
Since extracurricular had such an impact on me
as a curator, but also paved the way for so much
to happen in Toronto when it came to
the relation between the curatorial and pedagogy practices based in research, how
they were essential to creating the conditions
for collectivity to form, can you speak about
this event, how it came about, what you recall,
and what impact that had on your
practice as a curator and writer?
>> Maiko Tanaka: Hello. Hey first, thanks for having me. Nice to see everyone.
So now I’m inspired by Pamila
to like do a trajectory.
But just for context, I guess I’m
going to start from art school.
So I went to OCAD. My fourth year, I was in the
criticism curatorial practice.
By fourth year, I was really dissatisfied
and disillusioned because it felt
like every classroom, every class
was just not creatively taught.
Like it was just, you know, I mean some
teachers I had really incredible teachers.
But the way it was structured felt like not breaking any boundaries
around the — how we learn.
And learning as an artistic
practice or teaching, you know. Or even like how those things can
be breaking — broken down too.
So in my fourth year, I decided to create a — for my thesis project an
underground art school for one night.
We called it a night school. After School Supplemental. And I became the director.
And I like — I had the director portrait and I
had this whole outfit with like thick glasses.
And it looked like Rosemary
Donegan, I was trying to like — I don’t know if you remember Rosemary? Yeah. And then I had like a whole, you
know, director’s message for the night.
And basically curated different artists
and artists lectures, pretending this was
like a real after, you know, night school. And, you know, installations and performances,
like Luis Jacob’s Anarchist School Minutes.
And [inaudible] violin lessons that — and the Amos Fletcher’s lecture
models, and Irene Moon on cockroaches.
And the — it just felt really
like vivid and alive and fun.
And I think at that time, I was like — it was basically just imagining
and making happen what I wanted
to see more of, or like be involved in more of. And I didn’t think at the time
of things like I didn’t —
wasn’t exposed to pedagogy of
the oppressed, Paulo Freire, which became really important for me later.
And the idea of like, going against
the banking model of education, where you’re like depositing
knowledge into a person — a learner.
But also like for the oppressed
like, it’s not about learning about the world but making the world.
And so that, you know, when
I was exposed to that, that’s like start to get a language for it.
So then what happened next. So but then I was in — when I was
doing that someone introduced —
one of, I think was [inaudible] who said,
hey, you know, you should meet Janna Graham. She’s like across the way
at the AGO, and she’s started —
she’s working on this amazing Teen
Council Program where she — when I —
I don’t remember when we spoke if she was
articulating this way, but what I remember about it was, it’s like an — like
again the education departments,
like the underground school,
they’re always on the bottom floor. And not seen, you know, in the gallery.
I mean yeah. And, of course, you know,
Janna Graham too, yeah. And she was like — it was like having
students instead of taking these art classes,
using the floors above as
content and knowledge to — and then expressing themselves
down on the floor.
It was having them infiltrate up into the
galleries and like ask really good questions
about boundaries, and who’s allowed
to be in the space and what objects are in the space, how they got there.
And then I remember like a
skateboarding project with — where they were like looking at like barriers.
But also, you know, this kind of activity that’s
seen as not high art or like it’s appropriate.
And like thinking about age
in a completely different way.
So that was very exciting to hear about. And I wasn’t really connecting
it to politics at the time.
Like at OCAD I wasn’t —
had the language for that. Like that it was about making your own space
and finding a way to also find joy and fun
and improvisations in learning together. So that was a great model.
But she already had this like critical pedagogy
language that I was starting to learn and start to read Henri Lefebvre — or not — no
[inaudible] that she was reading in Kingston.
She actually went to Kingston. So then I went to Justine M. Barnicke
Gallery, which is now Art Museum Toronto.
And I was working with Barbara
Fischer as a technical coordinator. And then eventually became — we had a
common interest in education and art like —
and like conceptual artists who were doing,
you know, we did this program called Video — Instructional Videos by Artists, and inspired
by David [inaudible] Projects class at NSCAD,
where he had different artists like even
famous artists like John Baldessari give
like assignments to students to like
engage with space and their surroundings.
So we did that. But then I started to like — when I started my
residency, I was like this feels limiting still.
Like there’s — it’s fun to see artists play
with educational models and like break down some
of the, you know, in ironic ways, like
— but it wasn’t like participatory,
or there was something about
it still that felt like — there was very few artists that was
telling us this and making this commentary.
But — so then I — around 2006 I think or ’07, is when I started my research,
it was a two year residency.
And that time in Europe there was this
whole thing called the Bologna Accord
that was taking place. And it’s basically this — like
European education is known to be
so like back then free — like for so long free and in art there was this apprentice
master model or like studio model.
And I mean there’s problems with those too,
but it was just this really different idea. And Bologna Accord was this thing across
Europe that was going to mimic or model off
of the American model, which
is the neoliberal like model of having education be commercialized,
and having it be —
getting people to be trained to become
workers, and to become part of this —
these systems and be– it’s like STEM
is maybe an outcome of that later.
So — and then tuitions were going
— like actually getting really high. And in the UK there were a lot of
protests and organizing against that.
And again Janna Graham pops up. She’s part of many different
collectives, Careworkers Collective,
work with interns to politicize and
having them fight for their rights to — for their labour to be paid or
to be acknowledged and be part
of a system of making decisions together. And then — but another one
where she co-organized a summit
for radical education collectives
to come together in response
to the Bologna Accord and
everything that’s happening. And that’s when I learnt about these amazing
radical collectives like La lleca, Pinky Show,
and Ultra-Red which she’s part of. And so — which is — it
started with Dont Rhine as a —
like AIDS campaign, I mean
activism, another sound collective.
But anyways, so then — and then in the
Netherlands, I was visiting Netherlands a lot
for research trips because my
partner Chris was also there. So I was just visiting him.
And I learnt — I met — there was like all
these conferences about education and art, like the pedagogical term, the educational term.
E-flux had this like really
legendary issue about this. I read Rogoff on turning.
I just remember all these — do you remember
those like — and every article was like —
became a conference, you know, topic. And people talking about museum educators
being sidelined in this conversation.
All of a sudden artists were the ones
who had this like expertise on how to like make more critical education.
But like what about, again, the — those
workers in the basement below and like —
so who was that, those Nora
Stansfield that wrote that one. There was like really good perspectives. And then so I went to this conference
seeing all these people speak.
And I was like it was really a thing. And then I was like I’m going to
do a version of this in Toronto.
And first it was like, OK let’s
do the thing about institutions and brought all these people
from institutional position.
And the second one was more like the summit. So like gathering all these radical collectives,
including three from the many
that were part of the summit. Because through, you know, like again this
emergence, like it turns out that like a friend
and this local artist Rodrigo
Hernandez was like in the collective of La lleca is basically Mexico City, they
were a group that was working with prisons.
And instead of art in prisons,
like could you imagine the more — the container model, the banking
model, like pacifying, you know.
They were challenged — they’re co-creating
and challenging ideas about masculinity
and in the prisons and doing really trans —
there was a word transversal
was going around then. Acts and together collective
like they did like a —
like what would a marriage
be with all of us together? And they would like build like
a huge pink spanner paper,
like the certificate of the marriage. And then they would perform — like they
were like what would the ceremony look like?
And they would do that. And they would do all their
other things that were like — there’s some gender dynamics
that were really challenging
and — but they were just going for it. And then Pinky Show is like a project in
Hawaii that was challenging like the —
they were like an Indigenous — like working
with thinking about decolonization in Hawaii,
and — but through like a cartoon of these
cute cats who are talking about this.
And they even had apps on art museums. Anyway, they came to Hawaii, Mexico
City, Ultra-Red with Janna Graham
and Elliott Perkins was the people who came. And then a bunch of local, Toronto
and Ontario collectives that were —
one, I can’t remember the name but with
Christine Shaw and Adrian Blackwell had a group that was part of post-Fordist
something — does anyone remember?
Post-Fordist, but basically,
they would work with — >> Days of Action?
>> Maiko Tanaka: No. It’s like — they work with like janitorial
staff, with the cafeteria, like the food workers,
the faculty, the students in these
more collected — or like unpack —
I don’t know if they actually did, but
that was this movement across those groups around the world that we’re thinking
about reoriented power relations
within educational institutions. Anyway, so there was some interesting stuff.
And people — so what was exciting
and like people just came — like Nasrin you were there as a
like whatever audience or whatever.
But then this project —
because of the collectives and they were enthralled with each other.
Like when they met and heard and saw what
they were doing, there was this respect. Because they were all working
in very specific contexts.
And so it’s like not something you would
compete with, not something you would compare. It was like there are people just learning
not to transfer those learning but to engage
and be in solidarity, and also care for
each other because it’s hard, that work.
So there was this like respect, love, care. We would spend time even just walking from
location to location between workshops.
Going to OISE on the top floor
where no one has a legal meeting and then again the next day
for a workshop about like —
>> Nasrin Himada: And always around each — >> Maiko Tanaka: Yeah. >> Nasrin Himada: Around
food, we went out dancing — >> Maiko Tanaka: Food, yeah. >> Nasrin Himada: It was just
like lots of hanging out.
>> Maiko Tanaka: Yeah, it was like
this — we couldn’t not be in this — you use the word orbit a lot, but
it felt like that kind of thing.
But not just the orbit but the asteroids
in between and the, you know, anyways —
It was working on this, this meta —
anyways, blah, blah, blah, that’s it, yeah.
>> Nasrin Himada: Thank you, Maiko. It was nice. I feel like I just have such
a strong memory of that. I think I went to everything.
And I remember being part
of the Pinky Show program. And it was the first time that I
was like, oh wow like workshops.
You were breaking boundaries around,
and so the structure of workshops, it was like a two day eight
hour hangout, basically.
And that’s what we did. We were just together for two days straight. Yeah. OK, Emelie.
Ah my hero.
I know you talk about this often, and I was
trying to figure out a way around in-reach,
that would be also exciting for
you to talk about it differently. Like whatever hasn’t come up for you around
in-reach and how you’ve been thinking about it
since you’ve been in Kingston and at Agnes. And also just, I know I said, I had sent you
the question and I said, why an emphasis —
[ Laughter ] You’re like a great orator,
you don’t need notes.
Why an emphasis on the civic. And I asked that because I feel
like space is very important to you.
I feel like this, even the city scape, the
space of Toronto was very important to you, and how this in-reach methodology
was in practice for you.
And now you’re in Kingston. And I know Kingston has become a place
that you also want to engage with
and think about through this methodology. And so just yeah.
>> Emelie Chhangur: Thank
you, thank you for inviting me on the panel to be with these amazing people.
I guess, I mean place. So, you know, I’ve thought a lot about
my work in Toronto since being here.
And I think that it was all about navigating
and negotiating a sense of belonging to a place.
But with the condition that
as a mixed race person, there was not a clear community
with whom I belong to.
So I think, I mean, in so many ways
I became a curator by accident.
Like a really different kind of path from
art school, and sculpture and installation
to theatre, to like sort of accruing a sense
of the need to be in relation to people
through collaborative frameworks. And the dramaturgy of that.
So I think of my time in Toronto as
like, especially my time at AGYU, is like a very long commitment to figuring
out how to belong to a place over time.
And this had bearing on the institutions of art.
So I find myself in the institutions of art. Which, you know, arriving in them were
obviously not built to support me.
But, you know, and being at The Power
Plant, since Pamila brought this up.
And move to the AGYU was sort
of the difference, or early — like 24 year old realization that I wasn’t
interested — if I was going to be a curator,
and I entered the curatorial field
because I thought it was open and free, and not disciplinary, and then like kind
of like, learn this otherwise, as it is.
But you know, making this decision that
what was important to me is I didn’t want to be a curator defined by
an institution or shape.
That was not my desire, my desire was not to
be like trained in a way that replicated sort
of mainstream sensibility
of what the curatorial was. But wanted to be someone who
would change an institution.
And moving to the AGYU was this moment,
you know, where downtown art community is
like why would you go all the way out there? And it was considered degraded, it
was considered out of the centre,
it was considered all the — and you know, this feeling of like why would
that be characterized that way.
When I actually thought it was super
liberating to not have to address the centre.
Anyway, sorry this is a little bit of a path.
But, you know, even being out of the centre and
still thinking about what it means to belong
to a place over time, you know,
I realized that the framework
of the institution itself didn’t allow
for a kind of participation in it.
I mean I felt that myself earlier on, but
working in collaboration with community
in particular local communities, you know,
I realized that the incommensurability
of the institutions of art to practice and
enact other kinds of cultural protocols,
social economies and ways of working, that
were outside of the sort of temporality
and conveyor belt of a kind of
framework that we didn’t really fit into.
Yeah. >> Nasrin Himada: What about Kingston? >> Emelie Chhangur: I’m like I want to push
this a little bit more because, you know,
it’s also — I feel like
I’m speaking abstractly, because it’s not grounded in projects. But I would say, you know, there are some very
definitive projects that I’ve learnt through —
over the years that have sort of eroded
the lines of the institution’s practice.
And, you know, I think, you know, the
first one I would name as the awakening,
which is a collaboration with a
Panamanian artist, Umberto Velez, that brought together young Parkour
and the Mississaugas of the Credit,
who I went on to have a like 12 year
kind of ongoing collaboration with. And it’s important to mention them
because I think that’s the
origins of in-reach in so many ways. And then a project with a
Trinidadian artist, Marlon Griffith,
that was a 300 person street procession,
that brought together the Mississaugas,
Capoeira practitioners, disability
dancers, and young spoken word poets and rappers from Jane Finch and Scarborough.
And then a film, Rise, which was a
collaboration with spoken word poets and rappers
and two artists from the Northeast of
Brazil, Barbara Wagner and Benjamin de Burca. And I’m saying these because I’m getting to
Kingston, because I also think that, you know,
this Transformations project and the
graffiti is very much in that line.
So I think I’ve rolled along with
these projects and these collaborators
because they were the only folks I could 00 to
find to build a kind of collaborative network
and be with them as we navigated the structures
and adopt some of those methodologies,
like Parkour of navigating structures in a way
that doesn’t follow the gridlines of a city.
Or I, you know, I think I always identified
as an outsider within the institution
and always sought to align
myself with other outsiders. But to work on the inside to
change why we feel like outsiders.
And it’s not I — I’ve been
thinking a lot about this, because it’s not about wanting
to belong to a system of power.
Like when I talk about like this
sense of belonging over time. It really was to, you know,
transform a social imaginary
and mobilize structures toward
And, you know, I thought about
these projects always kind of large scale, they’re kind of over the top.
But they always appropriate
existing dramaturgical forms.
Like the awakening civic
ceremonial, ring of fire. I don’t even think I mentioned the title of it, The Street Procession —
it was a street procession.
They’re all modes of public
address, that recast the characters
of these social dramas toward other ends. And they’re temporary.
I mean the projects making
happens for like three years. But usually they’re like a sort of 45
minute intervention in the public sphere.
And so civically speaking I mean, they’re
the relationship of pedagogy and the civic
to me has all kinds of bearing on
how you transform those structures.
Because it is modelling up and,
like pedagogically speaking,
modelling up other ways of
learning and being and doing. But I’ve always — and like this is like
my mixing ness too, like my attraction
to university galleries, which is also
like where I think one can model this kind of like change because you are, you
know, you have a pedagogical mandate.
But it’s a hybrid kind of institution. So it is funded by the government.
And so I’ve always thought of
the civic role of an institution, because it receives government money.
And so I think it must serve the
social function by distributing
that government money to other people. And I think that that’s distributed through
these networks of like the government,
the Canada Council, then the
art galleries that get them. So I’m always, of course, interested in
working with non-artists, or activists,
or street artists, or Parkour,
because I identify those practitioners
as already participating in transforming
how we learn and the civic sphere.
But I always was interested to bring
into relation, because I’m not —
I know I haven’t spoken about an object yet. Because I’m always sort of bringing
people like individuals and groups
who have no natural affinity together to
work together over long periods of time.
And that’s the curatorial work. But that relationality as the
curatorial, I’m also very interested
to bring city structures and
institutions into relation. So there’s always, you know,
within the curatorial set.
And for instance like Ring of Fire, with all these collaborators alongside them
it’s also the Ontario Legislative Assembly,
city hall, and 52 Division
of the Toronto Police. So I’m interested in taking up these
dramaturgical forums that are civic building,
and create the social imaginaries of a place,
and operating on them with these protagonists
that I’m collaborating with to transform them. So in-reach like begins within
an institution of art.
And then it sort of moved
out into the civic sphere. And, you know, inside the institution of
art that in-reach was also like how one bends
to meet the methodological demands of
the communities with whom one is working. That has bearing on timelines.
Like people don’t just do things like
on this, like three month rotation. That had everything to do
with like payment of fees.
And coming up with other sorts
of forms of like other kinds
of gift economies to be in relation with people. So people are feeling compensated,
but not through a monetary situation.
To then putting, for instance, Toronto City
Hall into relation with the Mississaugas
under the auspices of this
procession, which was also organized around the seven grandfather teachings.
So every time we were there, we were
enacting these teachings with the city.
And so in-reach started to have this kind of
operative influence on the very structures
that I was trying to navigate and belong to. So it was always about like
transforming things around me.
And now I’m a bit more cheeky
because I’m like, there’s — I don’t sort of practice
a discourse of inclusion.
I’m not interested in being part of your club. I — I’m really always trying to eliminate
assimilationist tactics of belonging,
like so everything else needs
to change around me. But, you know, when I was
younger it was like really
like how do you actually change these
situations by putting pressure on them.
But like not in a critique methodology. I’ve actually not been — this is something else
I’ve been thinking a lot about as I reflect.
It hasn’t been to critique, it’s
been to actually inhabit otherwise.
And so I mean the critique is always
there because we’re doing it differently.
But yeah, very true. Anyway, so sorry — I went on a bit of a
tangent, but I wanted to get back to Kingston.
And so anyway so this, you know,
in a way is a curatorial practice,
or a practice that bears
on institutional protocols.
And sort of in a move to
coming here I was, you know,
I always wonder can in-reach
become the institutional practice. And that’s sort of how I arrived here.
Thinking, you know, this is the opportunity to
really apply an ethos and methodology is in-reach
to the very system, structures, policies
and practices of the institution.
Not just have a bearing on it and
how you can transform it from within. But actually just transform it.
But now, you know, being here, I
also think there’s a limit to this.
Because one is still always operating
within a framework and a structure.
And if I’ve been interested in
dramaturgical structures for so long, I’ve become very interested
in architectural structures.
So I’m back to space. It’s always like there in the background
and occupying and taking up space
and transforming space through
alternative practices and world making. But now I’m like there’s actually the
very structures, atmospheres, altitudes.
And the way in which we like
walk in a front door.
You could be a really rad museum, but if you
still have a personae situation are you still
like — you start to recognize that actually the
architecture itself is like deeply pedagogical.
Especially at a university gallery. I mean this models up a form
of behaviour for all students
on this campus when they walk through the door. And there is an encounter that
teaches about values and class.
And so now I’m like — the institution
itself must become a practice.
So it’s not about bringing a practice to
an institution to transform it from within, the institution itself must become a practice,
an entirely different architecture
must be built around that. So to move away from it being a container
toward a proposition which all of these projects
and working collaboratively for three
years, we never knew where we were going, we followed the projects with what I call
eccentric curiosity, like with a dash eccentric.
And recalibrated as the project
took on its own life and shape.
And I’m wondering here, what does
that mean to do that architecturally? What does one — where do we want to be?
And what’s the methodology to do that inside the
institution based on the sort of methodologies
that I’ve learnt from working from a practice. Like I’ve gained strength in being able
to negotiate collaborative frameworks,
because I was taught by all of the people that
were operating in these projects, you know,
and to model up a consensus way of thinking. And to — so now it’s like — like
last night with Stephanie, I said,
I think that [inaudible] was an artist project,
like it was like an art project of mine.
But Agnes is a curatorial project,
like a deeply curatorial project
that actually is really thinking
hardcore around relationality.
And how things are brought together. And the institution itself is a
material to be worked with curatorially.
>> Nasrin Himada: Thank you. Thank you so much.
I’m like ready to work.
Bopha, Bopha Chhay, thank you so much for
being here all the way from Vancouver.
I feel like we are — although you’re
all being celebrated here right now,
Bopha just ended her tenure at Artspeak.
And I feel like this is a true celebration. I have been obsessed with
reading this interview.
I think I’ve read it twice. I can — you told me when it was
published and I totally — I forgot.
>> Bopha Chhay: Contemporary Home, that one? >> Nasrin Himada: Yeah. And I pulled out this quote, because I thought
it would be such a good place for us to start
in introducing your practice and
talking a little bit about it.
You said, I consider the
surrounding context and the community as providing a really specific
set of conditions and constraints.
We are part of the neighbourhood, we have a
responsibility to get to know our neighbours and understand the conditions in
which local residents live under
or are subjected to and the reasons why. How has this approach created the
conditions for your curatorial work
and the methodologies formulated
throughout your tenure at Artspeak?
>> Bopha Chhay: Firstly, thank
you so much to Nasrin and Agnes. This is like my heroes.
So it feels really nice.
So yeah, I just finished my tenure at
Artspeak, and have only slowly over the past,
I actually haven’t quite finished out —
there are a few things that I need to do. But technically yes.
So I haven’t really had much time to
reflect fully on what I’ve been doing.
Yeah. So this is like a really
wonderful opportunity to kind of think through a few of those things. And Nasrin, I know that we spoke a lot
about like what a slow methodology means.
And I think that’s something I really tried
to think very carefully about at Artspeak.
Because, well firstly, I grew up in
Altro, New Zealand and California.
So I spent a lot of time
travelling to be with my parents who lived on either side of the Pacific.
And I think, Emelie, you mentioned this,
like what does it mean to belong somewhere.
And I feel like that’s something I’ve been
kind of contending with, you know, personally
and professionally for a very long time. And in terms of Artspeak,
part of Artspeak, you know,
I’ve worked in several different
artist run centres. And I really liked the freedom
of artist run centres,
but also there are a lot of constraints. Such as, you know, being as part of
a staff of two you do all the jobs.
And so something you’re constantly
contending with is burnout.
So this method of slow, you know, I still
don’t really know what exactly I was thinking.
But it was really important for me to state
that at the beginning of my tenure there. Because I was really — I really didn’t
want to kind of replicate the systems
where I really felt like I was alienated
from, like very deeply alienated from.
So in terms of slow, I really felt like —
Artspeak has a mandate that is, you know,
to create the conditions for a dialogue
between visual arts and textual practices.
So language. So I was really thinking about
what it meant, what slowness meant,
and how that was holding me accountable to
not only myself to like slow things down,
because I feel like in the systems that we
work, we’re required to produce and tick so many boxes, and just work at a
pace that is like is not sustainable.
So I was really trying to think
about what is sustainable for myself
and other staff member and
a board of seven people.
And so a lot of the projects
that I was working on,
I was thinking what have
my favourite projects been. And all of them have been — like all
of them were my favourite projects.
But there were like four kind of highlights. And they were incredibly
slow and incredibly iterative
and maybe like punishing for some people. Like it’s just like the same thing.
But I’m like no, it’s different
this time, How is it different? So I was really with this idea of
slowness trying to build in time to reflect
because I feel like often
we don’t actually build that into our curatorial process or our writing.
Like I was speaking to a friend recently
and we’re always like one deadline behind.
And so I was like why is that? Like we really need to not make that a thing
that we’re just carrying around constantly.
It’s like this burden. So the four projects that I was,
you know, I’m really proud of,
because of all the different
people and different communities that were involved were a project
called Artspeak Radio Digest.
Which was a — it was — we were thinking about
publishing, but in the form of an audio journal.
Mainly because it’s really hard
to get money for publishing. So I was like, how do we do this.
And then also it was part
of this year long program that we’re running about writing and process.
And what it means to not just write
an edit, but also write and perform and like more embodied forms
of writing and speech.
And that was kind of run in conjunction with another program called the
Studio for Emerging Writers Program.
Which was a ten — again like a ten
month program, where it was a cohort
of eight to 12 younger — young writers.
Not just arts writers, but we did
want to focus on that because we kind of identified a few issues with what we saw
was going on and arts criticism and writing.
And so this was like a ten month program where
we invited artists every two weeks to come
and give workshops on how they think
about writing and language and text.
And that was really incredible and
we’ve run like ten, sorry, not ten — two different — two cohorts of that.
And then different variations on that. So that was kind of tied into the radio show,
which was with Vancouver Co Op Radio Station,
which is this incredible, not for
profit community radio station that has always been located like
one block away from Artspeak.
So we have this really long running
relationship with this radio station.
And their values are really similar
to ours in terms of like how we think about the neighbourhood, how we think
about workshops, like what’s needed.
And also just like making things accessible. So in terms of writing and language, and these
kind of long term projects and queries that kind
of spend, I guess several years
actually, not just one year or two years,
was thinking about language a lot in terms of —
because our neighbourhood is located in this —
the downtown — I don’t know if you
know the Downtown Eastside Gastown. It experiences incredible, contradictory
pressures and poverty and gentrification.
And so that kind of — that’s what
we’re in the middle of and, you know, part of our responsibilities
there that we need to know how
to administer Naloxone, we
need to know first aid. We’re constantly —
[ Inaudible Comment ] Yeah. So we’re trying to do all of that just because that’s our responsibility
being in that neighbourhood.
And I think that was really important
for me, because it made me —
it made me consider a wider — well think about
our responsibilities not just to our art peers,
like I didn’t really — no longer felt like I
was just speaking to the same kind of people about really particular niche interests.
Like it really had to be quite different. And prior to that I worked at 221A which
is an artist run Centre in Chinatown,
which also has really similar kind of social
conditions that you need to kind of think about.
So yeah, those were like the
two kind of main projects.
What’d I talk about Artspeak
Radio Digest, an expanded journal,
the Studio for Emerging Writers Program. There was one more.
The [inaudible] salon was something else
that a project that I did pretty early on with Denise Ferreira da Silva and Valentina
Desideri, which was thinking about healing
and what healing meant for
that particular community. And, you know, I’m still kind of thinking
about that one, because it could be perceived
as potentially pretty, wishy
washy and airy fairy. But I think it really opened out
to so many other ways of thinking.
And what healing is, and just different
methodologies and ways of thinking
and knowledge and how to speak actually. So you know, there was like Reiki, and there
were Tarot readings, and there are study groups.
And these are kind of things that
we continued throughout my tenure,
whether informally or not informally. And I think, Maiko, I was
thinking when you were speaking
about how these students were in the basement. I kind of like — sometimes I kind
of like being in the basement.
And sometimes a lot of our
programs were not for everybody. Like we have done quite a lot of programs
for really specific groups and communities
that are — we’re not in the basement,
but the doors are not open to everybody.
And, you know, I’ve had to justify
a lot of that to the arts community.
Nobody else. And I have no problems justifying why we need
to keep the doors closed to do certain things.
And I’m not always in the room
either, which is totally fine.
So yeah, I think I’ll end there for now. >> Nasrin Himada: Yeah, yeah. Thank you.
Thank you all so much. I feel like we’re on the [inaudible], it’s
11:06, so we’ve been going for an hour.
I do have more questions, but I did want to just
take a pause and open it up to the audience.
Also, feel free to take a
bathroom break or get a snack. But yeah, if the audience has any
questions or thoughts, we can take some now.
I’ll give you a few seconds. [ Background Sounds ]
>> Let me see if I can formulate
this in a meaningful way.
I think what I’m thinking about and I
admitted to Deirdre and Alison the other day
that I’m having a crisis of faith about my
long commitment to working in institutions.
So my question is —
Are your various intersections with art and
academic institutions necessary for your work,
or is your work necessary for your
survival, because you work in institutions?
That’s what I’m trying to figure out for myself. So I’d love to know what
you think about that topic.
>> Nasrin Himada: Thank you. I’m always going to — >> Emelie Chhangur: Do you mind. >> Pamila Matharu: I just want
to say one thing which is,
elder Duke Ellington said,
home is where the work is.
[ Laughter ] >> Emelie Chhangur: I like this question,
because I don’t know — I don’t know —
I don’t think I start — I didn’t start
out very well with this sense of belonging. But for me the — these projects that
I mentioned, are about my own survival.
And actually there is a reason that I
continually go back to working with groups
of folks who have no natural affinity, but
certainly share a lot of structural inequities.
Is I think a very autobiographical practice
of mine, which is constantly repeating a sort
of cultural negotiation as a mixed race person. And also I’ve gotten very good from my lived
experience of negotiating in between cultures.
And for me, it’s less about — even
though in-reach has had this impact
on institutional practice, for me, it is
related to how a city looks, its aesthetics
and I’ve always been like, sort of working
toward what would a mixed race aesthetics be? But then I’m like, always more
interested in the methodology?
How does one do that? How can you bring together practices and
cultural protocols and ways of working
and different cultural frameworks to
create something new at their convergence.
And I think that’s what’s
autobiographical about all these works. And while for sure, in a way there’s a
dependency on the institution in order
to catalyze the resources to make those works. I think delinked from an institution, I would
still gravitate toward these communities,
as a way of belonging to wherever I am.
And I think it’s like, I love this like the
neighbourhood is very important to me too.
And for me, 17 years it was
in the Jane Finch community. But the projects and the slowness of these
projects were also about who I hung out with.
Like I — for three years
and I still in total contact with everybody, but my whole life would change.
I would be at like the Parkour meets and
like, you know, poetry slams and three years
or four years later we’d all be older. There was something about growing with all of
these individuals that was very important to me.
So I think it’s deeply autobiographical.
[ Background Sounds ]
>> Bopha Chhay: Survival. We were speaking yesterday during Tian’s
reading, Manifesto for Radical Care,
and I was mentioning — sorry I can’t
quite remember what the question was. But we were talking about like
what we do in small ways to kind
of ensure the way we sustain ourselves, and — >> Pamila Matharu: Micro and macro.
>> Bopha: Micro and macro, thanks, Pamila. And at one point, I think — during
at the beginning of the pandemic,
I really felt like I was becoming
a professional letter writer. I was just writing all these
letters, mainly to city council.
And with other artists run centres. So it’s a kind of different type of
organizing that I think sustains me.
So something we do every October/November
is write letters to the council to defund the police, and reallocate funds in
a way that is much more community oriented.
So I think things like that are
really kind of crucial to me. And that’s just like one example.
Encouraging people to speak up at
council, particularly in regards to new condos that are displacing people.
I think things like that even though it’s
like kind of off the side of, you know,
it’s not part of my job definition, it’s like
for me I do those things, but not just for me,
but for the communities that I’m around. So not really curatorial,
but essential for me, yeah.
>> Maiko Tanaka: I think that for me, I rely
on the pedagogical structures and vehicles.
I need that to respond to like a framework
for understanding institutions
or other kinds of spaces. So not relying on institution necessarily.
Also because — but then it’s like
all that educational turn stuff. Nothing changed after that, right.
Like [inaudible] still happened. The — and museums and institutions just became
more about branding and fundraising even more.
And becoming — so it’s like that whole
democratization, it was a stage show, you know.
Like what really — so like then
I’m like now less about thinking of the educational vehicle as
something that’s always good.
It’s actually can be captured and aestheticized. And so now I’m thinking more interiorly about
deeper questions about [inaudible],
yeah that’s another story, I guess. But I just sort of — it failed, right.
Like and I don’t have a lot of — I
think institutions are extremely fraught.
And I think vehicles like pedagogy and
education, I don’t know, they’re not innocent.
And I’m not going to say that what I
do — like what I did was a good thing. I mean the gatherings were — have
changed my life and changed others.
And I’m not saying I was — it was because of
the people that came, who also were working in survival modes, but also the common theme
was they work with these educational vehicles,
but really transgress them, or work —
it was always in reference to boundaries. So yeah, I don’t need this — but I do —
– and the vehicles are extremely important.
And I guess continue to be. Yeah, but not instant.
>> Nasrin Himada: Pamila,
did you want to say anything?
>> Pamila Matharu: Oh yeah. I, you know, I wear the golden handcuffs. So as you know, Michelle,
I work in public education.
And what I mean by that is, you
know, I’m banking a pension.
And I’m fortunate to do that with my
position as a high school teacher. But I also have benefits and stuff.
But you know, I was saying to
Alize and SF yesterday in the car. You know, if I walked away from teaching, would
I need $2,000 worth of mental health support?
Right? Because I wouldn’t be so ill. I would not — I wouldn’t need the care I do.
I see a chiropractor three times a week. I do a lot of somatic healing. I do a lot of work.
I would like to call it my mental health
breakthrough that I had five years ago. But it changed everything, everything shifted.
And actually I’d like to
mark that even further back, 2008 is when we started to
see the pedagogical turn.
But we were doing before social
practice, it was socially engaged.
And before socially engaged, it was relational. Thank you, Rirkrit.
Right. And we weren’t so much about
object oriented ontology and whatnot.
And it was more about the experiential. But, you know, for me as a K to 12 educator, we
— I do socially engaged work, social practice,
relational work every day, for ten months
of the year with other people’s children. And my — what I — what really
shifted for me is I started
to see that oh my gosh look at this. So I work in the art community
and I work in public education.
Whoa, look at all these broken souls coming in and I can’t patch them up in
five months or ten months.
I started to realize what artists needed
and slow process, slow wave, you know,
that fantastic model that
Alize shared with me and SF, I got to know a little bit
now with you, one on one.
And these things started to matter more. Right. There’s a reason why yoga and
meditation are multimillion dollar industries.
I know I bring this up Emelie in every talk
we do, but yoga is a $9 billion industry.
It’s not — I’m not trying to be funny. It is a spiritual practice from
where I come from and my roots.
And when you take the spirit out of
something, is it like, you know — So I had to really reexamine
through my breakthrough what is
purpose, and what is passion?
And we don’t talk about that
in workplace culture. What wakes you up in the morning besides your
alarm clock, or maybe your six alarm clocks?
But what gets you up and
says, yeah, that’s a good day. And I recently asked this to Emelie.
What motivated you to do this graffiti project? Because I was like, you are non-stop blabbing
about graffiti artists to me all the time.
And then Brown Butter. I’m clearly like not even the, you know —
like I’m the cold, you know,
kale on the table right now. Move to the side.
And I’m just going to listen to you go on about your love affair with
graffiti artists right now.
But at least I’m making the space and taking
the space to do that for my friend, you know. And I say that with so much love and
admiration for Emelie’s practice.
Because I know what she’s doing with
me, which is when she shares stories with me, I’m learning, I’m observing.
When she asks me questions about
my pedagogy, she’s learning too. So we have that collegiality around
pedagogy, because we’ve also been talking
about the museum as, you know, as a
school for a very, very long time.
Whereas the other curators in Toronto would
think I was “crazy” to work with my students
and bring them into a gallery and not
be at the bottom of the AGO with them.
Right. Thank you to FAG, aka Deirdre Logan,
Alison Mitchell, who allowed us Boner Kill
to have its first public program
because the TDSB decided to ban me, because I was teacher facilitating a young
woman’s group that was called Boner Kill.
And they didn’t want bad press after
certain things that happened in the city. We don’t want Joe Warmington on this.
And I was like, who the hell’s Joe Warmington? And then when I talked to Allison,
she’s like, oh the Toronto Sun. And I was like oh OK.
Right. So that’s the kind of
risk I take as a public educator.
But I know when to really go for that hard, you
know, like when I want to show up for my youth
and — because just like myself, I didn’t
have, you know, my mom did the best she could
with the means she had after my dad passed.
And Emelie’s always reminding
me to love her heart. But it’s difficult, right.
So she was my formal training and whatnot. But then my art mom’s Winsom, Lillian,
Althea Prince, Makeda Silveira, like,
you know, they’re not in the cannon. I mean they’re not really
— they’re on the periphery.
But I think now there is a concerted effort
around making this knowledge available.
And it’s going — what I’m
trying to get at, Michelle, and you know this too, is
the work that you’ve done.
You know, like a lot of people
were watching you. I was watching you. But I wasn’t quite like in your orbit perhaps.
But you were watching me. Like we were all observing and
watching each other grow, right. And I’m not even talking about this
loved one that’s on my shirt right now.
Because I needed to channel some love from
Queen Street — Queer Street West, you know. Where I have really benefited
from that kind of activity.
Marilyn, my partner — my long term partner
and I, we used to show up on Queen Street, and we stuck out in mainly white rooms.
Because you wouldn’t see — there
was this term called lesbian once.
I think it still exists. Well you wouldn’t see a brown
lesbian couple show up at art events.
We were the only ones that would
show up, and we kept showing up. And people would notice like, oh shit
you’ve come to three of my things.
Well I haven’t you come to anything. And I’m like, it’s OK. But that’s a form of love. That’s a form of care.
Right. Care — what is care? The root of care is love. >> Nasrin Himada: Oh yeah.
I think Allison had a question
first, and then — >> Pamila Matharu: Sorry, I’ll stop talking.
>> Nasrin Himada: No, thank you. >> I hope you never stop talking. And this is my favourite panel.
I love hearing all of you
talk about these genealogies. And I could listen to it all day.
It is so fascinating to me, I love it. And so often what came up was when you were
talking were about like these connections,
making connections with people, and you know, in
the art world, I mourn the part of the pandemic
that has kept us from being able
to make those kinds of connections. And also the curation of the connections.
Like a couple of you talked about when
somebody said you have to meet … and then brought you together to meet.
And how life changing or path
changing that was for you.
And I’m thinking a little bit about how, and I’m
wondering — my question is around happenstance
and opening — openness and wondering about,
you know, in that moment when that happens,
are you conscious of that at the time? Or does that only come to you in reflection
afterwards of the impact of that connection?
I mean I’m not sure I’m just kind of
putting it out to you to think about. [ Inaudible Comment ]
>> Maiko Tanaka: So I think like what
Nasrin has done with this panel is
like allowed the emergence to — even if
we’ve talked about for maybe we are conscious
of the connections and how transformative it
was, we have to keep — because we change —
like I talked about something from 2007. Right. And like, yeah but we’ve changed.
We’re completely different people. And so when Nasrin asked this question, like
it’ll emerge in a completely different way.
So like I’m thinking about like
Feminist Art Gallery and the, you know,
the people who’ve inspired
you, the Hello stickers. Like the introduction stickers. And how those relationships would become
— they’ve transformed and changed.
And like we have — it’s not like oh
it’s done, archived out of the way.
This is like an archive that it continues
to emerge through a question like this. So again another pedagogical structure,
but it’s not about the structure.
It’s about the intent and the
transformative, you know, like possible —
like potential — I don’t know what the word is. But yeah, like I think that’s extremely
the intention that you brought here,
I think allowed these things that were
probably different for you ten years ago. So I think it’s so important to emerge,
have these connections reemerge and talk
about they are different
because we’re different. So yeah. Thank you.
>> Nasrin Himada: Yeah. And I think it’s because we’ve
been talking also so much here. And I was at a conference in Ottawa too that
was put on by all these national new media
and film organizations Through The Storm. And I just didn’t — also don’t want us
to forget that a lot of what the questions
that come up now have also come up earlier
in like in the ’70s and ’80s and ’90s.
And when you look through the archives of these
different organizations, artists run centres and different institutions, like there are a lot
of racialized and queer staff who were trying
to figure these things out back then too. And it’s kind of incredible to think that the same questions keep
emerging in these different forms.
And to remember — to have a
memory that people came before us. And this is Pamila why your
show is so important,
and paved the way for so much to happen now. And then and that continues.
And I think one of my questions was also like,
what would you — you’re mentors now to and —
[ Phone Ringing ] [ Laughter ] I’ll just wait for the ringer.
Yeah. >> Pamila Matharu: What was the question? >> Nasrin Himada: Sorry, yes, my question. One of my questions, just to follow up Allison’s
was, what do you say to the next generations?
Like how do you feel about
being a mentor yourself? >> Pamila Matharu: They’re calling.
Like get your ass over here.
The next generation, what do I say? Well right now, you know, the youth that
I work with there’s a crisis, you know.
We’ve had two years of a pandemic, very nervous,
very, you know — so I do a lot of like —
I don’t really do direct healing or anything. But I use a lot of contemplative modalities
in my classroom as inside and outside
and with my youth that I work with in Boner
Kill and either younger artists and whatnot.
Sometimes they just, you know,
like Maxine Bailey, I love Max. But you know, she always — she used to
say like, Pamila you pay the black tax
and the black tax is like, you know, your white
colleague can roll in late because they were
at a work event last night
and no questions asked. But the black tax is I roll in late
and there’s questions asked, you know.
So I was like, oh my gosh,
Maxine, that’s brilliant. And my — I still talk to my
mentors, Maxine being one of them.
She worked long time at TIFF. In fact, she was — obviously with
her team, her development team,
they created the new TIFF Bell Lightbox. And she is also a sister to Cameron Bailey. But that doesn’t, you know, Maxine was a
trailblazer with like Afrocentric theatre
and whatnot with Sharon Lewis and they had
sistas, and they were doing amazing things. And I was watching all of this, not
in high school, but in my early —
like the same time that the Asian
Sister, Vision Press and Theatre in the Rough and Dr. Amah Harris was working.
And I also had to do my work. Like I didn’t expect people to teach me.
So I don’t — I tell — like if I talk about
Young Street Uprising, I’m like it’s on Google, go look at like, you know, do your work.
I wasn’t handed a reading list or a
syllabus or any of these things that started
to come about in the last generation. I was told to like, you know, it was like oh
OK Malcolm X, I’ll go to the library, you know.
Marcus Garvey, you know,
I write down these names. And we — or we would give
— be given a reading. So in terms of — I don’t have
that kind of stuff that I —
I don’t give them anything really. I haven’t like Sister Vision, sorry, Sister
Coresistor, we don’t even have a logo.
I just bought one for $26 recently,
I was like, yes we have a logo now. It’s on lavender.
So, you know, I — what do I tell them? They just call me up and they’re
like hey can we have a coffee
or something, or can you make me dinner? I’m like OK. And I just listen, just what my
mentors still do, you know, and —
but the generation has changed in which
the internet really means a lot to them. They have a relationship with the internet, and
they stopped having relationships with people.
I think that that’s what I avoided with Boner
Kill, is like not having a social media presence
that you had to actually show up to
meetings and have dialogue and be relational. And it really freaked out
the introverted members.
That, what you’re going to make me talk? And I was like yeah but not like school. It’s going to be like, you know.
And I didn’t — I also — I don’t like this — like sure of course it’s
kinship and developing kinship.
But I don’t like this, you know, like sometimes
when I have South Asian youth contact me
and they’re like auntie, and
I’m like I’m not your auntie. Like you know, I’m not your — like if
you want to deal with me as a mentor —
because also I come from 5,000 years of culture where guru shisha is something
that’s very important.
What I mean by that is like a guru and a
shisha is a mentee, guru is your mentor.
And a guru means teacher, and I come from
the Sikh faith, and we have ten gurus, right.
So they’re not gods which
everyone are like oh do you pray to your — I’m like no, they’re elders now.
You know, they’re spiritual elders, you know. So but then I also learnt how to
adapt that to like movement elders.
So I talked to my youth about that. OK like put down these lists, keep them in your
notes, when you’re feeling nervous or something,
here’s a quote, or what it,
you know, what did Audrey say? What did Toni say? What did all these people
— I still use that stuff
for myself when I’m feeling like, you know. And I really hate this idea of when friends —
younger friends, artists friends who are like what do they call it,
faking it till you make it?
And I’m like, no you’re not faking it. Be real, be authentic. That’s — you don’t need to be
anything else but you, right.
And that’s what I was taught
and modelled, you know. So I just really don’t like
the faking it till you make it.
And that was like probably the generation — millennials who started to
really use that terminology.
And I didn’t like it at all. So I was like, no figure out who you are. And that’s what Winsom said. The first questions are like who are you?
And I’m like, oh my God. You can spend entire practice figuring
out who you are, like till I’m 101.
>> Nasrin Himada: Totally. >> Pamila Matharu: I can
just figure out who I am. And there’s an audience or maybe
there isn’t an audience around that.
Where are you from? Right. And Fred Moten says,
you know, how’d you get here?
I love that strategy. How’d you get here? With the — with a class or a group, you know.
What’s your story? >> Nasrin Himada: Yeah. >> Pamila Matharu: How’d you get here? And there’s many, many social justice
practitioners use the river model,
or whatever model or like, you know,
how — you were a star in the universe. How did you, you know —
>> Nasrin Himada: Yeah. >> Pamila Matharu: That’s it. >> Nasrin Himada: Yeah. Thank you, Pamila.
I — we are at 11:30, but I wanted
to give someone else a chance to — >> Pamila Matharu: [Inaudible]
or anything or you want to —
[ Inaudible Comment ] Any other questions out there?
Yeah. >> Nasrin Himada: I did. Yes, sorry. I just wanted to give others
wanted to answer that question. >> Pamila Matharu: Oh, yeah.
>> Nasrin Himada: Did you? You guys are good? Oh yeah go head. >> Pamila Matharu: Come on back, please
come back, no, no, please come back.
>> I just wanted to add to the
kind of temporal continuum here.
And first of all congratulate all of you for showing us what a vibrant ecosystem
that you partake in and foster.
It’s so important — I trained in the arts in
my 20’s that was 40 years ago and then some.
And everything has changed. When I started the institutional
requirement to choose a specific area
which would be a territory for
you to protect against others.
The system of entering into institutions
where you started at the lowest rung,
and if you hung in there long enough, like
decades, you would go from the assistant
to the research assistant, all the
way up to being a full curator. The only options were to be in
deep institutions or in academia.
And to see how these modalities have
proliferated and grown, is so encouraging to me.
I, myself, broke away quite a long time
ago from the rigidity of those structures.
But I do feel dipping back into academic
practice and museum practice is a great way
to get new fuel to get projects going
that are more local, and personal.
I just wanted to congratulate. >> Nasrin Hamada: Thank you. >> Emelia Chhangur: I’m happy to answer the last
question about mentoring and stuff, because —
>> Nasrin Hamada: Yes, thank you, go for it. >> Emelia Chhangur: I think is important. Like for me, I’m always like believe in your
lived experience, bring that to what you do,
and there will be resistors, change will always
— you’ll — there will always be resistors.
But in enough time, if you stick to
your guns, everything will change around you, and the discourse will change.
And you will find yourself in a
situation where that’s valued.
So like, yeah I mean I think it’s about like
valuing your contribution and not getting hung
up on other people’s expectations of
what your contribution or your value is.
Because it will change. I mean I know I’m like got the projects I was
doing, they were like it’s community arts.
And like, no one gave a shit about Jane Finch. No one came.
And like people would have the audacity
to say to me, oh I love your work. I just never see it because
it’s like so far away.
And I’m like well it’s not far away if you’re
— for someone in Jane Finch it ain’t far away.
So like maybe I’m not doing it for you. And I think that that is always
what I’m like trying to articulate
to practitioners today, to just keep doing it.
>> Nasrin Himada: Yeah. >> Emelie Chhangur: And don’t assimilate. >> Nasrin Himada: I think that’s
crucial, like the don’t assimilate and trust your lived experience and
believe in what comes from that.
>> Maiko Tanaka: And maybe to add to the change
that you’re doing, and when you’re talking about stories like keeping that — keeping
the stories alive, to keep in mind that —
and what you mentioned about the
people been working in the arts before. Like in the decades before. Is that we’re not just changing
the future but it changes the past.
Because when you do that, you’re
like activating something, this — oh this precedent, or this story, or this
perspective, just like we’re changing.
So I think this nonlinear way — perspective,
as you move into — as you transform the world,
in like a non, one direction, helps you be
more expansive and more open and more grounded,
rather than it being this
trajectory of progress. Because that can be — that’s
the institutional trajectory.
So like this like — remembering
that we’re changing the past as we go, the archive being alive.
Yeah. Right. Like? >> Pamila Matharu: Yeah, I strongly
suggest you Google Generative Somatics.
And they have this graph where you’re in the
middle, and it’s actually like layers, right. You’re in the middle. And then it’s your immediate family, then your
institute — your community, your institutions.
So these are all layers that
you exist in, right. And it all comes falling down when you’re
not doing — taking care of the heart, right?
So you’re constantly returning to yourself,
constantly returning to yourself, right.
You can spend $5,000 at a Chopra retreat
or just listen to what I just said. Because I did spend that five grand, and
I was like shit I already knew all this.
So coming back to yourself is the
most beautiful action you can take.
That is a practice in itself. Right. So contemplative practice
is a real real thing. And also Google Tree of Contemplative Practices.
>> Nasrin Himada: Bopha,
did you have any last words? >> Bopha Chhay: I was just thinking as we
were speaking, like I was thinking a lot
about Laiwan, an artist in Vancouver. And just the way she kind of embodies every
— everything that you’ve just mentioned.
And I kind of see her as an informal mentor. But she — there’s definitely nothing linear
about the way Laiwan does things.
And I think one of the things that
she has taught me in working with her,
and like a recent — some recent mentorship
projects and work that I’ve done is,
just to really be as expansive — like I
think we’re always like, we’re in a deficit, we’re in a time deficit of space, money,
etcetera, whatever, emotions, feelings.
And to actually realize that
we’re not in a deficit. Like to kind of really switch
that and be like actually,
we have a lot of room, we have a lot of time. We make it, we take it, we
give it and just this —
I was reading this interview with this poet — oh I’m blanking now, but it’s
called Generosity as Method.
And I think, you know, generosity to yourself, but to the people you’re working
with, and your friends and peers too.
I was doing this Centre A arts writing
mentorship, and, you know, I really went into it
with a syllabus thinking that we’re going to
be looking at each — like paragraph structure. And I was like, no, no, that’s
not what they want at all.
It’s like they actually just wanted
to hang out and read together and speak and it was really great.
Like I felt like I — I always learnt just
as much from the people I’m supposedly meant
to be mentoring, it’s like very reciprocal. So, yeah, I think I just wanted
to add that it’s reciprocal.
>> Nasrin Himada: Yeah. Thank you. I also want to just do a shout out to
Michelle Jacques who’s been my mentor, and —
learning a lot from you so much, yeah.
And thank you all. I think that’s it. And thank you so much to our panellists. Thank you all for your questions and comments.
And yeah, we’ll see you now at lunch. [ Applause ]
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