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Arts

Four Shorts at the Queer for Palestine Film Festival

The five-day festival was part of a larger global screening aimed at drawing attention to the intersection of pinkwashing, queerness, and the nuances of Arab identity

Four short but powerful films composed the Nov. 15 screening at the Queer for Palestine film festival at La Sala Rossa, located at 4848 Saint-Laurent Blvd.

Spanning from six to 41 minutes long, the films, in order of appearance, were Houria (2011) by Raafat Hattab, Blessed Blessed Oblivion (2010) by Jumana Manna, Mondial 2010 (2014) by Roy Dib, and Cinema Al Fouad (1993) by Mohamed Soueid.

With films chosen by members of Regards palestiniens, a Montreal collective composed of researchers, artists and activists, the festival was meant to raise awareness and celebrate the experiences of queer Arabs, in solidarity with Palestinians and as a part of the global festival, Queer Cinema for Palestine. The collective aims to organize cinema events that draw attention to the multifaceted lived realities of Palestinians and highlight the community’s creativity and engagement. Cinema Politica and the Feminist Media Studio were involved in the production as well.

The curators of the Queer for Palestine festival were Farah Atoui, Razan AlSalah, Muhammad Nour Elkhairy, and Viviane Saglier.

Speaking as a collective to The Concordian, the curators explained the rationale behind the choice of films. “We were looking for films that explore sexual and gender identity as part of the larger struggle for Palestinian liberation. […] These films expand queerness beyond an individual or collective identity into a political life project. These films also retell Palestinian history from a queer perspective.”

La Sala Rossa has a history of hosting progressive cultural events, beginning in the early 1930s as a gathering place for the left-wing Jewish community in Montreal.

The Nov. 15 live screening was followed by a discussion hosted by members of the Montreal chapter of the Palestinian Youth Movement, a grassroots organization of young Palestinians and their allies dedicated to the liberation of Palestine. Colonialism and western imperialism were discussed in relation to the films, as well as the intersecting experiences of queerness, Arab and Muslim identity.

The choice of short films versus long ones was conscious on the curators’ part, aimed at fostering conversation. “We hesitated between a long-feature and a program of shorts. We opted for a program of shorts because it offers a diversity and multiplicity of perspectives, as well as presents different aesthetic approaches, and thus makes for a richer and more layered reflection and discussion.”

The film festival also had a virtual component: the screening was available online until  Nov. 20, featuring a pre-recorded discussion between two of the filmmakers, Dib and Hattab.

Queer Cinema for Palestine also hosted screenings worldwide from Nov. 11 to 20 partially featuring works from Palestinians, North Africans, and South-West Asian directors and artists. It spanned five continents, the virtual world and the physical one, as well as the line between film and documentary. The festival, in its first edition, was a 10-day long queer solidarity initiative that used art to combat the violence of Israeli apartheid and pinkwashing.

Pinkwashing is a form of propaganda that portrays (in this context) the Israeli government as being inclusive to the queer community (in contrast to the Palestinian government), though that isn’t necessarily accurate to reality.

The festival was meant to “offer a space for artists and filmmakers who have pulled their films from TLVFest, a government-sponsored LGBT film festival that plays a key role in pinkwashing Israel’s regime of military occupation and apartheid. The TLVFest portrays Israel as [a] safe haven for queer folks while justifying the oppression of queer Palestinians,” explained the curators.

The stereotype of Arabs and Muslims as being anti-LGBTQIA2S+ has also been employed in relation to pinkwashing efforts by the Israeli government. Western media doesn’t proportionally highlight these groups, which in turns help to support the Islamophobic propaganda that positions queerness and being Arab and/or Muslim as totally non-existent. Initiaves like the film festivals help to counter pinkwashing by showing that not only do queer Arabs or Muslims exist, but they are mutli-facted within those categories.

Houria by Raafat Hattab was perhaps the least accessible in terms of its message. It was the shortest at six minutes, and the emotional scenes featuring Hattab’s grandmother, Yousra, were more compelling than the conceptual ones featuring a merman on a beach. These were meant to explore his conflicting feelings surrounding identity, in part due to the family’s displacement during the 1948 Nakba. Yousra, who came across as strong and sympathetic, detailed how she was expelled from the village she’d grown up, Jasmeen Al-Garbi, by Zionist paramilitary.

Blessed Blessed Oblivion by Jumana Manna was the standout of the festival. Her film combined visual collage and documentary techniques to create a powerful portrait of masculinity in occupied East Jerusalem. Manna entered into spaces usually occupied by males to film, and the result was an interesting, thoughtful, and at times satirically funny comment on the way men behave around women, and the expression of gender roles in the Arab world. The musical score was notably fantastic, opening with “Ya Raytak (I Wish of You)” by Uthanyna Al Ali, a slow, slightly sinister track that helped to ground the opening scenes of visual collage.

Mondial 2010 by Roy Dib was interesting and touching in a way that left it living in my mind days later. It featured a Lebanese gay couple travelling through Ramallah, an occupied town in Palestine. A feeling of unease was present throughout the film, in part connected to the character’s experience of colonialism, by the military policing of the Israeli apartheid state. While the characters are not Palestinian, they are queer Arabs who also face abuse and discrimination in occupied Palestine.

Mondial 2010 was also an example of excellent filmmaking, because it was able to elegantly translate an ephemeral, hard to pin down feeling of loneliness and disconnection around someone you love.

Cinema Al Fouad by Mohamed Soueid was unlike any film I’d ever seen before in terms of subject matter. It was a touching and personal portrayal of a Syrian trans woman trying to raise funds for a gender affirming operation. You see her as a cabaret dancer, soldier, and then in certain other scenes, smoking sensually and intimately at the camera, sharing her experiences of being gender non-conforming. Definitely the sort of film that makes you remember why documentaries are so important, while also feeling more like a portrait has been painted than a subject ‘captured’ by a distant, uncaring documentarian.

The curators shared what they wanted the public to take away from the festival. “It is our hope to generate a more nuanced conversation about queerness that steps away from the individualist identity. By highlighting Palestinian and Lebanese artists and filmmakers, we want to foreground queerness as an act of self-determination that is inseparable from the larger social and political context.”

 

Photo courtesy of Mohamad Soueid (Cinema Al Fouad1993)

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Arts

Montreal Multi-Disciplinary Artist Esther Calixte-Bea debuts her first solo exhibition

Creation of an Ethereal World is an exhibition that will challenge your perception and make you think

Esther Calixte-Bea is one of the rising stars of Montreal’s art scene, and her most recent exhibition, also her solo debut, demonstrates that.

Step into La Centrale, located at 4296 St. Laurent Blvd., and you’ll find a universe of Calixte-Bea’s design. The exhibition, featuring artwork that Calixte-Bea created in the last two years, is truly multidisciplinary, featuring paintings, a repurposed table, writings, painted photo collages, and sculptures made from mannequins. It’s titled Creation of an Ethereal World, curated by Cécilia Bracmort.

La Centrale, where the exhibition is being held until October 28, 2021, is an artist-run space, and for decades has been the city’s sole feminist gallery. This makes it a fitting choice to house the work of an artist and activist like Calixte-Bea.

Why? She is of Haitian and Ivorian descent and her work often depicts Black women in a range of shapes, sizes and hairy states. This is part of what makes her work so distinct. How many painters can you name that focus on hairy women? Women with lots of leg hair, chest hair, and arm hair? Female body hair is still an incredibly taboo topic, and Calixte-Bea’s work is a positive (and pretty!) step towards trying to rectify that.

“I had discovered my style by the end of 2018, and had become a body hair activist in 2019, and I knew that I wanted to paint, and normalize female body hair in my art practice,” explained Calixte-Bea to The Concordian.

She is a recent graduate of Concordia’s Fine Arts program. She said that after the many group shows of her undergrad she “felt ready to have [her] first solo exhibition.”

The body hair activist appeared on the cover of Glamour UK in January 2021, making her the first woman with visible chest hair to do so. Calixte-Bea’s success today is partially due to her 2019 Lavender Project, a series of self-portraits, paired with poetry and writing which explored topics like self love, Eurocentric beauty standards, and female body hair. This project gaining significant public recognition was partially what led to Calixte-Bea’s (continuing) rise as an artist and activist.

Creation of an Ethereal World, which debuted at La Centrale on September 23, 2021, also features a unique exhibition text. It’s standard for the artist to write a short statement about their work and inspirations, and for the curator to then supplement it with commentary about the exhibition as a whole.

However, Calixte-Bea is not just any artist. Creation of an Ethereal World has an exhibition text that is unlike most you’ll come across, contained in a booklet with a bright lime green cover, printed in both English and French. Calixte-Bea was inspired to create an imaginary tribe, as represented in the artwork in Creation of an Ethereal World. The tribe (partially inspired by Calixte-Bea’s heritage belonging to the Wè tribe in Côte d’Ivoire) is called Fyète Souhou-te and they embrace female body hair. The text also contains the tribe’s instructions on important cultural information, like how to become a chief.

“I knew that I wanted to create a whole tribe, a world that was living within this world. Oftentimes when we talk about tribes we talk about them in the past, so I wanted to create a whole tribe of women that celebrate their body hair, embrace themselves and embrace their uniqueness,” explained the artist.

The paintings are all acrylic. The overall colour scheme is both bright and soft, with sunset tones like orange, pink and blue jumping out throughout the room. Bright green Astroturf grass was installed for the exhibition, adding to the pleasantly surreal feeling: think Candyland, but elevated. “I always loved using so many colours, I just love [them] and colourful things like flowers. That really comes through in my work, [plus] me growing up watching a lot of colourful cartoons,” she noted.

One of the most striking paintings in the exhibit is titled My White Barbie, 2020, which features a Barbie doll being squeezed by a hand, attached to a close-up of a woman’s torso in the background. Rich brown and cherry blossom pink tones demand attention from the viewer. “[It’s] a really personal work,” said Calixte-Bea, who explained that it was only when she was out of her childhood and teen years that she realized the full, negative extent that Eurocentric beauty standards had on her. “Growing up, you want to be the pretty one, the desirable one, but there was no representation for me,” she continued.

“Someone asked me in class why I paint Black people. It’s a funny question that people tend to ask Black artists. [White artists] don’t really get asked, why do you paint white people?” noted Calixte-Bea. “You have to paint yourself, you already don’t see yourself represented in art spaces or the media, then obviously you need to create that representation and make the difference that is needed in the world.”

 

 

 

Photograph courtesy of Kimura Byol

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Arts

#Printisnotdead

Four Montreal-based creators share the impact of COVID-19 on their analog media practice

The hashtag #printisnotdead on Instagram has accumulated over 395 thousand posts as of April 2021. Not too bad for a medium that has been accused of irrelevance for the entirety of Gen Z’s existence.

Yet, it still manages to stick around. The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of physical touch, with some feeling negatively impacted by the lack of it. Print, or analog media, is often more labour intensive, hands-on, and time-consuming than digital equivalents, usually yielding less predictable results.

So… why would anyone painstakingly hand print a poster when you could design it in Photoshop, and have it printed in a matter of hours? Has the pandemic had any effect on print? What even is paper art?

Four Montreal-based creators who have adapted, reworked, or dove head-first into an analog practice during the lockdown explain the connection to The Concordian. 


Caitlin Yardley / Disposable Film 

Caitlin Yardley, a Journalism graduate, is experienced in digital media production. For a recent birthday, she was gifted a disposable camera to experiment with.

Like many ‘90s kids, she used a one-use film camera as a child, explaining that her family has albums upon albums of old photographs. But it wasn’t until the lockdown that she fell for film.

“I really want to preserve every moment now,” said Yardley. “I love the permanence of getting my film developed and holding onto a photo, or when I hand a photo to a friend I’ve had printed it feels really special. So that’s been what has led me to continue with the medium.”

Because of the pandemic, some of Yardley’s friends have moved away and she sees less of the ones that are around, naturally. She explained that the experience has led her to cherish the time she spends with loved ones even more and that film photography is an enjoyable way of making the moments “concrete.”

“I always lose the photos on my phone, or even on my [digital] camera, I’ll upload them somewhere and forget about it,” explained Yardley. “But I’ve been printing off these photos and sticking them on my wall.”

Something that Yardley likes about disposable film cameras is how accessible they make photography, especially compared to high-tech DSLR cameras or finicky 35mm film, which require the user to have experience and skills the former doesn’t.

“With some analog film it’s different, but if you just have a disposable camera anyone can get a super cool photo,” said Yardley. “If I’ve had a bit too much to drink I can snap a photo and as long as the flash is on I know it’s going to be good.”

Yardley explained that disposable cameras are very user friendly, requiring only two controls to function, meaning it’s also easy and quick to instruct others interested in learning about the medium. “As long as your finger isn’t over the lens that’s all that matters,” she said.

“With digital, you can take 100 photos to make sure you get the right one. With film, you have one moment realistically, maybe two, to line up the perfect shot and that’s it,” said Yardley. “You don’t know what you captured, you don’t know if it was just your fingerprint. Three weeks later when you hand the film in and it gets developed — then you know … It’s just not an experience you get with digital.”

Yardley explained that this is exactly what makes disposable film unsuitable as a tool for fast-paced, precise photojournalism required at a protest, but that she will continue to make sure she has a disposable camera ready for capturing special events creatively.

She encourages anyone interested but hesitant of the medium to try it out.

“Pick up a disposable camera and if you do have the pleasure of being around people you love, go out and try to shoot something,” said Yardley. “It’s going to be beautiful no matter what.”


@gorelickart  / Linocut Printmaking 

@gorelickart* is a Montreal-based artist, in her first year of Studio Arts at Concordia University. At the start of the pandemic, the multi-disciplinary creative found themself living in a small studio, shared with a now-ex partner and a cat. Painting, also a part of  their artistic work, proved a good way to collect cat hair in a small space.

They took a printmaking course at Concordia during the fall term and started to learn more about the many distinct forms that fall under the umbrella term of printmaking.

“I didn’t use to draw or do any realistic work, but in printmaking, I’ve started to explore that with linocut and intaglio,” they explained.

Compared to linocut printmaking, which developed in the 19th century, intaglio is a grandmother, originating in the 15th century. Intaglio could be described as chemical engraving — the design is etched onto the plate and then acid is poured over it. Intaglio and linocut are on opposite ends of the printmaking spectrum because the former is an example of incision printing, where the design is essentially inside the plate. Linocut and woodcut, require the artist to carve away everything but the design, making it stand out from the cut-away parts in an almost 3-dimensional manner. They are examples of relief printing.

She was initially drawn to lino, which is short for linoleum, the same material also used as flooring, to create a @gorelickart 2020 stamp for her paintings.

“I bought a 4 by 6-inch piece of rubber, and obviously my stamp was tiny so I just started experimenting more with that,” said @gorelickart.

YouTube videos and a can-do attitude proved helpful.

“I just got the tools and started doing it. I was just carving on my couch, with the block in my hand. So whenever I would miss or [the block] would slide a bit I would stab myself and be like ‘Ahh!’ As I was presenting my piece someone in my class was like ‘You know you’re meant to use this thing to keep the block in place … That would have been good to know, but I guess that’s part of the process of teaching yourself.”

Like many analog methods, linocut printmaking involves several labour intensive steps. Carving a block and printing it are two separate tasks, and @gorelickart prefers the former. They use intaglio inks, which can be hard to clean up and stain easily. She chose a composition of a fish created earlier in the year as one of her favourites, as it is one of the pieces she has cared enough about to go through the process of printing and not just carving.

“I really love carving, I find it’s such a relaxing process. I can do it very absentmindedly, almost like knitting,” she said. “I just sit on the couch, [carving] my block and watch TV and it’s really relaxing. Versus printing that’s more technical, and I’m more stressed about not getting ink everywhere.” They use intaglio inks which can be hard to clean up.

@gorelickart explained they live alone and don’t see friends often with respect to the pandemic regulations. Tactile parts of their artistic practice, such as carving, working with stained glass, and clay have proved deeply helpful in terms of dealing with the difficulties that can lead to.

@gorelickart was inspired by another artist on Instagram using small scraps to make recycled stamps. It prompted them to start reusing their wine corks and linoleum scraps to make custom stamp-sized designs.

“When I was doing bigger blocks I would have so much waste from my carvings and I was like ‘Oh my God I need to do something with this’ … So I just started making tiny little carvings and putting them on the corks. They’re so cute and I love them, but now I have so many I’m like, ‘What do I do with these?!’”

In the future — commissioned stamps, or ones with letter grades for teachers are a possibility but, “Right now I’m just making them for fun when I have extras,” they said. “Printmaking is a pretty low-waste art form compared to painting but it’s important to use everything. Before I was just throwing my wine caps out, so I was like this is pretty perfect.”


Silvana Toma / Papermaking 

Some might assume the term “paper arts” means art drawn or painted on a piece of paper. Not Silvana Toma, a lifelong paper collector who likes to leave journals and notepads empty, finding them prettier that way.

Toma visited Japan a couple of times and was fascinated by the process of washi papermaking, a thin yet super-strong paper handmade locally, using ancient methods.

“Even though I enjoy both, I’m more drawn to analog [than digital]. It’s so tactile and hands-on that it helps me disconnect from the world for a little while and only focus on what I am doing in the present moment. Because of this, it’s been super beneficial to my mental health too. It’s also as close to a form of meditation as it gets since I can never sit still for too long,” explained Toma.

She turned her affection for stationary into concrete action, launching NoteStorii, a handmade paper shop, in early 2021.

“In some aspects, lockdown helped since I probably wouldn’t have launched so soon if I wasn’t forced to stay in the house and actually work on this. In general, there’s no easy part about starting a business, especially when you’re a one [person] show,” said Toma, detailing the specific challenges the pandemic has imposed on her fledgling business. The physical store closures made it difficult to source materials, the increased use of Canada Post caused shipping delays and on top of everything, lost packages “didn’t help.”

Papermaking is a highly tactile art, requiring multiple technical steps to get to the final product. A benefit to small-batch paper is that it has a significantly lower eco-footprint than coated, commercially produced paper.

Scraps can be recycled into new paper, but it’s important to understand what its texture is before committing to making it into sheets. This wasn’t always possible with online shopping, sometimes leading to unusable supplies, paired with high shipping costs for Toma.

“I think I’m not the only one who’s been living through the lens of social media pre-pandemic, always plugged in, always going somewhere and checking items off of my endless to-do list. The lockdown forced us to face who we really are beneath the filter we put up for the world, and we either weren’t ready for the reveal, or we didn’t like what we saw. It can cause a lot of anxiety and unrest you know — realizing you don’t really know yourself? I think analog mediums help us tap into a creative side that we’ve perhaps forgotten about; we can take time to think clearly, instead of frantically searching for answers even though we’re too distracted to ask the right questions,” she continued.

“At first I saw papermaking as something only professionals with huge studio spaces could do. I’ve learned that a small workspace doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the process. It’s also an inexpensive hobby. You don’t need fancy equipment, big machinery or grade A pulp to start off. I began with a kitchen blender and still use the same one, recycled newspaper and a DIY frame from the dollar store. With a bit of patience and willpower it’s a rewarding process,” she said.

“My favourite part is peeling off the dried sheet and stacking them for the final press. The peeling sound and motion feel incredibly satisfying, and so is seeing the final product,” continued Toma. Making paper is physically intense and messy —  but it’s a labour of love for the creative entrepreneur.

“I remind myself that cleaning up means I get to come in to a fresh start tomorrow.”


Le Lin / Book Arts + Print Media 

Le Lin is a prolific presence in the print world. In their final year of Graphic Design at Concordia University, Lin has shown art books in several exhibitions, produced multiple zines, and co-founded the Queer Print Club (QPC) two years ago — to name just a few of their analog accomplishments. However, he’s also seen aspects of his communal practice, like participating in Expozine, or a print swap the QPC co-organized with Yiara Magazine, become impossible due to the pandemic.

Lin has approached book arts from multiple angles, studying binding and conservation methods that the average person has likely never heard of, seeing a book as a unique 3D artistic creation, as opposed to just a vehicle for other people’s words and images. The distinction is important.

“I always design for print … I use very specific papers. I really care about the transparency and the papers and the materiality of the book itself … A lot of my books you can fold stuff out or it’s bound in a particular way,” he explained.

Lin combines their skills as an artist and graphic designer to create art books. A set two, handmade by Lin, were recently displayed in Dear Family: twenty years ago was just yesterday, at the Pierre-François Ouellette gallery, from March 17 to April 3, as a part of the annual Art Matters festival.

“When [people] open [one of my books] and see that I’ve done the whole cover, embossed the cover, and screen printed most of the transparent pages and then digitally printed all of the other pages and sewed stuff in and they’re like ‘Woah you can do that!?’ and I’m like yeah, you can do anything!”

Lin is in Design, but they have made the effort to pursue printmaking classes throughout their undergrad career, emailing teachers tirelessly to get into the courses needed to further their practice.

“This year shifted a lot. I really wanted to take papermaking and 400-level screen [printing] classes and other hands-on classes like bronze casting but because of COVID, I can’t go in, so I’ve been taking more coding and web design classes. I have made three zines this year but they’re not printed by me,” said Lin.

“One of the projects I’m working on is making a web platform for zines, so you can upload PDFs and it turns into flipbooks online, so it’s kind of bridging that gap. I haven’t partaken in much printing at home but it’s more like translating my practice onto an online skillset,” he continued.

The site features zines by Lin, as well as some that others have uploaded. Taken from the word “magazine,” what makes a zine distinct from traditional media is that they’re self-published and have a long history related to activism or the dissemination of information that is helpful to marginalized communities. They’re known for their blend of educational, personal, artistic, and affordable content.

“I like making things that are accessible … With my work I try to make it super precise. If you can read it, you can understand it.”


 

*Identity has been withheld for safety/privacy reasons.

 

Feature graphic by @the.beta.lab

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Arts

Somewhere Gallery combines curation and care

Concordia grad aims to create a welcoming and inclusive space for Montreal’s emerging artists

Katherine Parthimos, founder and lead curator of Somewhere Gallery, has long, wavy-curly teal hair — as though a mermaid wandered into the city and started working in an art gallery.

In reality, Parthimos graduated in the middle of a pandemic, from Concordia University, with a Studio Arts degree; ready to start a career in a severely impacted industry. She spent the summer finding and figuring out what to do with the space on Park Avenue now known as Somewhere Gallery.

Since September, Parthimos has produced four vernissages highlighting the emerging arts community — alone, during a lockdown. The gallery’s fifth exhibit, Archiving Identity, a collaboration with the VAV Gallery, will feature the work of five Concordia artists. It’s the only in-person show of the VAV Gallery’s programming this academic year, though they have had online-only ones.

“For me it’s more about filling the needs of the emerging artist community,” says Parthimos, which she defines as artists in their last year of a relevant program, up to six years post-grad. The gallery doesn’t have the equipment to display digital works yet, and COVID is responsible for halting performance art, but pretty much every other medium is welcomed.

For the entire time Parthimos has run the gallery she’s always had to comply with the stricter regulations that provincial guidelines have required for public safety.

Suffice to say, Parthimos has been busy.

She began dabbling in curation during her final year of school, mostly collaborating with other students. Parthimos explained that while the Studio Arts program offers classes on topics like grant writing, there isn’t a clear track to pursue to become a curator.

“This is just as much of a learning opportunity for me as it is for the artist exhibiting at the space, so I think it’s an interesting conversation to have, emerging artist and emerging curator together,” she said, noting that the roles can create power imbalances.

“I consider this an art initiative over an art institution,” said Parthimos. Many commercial galleries take a commission of 40 to 50 per cent, which artists accept for the chance to show their work to a larger platform. Parthimos takes 25 per cent, which sustains the gallery but doesn’t make her a profit.

She does everything herself, from mounting the exhibitions, collecting the artist statements, creating the virtual tours, learning graphic design along the way, receiving visitors who have scheduled appointments, and then taking everything down to start again.

[blockquote align=”right” author=””]”Being an artist myself it was always just a jab in the gut to have to go to a gallery and have an exhibition, where if you sell your work you lose half your profits. That was always something that didn’t sit right with me,” she continued.[/blockquote]

“The concepts that I incorporate into my own painting and sculpture are based on community and people’s relationships. That’s a direct parallel to my focus in curation which is a focus on unifying community and bringing people together,” said Parthimos.

Nesreen Galal, a Concordia student double majoring in Computation and Studio Arts heard of Parthimos’s work at Somewhere Gallery through friends in the artistic community. She exhibited a series called Destruction in Digital Daydream, Somewhere Gallery’s fourth exhibit, in February. Galal contributed five Polaroid photos, rendered abstract through physical manipulation, similar to Photoshop editing made analogue.

“It’s the idea that art surprises me or that I have a mutual connection with art,” said Galal, a self-described perfectionist, also used to working with the control digital media provides.

“The [analogue] object itself has as much power as I do, so it surprises me and controls me and I control it too, and I feel like it’s a different relationship with art as well,” said Galal.

Galal used a variety of household products and objects, including bleach, to plan a few month-long experimental projects, which led to the production of colourful, expressive abstract forms bursting out of the classic white square Polaroid picture frames that were displayed at Somewhere Gallery and titled Destruction.

“It was my first ever [physical] exhibition, and it was awesome to showcase with different artists,” said Galal.

The traditions of art gallery openings, free wine and close conversations with the other artists weren’t possible because of government regulations, which Galal understood but was disappointed about. “I feel like considering COVID-19, [Parthimos] did a really good job with the reservations of two people. The process was very smooth,,” she said.

A number of the Polaroids, priced individually at $50, sold quickly.

“I was in awe. It felt surreal. [Parthimos] told me, ‘you sold some of your pieces!’ She knew it was my first physical exhibition. It got a very good reaction despite COVID. A lot of people were really interested to go and see the work,” continued Galal.

Destruction was unframed, like many pieces that have been displayed in Somewhere Gallery. This is worth noting  — art gallery conventions prescribe white walls, glass, matting and custom-cut frames to display the works.

But smaller, less established spaces like Somewhere Gallery, have the opportunity to reject or play with tradition. The gallery is small but sun-filled, measuring 15 by 9 feet, with one wall completely occupied by a window, which has an expansive view of Park Avenue’s cheerful chaos.

“My main goal is to have a unified and cohesive show to go through. Aesthetically I do try to find works that flow into each other, especially in such a small space. Putting together the show to make it physically unified, the size of artwork in relation to everything else, colour. In the past a lot of the shows I have put together have a colour palette that is apparent. Sometimes subtle colours, sometimes pops of colour. Formal artistic qualities like  [those ones] really offer a cohesiveness,” explained Parthimos.

“I try to incorporate the space as much as possible,” she continued.

An example of this was a 7-foot-tall painting by artist Trevor Bourke that was placed on the floor leaning, instead of hung up traditionally in the November 2020 exhibit, Current Location: Undefined. 

“Just little things like that are so interesting, because it kind of turned a wall piece into more of a sculptural thing,” said Parthimos. “Having a work that large in this space [provides] a different interpretation of the work than having it in a larger gallery where it seems like it fits the size of the wall. You wouldn’t feel it’s presence there in my opinion, as much as you would here. So that was something I was interested in playing with.”

The arts world, falling under ‘Culture’ was one of the worst affected industries in a 2020 StatsCan report on the Canadian economy in relation to the pandemic, which further detailed the increased disadvantages faced by women and young workers during this time.

“There is a lot of opportunity for you in school through the Concordia gallery and various festivals but once you leave school, you fall in this grey zone. You’re not really supported by the school anymore but you’re too emerging to be accepted by the artist-run centre community. That develops later on,” said Parthimos. “I think it’s really important to continue having these opportunities and continuing to exhibit your art to grow and to have that dialogue with people.”

Parthimos tries to create a warm, personal, experience for guests, rather than the sometimes sterile, faceless, environments big galleries have fostered in order to advance the idea of art as a commodity.

“I’ve always been really interested in community building initiatives and I was also part of the Fine Arts Student Alliance [at Concordia],” said Parthimos. “That really brought into my mind the significance of integrating communities, and offering back to the community you’re a part of.”

Archiving Identity is on display at Somewhere Gallery at 6830 Park Ave. #358 until March 25. Visitors can reserve an appointment by emailing somewhere.gallery.mtl@gmail.com.

 

Photos by Kit Mergaert

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Opinions

It’s all violence, and it’s all wrong

Recognizing that sexualized violence against women of colour is an unacknowledged crime

Andrea J. Ritchie is a lawyer whose speciality is police misconduct. In her 2017 book, Invisible No More: Police Violence Against Black Women and Women of Colour, she reveals that there are no clear statistics on the violence perpetrated by police against women of colour in the United States. “Although national data show more black men are killed at higher rates than women,” Ritchie writes, “those numbers don’t tell the whole story […] There are no numbers counting police rape or police sexual harassment or unlawful strip searches.”

Women of colour face incidents of police violence in statistically smaller numbers than men of colour, but they are targeted in a particular way. According to the Huffington Post, in 2015, a black woman named Charnesia Corley was stopped by Texas police for allegedly running a stop sign. The officers who stopped her said they smelled marijuana in her car, which, in Texas, is grounds for a cavity search.

Corley said she “felt raped” after the officers publicly searched her vagina for 11 minutes. Her lawyer, Samuel Cammack III, said a police officer “body slammed Miss Corley, stuck her head underneath the vehicle and completely pulled her pants off, leaving her naked and exposed in that Texaco parking lot.”

The officers involved in Corley’s case were charged with “official oppression,” but those charges were later dropped. Corley is currently pursuing a civil case against them, according to the same article. This case is an example of how police violence against women of colour often takes on a sexualized tone.

The lack of statistics available on sexualized police violence seems to point to the conclusion that sexual violence against women is not considered a form of police violence in American society. In my opinion, this lack of information is to be expected in a society that, as a whole, doesn’t take sexual violence, especially against women of colour, as seriously as it should.

Here in Canada, according to Sexual Assault and Rape Statistics Canada, only six out of every 100 sexual assaults are reported to the police, suggesting that many victims don’t trust police or the judicial system. If the government doesn’t even consider it necessary to categorize these actions as violence and gather statistics on them, should we be surprised that they fail to press charges against the officers accused of committing them?

This case reminds me of a situation very far north of Texas, in Val d’Or, Que. In 2016, the Crown decided not to convict six police officers accused of sexual misconduct against a number of Indigenous women. According to the CBC, there were 37 complaints filed against local police by members of the community, including sexual harassment and rape. As with Corley’s case, this situation involved a specific type of police violence, one that is both sexualized and racialized.

These cases demonstrate that women of colour are often the victims of not only violence but a dehumanizing form of sexual violence. Both Corley’s and the Val d’Or cases reinforce the notion that sexual violence is not really considered violence in North American society, and that public officials still fail to be properly reprimanded for the disgusting acts they commit.

Graphics by Alexa Hawksworth

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News

Israel Apartheid Week event interrupted

Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights (SPHR) hosted a discussion on Palestine’s colonization

Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights (SPHR), a Concordia student group that aims to raise awareness about human right abuses towards Palestinians, hosted a panel discussion on the ethnic cleansing of Palestine on Thursday night in Concordia’s Hall building.

The event was part of the Israel Apartheid Week 2017, a week aimed at creating international awareness of the settler-colonial relationship between Israel and Palestine, and the Palestinian apartheid. SPHR advocates for an end to Palestine’s colonization and aims to promote awareness of Palestinian culture and identity.

Photo by Alex Hutchins.

Nahla Abdo, a professor in the department of sociology at Carleton University in Ottawa, was the first speaker. The other two panelists were Nuha Dwaikat Shaer, a PhD candidate at McGill’s School of Social Work, and Rula Abisaab, a professor of Islamic history at McGill University.

Approximately one minute into Abdo’s presentation, two young men entered the auditorium wearing Israeli flags tied around their shoulders like capes. Both men, followed by a man filming them, walked up to the table where the panelists were seated and began to chant, “I’m Israel, I’m Israel, we are here to stay,” adding, “there is no Palestine, there was never any Palestine.”

Abisaab attempted to read the poem “With Green We Wrapped Him” by Palestinian poet Izzidin al-Manasrah over their chants. “We wrapped him in a shroud of green, white and black. A red triangle on rectangular flag,” she recited.

However, this did not deter the protesters, and the other two panelists and some audience members became involved in a verbal confrontation with them. At one point, several audience members chanted “shame shame shame” at them.

Both men repeated, “there’s no Palestine,” to the crowd.

CSU internal affairs coordinator and former SPHR president Ramia Yahia, who had been at the event moments before, said he heard yelling coming from the auditorium. Yahia said he suspected someone was attempting to disrupt the lecture.

Yahia, accompanied by CSU external affairs and mobilization coordinator Aloyse Muller, entered the room, and asked the men to stop.

Yahia said security arrived about five minutes after both executives intervened, and the men stopped yelling. Yahia said both men who were chanting wore badges from the Israeli army on their bag and t-shirts with the Israeli defence emblem on it.

When the two security guards arrived, they escorted the protesters off to the side. A group of people and a handful of CSU members followed them. The group talked for a few minutes, then the protesters were escorted outside by the security guards.

Howie Silbiger, identified as the man who was filming both men at the time, said he was there on behalf of Montreal Jewish News to cover the event. Silbiger said he was not affiliated with the protesters. “I was informed that the event was going to happen,” said Silbiger.

Silbiger, a Concordia Student, said he was followed to class by security and two members of SPHR who were recording, when security asked Silbiger to provide identification.

Security informed Silbiger a complaint was being filed against him did not state why, Silbiger said. “Our job is to cover news when it happens,” said Silbiger. He said he believes he was racially profiled by Concordia security. “I did nothing to disrupt or disturb the event, stood quietly in the back of the room and cooperated fully with security,” said Silbiger.

“There is an ongoing investigation,” said Yahia, concerning the men who disrupted the panel.

After the protesters left, Abdo resumed the presentation of her theory on the settler-colonial relationship between Israel and Palestine. “In the simplest way, I define racism as the relations between the superior and what they turned into inferior,” she said.

Abdo discussed the historical events that shaped the Middle East, such as the 1916 Sykes Picot Agreement, the 1917 Balfour Declaration and the 1948 Indigenous Genocide that led to the creation of Israel.

Shaer presented the subject of her doctoral thesis, which focused on the ethnic cleansing and quiet resistance of Palestinians in Area C—a section of the Gaza Strip. Area C is a highly-contested piece of land that both the Israelis and Palestinians claim ownership of.

There are over 180 Palestinian communities in Area C that want to stay, despite the Israeli government bulldozing their homes and denying their building permit applications, Shaer said.

According to Shaer, the Israeli court has yet to approve a single Palestinian building permit application in Area C. “Palestinians are quietly resisting occupation,” she said.

This resistance includes living in caves, makeshift shelters, sheds and tents, building structures on Saturdays (the Jewish day of rest) and purposely building incomplete structures since complete ones are more likely to be bulldozed, Shaer explained.

Abisaab read a selection of poems and parts of short stories by Palestinian authors.

She finished by reciting the same poem she had recited at the start of the discussion.

The Concordian reached out to Israel on Campus: Concordia, to which they provided their official statement about what happened. “Israel on Campus condemns this action done by non-Concordia students which decided to interrupt this event. IOC stands for freedom of expression and the right for everyone to express what they think and feel.”

Israel On Campus is a group geared to educate others on Israel’s commitment to democracy in the Middle East and its humanitarian efforts, history, culture and environmental initiatives

The Concordian reached out to the university for comment, however, we did not receive a response before publication time.

With files from Savanna Craig

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News

Boycott, Divest, and Sanctions and Palestinian rights

Panelists from the Green Party, CJPME and Concordia students deliver panel on BDS

On Thursday, Concordia hosted the Boycott, Divest, and Sanctions (BDS) Town Hall, which featured four panelists discussing the goals and achievements of the movement, as well as the misconceptions surrounding it.

The speakers included Grace Batchoun, the co-founder of Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East (CJPME); Dimitri Lascaris, a former member of the Green Party of Canada’s shadow cabinet; Alex Tyrrell, the leader of the Green Party of Quebec; and Rami Yahia, the Concordia Student Union (CSU) internal affairs coordinator.

Tyrrell said these discussions are leading up to the Green Party of Canada convention in December, intended to overturn the party’s current BDS position. The Green Party of Quebec is in support of the BDS movement, however, Tyrrell later said at the federal level, Elizabeth May refuses to support the policy.  “We really hope that as many Green Party members as possible show up to support BDS,” said Tyrrell.

BDS Town Hall panelists include Alex Tyrrell, Dimitri Lascaris, Grace Batchoun and Rami Yahia. (From left to right) Photo courtesy of Dimitri Lascaris.

According to the Palestinian BDS National Committee (BNC), the goal of the BDS movement is to promote Palestinian rights. The movement calls for the boycott of Israeli and international companies that infringe on Palestinian human rights and occupy Palestinian land. According to BNC, the movement also pressures other governments to end military and free-trade agreements with Israel, and remove the country from international associations such as the United Nations and International Federation of Association Football (FIFA).

Lascaris discussed how a trip to Palestine gave him a first-hand look at the injustices the Palestinians face. One man he met, a 77-year-old citrus farmer, cried as he said, “They are breaking my connection to the land.” The Israeli state had extended the wall that separates the two nations—right down the middle of his lemon tree grove, Lascaris said.

“The companies that profit off of Palestinian suffering are profiting off of suffering all over the world,” said Yahia. He listed G4S, Caterpillar and Elbit Systems as examples of companies the BDS movement is boycotting. Yahia said that more and more companies are dropping their Israeli subsidiaries in response to BDS tactics.

Two years ago, Yahia was part of a campaign that succeeded in having the CSU officially endorse BDS. “That motion was to condemn the disproportionate use of force by the Israeli government after the massacre of 2014,” said Yahia.

Yahia said 2,500 students participated in the referendum, making it the “highest turnout in by-election history on campus.” This summer, Concordia’s Simone de Beauvoir (SdBI) institute also gave their official endorsement. The panelists encouraged students to lobby their own faculties to do the same.

Yahia discussed the opposition he’s faced for his pro-BDS stance. Before the referendum, opposers of the BDS movement on campus labelled the campaign as antisemitic. Yahia even faced criticism from the CSU which he had believed to be progressive and supportive of this movement. “I was told I was too pro-Palestine to join an executive team at one point within the [CSU],” said Yahia.

Similarly, Lascaris lost his position within Parliament when he and other Green Party shadow cabinet members criticized the B.C. Green Party leader’s condemnation of the BDS movement.

Batchoun suggested that community members send letters to their MP requesting meetings to discuss the BDS movement. She also suggested signing up with CJPME as a media responder, which entails thanking publications who have covered the issue fairly and criticizing ones who, for example, say it is disputed territory when it is occupied territory.

Starting Oct. 3, Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights is hosting “Decolonize Palestine,” a week filled with events in correlation to BDS and Palestinian culture. Additional information can be found on the SPHR Facebook page.

Graphic by Florence Yee

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Opinions

Exploring Montreal’s doomed fashion scene

Why our beloved city is falling behind in terms of glamour and fashion

The last Montreal Fashion Week was in 2014, which is strange given that Montreal is generally considered one of the most fashionable cities in North America. Why?

“It’s time to rethink the format of the presentation of fashion,” said Chantal Durivage of Sensation Mode in an interview with The Montreal Gazette. She said the necessity of “showing clothing six months in advance of the selling season, as traditional fashion weeks do, is being questioned everywhere given the instant information on the web.” However, Montreal’s independent designers have not all necessarily caught up with today’s technological demands.

According to The Globe and Mail, independent retailers have failed to corner the online market, in a day and age where it can make or break your success as a business.

According to the same article, Pierre-Benoit Duham, the owner of Montreal luxury men’s boutique Clusier, said, “We’ve always had a web presence. It drives more traffic to the store.”

Other independent designers might benefit from following Dunham’s lead. Having an online presence would allow them to reach more young people, who are the future of fashion in Montreal. It would also allow them to reach an audience outside of the city, and hopefully re-establish Montreal as a fashionable city.

There are many stylish individuals in this metropolis, but those with a true sense of personal style are difficult to come by. It’s very hard to ignore the commercialization of the clothing industry, with chains like H&M, Aritzia and Forever 21 popping up around the world.

In my opinion, fashion should be personal. Your outfit should scream you, no matter who you are. It seems as though many people in Montreal, although well-dressed, follow a basic formula for the perfect minimalist outfit. This leaves everyone looking like a sporty chic army. I think that social media, and the rise of lifestyle bloggers are a few of the reasons.

Bloggers tend to fall under an umbrella of minimalist (think American Apparel) or “boho” (think Urban Outfitters, or Anthropologie) style. Since these bloggers are seen as inspirational, their fans tend to want to look like them— sometimes exactly like them— rather than just drawing inspiration and reinterpreting it to reflect their own style.

When popular bloggers post photos of their outfits, they usually list where each item was purchased. So now everyone who reads these blogs can run out to H&M, and buy the same dress or shirt.

It is up to us, as young people, to support independent designers financially, not only for the sake of each of our personal and unique style, but for the sake of Montreal’s fashion future.

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