Arts and Culture Photo Essay Student Life

Where I am Writing From

These are the desks I wrote my graduate thesis on.

​​Caro (Caroline) DeFrias is an emerging academic, artist, and curator currently based in Tiohtià:ke/Mooniyang/Montréal. They are currently in the final stages of their graduate thesis in art history at Concordia University. Previously, they achieved a Combined Honours with Distinction from the University of King’s College in the historiography of science and technology and anthropology, with a certificate in art history and visual culture, and an unofficial minor in contemporary philosophy.

Their work, through a variety of mediums and forms, explores the embodied politics and poetics of queerness, anticolonial art histories and practices, and notions of inheritance and identity in relation to immigration and (re)settlement. As well, they maintain a critical interest in the construction of the gallery space, the politics and history of display practices, embodied and queer phenomenologies of encounter, and the ethics and pathos of the archive. 

Where I am Writing From, July 2023. Photo by Caro DeFrias.
Where I am Writing From, August 2023. Photo by Caro DeFrias.
Where I am Writing From, September 2023. Photo by Caro DeFrias.
Where I am Writing From, October 2023. Photo by Caro DeFrias.
Where I am Writing From, November 2023. Photo by Caro DeFrias.
Where I am Writing From, December 2023. Photo by Caro DeFrias.
Where I am Writing From, January 2024. Photo by Caro DeFrias.
Where I am Writing From, February 2024. Photo by Caro DeFrias.
Arts Arts and Culture Student Life

Concordia art history research highlight: Hysteric: femininity and pain in Paula Rego’s “Possession” series.

An interview with Concordia Art History student Charlotte Koch on her MA thesis research.

On Nov. 29, the Hypothèses conference series hosted their third session of the 2023-2024 season, titled “Femmes modèles et artistes: bodily experience in the painting of Bronzino and Paula Rego,” at La Guilde’s gallery space. The session featured two presentations, including a talk from Concordia MA student Charlotte Koch on her ongoing thesis research, “Hysteric: Femininity and Pain in Paula Rego’s “Possession”.” 

Koch discussed the scope of her project, offering a glimpse into the history of depictions of women’s illnesses and the women who fell prey to exploitation in asylums as early as the 18th century. The plight of these women is remembered through the vivid and dynamic pastel drawings by Portuguese-British artist Paula Rego in her larger-than-life “Possession” series. This series was part of the largest retrospective ever of Rego’s work at London’s Tate Britain art gallery in 2021, only a year before the artist’s passing.

Emma Bell:  What is the ultimate goal of this research? 

Charlotte Koch: What I really want to do is take a closer look at what it means to quote other images and reuse or recycle them into new work. I think work like “Possession” can raise really interesting and important questions about authorship and historical authority, particularly as they relate to ideas we have around the archive or the canon. What I want to do by looking at the history of hysteria is take a more critical look at who has had the power to record the lives and experiences of other people, and how they approached this process.

EB: What inspired you to embark on this project? 

CK: I was very lucky to see Paula Rego’s retrospective in the summer of 2022 right after I finished my undergrad. Originally, I wanted to write about something completely different for my thesis, but after hanging out with Rego’s work for a while, I was so enthralled and my brain was firing in so many different directions, I realized that she would be a great topic for my MA thesis. I knew I wanted to write about historical authorship in some way, and I had, weirdly enough, taken quite a few classes on psychoanalytic theory (my minors in undergrad were philosophy and French studies). It was hard to escape in philosophy, and a lot of French feminist literature from the ‘70s deals a lot with psychoanalysis, so I ran into it a lot then (since that’s what I was most interested in).So when I saw “Possession”, a lot of things clicked for me and I came up with the ideal of approaching historical authorship from a medical/intellectual history perspective. I thought I could put together a really fun, and kind of interdisciplinary thesis that could really utilise all the work I had done in undergrad. 

EB: How do you feel your discussion of the history that informed Rego’s work will impact the way we read media today? 

CK: I hope it can change the way we approach discussions of women’s health as to help take their pain more seriously. A lot of what exists in the archive around hysteria is very trivializing, but in dismissing hysteria outright, you fail to fully see and understand the pain of the women that suffered from it (or suffered from conditions that were labelled as hysteria like PTSD, depression, epilepsy, and more). I think Rego is very good at making the experiences of the women she depicts very confrontational and real. I hope that in highlighting her work and how exactly she accomplishes this, we can gain a new perspective on what it means to treat women’s experiences with the sympathy and severity that they deserve.

EB: How are you practising care as you work on your project?

CK: In my project, I discuss the very difficult lives of three women named Marie, Augustine, and Dora in quite a bit of detail. The only records that exist about them are medical records, and case notes largely only consist of rehashing their traumas. In only focusing on those, the archive continues to enact that same violence on their memory. What I want to avoid is reducing Marie, Augustine, and Dora to their suffering, without dismissing or ignoring their pain either. What I hope I am able to accomplish in my research is to present a balanced, nuanced, sympathetic and careful view of what it is for them to have their lives and stories recorded in this way. The three of them have been reduced to medical cases in the records that exist of them thus far. I hope to create a fuller picture of them as they exist as agents with their own thoughts, feelings, and histories.

EB: What was one of your largest takeaways from presenting at a conference like Hypothèses? How did you feel about the conversation? Was the feedback useful?

CK: It was terrific, and really helpful. What I find most useful when sharing my research is to see what things people latch onto and where they see gaps in logic or information. Conferences like Hypothèses are so great because it lets you test your project. What I learned, for instance, is that there’s a lot more I could say about the actual formal qualities of Rego’s work. I had really neglected my formal analysis of “Possession previously, but after getting some questions and speaking to the folks who attended, I was reminded about how much effect things like scale, perspective, and medium can have on the impact of a work. It let me really zoom out so that I didn’t get lost in my rabbit hole, and now I think my project is a lot more complete.

EB: What scholarship do you recommend for those who want to learn more about your topic?

CK: For folks who are interested in the history of hysteria, Asti Hustvedt’s book Medical Muses can be heart-wrenching at times but is very accessible and paints a beautiful picture of the lives of women who were diagnosed with hysteria at the Salpêtrière Hospital in Paris in the 1870s.

For folks who are interested in historical authority and history creation, Mark Salber Phillips has two great books on this topic: On Historical Distance and What was History Painting and What is it now? with Jordan Bear. 

I, of course, urge anyone and everyone to check out Paula Rego’s work. Since her Tate retrospective there is thankfully so much more being written about her. She was so prolific, within her massive body of work, you are bound to find something you connect with. Her Dog Women series, I think, is brilliant and a good place to start if you want to dive into her figurative work. And of course, I think Venus in Two Acts by Saidiya Hartman should be required reading for everyone who deals with people and archives their research and writing.  It is a short but deeply impactful read that will make you think harder and more carefully about how you write and who you write about.

Arts and Culture Student Life

Get to know AHGSA!

Concordia’s Art History Graduate Student Association hosted their first meet-and-greet of the academic year.

Concordia University’s Art History Graduate Student Association (AHGSA) kicked off the school year with a casual meet-and-greet for incoming and returning graduate students in the art history program. 

The Concordian spoke to AHGSA’s PhD representative Timmy Chandler about the executive team’s goals for this year. He emphasized their focus on fostering collegial relationships through activating social spaces and providing access for students to networking and career-building opportunities. “AHGSA acts as a liaison between art history graduate students and each other, the department/faculty/other art history student groups. There is a large scope of what projects and activities the team can propose and make happen,” said representative Margaret Lapp.  

Building a sense of community on campus in a post-lockdown world has been an enduring challenge for many student associations. AHGSA’s purpose in the past has been to organize and facilitate their annual symposium for graduate students to present their academic work and gain professional experience. 

Their latest symposium, Thrivance | Le Fleurissement, was held in April 2022. Current MA students have mixed feelings about the symposium’s hiatus during the 2022–2023 academic year due to several unfulfilled leadership positions, but this was also a reflection of AHGSA’s shifting priorities.

Chandler pointed out that this past year, the association’s funding was allocated toward smaller and more frequent social events like workshops and pop-ups, rather than one large, intimidating conference. This was an effort to make the association more accessible and approachable in order to encourage students to be more regularly involved and thus feel more connected to their peers. 

This year, the team hopes to strike a balance and continue to host small, engaging social events while also bringing back the symposium. So far, it has been a successful endeavour for the association. The meet-and-greet bustled with anecdotal stories of long-term friendships and connections being born at AHGSA’s events, such as their BYOB Park Frolic picnic, their maxed out Frigo Vert Grad Mixer, and their interdepartmental networking event hosted in collaboration with MFASASA (the Master of Fine Arts Studio Arts Association). 

AHGSA is always seeking new members and students can stay up to date with their programming by following their instagram page @ahgsaconcordia. Their profile also shares flyers for upcoming events around Montreal’s art scene within and beyond Concordia, making it a great resource for new and returning students to get involved. Be sure to check them out and stay tuned for the results of Monday’s general assembly and fall election!

Ar(t)chives Arts

Existential art: a brief look at Alex Colville’s Pacific

Pacific, one of Colville’s most well known works, challenges viewers to be inquisitive and to derive their own meaning from this complex piece of art

I first encountered Alex Colville’s work in an introductory art history class during my second year at Concordia. Our professor had us observe several works from the Canadian artist, and try to decipher the meaning behind them.

Colville was primarily concerned with realism, deriving inspiration for many of his works from his life in the Maritimes, as well as his experience serving in the Second World War. Although Colville has quite a few noteworthy paintings, there’s one that has stuck with me ever since I first saw it: Pacific (1967).

This work features a man leaning against a wall as he vacantly stares out at a tranquil body of water. However, this won’t be the first thing that viewers notice. Behind the man rests a pistol on a table, its barrel angled towards the observer. Although Colville’s work often explores themes such as the use of power, postwar anxiety, and morality, coupled with his interest in French existentialism, it appears that the artist would prefer that his audience attempt to interpret what Pacific means to them.

In several of his paintings, Colville presents a landscape that is eerily serene, where he then juxtaposes it with a chaotic subject. His pieces, especially Pacific, leave us with questions that are uncomfortable to confront: what is the man in the painting contemplating? Why is the gun angled towards the audience? Will the man end up using it?

His work draws us in, and instead of providing clear-cut answers and satiating our desire for more vibrant, serotonin-boosting pieces, these paintings demand that we be inquisitive. They expect us to dig a bit deeper, and to get into the heads of the subjects that Colville so carefully crafted.

When viewers are unable to decide on a narrative and make sense of a subject’s motives, they may walk away feeling uneasy. But this isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

Art that gets us thinking, especially pieces that cause us to ponder existential questions we may try to avoid, might help us view the world a bit differently. Sure, it can be gloomy to try and make sense of a painting like Pacific, but our own interpretations of a piece often say a lot more about how we view our society and ourselves, rather than the direct intentions of the artist.

In a world where many things tend to move at breakneck speed, there’s nothing wrong with taking some time to engage with a complex work that requires careful introspection from its observer. You might even learn something new about yourself in the process.


Visuals courtesy of Taylor Reddam

Ar(t)chives Arts

A glimpse at John Kacere’s “body” of work

The artist painted larger-than-life depictions of the female midsection

Upon first glance, John Kacere’s paintings could be mistaken for some NSFW photos. A quick search of his name in the Google search bar yields dozens of photos of bare women’s midriffs and bottoms.

The American artist originally began his career as an abstract expressionist in the 1950s and ‘60s. Works such as Homage to Stuart Davis (1952) feature the same bold geometric shapes painted in primary colors that many artists of the same era, like Joan Miró, are recognized for. These pieces contrast many of his series from the same period, such as three works (1959-1963), which feature a collection of very minimal strokes and shapes on paper.

Kacere experimented with a variety of media, including pencil, graphite and collage, until the late 1960s, when he settled on the oil-on-canvas photorealistic style that he is known for today. One of his first works, Untitled (bikini) (1970), depicts a close-up of a woman’s bikini line. She wears white lingerie, and the shading is so detailed that it appears as though the painting is an enlarged photograph. The painting is nearly 50 inches wide and 40 inches tall — that is over three times “life size.”

The artist maintained this style for the rest of his career, assembling a collection of roughly 130 works, according to the Louis K. Meisel Gallery. Over the years, the New York City gallerist, Louis Meisel, has worked to collect them in order to offer a retrospective of Kacere’s career. Meisel is said to have discovered Kacere’s work via his wife, Susan Pear Meisel, who met Kacere in 1966 when she was a student at Parsons School of Design, where Kacere taught.

In a statement on his gallery website, Meisel writes: “I might point out that Kacere’s work CAN be seen as all three parts of realist painting, portrait, still life AND landscape.”

This quote encompasses many of the aspects present in Kacere’s paintings. Some, like Meisel, have compared the works to landscapes, describing the curve of the womens’ hips as “[building] a terrain across each canvas.” Others, like Melt, have observed the classical resemblance and quality of his work which “could be attributed to the luxurious materials and skin on display.”

While his focus on the beauty of the nude body was recognizably influenced by classical sculptures, it is also interesting to note his displays of female fashions, which make the paintings resemble still lifes. In each work, the depicted woman is clad in a new, intricate and luxurious set of lingerie, and sprawled against luscious patterned silks and satins. The fabrics are shown in a similar manner to the way most still lifes depict ceramic vases or ripe fruit.

His work has, unsurprisingly, been described as erotic and provocative. There is no doubt Kacere was fascinated with the female figure, which, of course, has raised questions regarding objectification. According to Fad, Kacere once stated that “Woman is the source of all life, the source of regeneration. My work praises that aspect of womanhood,” in reply to criticism about his chosen subject matter.

The verdict is still out among art writers and critics on whether Kacere’s work is, in fact, problematic or not. However, his “body” of work makes it clear that he redefined the way we perceive the modern female nude.


Graphic by Taylor Reddam.


What has the CUJAH been up to?

A glimpse at what the Concordia Undergraduate Journal of Art History has been working on

There’s no doubt that Zoom university makes it harder to engage in student life and feel like you’re a part of something. In an effort to make students feel more involved and aware of what student clubs are up to, we’ll be conducting a series of interviews with various student-run organizations.

The Concordia Undergraduate Journal of Art History (CUJAH) is a student-run association that aims to showcase the talents of Concordia’s Art History and Fine Arts students via the publishing of an annual journal and an art history conference.

CUJAH aims to provide students with opportunities, both professional and academic, by offering a variety of workshops.

“We also hold a variety of events throughout the year geared towards supporting students in their academic and professional development,” explained Kari Valmestad, CUJAH’s Editor-in-Chief.

Fortunately for the CUJAH, lockdown and work-from-home orders have not disrupted their process too much, seeing that most of their work is done digitally.

“A significant adjustment, and a crucial one, is that CUJAH implemented a board of directors for the first time in the student group’s history,” said Valmestad. “This was a very necessary amendment, and we are lucky to have a wonderful group of students who comprise our 2020-2021 board.”

Moreover, for the first time since it’s inaugural launch, their tenth annual edition of the conference will be held entirely online and their journal launch will not occur in-person.

“Although meeting in person is incomparable, there actually have been many advantages to having the conference virtually,” said Valmestad. “For example, Juliette Muth [CUJAH’s conference coordinator] has invited many speakers from outside of Montreal, whereby normally, we wouldn’t have the funding to fly out speakers to the city.”

Many scholars and artists will be joining from elsewhere, such as Dr. Sabrina Strings, an associate professor of sociology at the University of California, Irvine, whose research focuses on how race, sexuality, and class are “inscribed” in the body.

“Another pro to having the conference virtually is that anyone anywhere can attend,” said Valmestad.

Aside from their annual conference, CUJAH has been hosting a series of speaker events in collaboration with Concordia’s 4TH SPACE, a centre for research and experiential learning, and Yiara Magazine, an undergraduate feminist art publication based out of Concordia.

“Our first [event], which was on Jan. 13, was with the newly-hired art history professor Dr. Michelle McGeough who spoke about her research on Indigenous knowledge in art history and pushing beyond queering the art historical canon.”

The publication’s second webinar featured a conversation between artist and activist Esther Calixte-Bea and interdisciplinary artist Mahlet Cuff.

Viewers can watch recordings of both the first and second events on 4TH SPACE’s YouTube channel.

Their third and final event was moderated by Manitoba-based artist and curator Genevieve Farrell. The webinar featured curators and programmers from artist-run centres VIE D’ANGE, Groupe Intervention Vidéo, and the Biennale d’art contemporain autochtone (BACA).

Despite most of their content being digital this year, the publication still plans on producing a print issue for their tenth annual edition.

“Having a printed version, I consider to be really important, as not only do the essays, artwork, and graphic design work look so amazing in print, but we also want to have physical copies circulating and available to file in our own archives and those of Concordia and the BAnQ,” said Valmestad. “We will also have a digital version so that it is accessible to anyone interested in reading this year’s volume.”

Those interested in an executive team position at the Concordia Undergraduate Journal of Art History can expect callouts within the coming months. Editorial positions will be opening in the fall semester.

For more information about CUJAH’s upcoming annual conference on Feb. 20-21, or to know more about them follow them on Facebook and Instagram.


Photos courtesy of CUJAH.


HEAR US NOW! supports artistic practices of BIPOC artists during COVID-19

Concordia’s Ethnocultural Art Histories Research group (EAHR) has done incredible work in creating a space to highlight the works of 20 BIPOC artists during the pandemic.

HEAR US NOW!, an exhibition presented by EAHR, displays various artworks, including installations, photography, and performances that engage with numerous topics, such as climate change, racism, and social justice activism.

According to their website, the EAHR group is a research group led by students from the Department of Art History. Since the summer of 2011, EAHR has been facilitating the possibilities of exchange and creation through various projects which aspire to provide a stimulating framework allowing problems of ethnic and cultural representation in the visual arts in Canada to be studied.

A call for submissions was announced in mid-June and closed at the end of August. As people were experiencing their first summer during the pandemic, the group decided to create an Instagram project to diffuse the works of BIPOC artists during these tumultuous and uncertain times.

Artists could submit a maximum of five artworks in any type of medium that could be posted on Instagram. After submitting the works, artists would receive a notification from the EAHR group within two weeks. Selected works would be posted every two weeks, allowing the audience to take a look at the different projects.

The works of multidisciplinary artist Jayce Salloum can be found in the online exhibition. Salloum is a grandson of Syrian immigrants and was raised in Syilx (Okanagan territory) in B.C. Salloum’s work originates from an intimate engagement of places. His works in the exhibition are from his project beyond now (2020), which are writings of texts that he selected to make sentences. On the slides, the audience can read sentences such as “racism inbred in the fabric of the constructed nation” and in smaller text “a pandemic of inequality.”

A second selection of Salloum’s work was shown recently for ISEA2020 (International Symposium on Electronic Art)’s collaborative projects with EAHR, entitled (pre)existing conditions. Salloum’s work exposes other fragments of texts such as “why does a virus have to appear to reveal how connected we all are” with a hashtag #impact_the_social or “white names our streets they’ve no claims here wrecking consciousness still stolen lands” with the hashtag #decolonize. Salloum’s text fragments are straightforward and represent ongoing social tensions.

Viewers can also appreciate the works of Cantonese visual artist Florence Yee, whose work in the exhibition focuses on Cantonese-Canadian history. Yee’s work also examines queerness, racialization, and language. Whitewashed, vinyl on plastic bag (2018) is an installation consisting of a white garment bag hung on a clothing rack with “they said I was whitewashed, but Chinese people only run dry cleaners” written on it.

In their statement, Yee describes their practice as beginning with researching historical references to Cantonese-Canadian history, and now having “moved into a more intimate, more self-doubtful examination of diasporic family respectability from a queer lens.” Using “textile installation to question the stoicism of assimilationist imperatives, by holding space for personal and intergenerational failure and cultural loss.”

As HEAR US NOW! has come to an end, EAHR has selected seven of the 20 artists to take part in a collection of new media projects with ISEA’s theme this year “Why Sentience.” This is in reference to various events that have been happening this year, such as wildfires bursting on the planet, systemic racism, and more contemporary issues.

You can check out HEAR US NOW! exhibition through the hashtag #EAHR_ISEAC2020 on Instagram and the archive on the group’s website



Photographs courtesy of EAHR, Jayce Salloum and Florence Yee.

Feature graphic by Lily Cowper.


Nuit Blanche: Thoughts en lumiere, a rush into a green utopia

We didn’t do Nuit Blanche together, but we might as well have. Two arts writers vs Nuit Blanche. The apathy is real. We were slightly amused. And we’re still thinking too much about the colour green (and outer space?

Chloë Lalonde, Arts Editor, etc., The Concordian 

Nuit Blanche only really came onto my radar when I was in CEGEP, I guess some would consider that a late discovery. My best friend and I visited the Musee d’Art Contemporain (MAC) for one of their fantastic nocturnes. We had special drinks, I don’t remember much of the exhibition (it might have been David Altmejd) and exited the museum directly on Ste-Catherine Street. Little did we know of the wonderland that waited for us outside. Ah, a time when you didn’t have to book your slide/ferris wheel/zipline experience in advance… It was the best surprise.

Since then, Nuit Blanche has been lackluster, ridden with food anxiety, too much beer, long lines and the wrong activities (yeah, I’m talking about “wand-making” at Lockhart).

This year I decided I would spend my Saturday evening after a long day of teaching and laying out the arts and opinions sections of the paper, visiting as many galleries as I could manage with my sister. We met up quite early at the Belgo building (372 Ste-Catherine St. W.), before things were popping, and managed to pass by every gallery that was open, before stopping by the very crowded MAC, UQAM’s art gallery, a surprise performance we weren’t expecting and finishing off with Le Livart.

The Belgo is unassuming, if you didn’t already know it was home to 27 galleries, several artist studios, savvy startups and dance studios, it would be hard for you to find out. The exterior isn’t necessarily inviting, neither is the lobby and the adjacent cafe (I found a hair in my crepe and they gave me a free latte.)

It was my sister’s first time there and she had no expectations, but I didn’t want to disappoint. I did force her to cancel her unmade plans with her friends to hang out with me, after all. We rode the elevator up to the fifth floor (which is truly the sixth), and wove our way in and out of galleries uninterested until I started to notice a grand theme. Every gallery featured some kind of moon print. Drawings or lithographs, etchings, paintings––like craters on the moon––everything felt geographical, alluding to the earth and the landscape.

AMER, an artist from Montreal, paints with rust in their exhibition at Galerie Luz, using hydrogen, oxygen and carbon—what AMER considers among the essential elements for the appearance of life. Their work returns to the origin of the medium, with natural hues and industrial materials to reference ancient cave paintings and transmit modern messages over time.

Past a wall separating Galerie Luz in two, lived fibre works that felt entirely alien to AMER’s practice. White and fluffy, interrupted by copper threads and plastics, Mariela Borello’s tapestries connect to the body.

Later, at UQAM’s art gallery, the moon prints returned. Only this time they were in the forms of massive paper tapestries and sculptures disappearing into the floor. These rooms of earth and stone, on until March 21, compiled the incredibly similar practices of Michel Boulanger and Katja Davar.

Boulanger’s Girations, Rouler 1 was absolutely mesmerizing. A jeep-esque vehicle sinks and resurfaces, only to sink again, creating new landscapes with each dip. Davar’s drawings resonate on the same frequency. Each piece is like witnessing the plans for a new earth, land and soil.

The theme this year was “vert,” and events and exhibitions generally referenced the colour, sustainability and the environment throughout. Green is symbolic for many things, most notably, growth, whether natural/environmental, economic or personal, it’s said to be healing and inspire creativity.

Some works were all too literal; Le Livart had an exhibition up the whole month of February based solely on the colour green, and others were just flat out unrelated and overpopulated (collection exhibitions at the MAC).

Oh, and I can’t forget the performance we walked into on our way home, which was, arguably, my sister’s favourite part. Mourning of the Living Past, performed by Inflatable Deities, Canadian artists Jessica Mensch and Emily Pelstring, shook their futuristic “organic sparkly energy” all over UQAM’s Judith-Jasmin pavilion. It truly infected my 18-year-old sister. She danced along with them (behind the crowd) as I filmed her. She also changed her Instagram bio to “organic sparkly energy,” which I’m pretty sure is what the glittery duo chanted into their electronic amplifiers.

Sophia Arnold, Contributor for The Concordian and CUJAH Editor-in-Chief 

For the past five years, since I moved to Montreal, Nuit Blanche has been something to look forward to in the depths of your depressive episodes at the height of winter, mostly because the metro is open all night and the thought of riding public transit at 4 a.m. is overwhelming for a green-minded, uber-despising person. It gives a cosmopolitan New York vibe that Montreal aspires to everyday but can only afford to cave into twice a year (the other night being New Years Eve).

Nuit Blanche attracts all kinds of people: those who have kids and want to take them on the mini Ferris wheel at Place des Arts before retiring after “doing Nuit Blanche,” tourists who are just happy to be wherever they end up (admittedly, me the first two years…), and Montrealers who know where to be and will not give you the time of day if “you’re not from Montreal.”

My night started at Le Livart. I had been there a few times before but never on Nuit Blanche, although my partner had and was enamoured with the basement dance floor. The layout of the place reflects its roots as an old residential home, and still allows for artists-in-residence to use the upstairs rooms as studios. For Nuit Blanche, they had many artists exhibiting their works on the ground floor, and opened the upstairs, inviting you to speak with the gallery’s resident artists.

The exhibition went through all the various interpretations of this year’s theme, green, in all its facets. Livart expanded on the ideas presented in Vert, Histoire d’une couleur by Michel Pastoureau, who highlights green as a central colour in the role of art history. As you enter, Renaud Séguin’s green, ‘cabinet of curiosity’ style room welcomes you into a literal green space. Filled with found objects, from candy wrappers to paint colour samples, and some iconic references, like a picture of The Green Lady (@greenladyofbrooklyn), it’s like entering a commodity forest; our new image of green.

Other rooms in the gallery welcomed the interpretation of ‘green’ to be detourned headlights,  bricolage wreaths placed on the ground and large-scale photography. Due to the variety of mediums included, when you left Le Livart you were very aware what role the colour and ideology of green plays in contemporary art.

Next stop was Palais des Congrès, where we saw some of the works featured in this year’s Art Souterrain underground exhibitions, running until March 22. The piece we spent the most time with was the automated metro doors in sequence that opened as you walked through the hallway of them. It was an unexpected yet retrospectively predictable surprise seeing as the delapidated metro cars are the subject of many interactive installations throughout the city, highlighting the history and development of an iconic feature of Montreal daily life.

Next on the agenda; Phi Centre. I don’t really know where to begin with this one. As a self identifying ‘antenna,’ Phi Centre hosts a variety of events showcasing the latest tech developments, and this night was no exception. The show, Simulation/Acceleration, was built on the premise of human connectivity, digital capitalism and environmental degradation, exploring the topic with Virtual Reality (VR), augmented reality and a green screen interactive performance. DJ sets also took place throughout the night with visuals.

Life on the green screen was the highlight of the show. Mesmerized by the piercing gaze and dynamic movement of the performers in an array of outfits and positions, it was an ominous presence that rarely broke—apart from when viewers were invited to enter the green screen setup and the rare drunk guy did a peace sign. The screen showing the results of the green screen performance embodied the premise of the show, deconstructing the commonplace ideas of humans as apart from the environment and autonomous players in a hyperconnected world.

After a necessary food detour, we headed to Places des Arts, which was a short stop. Eying it through the crowds of people, we decided to skip it this year as it has an overdone, commercial vibe that we weren’t looking for (signified by the giant maple syrup cans).

Final stop: Eastern Bloc. The event aimed to create an urban oasis and safe space for freedom of expression and being, which it did through Allison Moore’s installation, The Enchanted Woods and various DJ sets with a dance floor in the usual exhibition space. Running until 4 a.m., it felt like a liberation from winter and greyness, taking you out of time and space to a utopic non-place—even though they ran out of drinks and you had to wait 30 minutes for the bathroom, which kind of brought you back down to earth.

All in all, it was an extensive, involved and jovial evening. But, we wish this programming was accessible at a substantial level throughout the year. In one evening, you go to four events before your corporeal limit is reached and you miss events that cannot be experienced again. In an ideal green utopia devoid of money, the metro would run 24 hours a day and every night would be an opportunity to engage with your local and international communities in such a monumental way, like the way you can on Nuit Blanche.





Graphic by @sundaeghost

Photos by Chloë Lalonde and Sophia Arnold.


Happening in and around the White Cube this week…

Happening in and around the White Cube this week… should art history roll over and die? 

During the Art History Graduate Student Association (AHGSA) Symposium, keynote speaker, Lindsay Nixon, spoke about their current work with Indigenous memes and digital futures. They spoke of the ethics of the dissemination of information and Indigenous knowledge and how apps like TikTok allow Indigenous youth to connect with communities across Turtle Island and the world.

But how does this bridge the gap between artist and influencer? Where does art history come into play?

Nixon, who graduated with a Specialization in Women’s Studies from the Simone de Beauvoir Institute, and has completed their MA in Art History at Concordia, places the ethics of making first. The maker, the artist, before the art. Meaning over aesthetics.

While TikTok videos and memes are not always works of art, Indigenous TikToks and memes are a different category. They have the power to create a community and disseminate Indigenous knowledge, objects and experience in a way that was almost impossible earlier in the century. Nixon highlighted artists, like Dana Claxton and Fallon Simard among many others, who work in these ways and pull apart notions of what Indigenous art is.

When speaking about Indigenous art and memes, Nixon opts for “Indigenous digital humanities,” as opposed to contemporary art and art history. And when their talk was finished, a member of the audience raised their hand and said, “Art history should roll over and die.” Nixon, who is also the Indigenous Editor-at-Large for Canadian Art magazine, laughed and agreed.

Art history is definitely rooted in colonial notions of high art, and while craft practices come into the art historical discussion, Indigenous art cannot be looked at in the same way. Art history contends with an institutionalized space that Indigenous digital humanities tries to dismantle.

In Indigenous Art is so Camp, an article in Canadian Art from earlier this fall, Nixon wrote, “Art became my career. Somewhere along the way, I lost the joy of Indigenous art, of art generally, and the initial emotions that drew me to the gallery became conflated with the day-to-day grind of contending with an industry.” Indigenous art, unlike many art historical and anthropological thought, is not limited to a series of symbols and narratives but shares a universal love for camp, and all that is theatrical and truly extra.

These narratives—think of Kent Monkman’s paintings and his alter-ego, Miss Chief Eagle Testickle—surpass western knowledge and notions of art history.

Art history is, like so many other fields of study, one that should “roll over and die.” There’s still a lot of work to do to redefine the art world and beyond.


Happening in and around the White Cube this week…

Happening in and around the White Cube this week…

Miss Chief is back! And boy am I thrilled. As someone who grabs every chance they have to write and talk about Kent Monkman, attending the press conference on Feb. 5, for the artist’s new exhibition, Shame and Prejudice: A Story of Resilience at McCord museum, was a dream come true (I was even lucky enough to meet him!).

I’ll just go out and say it, Kent Monkman is the most relevant artist today and possibly ever. The Canadian-born artist of Cree ancestry comments not only on our current sociocultural conditions, but also colonial history and colonial art history.

“I look for places to take inspiration or to challenge art history told by different perspectives,” Monkman explained at the press conference. Both artist and curator of Shame and Prejudice, he works with existing art and artefacts in McCord’s collection to “jostle tradition” and “rep a Cree worldview.”  

A beautifully set table transforms from lavish hors d’oeurves set for colonial officials and polished wood, to splintered bark topped with boney leftovers representing those that were left to scavenge or starve.

Monkman creates masterpieces, both painting and installation/sculptural work, inspired by great classical artists like Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio and Leonardo Da Vinci, as well as more arguably problematic work by Pablo Picasso.


Monkman comments on the art world’s (post)modern minimalist trends by comparing them to Indigenous overpopulation in prisons, which he emphasises as the ultimate minimalist dream, living with the bare necessities (Minimalism, 2017). Monkman even comments on natural history by making sculptural pieces, such as in Nativity Scene (2017), which mimics installations in natural history museums; neanderthals and dinosaurs sharing their space with Native Americans with the same head and body in different scenes, wearing different clothing.

Monkman’s favourite piece, The Scream (2017) depicts the violently emotional removal of Indigenous children from their families.The massive painting is centered on a black wall in a black room, surrounded by beautiful handmade baby carriers, ghost-baby carriers (grey, empty carriers symbolising those that were lost), chalk outlines, and work created by Indigenous children in residential schools. There are no words to describe the sense of dread one feels walking into this room. When asked by a CTV journalist, Monkman agreed that it’s about time the impact of colonialism is brought to the public eye in such a visually discerning way.

Monkman’s work checks all the boxes, and surpassing its aesthetic and artistic qualities is its ability to educate, supported by Indigenous voices and knowledge. Present throughout is the gender fluid, twospirit teacher of the century, Miss Chief Eagle Testickle.

Visit Miss Chief in Shame and Prejudice: A Story of Resilience at the McCord Museum until May 5. Miss Chief’s newly released video performance, Another Feather in Her Bonnet, in collaboration with Jean Paul Gaultier and part of a larger installation, is now a part of the permanent collection at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts.


Bringing inner demons to light: The dark side of the art world

From haunted paintings to tormented artists, the art world has a dark side

At this time of the year, there is an abundance of eerie stories to be shared, especially when it comes to unsettling histories.
The haunted history of two famous paintings
By: Ashley Fish-Robertson, Contributor

The portrait of Bernardo de Galvez has hung on the walls of the Hotel Galvez in Galveston, Texas, since just after the American Revolutionary War. It is known by visitors and paranormal fanatics as one of the most haunted paintings in Texas. With its Spanish colonial revival architecture, Hotel Galvez sits on the shoreline of the Gulf of Mexico and has been operating since 1911. Several of the hotel’s guests have reported seeing the portrait’s eyes move, and the artwork is known to conjure up feelings of unease. There have even been several reports of visitors attempting to photograph the portrait, but the images always come out blurry and unrecognizable. For those who wish to get a clear picture of Bernardo, the hotel’s staff recommend asking the portrait for permission beforehand.


In 1910, Norwegian artist Edvard Munch completed his masterpiece, The Scream. It is one of the most recognized works of the horror-abstract genre, and served as an outlet for a horrific vision the artist had in his youth. According to some of Munch’s personal writings, his childhood vision encompassed horrific images of “air turned to blood” and the echo of “a huge endless scream course through nature.” Although this painting was inspired by a traumatic moment the artist experienced, the painting itself has several interpretations in the art world especiallywhen considered alongside Munch’s journal entries. In one of his earliest entries, Munch wrote: “Sickness, insanity and death were the angels that surrounded my cradle, and they have followed me throughout my life.”

According to a report by the Smithsonian Museum, this painting “defined how we see our own age—wracked with anxiety and uncertainty” and had a significant influence on the understanding of art in the 18th century. It is the existential dread that haunts viewers the most, according to an in-depth report done by the BBC. The painting has created a popular archetype for horror pop culture, such as influencing the 1996 slasher film Scream.



When death imitates art: The curious ending of Poe
By Lillian Roy, Contributor

It was election night in Baltimore, and Gunner’s Hall bustled with life. The tavern had been temporarily converted into a polling station, although this didn’t seem to impede usual pub activities. Mixing spirits and politics made for a popular cocktail in 1849.
A compositor named Joseph W. Walker was walking by Gunner’s Hall when, in the darkness, he spotted the slumped figure of a man. The man appeared to be exceedingly drunk and was dressed in a cheap, worn gabardine suit and a tattered banana leaf hat. Despite the man’s slurred incoherence, Walker managed to decipher the name of a friend who lived nearby. He sent the following note to Dr. Joseph E. Snodgrass:

Dear Sir,
There is a gentleman, rather the worse for wear, at Ryan’s 4th ward polls, who goes under the cognomen of Edgar A. Poe, and who appears in great distress, and he says he is acquainted with you, and I assure you, he is in need of immediate assistance.
Yours, in haste,
Jos. W. Walker

Less than a week later, on Oct. 7, 1849, Edgar Allan Poe was pronounced dead.
The details surrounding Poe’s death are a mystery. To date, no one knows why he was in such a delirious state that night. While an inclination to drink heavily might provide some explanation, it fails to account for his peculiar clothing. The poet was generally regarded as quite fashionable—why then, was his suit soiled, ill-fitting and coming apart at the seams?
What also remains unclear is how exactly Poe died. After he was discovered outside the tavern, Poe was rushed to a nearby hospital. During his short stay, he wavered in and out of consciousness, utterly incoherent and seemingly detached from reality.

A lack of reliable evidence has led to the development of numerous theories surrounding Poe’s death. Was it the result of alcoholism, drug abuse, syphilis, influenza, rabies or poison? Was he mugged and beaten into a state of shock? Some have even speculated he died from the effects of a prolonged suicide.

It seems eerily fitting that Poe’s life ended the way it did. In many ways, his departure was as elusive and chilling as his work. Poe’s legacy is so great that historians and literary buffs continue to search for answers, but it’s unlikely we’ll ever know the truth. After all, in the words of  Poe himself, “there are some secrets which do not permit themselves to be told.”




Behind Francisco de Goya’s darkness
by Youmna El Halabi, Staff Writer

I believe I speak for most art lovers when I say that “colourful,” “merry” and “pleasing to the general public” are not qualities associated with Francisco de Goya’s work. I was first introduced to the Spanish artist through his infamous El sueño de la razón produce monstruos (The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters). The dark etchings, sombre colours and daunting intensity of the drawings made me believe  Goya always produced such darkness. However, that was not the case.

In fact,  Goya was avidly admired by the royal Spanish court in the 18th century. For the longest period, his portraits of the royal family were what distinguished him in Spain, namely works like Condesa de Altamira and Her Daughter and Manuel Osorio Manrique de Zúñiga, who was Altamira’s third son. In  Goya’s portraits, colours were used in abundance. His landscapes such as Blind Man’s Bluff painted in 1789, were bright and clear.

However, as is the fate of most artists, tragedy struck  Goya, forcing him into an isolated life. In 1793, the Spanish artist emerged from a long illness completely deaf, which contributed immensely to his art. Starting in 1797, one can see a growing theme of darkness and disturbance in his work. The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters is among the 80 disturbing drawings of his first famous print series, Los caprichos, which encompassed fantasy, satire and ridicule of Spanish society.

Goya’s first dark series paved way for what we now consider his darkest works, The Black Paintings. Comprised of 14 paintings, the collection took about four years to complete. The Black Paintings convey violence, despair, mental illness and evil. Saturn Devouring His Son is a fairly disturbing depiction of the Greek myth of the Titan Cronus eating his child to prevent possible usurpation.

The longer Goya spent away from society, the less colourful his art became. One might agree that colourful works of art always appealed to the masses, but as the renowned Spanish artist became more reclusive, eaten away by depression, he began to paint for himself. No colours, no joy, just projections of his inner turbulence.

Graphics by @spooky_soda



Happening in and around the White Cube this week…

Happening in and around the White Cube this week…

I’d like to take a moment to talk about the viral Banksy shredding. Last week, the internet blew up with the news: the renowned street artist remotely shredded one of his paintings just after it was sold at a Sotheby’s art auction in London on Oct. 5. According to a video on Instagram, Banksy had installed the shredder inside the painting’s frame in case it were to be auctioned off.

Banksy is all about making a statement. When I first heard about the shredding, I rolled my eyes. Of course Banksy destroyed his own artwork. I was so over it. The idea of selling a Banksy is absurd—his pieces are meant to be public and ephemeral, accessible to all for free. Consequently, destroying his painting was the ultimate power move.

Art auctions are capitalist ventures, and the money raised rarely funds the artist—the very thing Banksy fights against. According to The Guardian, by destroying his art, Banksy increased its value by at least 50 per cent. The shredded Girl with Balloon is now worth over CAD $3 million.

Banksy didn’t destroy an artwork in the auction, he created one.” – Alex Branczik, Sotheby’s head of contemporary art, Europe.

Regardless of whether Banksy intended or expected the value to increase this much, we’re talking about the whole ordeal. Banksy has forced us to confront this system and is encouraging us to reconsider how we experience art and what we expect from it.

His pieces are admired by many for their rich and socially-relevant aesthetic qualities, but they aren’t meant to be sold. “I don’t charge people to see my art unless there’s a fairground wheel,” Banksy wrote on Instagram in response to news of an exhibition about him in Moscow that he was not aware of. I believe that Banksy would agree that locking his art inside a frame and placing it in a white cube is like jailing an innocent person.

The art world is so much more than what is happening inside the white cube, and there shouldn’t be a price tag on that unless the artist is involved and profiting too.

I created this column and named it the White Cube in a similar spirit—to acknowledge the capitalist corner of the art world and attempt to remedy this way of thinking by promoting mostly free and accessible art. I’m not going to lie, it’s harder than I expected.

That being said, if you are an artist, collective or just a person who happens to know of art available outside the white cube, write to me at   

Graphic by Ana Bilokin and @spooky_soda

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