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Going To, Making Do, Passing Just the Same: exploring attachment to territory

The Other Side of the Fence: Racialized Geographies and Gestures of Reappropriation is the first of a series of events  

The Other Side of the Fence: Racialized Geographies and Gestures of Reappropriation took place on Nov. 8. The half-day seminar was hosted by Suzy Basile, Rémy-Paulin Twahirwa, and Nayla Naoufal, as part of the exhibition Going To, Making Do, Passing Just the Same, which is currently postponed due to government restrictions.

Curated by Edith Brunette and Francois Lemieux, Going To, Making Do, Passing Just the Same will be exhibited at the Leonard & Bina Ellen Art Gallery, located inside Concordia’s J.W. McConnell Building. 

Basile is from the Atikamekw community of Wemotaci Quebec and is a teacher at the School of Indigenous Studies at the Université du Québec en Abitibi-Témiscamingue (UQAT).

Twahirwa is a community organizer and a Ph.D. student at the London School of Economics, who has gained expertise in issues related to discrimination, racism, and socio-economic inequalities and has been involved in social justice causes, such as human rights, particularly those of (im)migrants and refugees.

Naoufal was born in Beirut and is based in Tiohtià:ke/Montreal. Naoufal is a cultural worker, art writer and independent researcher. She is a member of the Centre de recherche en éducation et formation relatives à l’environnement et l’écocitoyenneté at UQAM. Naoufal works with Indigenous artists in Quebec, Canada, and the world, and particularly artists and collectives working with environmental concepts and practices.

The Other Side of the Fence: Racialized Geographies and Gestures of Reappropriation was initially organized to be a live panel. Due to the pandemic, it had to be moved online.

The panel reflects on the upcoming exhibition and the conditions of people’s existence on what is currently known as Canadian territory.

Brunette and Lemieux want to explore the connection of land to people, specifically how land has been modified and damaged for many years due to society’s colonialist and capitalist ways of living. Themes such as the sense of belonging and the connection created with a certain territory as well will be discussed.

The panel focused on environmental racism and its relation to population displacements, the notion of territory, and the attachment that people feel to the land. It also pointed out the realities that Indigenous and other racialized people have been living in relation to the land, such as environmental racism, political dispossession, and mass incarceration.

Guests speakers also touched on subjects such as the resistance from Indigenous and racialized people that has been expressed throughout the years against dispossession, a person or a group of people being deprived of their land or property.

Two other events will be presented either online or on site, depending on future government restrictions. The events include a presentation of the performance Le Fil des jours by researcher and choreographer Catherine Lavoie-Marcus on the semi-abandoned grounds of the Royal Victoria Hospital and a discussion with Marisa Berry-Méndez, a researcher and writer who has expertise in immigration and settlement issues.

Going To, Making Do, Passing Just the Same remains postponed until further notice, and The Other Side of the Fence: Racialized Geographies and Gestures of Reappropriation will be available online

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Arts

Annual graduate student exhibition Ignition moves online

What can we learn from the first wave of virtual exhibitions?

With online exhibitions and art events on the rise, a new standard for criticism is sure to follow. Simple photo galleries aren’t cutting it: viewers want more engagement, something new and cutting edge that really takes advantage of the internet’s wide range of artistic possibilities. Tim Schneider, art business Editor at ArtNet, listed four key components to creating effective online viewing rooms in a recent article:

1. Distinguishing the viewing room from regular online shops by including links to artist statements, portfolios and more

2. thinking outside of the white cube and allowing for a rotation of artworks that would create new dialogues and opportunities for solo shows

3. controlling the accessibility of the viewing room by offering options to sign up for newsletters, donate money, or purchase an artwork

4. promoting the viewing room on other online platforms, allowing  opportunities for public engagement ex-situ, and opening the floor for conversation on video chattings apps

Concordia’s Leonard & Bina Ellen Art Gallery, located in the LB building, has recently made the switch to online programming for their final exhibition of the year, Ignition 16. Ignition is an annual exhibition featuring the work of graduating masters students from Concordia’s Faculty of Fine Arts.

The gallery has opted for a weekly turnover, featuring select artworks from the exhibition in line with a specific theme. The week of April 13 focused on the idea of feedback, spotlighting three of the featured artists. Their programming asks viewers, “what experiences and responses arise when feedback falls silent, tightens its constraint, or contradicts the output we’re accustomed to?”

During the exhibition, members of the virtual public were invited to watch Ahreum Lee’s Memory Palace, an autobiographical account of the intersections between politics, technology, the immigrant experience and  family, to consider society’s control of bodies through Diyar Mayil’s sculptural series (dis)bodied, and to view documentation of Janice Ka-Wa Cheung’s YOU ≠ I, an interactive installation exploring digital narcissism and the uncanny within the everyday.

The gallery’s website isn’t very obvious to navigate, and it takes some sporadic clicking around before you can make it off the homepage. Once you find your way to the programming, you are met with three columns of bold text, and it is within the middle of one of these columns that you will finally reach the online exhibition. In and of itself, the online exhibition doesn’t seem any different from the gallery’s usual webpages for in-person exhibitions.

The feature image on the Ignition 16   page has no context either, although I presume it features the artist’s works—but whose, exactly? The page is divided into two wide columns, one containing a breakdown of the week’s themes (upon my visit on April 17, only the description for the week of April 13 was available), and the other containing the curatorial statement and a list of the artists.

It is only in this second column that the works are accessible to viewers. Each artist section contains a description of their practice, a statement for the selected work, questions to spark further exploration, and links to further information (usually the artist’s own website).

While some of the ideas brought up under the “explore” subheading are quite relevant in this time of social and physical distancing, unless you are going to write about the works or plan to ponder the gallery’s questions in the intellectual corner of your home with a lovely beverage, these questions do not really promote active engagement.  I am left wanting more, wanting full screen viewing, not a window with 15 tabs open for me to click through and eventually get overwhelmed and bored by. These artists had their graduating exhibition cancelled, so they deserve full screen gallery representation.

Among the nine artists, the best received works were the video pieces, hyperlinked on the Gallery’s webpage via Vimeo. It’s evident why that is: audio-visual work thrives online. It’s incredibly accessible, and anyone can view it in it’s intended quality when following the right link. Interactive pieces shared through documentation are a close second, especially when viewers are granted insider access to the artist’s process. Although I’m sure the work could have been designed in another way, with the specific purpose to be interacted with online and under the current circumstances, it’s understandable why it isn’t.

These are trying times we’re living through, and we are all learning as we go and doing the best with what we’ve got. This experience has left me wondering what we can learn from the first wave of virtual exhibitions. How can we better them for future renditions? How can we include this kind of digitally-accessible content in everyday museum and gallery programming as the pandemic blows over?

Share your thoughts with us @TheConcordian on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.


PS, we are hiring for the 2020-2021 academic year! For more information visit theconcordian.com/work-with-us/


Feature image courtesy of the Leonard and Bina Art Gallery. Gif includes the works of Ahreum Lee, Memory Palace, 2019-2020, Christopher Johnstone, Five Acres, 2020, Diyar Mayil, Leaky Pants, 2018 and Janice Ka-Wa Cheung, YOU ≠ I, 2019.

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Arts

What kind of lamp are you?

Sightings project turned personality-type indicator

At the heart of the Hall building mezzanine lives a white cube with transparent walls. This cube, a project by the name of Sightings, is a satellite exhibition space belonging to the Leonard and Bina Ellen Art Gallery. 

Projects featured inside the cube change periodically, with its most recent being LAMPS,  the 27th version of Sightings.

Within the cube, several images of different neon-coloured lamps hang. The artist, Karine Cossette, is interested in the effects of consumption, both materially and psychologically. She manifests her research using photography, collection, writing, and graphic design.

Having recently completed an MFA in Visual and Media Arts at UQAM, and holding a BFA in Photography from Concordia University (2011), Cosette’s most recent project studies the lamp in its general form. Cossette identifies four elements that are integral to the system; a lampshade, base, lightbulb and a lighting device. Each element can be one of a couple shapes or colours. In essence, LAMPS is a substitution for the 16 primary personalities within the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator.

In addition to her photographs, Cossette has provided a quiz viewers may take to further interact with the project. I selected the cone lampshade, circle base, yellow light bulb and ‘day close’ state. This reveals, according to Cosette’s quiz, that I am dynamic, curious, and charming, feel excitement, believe there is a lot I don’t know, and shine in the spotlight.

The idea of creating a quiz surrounding such a common object is interesting alone in itself, as this object, the lamp, can exist in many more variations than those indicated by the artist. But for the sake of her work, I think the quiz can be interpreted as the limited options we are given to ‘be ourselves’ when furnishing our homes. Often times, we settle for items that are not exactly those we initially desired, and end up owning very similar ones instead (see that coffee table from Ikea that everyone has, you know the one.) This item does not represent our individual personalities, but perhaps instead our overall budget need for a coffee table. However, limiting our choices urges us to veer away from our individual desires for the lamp and conforming, instead, to the model of consumption laid out before us.

Cosette’s larger body of work is generated from a manual she created, titled Voir des Choses, or Seeing Things. This manual is comprised of a categorized list of items, like a dictionary.

The expression, ‘to see things’ can have two meanings: figurative, seeing things that are not real and literal, and concrete perception of objects. In her artist statement, Cossette explained that based on her practice of photography, the construction of images reveals objects that can be real, imaginary, or both.

Her lamps, as photographed, are real objects as we perceive them; however the quiz puts forward figurative lamps that represent one’s personality. Participants are then left with a symbol that may or may not be similar to the ones hanging within the cube, and their own personalized definition of their symbol, rather unique to them.

Sightings 27: LAMPS will remain in the Hall mezzanine until Sept 8 and will then be followed by Sightings 28: X ) X + [ ( X ) X { X } X X ] { X } +, an installation and performance-based project centered on violence by Suzanne Kite, PhD candidate at Concordia.

 

 

Take the lamp quiz here and share your results with us on Instagram and Twitter @theconcordian !

 

Photo by Laurence B.D

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Arts

Everything is Blue in Vincent Meessen’s latest exhibition

Shedding light on obscured narrative in colonialism history

The reflection of a rich shade of blue graces Concordia University’s library building. Written in all caps, the word “AMERIKKKKK…KKKKANADA” is at the forefront of the exhibition, on the Leonard & Bina Ellen Art Gallery’s window display.

This unusual lighting is part of the gallery’s newest exhibit by Vincent Meessen, curated by Director Michèle Thériault, Blues Klair.

Meessen is an American artist, born and raised in Baltimore, who currently lives and works in Brussels, Belgium. He was representing Belgium in 2015 at the 56th Venice Biennale in a group exhibition entitled Personne et les autres (No One and Others) when he met Thériault. Thériault was genuinely taken by the artist’s passion for history and colonialism, and colonial modernity in the Western imaginary.

“What was interesting in him was the piece he presented,” Thériault said, “which addressed the traces of colonialism or coloniality, if you want, in modernity, but also where he kind of diffused the notion of authorship by not doing a single artist proposition. He worked in conjunction with a bunch of different artists.”

The 2015 Biennale exhibition traditionally showcases individual artists and their works, but Meessen chose to go beyond that, and work collectively with 10 artists from four continents.

“I was very fascinated by his piece,” Thériault continued, “which, to make a long story short,  was a film installation within an environment that he created, shot in Congo. He was also working with someone, a Congolese who had been a situationist in the 60s, and Meessen worked with him to showcase his work. I was very much fascinated by how he exposed the traces of colonialism.”

Blues Klair is the artist’s first solo exhibition in North America.

Meessen and Thériault coordinated for two years before this project came to life. Meessen is a founding member of Jubilee, a platform for artistic research and production. Thériault got in contact with Jubilee, and the connection was formed.

At the heart of Blues Klair, a video plays. The “narrated exhibition,”—as described by the gallery—titled Ultramarine is a 42-minute set by Kain the Poet, who was part of the Black Arts Movement towards the end of the 60s. The film is linked to Meessen’s commissioned piece for the city of Toulouse’s yearly art festival called Printemps de septembre.

Kain the Poet, born Gylan Kain in Harlem, New York City, is also a playwright and actor. He now lives in Amsterdam, and is considered one of the precursors to hip hop, as his spoken words in beat culture focus mainly on black power.

In Ultramarine, Kain is seen and heard breaking racial barriers, and calling out European mistreatment towards people of colour. He talks about his own experience in exile in Amsterdam, and the trade of the Indigo plant in the 1700s.

“Blue is important in Toulouse,” Thériault explained. “It’s the city that used pastel, a dye—you make dye out of pastel—usually supplied by the Indigo plant. Indigo is grown in Indonesia and some parts of the Caribbean, so in Toulouse, trading and commerce were very present. The trading also has to do with slave roots and the labourers. There’s the question of slavery and exploitation raised in that film, as well as the question of the blues, seeing as Kain is Afro- American.”

Blues Klair also sheds light on an event seldom discussed at Canadian schools: the 1968 Sir George Williams affair, which took place on the Sir George Williams campus, now known as part of Concordia University. When six Caribbean students accused a biology professor of racism towards black students—after the lecturer was handing out failing grades to all students of colour, regardless of their work—the students demanded the university investigate these charges and form a committee that would represent the black community.

The exposition showcases flyers upon flyers scattered across the gallery floor, commemorating the events that happened and the violence Concordia University’s campus has witnessed. Furthermore, this installation serves as a reminder of black power, and how resilient and strong people can be when they stand up for their beliefs.

Vincent Meessen’s exposition will be on display at the Leonard & Bina Ellen Art Gallery in the LB building until Feb. 23.

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Reclamation and resistance at play in exhibition “Among All These Tundras”

Exploring contemporary focuses of circumpolar communities and identities

Language, land, sovereignty—how do these concepts and areas of focus play out in the regions of the circumpolar arctic? How do topics of identity and colonialism define themselves in these communities? Such is addressed and explored through the art of 12 Indigenous artists from this region in the exhibition Among All These Tundras.

Curated by Heather Igloliorte, Amy Prouty and Charissa von Harringa, Among All These Tundras showcases works exclusively by artists from the circumpolar arctic, whose respective works address and explore contemporary and historic focuses of this location, including language, colonialism and sovereignty. The variety of pieces span many mediums, including film, sculpture, photography, textile and performance, creating a diverse collection of work.

The title of the exhibition is drawn from “My Home Is In My Heart,” a poem written by Nils-Aslak Valkeapää. Valkeapää is a well-known Finnish Sami poet, known for his writing, music and eight collections of published poems. The poem is written in Sami. In it, Valkeapää addresses and connects to different realms of Indigenous life and knowledge, while highlighting aspects of decolonization. He uses language as a form of resistance, which gives greater significance to the title of the exhibition. Connected to this, in viewing the works of Among All These Tundras, it is necessary to recognize that the presence of colonialism has touched, and is prominent within, every artwork shown. Viewers can further consider these ties and the reclamation and resistance explored within the artworks.

Sami Shelters #1 – 5 (2009 – ) by artist Joar Nango consists of several hand-knitted wool sweaters of various shades, designs and patterns.
Photo by Mackenzie Lad.

Sami Shelters #1 – 5  is an ongoing project by artist Joar Nango. It consists of several hand-knitted wool sweaters of various shades, designs and patterns, hanging at different lengths near the entrance of the gallery. The designs on the sweaters depict landscapes—architecture and nature—of the region of Sápmi, the artist’s place of origin, in Norway. Nango, who also works in architecture, questions and explores Indigenous identity through his art. This is seen within Sami Shelters, which provide a visual representation of the artist’s home and his identity.

Artist Allison Akootchook Warden’s We Glow The Way We Choose To Glow (2018) is a sculptural piece consisting of 3D-printed figurines of polar bears, displayed on a glow-in-the-dark filament. The figurines are positioned in a pattern and the bright shades of pink and purple from the filament are distinctive and eye-catching. Warden is Iñupiat, from Fairbanks, Alaska, where she witnessed the impact of colonization, which has influenced her artwork. By including her identity and culture within her work, Warden also addresses ideas and issues of climate change and the current political landscape.

Tusarsauvungaa (2018) by Taqralik Partridge, is a series of five hanging elements made up of beading, fishing lures, coins and other material components. Each element is distinct—one consists of an image of a fish with beading at the bottom and coins attached to the central part of the piece. Another, using the material of a thermal emergency blanket, connects Canadian dollars through gold detailing. The artist is also a writer and spoken word performer from the community of Kuujjuaq, the largest Inuit village in Quebec.

The exhibition showcases a diverse range of artwork from a large selection of artists from  circumpolar regions. Collectively, the works explore general themes, issues and aspects unique to these areas. Yet with the diverse forms and subject matters of each respective work, further complexities, ideas and personal/specific focuses are considered.

The exhibition provides representation, along with space for discussion and consideration of circumpolar life and identity, specifically that of Indigenous peoples of this region. Perhaps solidifying this even more are the backgrounds of the curators—Igloliorte is from the region of Nunatsiavut and is a professor in Indigenous studies at Concordia, along with her curational work in various galleries across the country, while Prouty and Harringa are both art history PhD students at Concordia with specializations in Inuit art.

Addressing indigeneity and the presence of colonialism (along with the impact of climate change and politics), Among All These Tundras provides representation and resistance. It encourages greater consideration, knowledge and awareness of circumpolar communities and identity, along with the specific complexities and significance within the region.

Among All These Tundras is on display in the Leonard & Bina Ellen Gallery in Concordia’s LB building until Oct. 27. The gallery is open 12 to 6 p.m. from Tuesdays to Fridays, and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturdays.

 

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What do you know about art?

Jana Sterbak, Artist as Combustible, 1986. Color photograph.

Have you ever gone to an art gallery or exhibition and while viewing the art wondered, “What am I supposed to think about this?” Or perhaps you viewed the art, interpreted its meaning and wished to share your thoughts with others. If so, the exhibition Interactions at the Leonard and Bina Ellen Art Gallery is the place you’re meant to be.

Conceptualized with the aim to expose the gap between art and the public, the exhibit combines contemporary art pieces with verbal and written interpretations by people of the public and art domain. The exhibit is set up so that each piece of art is accompanied by a written response to the piece as well as video response from among the thirty people who participated in this project. What this does is allow a gallery visitor to not only experience the contemporary art on display for themselves, but to also experience the art through the interpretations of others. It is an opportunity to hear what others think, some of whom work in the field, and thereby deepen the experience of the piece.

The exhibition at the entrance of the gallery will at first set some to puzzling. Displayed on a flat screen television is a thirty-two minute video of people watching the film Six Colorful Inside Jobs by John Baldessari. The piece is called You Are the Work, by Alana Riley and it serves to provoke the question, ‘What are they thinking?’

Watching the video of these people, who in turn are watching a film, we want to know what they think. Do they like it? It is akin to standing next to someone in a gallery as you both observe the same piece of art. You find yourself wondering what that person thinks of the piece, how they might interpret it, whether your interpretation is different, but like You Are the Work, you can’t know without asking. Luckily, curator Mélanie Rainville has done the asking for us.

The artwork in this exhibition spans a range of medium from sound and video installations to performance art, photography, painting and graphite. All of the sound and video installations are striking, playing on your visual and auditory senses to transport you into the artwork and to not only view it, but experience it as well.

To Be Continued by Sharif Waked is a video designed to resemble those made by terrorists wherein victims are made to recite a script before being executed. However, instead of propaganda, the victim, played by Palestinian actor Saleh Bakri, begins to read from the story A Thousand and One Nights. The film is in Arabic with English subtitles and as the Arabic words fill your ears, your eyes scan the English translation as you are drawn into the narrative by Bakri’s piercing blue eyes.

However, it is not so much the recitation that is important, although it is incredibly beautiful to listen to, but rather the parallel between the plight of Scheherazade in A Thousand and One Nights, who staves off execution by telling the king stories and that of Palestinian prisoners reciting their final words.

Louis-Philippe Côté, Transpolitique, 2009. Oil on linen.

The three paintings by Louis-Philippe Côté, Ton rêve d’anarchie, Égérie, and Transpolitique (L’abattoir virtuel comme machine de guerre) are the only painted pieces in the exhibit. Visually stunning and thought provoking, these three pieces immediately grab the eye upon entering. The video responses to this piece are interesting to listen to, but the written response left something to be desired. Dominique Sirois-Rouleau’s interpretation is highly academic and likely to make the average gallery visitor crossed eyed, but it served the purpose of a scholastic interpretation of contemporary art, ensuring that both the casual art observer and the professional were represented.

The written response that was perhaps the most interesting, was the poem Monologues by Denise Desautels, translated into English by Simon Brown, which was written in response to John Massey’s piece Three Eyes. The poem attributes a dialogue to the artwork, taking a different approach to interpreting the piece. The poem was beautifully written and could stand alone, but together with Massey’s work it serves to enhances one’s experience of his artwork.

Interactions can be viewed at the Leonard and Bina Ellen Art Gallery, located on the first floor of Concordia’s LB building at 1400 Blvd. De Maisonneuve. For more information please visit their website at www.ellengallery.concordia.ca

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