Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Carmen Thompson (Diitiidaht/Kyuquot/Coast Salish), 46, has lived and breathed costume design for the last 15 years. Her given name by her uncle is Tl’aakwaa (Nuu-chah-nulth), meaning copper. Copper is a versatile, malleable material with high electrical conductivity, twisted into jewellery, coins, and metal alloys. Copper is a trace dietary mineral, it lives in our bones, and seems to be everywhere else. Thompson’s career embodies malleability. She has played a vital role in the complex visual language of costume on multiple full feature films, commercials, award shows, television, theatre, and opera. Her father, Art Thompson, was a prominent Victoria artist working in carving and painting. She was trained in fashion design at the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising (FIDM) in Los Angeles, and mentored in costume design by costume designer Warden Neil. She knew it was time to leave L.A. when she turned down a costume design job for a Rihanna music video, and made the decision to...

Thursday, October 15, 2020

A particular feeling arises when a news headline confirms what you have felt but did not have the hard data to confirm. A few months ago marked this moment for me. I remember reading the article A Crisis of Whiteness in Canada’s Art Museums, which surveyed the nation’s four largest public art museums—Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, the Art Gallery of Ontario, the National Gallery of Canada, and the Vancouver Art Gallery—to ascertain that their top leadership is predominantly white and lacking in racial diversity. For BIPOC artists, curators and art workers operating within this industry, this is hardly news. 

In fact, a number of prominent figures (such as Syrus Marcus Ware, Zainab Verjee, Devyani Saltzman Lou-ann Neel, Amanda Parris, Paulina Johnson, Rea McNamara, Nataleah Hunter-Young, Sarah Mason-Case, Armando Perla, to name a few) have recently spoken about the representation, equity and systemic racism present within the arts landscape and its intrinsic connections to larger system...

Friday, October 9, 2020

The wall label is an apparently simple documentary form that has substantial effects on how we understand and interpret art. Often the most public-facing piece of documentation in arts institutions, it stands out as a minor text within broader institutional records. The wall label’s standard categories distill a specific, historically entrenched model of artistic production. Artist, title, date, medium, dimension, collection—these categories best represent work for which creator and product are relatively stable and distinct. Certain tendencies within contemporary artistic practice challenge these categories so deeply that the innocuous wall label—and the broader institutional archive—may conceal key aspects of the work. Time-based media art, born-digital works, and even historical avant-garde works challenge restrictive ideas of medium by working with digital and other networked sources, subverting the static substructure exemplified in highly compressed form within the wall label. Tr...

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Hadassah 'Hazy' GreenSky is a multi-instrumentalist, vocalist, and visual artist based in the Metro Detroit area where she was also raised. She is a member of the Waganakising Odawa peoples from the lands now referred to as Harbor Springs, Michigan. Like many other young Indigenous women in the midwest [and across the Americas], GreenSky was subject to cheap ill-mannered name-calling like “Pocahontas” by non-Indigenous people when she was growing up. Her personal experiences of racism is a condition of systematic structures and barriers held up by white supremacy all throughout North America.

Speaking to GreenSky, she shared with me that the area we now call ‘Detroit’, was originally named Waawiiyatanong by the first peoples of the land. The name translates to “at the curved shores”, as it was a place for trade and supplies. "Oftentimes the Anishinaabe peoples passed through on their migratory routes. Wild rice was grown in the river, fishing was also a big part of our lives, and many p...

Thursday, September 17, 2020

All my life, I have been compelled to write my way through stretches of time alone, and I have never spent so much time journaling alone as I do lately—living through a global pandemic where nearly every form of socialization is either mitigated for our safety or mediated onto a screen. A notebook is a welcoming alternative to the digital sphere, where participation can blur into performance. Conversely, It is empowering to produce something only for oneself. Yet spending too much time in this mode can often feel a little absurd. Are we documenting our lives or rationalizing our private behaviors? Where does the line fall between the two? The way we tell our stories can change so much of what lessons we learn and what others take away from them, and one only needs to look at notebooks of the past to see that this has been true throughout time. When private writing is published, either posthumously or with the consent of the diarist, we are able to see the diarist with their own eyes, b...

Monday, September 14, 2020

As we move towards reshaping the world into a reality where the most marginalized and oppressed people are able to thrive, unimpeded by state and racial violence, the mediums in which identity manifests are a moving target. Racial and ethnic categories continue to shift, dodge, and take on new forms simultaneous to the expanding social consciousness of systemic racism’s histories. Whiteness in particular continues to evade blame and repercussion for the historical, structural oppression and volatility it has and continues to systematize. Instead, we have witnessed performative allyship from individuals and institutions of power that is as ineffectual as it is performative, undergirded by the circulation of empty rhetoric for change that doesn’t attempt to dismantle the foundations of violent systems. The project of abolition is further troubled by the current Covid-19 pandemic as so much of our knowledge sharing becomes disembodied and mediated by the screen. Much of movement buil...

Thursday, September 10, 2020

Time is slippery, expanding, and contracting simultaneously. Forward, back, forward, back, searching for balance. Micro-movements make a dance of the fall (like the dances we do on the sidewalk, keeping our distance). Mid-slip feels endless, somehow senseless, we have no idea where the ground is or when it will arrive. (In the meantime, maybe we grow wings?) Everything is expanding and contracting now — lungs, bravery, optimism.  


The flowers came late this year. Laggard blooms, stamens tightly swaddled, all wrapped up in pink. I heard it again and again, the cruelest month, the cruelest month, as if no one could think of anything new to say of April. Now I’m sure that May was worse, then June, July — August was horrific. 

You never know what form your blessings will take. Your curses too. I find myself saying this like a mantra, prayer, or cliché.

Back in spring, when limbs dripped in blossoms and discarded petals floated through the air, I paid artist David Horvitz one dollar to...

Wednesday, September 2, 2020

The colonial regime owes its legitimacy to force and at no time does it endeavor to cover up this nature of things. Every statue of these conquistadors ensconced on colonial soil is a constant reminder: “We are here by the force of the bayonet.”

- Frantz Fanon 

Now the statue is bleeding. We did not make it bleed. It is bloody at its very foundation.

This is not an act of vandalism. It is a work of public art and an act of applied art criticism.
- Monument Removal Brigade

What are the aesthetics of carcerality that organize and regulate our psychic lives? Monuments are carceral art objects that overcode and overdetermine public memory. They are symbols of state power and affirmations of the status quo whose function in urban psychogeography is to preserve and advance particular nationalist memories. They interpellate us, the public, as docile subjects and we pass them by, we become accustomed to them, we take them for granted, and our capacity for conceiving otherwise is blunted1. We walk...

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Ekene Emeka-Maduka is a master of her own visage. She is not the first, and undoubtedly will not be the last in a long line of artists that have explored the world of auto-portraiture. Her work so far has mostly consisted of images featuring the artist’s likeness, depicted against a variety of set designs, and artfully orchestrated scenes to communicate whatever she wants to send across to its viewer. At the age of 23, Emeka-Maduka is on a bit of a rising streak. Having recently come out of art school, she is already gaining recognition from the prestigious auction house, Christie's, on their Instagram. She has been the recipient of several grants and awards such as the Swizz Beatz and Alicia Keys initiated, The Dean Collection Start-up Grant. She has completed commissions for writer/activist, Janet Mock, for American actor/activist, Jesse Williams, and for stylist to the stars, Jason Bolden. She also got a glowing shout-out from Mock in a recent Marie Claire feature lauding Emeka...

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

I met Cindy Mochizuki when I attended the artist talk for her residency at the Burrard Arts Foundation, culminating in her most recent installation work, The Sakaki Tree, a Jewel, and the Mirror (2020). The work brings out her gifts as a fortune teller and builds on Japanese myth, light, shadow, ceramic art, and puppetry. Not to play too much into the destiny of it all—but when I entered the gallery, Cindy’s eyes met mine in a warm and familiar way. I don’t want to say that she knew I was coming, but when we spoke, it felt like she already knew me. 

For years, people have been telling me that I must meet Cindy Mochizuki because my research interests in aesthetics are akin to her work which thinks across multiple timelines: Asian and immigrant diasporas, ghosts, and the monsters that are left behind in storytelling. Her large body of work is nourished by the histories of Japanese-Canadian communities in British Columbia and Japan, and her multimedia installations, animations, clay work,...

Thursday, July 23, 2020

It started with a found photograph, then another, and another. This discovery would  later give way to a would-be thesis paper. But the confines of a single essay just didn't do it. Instead, curiosity and ambition grew to allow the initial inquiry to spider out, creating  this new labyrinthine collection of writing. It precedes a work of visual art, and although this  textual work does not  necessarily speak for the artwork in any direct way, it enriches it.  Together the written and visual works  culminate in  the still-evolving project titled  Yours to Discover

The title of this project, which centers around the province of Ontario, aptly takes its name from  the former Ontario license plate slogan. The found photographs in question are from the author and artist Zinnia Naqvi's family album.  They depict the touristic moments from the late 80s when Naqvi's family first visited Canada from Pakistan with the possibility of migrating permanently from...

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

My conversation with Montreal-based artist Kandis Friesen was far from routine. In the lead up to our chat, I planned to visit Friesen’s most recent exhibit, Tape 158: New Documents from the Archives at TRUCK Gallery, here in Calgary. But just before this the province went into lockdown and the gallery was closed to the public. Rather than an in-person experience of the show, I had to rely on documentation of the exhibition provided by Friesen: an archive of the archive. While looking and listening to the documentation on my computer, in the comfort of my living room, I was drawn to the intricacy and beauty of Friesen’s show: exploring the ghostly presence of history through video, sound, photography, and installation. As an artist from Canada with Russian Mennonite roots, Friesen’s work looks at the complicated role of the archive, and asks us to consider how identity, nationhood, and historical objects are formed through us, and with us.

Her multi-media work seems particularly suited...

Friday, June 19, 2020

This past February, I attended the Berlinale Film Festival for the first time. My partner, Omar Elhamy, had a short film in the competition, and we took the opportunity to make a holiday out of it. I was particularly curious about the Forum Expanded and went with ambitions to write about this unique program. However, for a variety of reasons, including the 300 + minute run-time of films in the exhibition portion, distance between venues, scheduling conflicts, and the looming shadow of other (overdue) writing deadlines, I decided it was good enough to just absorb what I could, and learn for next time, if there ever is a next time.

I was, however, taken with one of the Forum’s curators, Maha Maamoun, who I first encountered as the moderator for a screening that included a film by mutual friend, Ahmed Elghoneimy. The program went quite late, and was prolonged by a heckler in the audience who proceeded to offer his “critical” (and therefore important) contribution—a monolog about the deat...

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

If over 270 million people worldwide could watch something “together,” what should it be? In a period of enforced physical distancing, what claims to collectivity are being made on behalf of the livestream?

The Together at Home Instagram Live campaign is a particularly high-profile example of a new genre of online pandemic entertainment. The musical performance series was organized by Global Citizen, an international non-profit that describes itself as “a movement of engaged citizens who are using their collective voice to end extreme poverty by 2030,” and inaugurated with a performance by the organization’s festival curator and Coldplay frontman Chris Martin. Building on the extreme popularity of these Instagram Live performances, the organization quickly pivoted to planning a larger event in support of COVID-19 relief.

This subsequent relief event came to be titled One World: Together at Home. The spectacle consisted of a six-hour livestream “pre-show” on Saturday, April 18th, 2020, av...

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

At least for now, the Jersey City artist Brandon Ndife seems to suggest that we take a few steps forward with him towards the future. Or maybe more likely, shuffle across an alternate space/time that mirrors the one we currently occupy.  Keeping in touch with history, this hypothetical in-between terrain is murkier, more eerie. It is dystopian like the one we know, and perhaps it is nearing a threshold of something hopeful; but I won’t say it is optimistic. This is where his budding practice in sculpture thrives. It is a place to imagine, think, and speculate alongside felt realities. Even though what we encounter in Ndife’s work is grounded in sculptural thought, it is just as wrapped up in painting, makeup effects, and meticulous preparatory drawing. 

Over the last six years or so, Ndife has been burrowing progressively through object-making: wandering, feeling out, and retooling. In the show Just Passin’ Thru held at Interstate Projects the bricolage in his work looked...

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