SITUATION GALLERY NOVE MBER 2013 ISSU E II SITUATED KNOWLEDGE/SITUATED PRACTICE
MANDATE The Situation Gallery is a bi-monthly gallery-on-paper that aims to showcase the work of emerging artists and art critics, discover and highlight new trends in contemporary art, and forge a community between students and young professionals. Founded and curated by Concordia Art History students Katerina Korola and Erika Couto, each issue features the portfolio of three artists alongside critical writing by upand-coming art critics.
www.situationgallery.com On Facebook: /SituationGallery
Cover image: â€œSurvivors 6â€? (2013) by Yulia Grebneva
CONTRIBUTORS THE SITUATION GALLERY NOVEMBER 2013 ISSUE 2 : (SITUATED KNOWLEDGE) SITUATED PRACTICE CO-CURATORS
ERIKA ASHLEY COUTO firstname.lastname@example.org Erika Ashley Couto is a student in the MA Art History at Concordia University, where she also completed a BFA in Art History & Film Studies with Distinction. She is the Editor-in-Chief of Situation Gallery, a publication showcasing the work of emerging artists in Canada. Her work has previously been published in several exhibition catalogues and magazines. Erika’s forthcoming book chapter in Investigating Teen Wolf (McFarland, 2014), “Nous protégeons ceux qui ne peuvent pas se protéger eux même: Teen Females of Beacon Hills” investigates female heroism and agency in MTV’s Teen Wolf. Her current research, funded by a Hydro Quebec Graduate Award (2013-14), focuses on the emergence of the domestic interior in Cape Dorset graphic arts after 1997, through the works of Annie Pootoogook, Shuvinai Ashoona, and Itee Pootoogook.
KATERINA KOROLA email@example.com Katerina Korola is a senior undergraduate at Concordia University’s Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema, pursuing a joint Major in Art History and Film Studies. Her interests include travel narratives and the essay film, spatial theory and architecture, and the role of contemporary art vis-a-vis ideology. She is Editor-in-Chief at the Concordia Undergraduate Journal of Art History and in her free time enjoys indulging in creative writing. Her academic writing has been published in Offscreen.
JESSICA MONUK firstname.lastname@example.org Jessica Monuk, a recent graduate, is a practicing artist residing from both west and east regions of Canada; mediums that interest her are sculpture and non-traditional drawing. Paired with the concept that objects might be designated rather than made, Jessica is influenced by methods of interaction demonstrated through Minimalist and Relational Aesthetics movements.
PAMELA CHURCHILL email@example.com Pamela Churchill is a Graduate Student in the East Asian Studies Department at McGill University. Pamela’s research focuses on Chinese contemporary art. Her specific interests include diaspora artists, the exhibition of Chinese contemporary art in Western contexts, and art as an avenue of cultural exchange.
MEL PALAPUZ firstname.lastname@example.org Mel Palapuz is a 2nd year Design student at Concordia University. Street art, street culture, architecture and urban design also fascinate her. She was born and raised on the West Coast.
AUDREY WELLS YULIA GREBNEVA ADITI OHRI BRADEN SCOTT RYAN CONRAD KRIS MILLAR
CURATORIAL STATEMENT How can we translate lived experience into tangible form? How can we retrieve knowledge that was long considered dead and buried? How can we use or own knowledge as a tool for personal and collective resilience? How can we, through artistic practice, intervene in the world around us?
abilities and disabilities, she asks herself where duty ends and desire begins. Considered together, these artists demonstrate the multiple ways through which situated knowledge can be channeled into situated practices that explore our positions and participation in intersecting worlds of experience.
The inspiration for this issue comes from feminist scholar Donna Haraway’s concept of situated knowledge. In her essay, Haraway deconstructs the very notion of “knowledge” as objective, arguing that knowledge is always situated, i.e., the result of highly personal experiences. Sight, hearing, comprehension—all forms of thought—are unique to each individual. For Haraway, we must not only learn to see the situated roots of all supposedly neutral forms of knowing, but also recognize and appreciate the validity of alternative forms of knowledge that derive from experiences alien to our own.
The written contributions in this issue, similarly, represent situated forms of research that are becoming more and more prominent under the name ‘research-creation.’ Situation Gallery curator Erika Ashley Couto’s “Resurrecting the Invisible: Dorchester Square” represents an investigation into the buried history of mass grave turned public garden in Montreal’s downtown core. Including both research, commemorative service, and an ephemeral on-site intervention, Couto’s project represents a type of research that not only uses space as its object of inquiry, but also as its material. Similarly Braden Scott and Ryan Conrad’s contribution considers Does this Bother You?, a controversial culture-jamming intervention by artists Jean Marois and Pauline Charest along with its translation into the gallery space. This confrontational street operation, launched in response to a provincial social media campaign intended to combat homophobia, makes visible and problematizes the boundary that separates public and private, and pushes viewers to consider their personal views on the division of these realms.
The artists included in this issue all draw on and build upon uniquely situated knowledge, whether in terms of geography and space, in reference to the question of cultural and gender identity, or more subtle questions of emotion and subjectivity. In most cases—the three are combined. Audrey Wells’s project, Park Extension: Promenade à travers 17 lieux de culte explores the transformation of Montreal’s Park Extension via religious geography. Her unconventional guidebook takes its readers through seventeen distinct sites of worship that inscribe the visual landscape of the region with multiple histories of migration. Yulia Grebneva’s work in photography, from Deconstruction through to Survivors, draws upon the artist’s own memories and sensory-emotional perception to reinterpret and reconstruct situations. From the introspection of Deconstruction through the spatial interventions represented in Snapshot Montreal to the bleak romanticism of Survivors, Grebneva’s work attests to the centrality of memory, space, and positionality in the experience of modern life. Meanwhile, Aditi Ohri’s practice begins first and foremost with an interrogation of personal identity. These videoworks embody the question this issue aims in exploring: Where do you situate yourself? For Ohri, it is about attempting to place herself in relation to a political substructure as well as understand what kind of power she holds inside a social context. While considering intersectional terms and other markers of
So, what does ‘situated practice’ really mean? In a sense, it doesn’t mean anything. It denotes a field too broad to define, with too many permutations. Far from a set of rules, theories, or motifs, situated practice is way to approach the relationship between self and others, between the others within oneself, and the overlapping worlds that constitute our environment. Co-Curators Katerina Korola Erika Ashley Couto Managing Editors Jessica Monuk Pamela Churchill
TA B L E OF CONTENTS 8-15 FEATURED ARTIST: Audrey Wells Written by Katerina Korola 16-22 RESURRECTING THE INVISIBLE: Dorchester Square Written by Erika Ashley Couto 23-37 FEATURED ARTIST: Yulia Grebneva Written by Katerina Korola 38-43 FEATURED ARTIST: Aditi Ohri Written by Jessica Monuk 44-51 REVIEW: DoesThis Bother You? Written by Braden Scott and Ryan Conrad 52-53 REVIEW: Empathy: Aesthetic Reflections on Marginalization Written by Kris Millar
AUDREY WELLS Audrey Wells is a recent graduate of UQAM’s Graphic Design program. She lives and works in Montreal as a free-lance designer and is interested in the architecture and urban landscape of the city. Using her skills in graphic design, she creates object-books that invite the reader to reflect on his or her experience with the urban environment. In addition to the project featured in this issue, Wells has also participated in the creation of a book about “Hotel Jolicoeur” that combines artistic contributions in the form of design, photography, illustration, and writing to tell the stories of a historical site in Central-South region of Montreal threatened by demolition. http://audreywells.ca/
Audrey Wells, “Park Extension: Promenade à travers 17 lieux de culte”, 2012. Back Cover.
MIGRATION, DESIRE, AND COMMUNITY: IMMIGRANT NEGOTIATIONS OF BUILT ENVIRONMENT IN AUDREY WELLS’S Park Extension: Promenade à travers 17 lieux de culte BY KATERINA KOROLA
Montreal designer Audrey Wells’s Park Extension: Promenade à travers 17 lieux de culte is a small, hand-made guidebook that charts for its reader an unconventional itinerary through an area of the city that is seldom included in tourist brochures. Stretching over 1.6km2 (from the end of Park Avenue north to the 40, and from Boulevard Acadie on the West to the CPR railway tracks on the East) Montreal’s Park Extension is home to some 30,255 people, 61.6% of whom are recent immigrants to the city. Paralleling the decommissioning of many Catholic churches across the island, Wells’s project charts the transformation of residential, commercial, and industrial buildings into new places of worship by immigrant communities. The book leads its readers on a tour of seventeen different sites of worship spread across the neighbourhood, and, in doing so illuminates the impact of migration on built environment. Not only have these new centres of worship inscribed the presence of minority communities onto public space, they have also become the centre of new emotional geographies that extend beyond the borders of
the Parc-Ex to encompass a larger community connected by shared faiths, languages, and a history of displacement. Consisting of minimalist line drawings of these new religious centres, a map situating each location, and a detailed historical survey, Audrey Wells’s project bears witness to the power of desire to shape and transform a foreign landscape into a space of belonging. In light of the recent debates in the Province of Quebec over the Charter of Values, Wells’s guidebook comes as a cogent reminder of the important position of religion in this process of charting new spaces of home and sustaining new communities. Park Extension: Promenade à travers 17 lieux de culte began as a class project for a course on book design offered by the Department of Design at UQAM. Given free-range to determine her subject (a rare privilege for a designer, which Wells greatly appreciated), Wells eventually settled on a visual exploration of the Park Extension neighbourhood, where she was living at the time. A conversation with her neighbour, who had recently organized a 10
Audrey Wells, â€œCulteâ€?, installation, 2012. Installation of the Project at the Canadian Centre for Architecture.
walking tour of different religious sites in the area, provided an entry point for an extensive (although by no means exhaustive) survey of seventeen different sites of worship in the ParkEx neighbourhood. The book itself includes a detailed history of the neighbourhood, a section featuring demographic statistics, a glossary of religious terms, and a series of minimalist line drawings that records the diverse variety of repurposed architectural shapes and forms that characterize these sites. The project itself was then transformed into an installation for the 2012/2013 exhibition ABC MTL at the CCA, where the drawings were framed and hung in grid-like fashion beside a map of the area and the book itself, displayed on a podium and available for purchase in the CCA bookstore. The structures that house the religious centres featured in the book exhibit a striking variety. Some of these structures, like that of the Ascension Lutheran Church on Jarry or the Shree Ramji Mandhata Temple on Durocher (a recent edition to the urban landscape in 2006), were constructed by their constituents;
however, the vast majority of the sites featured in the book represent local re-purposing of preexisting structures. Reading through the pages of Wellsâ€™s text, the reader discovers mosques located in old office buildings, churches in old clothing factories and veteran centres, and temples in old residential buildings. Also common are instances of structures built by one community passing into the hands of another religious group, whether a Ukrainian Catholic church transferred to an Ethiopian Orthodox community, or a former synagogue transformed into a Haitian Pentecostal church. An explanatory gloss following each drawing highlights this process with a historicalinvestigation into the history of each site. More importantly, however, the eclectic architectural forms of these religious sites testify to the importance of religion as a means of achieving a sense of belonging in a foreign space. Although bearing the marks of compromise, the structures featured represent a means of re-situating oneself and 11
community after geographical displacement. These are not just places of worship; they are also places of memory. The architectural plurality of the sites attests to a history of migration, the desire for home, and the inevitable hybridization that accompanies these physical and emotional movements. Thus, the compromise evident in the structures must not be considered negatively, but rather as a sign of the formation of new identities and communities in a new environment. As geographer Frédéric Dejean writes:
The sheer variety of religious communities featured in Promenade demonstrates the centrality of religion to the resilience of numerous diasporic communities. As Dejean notes, however, religion remains a marginal object of inquiry in the field of geography, particularly in French academia.2 As the PQ’s Charter of Values (proposed in May 2013) demonstrates, religious belief has become an unsettling and intolerable indicator of alterity in a politically secular society. Secularism has become the standard of membership in Quebecois society, and as the dominant ideology in vogue has acquired the presumed attributes of neutrality, moral soundness, and intellectual superiority. Immigrants are expected to, if not shed their difference, at least conform by shedding its visible markers.
Far from being irregular territories, [these suburban landscapes] are on the contrary veritable laboratories in which religious groups elaborate new relationships to space, as much by inserting themselves into the urban landscape as by the practices of believers.1
Wells’s project plays with this discourse of neutrality in its deployment of minimalism, in both the line drawings themselves and the strictly functional layout of the book. These conventions, common in architectural drawing, place the subject of inquiry at a distance and abstain from intervening onto its form with exterior commentary. The use of these conventions, however, when applied to sites of worship draw attention to the tension that arises
In this sense, the Star of David marking the façade of the aforementioned Haitian Pentecostal church attests not only to the history of the site, but also to the complex processes of negotiation requisite to transnational reterritorialization. 12
in the confrontation between contemporary notions of objectivity and the subjectivity of belief. More than anything, Wells’s decision to represent these marginal, hybridized structures according to the conventions of minimalism points to the exclusion of these sites in the vast majority of supposedly objective political, geographical, and architectural surveys.
(Images 1-4) Audrey Wells, “Park Extension: Promenade à travers 17 lieux de culte”, 2012. Illustration.
aren’t technically visible, the act of wearing a religious symbol or opening a church attests to the existence of beliefs and believers. When visible in public space, these religious communities can’t be ignored.3
Of course, this struggle for public visibility is ongoing. Ethnically diverse communities with large immigrant populations, like Park-Ex, remain absent from official representations of Montreal. Moreover, perennial disputes over signage in foreign languages, and even disputes over the right of new communities to purchase and establish religious and/or community centres in unused spaces, demonstrate the extent to which public visibility remains a hotly contested issue. As Wells states in her interview, many of these sites have not in fact been granted permits and must operate unofficially.4
Like Dejean, Wells work insists that her reader recognize (and appreciate as valid) not only the right of new communities to not only hold onto their beliefs, but also the right to make visible those beliefs in the domain of public space. Although in Park-Ex religious structures are by no means the only evidence of changing demographics, Promenade demonstrates that these structures are nonetheless a key means of rendering visible groups that are marginalized in the visual (and political) landscape of the city. Wells comments on this aspect of her project:
Promenade, similar to the places of worship featured within it, takes a stance in this struggle for visibility by highlighting the polysemous and ever-changing voices engaged in the process of transforming urban space. The book itself, however, is not intended to stand alone, but rather to complement a
I wasn’t aware of it at the beginning, but I soon realised that showing is, in fact, a strong statement. This feeling has been confirmed by the debate surrounding La Charte des valeurs québécoises. Even though religions 13
physical journey through these sites and the emotional geographies represented therein. In this respect, the book is both like and unlike the typical guidebook. On the one hand, like a touristic guidebook it asks its reader to actively participate in the itinerary it outlines. On the other, unlike the standard guidebook, Wells’s work is not intended for visitors, but rather for Montreal (even Park-Ex) residents themselves. Wells spoke on this point in interview:
“There is a kind of tourist syndrome in Park Extension. You can belong to a community within Park Extension, but it is hard to belong to Park Extension itself. The ethnic diversity of its inhabitants and its constant evolution must be the reason why you always feel like a tourist and why you can look at it with an outsider’s eyes and be, everyday, surprised and amazed. It is cliché but real, being a tourist in your own city makes you see what you don’t normally see.”5
Transforming Montreal readers into tourists is precisely what Wells’s book does. It confronts its reader/user with the multiple parallel geographies that make up the city of Montreal, each unique to a specific blend of history, memory, and desire. Although the extent to which the reader can participate in these geographies also (for the same reasons) remains unique to the each reader, a journey along Wells’s Promenade calls on its audience to be attentive to the ways in which these manifold geographies interact with one another to remake and reimagine the space of this Montreal neighbourhood.
1. Frédéric Dejean and Lucine Endelstein, “Approches spatiales des faits religieux: Jalons epistemologiques et orientations contemporaines,” Carnet de geographes 6, (September 2013). 2. Ibid. 3. Audrey Wells, in interview with the author. 4. Ibid. 5. Ibid.
Audrey Wells, “Park Extension: Promenade à travers 17 lieux de culte”, 2012. Inside Front Cover.
RESURRECTING THE INVISIBLE: DORCHESTER SQUARE BY ERIKA ASHLEY COUTO
Nestled at the heart of Montreal’s Golden Square Mile is a green space known as Dorchester Square. Designed in 1872 by Patrick MacQuisten with footpaths reminiscent of the Union Jack, the site is a meeting ground for leisure, tourism, and business, and is easily accessible by foot and by public transit. But what of the history of this space prior to 1872? As French philosopher Michel De Certeau (1925-1986) argues in The Practice of Everyday Life, spaces are constantly in flux; they undergo continual transformation, hiding away what is no longer necessary in order to shape a space into something that fits the perceived needs of a community at the time.1 But what is hidden is not totally erased. What traces of Dorchester Square’s past can be found in its contemporary incarnation and how can these vestiges be made more readily accessible to frequenters of the square? This paper argues that public interventions can be an effective means of exploring aspects of a site’s history that are not immediately apparent. Using an intervention that I performed on August 8th, 2013 in Dorchester Square as a case study, I will explore the potential of ephemeral actions in raising awareness about the history of public urban landscapes.
Since its inauguration, Dorchester Square has undergone two major renewals, the most recent one having been completed in 2012 by Montreal landscape architect firm Claude Cormier Architects. The original pedestrian paths were modified to include additional pathways through which people could cut directly from one side to the other, large flower pots were added around the Boer War Memorial, additional lights were put in to increase visibility at night, and the grass was entirely re-planted. The 41-million dollar project made Dorchester Square an integral part of the city of Montreal’s urban renewal plan, and in 2011, Dorchester Square and Place du Canada were designated by city officials a Montreal Heritage Site. The ‘heritage’ implicit in the site’s new title was what I was interested in calling attention to during my intervention. Prior to its use as a public square, the land on which Dorchester Square was erected was used as a Catholic cemetery for the Paroisse Notre-Dame, known as Cimetière Saint-Antoine (17991854). An initial purchase of four acres of land from Pierre Guy by the Fabrique was made in 1799, with further expansions in 1812 and 1832. The site was chosen for its distance 16
Emily next to her temporary memorial. August 8, 2013. Montréal, QC. Photo credit: Katerina Korola.
and communal burial pits.7 Generally, the wealthy who could afford a designated space in the cemetery were buried in individual or family lots, and consequently, it is probable that in the case of the Irish Catholics, few of them would have been buried in one of those parts of the cemetery, but rather the communal pits, hastily constructed in order to prevent the spread of disease. The need to bury bodies was so great that in some areas of present Dorchester Square, human remains are located as shallowly as 60cm underground, and 30cm in areas where bodies were believed to be exhumed after the cemetery’s closure in 1854.8
from Montreal’s then-city centre and in its 55 years of operation became the burial ground for an estimated 45,000-57,000 bodies.2 Amongst those individuals buried in the cemetery, there are over 2700 that succumbed to cholera in 1832, 2000 in 1843, and 2700 in 1847, and a large proportion of those individuals were Irish Catholics.3 Although they formed 80% of the population of 19thcentury Ireland, Catholics were in a minority in the government and were actively persecuted in their home country.4 In contrast to Ireland, Quebec was one of the only parts of the Britishcontrolled colonies to be run predominantly by Catholics, and thus it became an obvious choice for many Irish Catholic immigrants to escape the oppression that they had faced at home. During years where cholera was running rampant throughout the city, up to 10,000 Irish immigrants were concurrently arriving by boat.5 Cholera made it difficult for immigrants to settle onto the land, and if they did, they often died.6
In 1867, following the formation of the Dominion of Canada and the creation of McGill University on Sherbrooke Street, just a few blocks North of the cemetery, the city centre began to shift. The abandoned cemetery was considered to be prime real estate for building businesses or new housing projects.9 The parish sold portions of the cemetery’s land to be used by developers following the exhumation of corpses for reburial in the new Côte-des-Neiges cemetery.10 Public outcry, however, was so great, both out of dismay for disturbing the dead and out of fear of epidemics resurfacing as bodies were moved,
In a site study conducted by Montreal archaeological firm Ethnoscop in 2001, it was discovered that the cemetery was divided into two types of plots: individual or family plots 17
Temporary Memorial to Patrick Kilbride. August 8, 2013. Montréal, QC. Photo credit: Katerina Korola.
that the city of Montreal agreed to purchase the land instead in 1870 and the exhumations stopped, leaving an estimated 60,000 graves untouched.11 Upon the recommendation of the Montreal Sanitary Association that the land be turned into a public square, the city acquired the site in 1872 and plans began to turn the cemetery into a public square. Known as Dominion Square, the city began work on the space almost immediately, laying out grass, footpaths, trees, and benches over the sites of former graves, erasing any visible traces of its former use.12 Once the Square was officially opened to the public in 1878, it became a site of outdoor political meetings and a lavish winter festival before simply being left untended for nearly 100 years.13
memorials can successfully call attention to the site’s history as a cemetery, I would argue that the crosses also have a homologic effect, in that they bear no reference to any of the communities or specific histories that can be found underneath the square. Issues of social class, disease, and the complex social workings of Cimetière Saint-Antoine go unrecognized in Claude Cormier’s crosses. In The Power of Place, urban landscape theorist Dolores Hayden argues that “even totally bulldozed places can be marked to restore some shared public meaning.”15 Although Hayden deals mainly with permanent memorials, whereas my intervention was intentionally designed to be ephemeral, her work shares many sensibilities with my own and I consider her an important precedent in the effort to extrapolate memories and raise public awareness at sites where there are few or no visible traces of their former use. It was thus in response to a lack of on-site public information about the importance of the cemetery as a cholera victim burial site that I was prompted to perform a public intervention in Dorchester Square.
Despite the alarming number of cholera graves that still remain under Dorchester Square today, information about this aspect of the cemetery’s history has been negligible. Claude Cormier Architects, in 2010, were the first to make any known attempt to remember the cemetery, through the inclusion of 58 stone crosses inlaid into the renovated footpaths to mark gravesites.14 While I think that the cross 18
Dorchester Square, July 2010, Montreal. Photo credit: Denis Tremblay, Ville de Montréal.
The intervention consisted of a public presentation about the history of Dorchester Square, followed by a memorial ceremony and the creation of eight symbolic tombstones for victims of the epidemic. My goal was to bring forward an aspect of the site’s past by replicating what would have been a daily, lived practice in the space and to call attention to one of the many community histories literally embedded in the soil of Dorchester Square.
mourned on-site and every day, they would have come by to drop of flowers, to remember an anniversary of someone’s death, or simply to walk through the rows upon rows of graves. Although none of the people present at the memorial service could have personally known any of the people buried in Dorchester Square, they were able to occupy the space in a public manner that would have been quite similar to the way that families or friends or neighbours of the deceased would have come together to pay their final respects . In order to call attention to a custom that has been in place since the Roman Empire, I asked the participants to dress in black as a component of the intervention.18 The strong visual association between a group of people wearing black and mourning, in addition to elements such as the distribution of a program and the lighting of candles, evoked for passers by a clear sense that some kind of memorial or practice of remembrance was underway at the site. Through a present action, images of the past were evoked, even though the site no longer resembles the cemetery in any way. Thus, memory can be a powerful tool in the reclamation of space.
In her book Losing Site, architectural historian Shelley Hornstein argues that architecture plays a key role in the formation of memories.16 Memories do not occur in absentia of place, and when a site has been torn down or changed, human memory and lived experience can be one of the only ways of accessing information about what a space may have looked like or how it was used. In the case of Dorchester Square, I was able to draw inferences about the types of activities that would have been performed on site in knowing about its former history and having specific details about the cemetery, such as the fact that after 1812, the cemetery site also included a church where people came together for regular Sunday service.17 People would have 19
In fact, place is believed to be so intimately tied into memory that humans can even still be attached to sites that no longer exist. This phenomenon, known as ‘place attachment’, was proposed by environmental psychologists Setha Low and Irvin Altman. Low and Altman argue that places can help individuals and communities develop strong ties to places because they are “repositories… within which interpersonal, community, and cultural relationships occur, and it is to those social relationships, not just the place qua place, to which people are attached.”19 Cemeteries represent a final relationship between a person and their loved ones and funerals can be a site of community building. During the 19th century cholera epidemics, funerals and memorial services would likely have grouped several people together who were all set to be buried on the same day; families would have leaned on each other and formed a community of mourners to help and support each other. Cimetière Saint-Antoine would have become a place where members of the community could come together and rely on its members to help each other through their loss just as everyone taking part in the intervention (including onlookers) assembled to restore some visual association of its past in the present. But public mourning and memorials are not necessarily confined to cemeteries. In fact, an increasing number of spontaneous memorials are being erected at the sites of perceived tragedies, almost as soon as they occur. Recent examples would be the memorial to Cory Monteith outside the Vancouver hotel where he was found dead and the Sandy Hook memorial where people laid wreaths, toys, candles, and other commemorative material on the school lawn and throughout the surrounding neighbourhood. These ‘temporary memorials,’ as they have been termed by American cultural historian Erika Doss, are ephemeral by nature, though they have the potential to become permanent, and are an immediate, public way of dealing with grief and mourning.20 The second component of my intervention draws from and is in dialogue with the notion of temporary memorials. I provided each participant with the name, death number and any other information that I could find about an
Irish Catholic person who had succumbed to cholera on August 8th 1831 or 1832, the same calendar date as that of the intervention.21 Contributors were asked to design a headstone using cheap materials (a binder, two pieces of paper, and markers) in order to commemorate the person on their card . My aim was to call attention to the history of the space by occupying small portions of Dorchester Square and disrupting the visual coherence of the space temporarily, same as with the memorial service. This technique is known as cultural hijack and it has taken root in the arts community in England in order to call attention to various aspects of the country’s history. The goal of a cultural hijacking is the “empower[ment of] people to act and think differently about the world around them,”22 which can also be the purpose of temporary memorials. The commemorative tombstone intervention was planned with much of the same spirit, in order to call attention to the history of social disparity in Montreal and the struggles of immigrants upon arriving to Montreal in the 19th century. In each binder, I placed one page of information about the history of the cemetery and its importance as a burial site for Irish Catholic victims, as well as the purpose and nature of the public interventions. Participants had complete creative control over the look of their headstone and once they had finished their design, they were instructed to place their headstone anywhere that they chose within Dorchester Square. An aspect that I had not anticipated was that one of the participants actually drew from Dorchester Square as it exists currently by plucking a few flowers from a flower pot and placing it in the rings of her binder, linking the space’s present to the past that she was asked to represent. This cultural hijacking of the original intervention “mediate[d] between the living and the dead,”23 in order to “preserve a material presence in the face of an embodied absence.”24 Otherwise stated, the participant used flowers as a physical representation of death in lieu of the bodies, or representations of bodies such as original grave markers. Just as people die, so to do the cut flowers that are often laid on or in front of headstones. They, too, are eventually hidden away from public 20
view, thrown in the trash after a few days. Another participant chose to lay out her headstone at the site of one of the crosses designed by Claude Cormier Architects. Not only did her intervention succeed in giving visitors to Dorchester Square the potential of learning a bit about its history, but it also called attention to the existing memorial and, I would argue, severed the common association between the crosses and Mary, Queen of the World cathedral. If someone chose to pick up her binder to see what it was and read the information inside, they would also be forced to see the existing monument and create a link between the information contained inside the binder and the visual information on the ground.
are then either a reaction to the past or a call to attention about a site’s future. They demand consideration and force onlookers to question the purpose of the intervention, examine how it challenges or draws attention to an element of a space, and to potentially reflect upon their own role within that intervention or space. Through a public re-visiting of a practice that was performed in situ for roughly 55 years and through the creation of temporary memorials to individuals who are buried beneath Dorchester Square, site visitors were able to engage with the space and learn about its history as a cemetery. ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS: The intervention in Dorchester Square and this resulting paper would not have come to fruition without the generosity of the following individuals in donating their time, counsel, books, supplies, the second half of the dining room table, and cameras. Thank you for your continued encouragement: Dr. Cynthia Hammond, Dr. Thomas Strickland, Danny Fournier at the BANQ, Geneviève Trudel, Katerina Korola, Chantale Potie, Emily Paige, Pascal Robitaille, Felicity Hamer, Adeline ParadisHautcoeur, Melanie Hotchkiss, Teresa Lobos, Chuck Wilson, Melissa Kate Wheeler, Maria Santos, Sandra Santos, and Diane Bates.
Although I do not know exactly how long the temporary memorials remained in Dorchester Square, I do know that within 48 hours they had all disappeared. Whether they were taken by city workers or visitors to the park will remain a mystery, but photographic documentation along with an eyewitness account taken after the participants had all left confirms that at least two people did stop to look at all of the tombstones and read the information inside . “They were really shocked to learn that there were so many bodies still buried under their feet and… [they] walked away talking about it.”25 I also noticed that during the memorial ceremony, several passers by stopped to survey what was happening and listen for a moment before continuing on their way. Ephemeral interventions are an effective method of reclaiming histories and relaying knowledge about a site’s past to others. By disrupting the visual status quo of a space, either through the embodied occupation of space or through leaving a material artefact for individuals to explore, individuals react immediately. They realize that something atypical is happening and are prompted to investigate. Permanent memorials can be examined at any time, and they become part of the sui generis of a space. It is easy to walk by a permanent monument and ignore it entirely. Ephemeral interventions, however, require immediate attention, as they are devised, by nature, to ‘hijack’ the attention of other individuals sharing a space and draw their attention to a social or historical aspect of the site’s past. The actions performed in the present
1. Michel de Certeau, “Walking in the City” in The Practice of Everyday Life, translated by Steven F. Randall (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1984), 94-5. 2. Ethnoscop, Le cimetière Saint-Antoine: etude de potentiel et inventaire archéologiques (phase 1) du square Dorchester et de la Place du Canada, BiFj-37, 2000, Ville-Marie (Montréal: Ville de Montréal, 2005), 16. Mark M. Choko, “Dorchester Square” in The Major Squares of Montreal, translated by Kathe Roth (Montréal: Meridian Press, 1990), 143.
3. Ethnoscop, 16. 4. Senia Paseta, Modern Ireland: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford: oxford University Press, 2003), 35. 5. Sharon Doyle Driedger, An Irish Heart: How a Small Immigrant Community Shaped Canada (Toronto: Harper Collins, 2010), 7. 6. Susanna Moodie, Roughing it in the Bush (London: Richard Bentley, 1852), online. http://digital.library.upenn.edu/women/ moodie/roughing/roughing.html. Accessed August 22, 2013. 7. Ethnoscop, Phase 1, i. 8. Ethnoscop, Phase 1, i. 9. Choko, 145. 10. Ethnoscop, Phase 1, 16. 11. Claude Cormier Architects, “Renewal of Dorchester Square” (design report, Montreal, 2013), 10. 12. Edgar Andrew Collard, The Story of Dominion Square, Place du Canada (Don Mills: Longman Canada Ltd., 1971), 11. 13. Collard, 12-14. 14. Claude Cormier Architects and Groupe Cardinal Hardy, “Square Dorchester,” v2com, published April 12, 2011, accessed August 23, 2013, http://www.v2com.biz/index. php?option%3Dcom_content%26view%3Darticle%26id%3 D907:square-dorchester-par--by-claude-cormier-architectespaysagistes-inc--groupe-cardinal-hardy%26catid%3D40:projetspaysage-%26Itemid%3D146. 15. Dolores Hayden, “Contested Terrain” in The Power of Place (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1995), 9. 16. Shelley Hornstein, Losing Site: Architecture, Memory, and Place (Burlington: Ashgate Publishing, 2011), 3. 17. Choko, 145. 18. Encyclopaedia Britannica Online, s.v. “toga,” accessed August 23, 2013. http://0-www.brittanica.com.mercury. concordia.ca/EBchecked/topic/598004/toga. 19. Setha M. Low and Irwin Altman, “Place attachment: A Conceptual Inquiry” in Place Attachment (New York: Plenum Press, 1992), 7. 20. Erika Doss, “Temporary Memorials and Contemporary Modes of Mourning” in Memorial Mania: Public Feeling in America (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2010), 67. 21. All names and information were found thanks to the Parish’s records stored at the Bibliothèque et Archives Nationales du Québec (BANQ). 22. Ben Parry, Sally Medlyn, and Myriam Tahir , “Preface,” in Cultural Hijack: Rethinking Intervention (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2011), 5. 23. Doss, 71. 24. Elizabeth Hallam and Jenny Hockey, Death, Memory and Material Culture (New York: Bloomsbury Publishing, 2001), 8. 25. Katerina Korola, e-mail message to author, August 10, 2013.
SNAPSHOTS, PLASTIC BAGS, IMAGINED LANDSCAPES: AN INTERVIEW WITH YULIA GREBNEVA
Yulia Grebneva was born in St.Petersburg, Russia, where she grew up. She holds degrees in Dentistry and Liberal Arts. While studying Liberal Arts she became interested in video art and photography. Her work deals the experience of space, time, and memory in urban society and has been exhibited at galleries and museums in SaintPetersburg, Russia and Montreal, Canada. She is currently completing a BFA in Photography at Concordia University.
“Deconstruction 1”. 20 x 30 inches. Inkjet print. 2012.
work explores the experience of space, time, and memory in modern urban society. Born and raised in St. Petersburg, Grebneva first became interested in photography while studying Liberal Arts at Bard College (St. Petersburg) and is currently completing a BFA in Photography at Concordia University. Today she works primarily in composite photography, presenting the viewer with unique and impossible scenarios built from the fragments of familiar objects, fleeting expressions, and found landscapes. Part memory, part imagination, Grebneva’s composite work presents the viewer with an uncanny resituation of the everyday and in doing so
calls attention to the idiosyncrasies of daily urban life. Her latest project, Survivors, began with a series of candid portraits taken of elderly women in St. Petersburg. Grebneva’s work isolates and digitally transposes these women onto seemingly untouched natural landscapes. In this new environment, the women’s minute figures, weighed down with shopping bags, seem out-of-place, emphasizing the solitude, weariness, and grim determination with which these survivors of nearly a century of turmoil continue to push forwards.
“Deconstruction 3”. 20 x 30 inches. Inkjet print. 2012.
SG: From the progression of your work, from Deconstruction to Survivors, it seems like street scenes are a recent preoccupation of yours. What sparked your interest in the experience of early space? I feel like I’ve always been interested―well, at least since I became interested in photography. I would walk around and look at the streets, and when I saw some something I would try to capture it. I started with a digital camera, so it was very handy and I always had it in my pocket. And this continued over the years, even today―although now it would be with an iPhone―when I see something interesting I take the picture, just for myself. SG: Do you ever use Instagram? Very rarely. No, I would say I don’t really use it. I’m past the phase where I need to show everyone my images. But I’m always very aware of what I see―of any strange, creepy stuff. Right now I’m working with composite images, so when I see something interesting I try to think of what could happen in this space, or maybe in a different space, or interacting with someone else. SG: So, would you say that you try to expand potential narratives into virtual spaces? Yeah, kind of. Making it into something else, whether by extending or adding. But mostly, I’m interested in people: cultures, gestures, expressions, how they dress. In Montreal the people are all very different, there’s such a variety. I don’t have a generalized picture of people from Montreal―though Russian people I can visualize very well.
SG: From the progression of your work, from Deconstruction to Survivors, it seems like street scenes are a recent preoccupation of yours. What sparked your interest in the experience of early space? I feel like I’ve always been interested―well, at least since I became interested in photography. I would walk around and look at the streets, and when I saw some something I would try to capture it. I started with a digital camera, so it was very handy and I always had it in my pocket. And this continued over the years, even today―although now it would be with an iPhone―when I see something interesting I take the picture, just for myself. SG: Do you ever use Instagram? Very rarely. No, I would say I don’t really use it. I’m past the phase where I need to show everyone my images. But I’m always very aware of what I see―of any strange, creepy stuff. Right now I’m working with composite images, so when I see something interesting I try to think of what could happen in this space, or maybe in a different space, or interacting with someone else. SG: So, would you say that you try to expand potential narratives into virtual spaces? Yeah, kind of. Making it into something else, whether by extending or adding. But mostly, I’m interested in people: cultures, gestures, expressions, how they dress. In Montreal the people are all very different, there’s such a variety. I don’t have a generalized picture of people from Montreal―though Russian people I can visualize very well. SG: Which artists would you cite as inspirations? In terms of artists, I am very inspired by Jeff Wall’s photography. There’s also David Caspar Friedrich, and Carl Spitzweg―he’s very interesting, he paints these little bourgeois people in landscapes. I really like his style, it’s different, and it’s also an example of people who don’t quite belong in the landscapes where we see them. They’re humorous paintings. And there are also the posters on the street―they aren’t my inspiration, but they are definitely part of my visual vocabulary. You see all these composite photos on the street. SG: Your later two series both use composite images, but I’m curious for more details on your process. Specifically, some of the photos seem more candid than others―do you ever pose your subjects before shooting, or do prefer to catch the moment unawares? Once, it happened once: so I should say ‘no.’ It happened once when I asked my friend. But I’ve been thinking about including actors, because sometimes it would be easier than waiting for the right moment. Because composite images can be constructed from around ten images per photograph. Usually it’s about three. SG: And do you actually wait in one spot before taking a picture? I prefer it. Especially in the city. Whenever I have a chance I like to go out into the city, and just walk around. And when I have camera, and I like to find a spot and sit somewhere, and wait for something to happen. And usually it does. Within five to ten minutes―I don’t know why, but something happens. Either I’ll see an interesting person or situation, or something that inspires me. And when I travel I do the same, I walk around taking pictures and then I sit, and I just experience the place and let the environment sink in. And then it just happens. I don’t know why― maybe I’m lucky―but I always see something.
“Snapshot Montreal 2”. 20 x 30 inches. Inkjet print. 2012.
“Snapshot Montreal 4”. 20 x 30 inches. Inkjet print. 2012.
“Snapshot Montreal 7”. 20 x 30 inches. Inkjet print. 2012.
SG: That’s interesting, because it makes you wonder whether if more people sat down and waited they would also see all these interesting people and situations. Five to ten minutes doesn’t seem all that long… Yes, because usually people are busy. They have somewhere to go, so they don’t really see. But maybe some people do and we just don’t notice. In my case, even if I don’t have a camera, I like to walk around and just look at the city. Sometimes I don’t see the necessary―like the cars on the street―but I pay attention to small details that I see. As though I’m there but not there. SG: Snapshot Montreal has something extremely ordinary, yet extremely uncanny about it. For me, the series unhinges the naturalness of the scenes it presents, transforming the everyday into something strange. Was this your intention? To what extent do you think this uncanny recasting of the city is inflected by your experience as a new Montreal resident? Yes, I like capturing something strange, because otherwise it isn’t interesting to me. It could be a banal see, but something will be just slightly off. I like to work with the strange. Does this have to do with my move to Montreal? It probably has something to do with it―because I’m an observer. As I’ve said before, I sometimes feel a bit alienated. I feel like I’m just observing, I’m not really participating. I’ve lived here for five years now, and I’m still only observing. And I’m not sure when I’ll feel like a real Montrealer―maybe I never will. SG: Another thing I noticed going over this series is that a lot of the photographs are from around Concordia. One of the things that is really fun about the work is that the viewer can see the evidence of you exploring your immediate surroundings. Yes. It’s not the area where I live, but it’s where I usually am. And also, it’s a place that is very eclectic―you can find everything there. There are high-rise buildings, nineteenth century architecture, things that are falling down, things that are being destroyed on purpose, and parking lots, and traces of older buildings on the facades of newer structures. You see all these layers of life. And also, there’s the people. I like this a lot about the area. SG: Can you describe in more detail the genesis of the Survivors series? What spoke to you in the figures of these St. Petersburg women? What first inspired you to place these pictures in such wild, natural landscapes? I was thinking about this series before I moved to Montreal. I wasn’t even thinking about moving to Montreal. I had always paid attention to women, and how they look in their old age. I would wonder why they have this expression. My first reaction was negative―I didn’t ever want to look like that, or be like them. And then I took some portraits―I had a telephoto lens that allowed me to take candid pictures that were still quite composed―so I had a few photographs and decided to create something that would highlight their solitude and weariness. And then I decided to place them somewhere else, because in the city they look…. Normal. Nobody would really pay attention to them, because there are a lot of other details. And okay, they are carrying bags―but in the city everyone carries bags. In a way, I felt sorry for the women. It is the Russian tradition for the women to take care of the house, and the kids, so they bear so much. And this reflects in their faces and postures. I didn’t want to be like them. But, I had the sketches for this project, and then I came to Montreal and began studying at Concordia. Then I took some courses, and made a lot of specific projects for each one, but I never had a chance to develop this project. But in 400 you can do whatever you want, so I came back to this project. It had to be done. So I went back to these sketches, and I thought of putting these women in natural landscapes. But since moving to Montreal, I have also become more nostalgic for Russia, and I’ve started to think about why these women look the way 29
they do. It’s because they’ve had a hard life. These are women who lived during the war, or just after, and underwent hard economic times. Now that I’m far away from Russia, I tend to romanticize it. And the same is true of these women; I romanticize, or idealize them. These are my women. So right now the series has a dual meaning for me―on the one hand the series expresses worry or solitude, and on the other these women are heroes. They are worried, they are rushing, but they are also almost rebels, confronting the world around them. This is a generation that is vanishing―people today are different. I’m not exactly trying to preserve them… but maybe for myself. I’m attached to these women. It’s a real pleasure to work with these images, because they remind me of Russia. I’d like to go back―I have so many projects in mind for Russia. SG: Where did you shoot the landscapes in this series, and where did you find the women? What were you looking for in terms of scenery? Ah hah, well that’s a secret. They landscapes are Canadian, but I prefer that they remain anonymous. SG: The photographs in this series do a remarkable job at emphasizing the solitude of your subjects. They seem to comment on the one hand of the place of the elderly in contemporary society, and on the other, on the alienation of the individual in modern urban environments. Can you elaborate on this aspect of the work? I think people in today’s world are more alienated, they participate less―they aren’t in the community anymore, they are isolated in their homes, with their families. And when people are alone it’s even worse. And, as people age, it gets worse. You don’t make friends as easily anymore, and others pass away. You can’t be as active as you might want to be. SG: And do you feel like these women are forgotten? Did that enter into your thinking while developing the project? Maybe a little. Some of them probably are. But this isn’t something I wanted to highlight in my work. That’s what often happens though. But in Russia there is still the tradition to keep your elders close to you. SG: The choice of the term “survivors,” for the title imbues the work with a sensation of melancholy. For me, the word reminds the viewer of the social and geographical upheaval of the twentieth centuries. What does the word “survivor” mean for you, and to what are you referring? I’m not sure if this particular generation ever lived in villages, though their parents probably did. They survived many things though, the war, starvation, then inflation―people’s savings became worthless. People lost their jobs. And today, they are still struggling. Pensions aren’t very good. People were/are very strong. My grandmother used to operate a crane―I can’t imagine myself doing that; they were such strong people. SG: As your artist statement notes, even in these wild and seemingly untouched landscapes, the women pictured in the series retain the look of hurriedness. You state that they are “rushing and striving towards the unknown.” In your opinion, is this a fundamentally human venture, or is it one that emerges in response to urban environment? My intention in displacing these women onto a new environment was to highlight this expression… These women look strange in nature, because they have these bags, and these 30
expressions. But these people wouldn’t act like this in nature. So the juxtaposition is really to draw attention to this strange expression. But now, more and more they are becoming romantic figures―they aren’t only rushing, they are exploring. At first I put a lot of women in these spaces, but now I use only one or two figures. I wanted to position them as heroes. SG: Can you speak more to the connection between your work and romanticism? The theme of solitude is also the theme of romanticism. That’s where the connection is. My idea wasn’t initially to work in the tradition of romanticism, but as I started working here… I always feel a sense of solitude, especially as I work. I have to be alone to work. So the theme of solitude isn’t just in the subjects, it is also in me. And that’s how I’m comfortable to work. SG: So solitude also has a duality to it―it’s sad on the one hand, but it’s also an incredibly productive force. Yes, because then I can start to work. It doesn’t matter if I am surrounded by people (like I was when shooting Snapshot Montreal), but if I am with a friend I just can’t work. I have to be alone in my own thoughts, and sitting somewhere no one is paying attention to me. SG: Since this issue is about situated knowledge, how has your personal journey from Russia to Montreal influenced your artistic practice? Also, a lot has been written about the privileged perspective of the stranger―do you think your identity as an international student in Montreal gives you a unique perspective on the city? Well I wouldn’t say it is a privilege. But yes, people do tell me my work is different. Not just the composites―even my regular photographs are different from those a native Montrealer might take. I can draw attention to things that someone from Montreal wouldn’t see. Because when something is too familiar, you don’t think about it as much. And it is the same with St. Petersburg― photographs by artists from St. Petersburg tend to be very similar. But someone that goes to St. Petersburg for the first time produces work that is totally different. This is because they aren’t working in the same tradition, aware of the history of photographs of St. Petersburg. They have a different… not so much point-of-view, but style. And here in Montreal artists are very different―a lot of artists here work on their families, or their communities―there’s a lot of very personal work here. SG: And how has living Montreal influenced your view of St. Petersburg today? I really idealize the space now. I really want to go there. Whenever I hear news on Facebook (the Russian version), and see pictures… Definitely, if I went I wouldn’t idealize the place so much, but I really miss it. SG: You mentioned that you have many, many pictures of these women and that you want to continue to develop this series. Where do you see it going right now, how do you plan on developing the series? I’m not extremely happy with all the images I have. It’s mostly the environment―I want more open spaces. It is very difficult to photograph a landscape without humans, or houses. Sometimes I had to park right on the highway to get the right shot. It’s hard to find these types of landscapes. I even went out to the woods once, and I took a few steps and there was this sign that says you have to pay for entrance. I even took a picture of it and posted it on Facebook. I couldn’t believe it; everywhere you go you either have to pay or are ‘trespassing’ on someone’s property. So I’m looking for new landscapes to shoot.
“Survivors 1” Diptych. 2 by 30 X 36 inches. Inkjet print. 2013.
“Survivors 6”. 2 by 30 X 36 inches. Inkjet print. 2013.
“Survivors 2”. Triptych, 3rd panel. 3 by 30 X 36 inches. Inkjet print. 2013.
“Survivors 7” Diptych. 2 by 30 X 36 inches. Inkjet print. 2013.
WHERE DOES DUTY END AND DESIRE BEGIN? AN INTERVIEW WITH ADITI OHRI
Aditi Ohri is a culturally confused person of colour living in Montreal, raised in Toronto, born in New Delhi, India. She makes videos and enacts performances on themes of race, protest, class, identity, subjectivity and femininity. In her last year of a BFA at Concordia, Aditi is beginning to embrace a material art practice as a fibres student.
“Cake” video still 1. 2010.
“Cake” video still 2. 2010.
“Modern Style Sari” video still 1 . 2010.
“Modern Style Sari” video still 2. 2010.
SG: We want to start by asking you, where do you situate yourself? Actually, that question describes what my art is all about. What I mean is that my work references me trying to find myself in relation to some sort of a political superstructure or an understanding of what kind of power I have in a social context. I have a Major in Women’s Studies so I tend to think in intersectional terms where markers- a gender, a sex, a race, a class- of one’s abilities and disabilities, privileges and oppressions are what situate one in a larger matrix, provide one with access to resources and relationships and thus provide one with esteem and value. I situate myself by thinking about my relationship to material resources past and present. Lately I have specifically been thinking about affected resources: experiences of immigration, relative poverty, relative privilege and how those have affected my current relationship to material resources. I think that the relationships that we cultivate over time create a psychic space in our brains that creates a realm of possibility for us.
SG: Could you describe a specific instance where your relationship to material resources and affected resources has differed from past to present? Definitely. In terms of my childhood, what I saw around me, what kinds of foods I ate, the houses I lived in, what my peers possessed and experienced, these things gave me an idea of what I could expect from the world and the future. Now that I am older- and my family has experienced relative upward mobility- I have a different sense of my realm of possibility and my relationship to material resources in a more privileged way; I do have access to not just money but networks of people with money. And that is a very cold and calculated way to describe it but its literal. SG: When we think of materials, we think of the tangible, but the materials that you use are more that just something we can hold in our hands? This is where the lines blur for me too. I am thinking all at once of the things that one can purchase with money or social capital but also the things that one can image for oneself. Thats where it gets fuzzy, thats where it stops being about the material resources and starts being about affective resources. SG: Do you think an artist’s use of personal relationships to affected resources opens up a dialogue for those who are unfamiliar with such or the opposite and perhaps alienate the viewer? One’s sense of entitlement, ownership, and belonging to a place changes a lot and so I think about this when I am making my art. For example, creating the Cake video in collaboration with my sister created a dialogue regarding our experiences of growing up in Toronto and how different they were from each other’s; we were not close growing up. I attended an independent high school where the majority of my peers came from all sorts of backgrounds but also relative privilege where as my sister attended a school where she was more explicitly discriminated against because of being Indian. As a consequence, I had a different sense of my place in the world: how I could relate to other people and things, and how I could make a life and what was important to me. That being said, my sister’s values and my own became different from each other, for example, the way we spend our money. Cake is the outcome of conversations about what we individually feel entitled to in life.
SG: The first thing that comes to mind when watching Cake is the Marie Antoinette influence, “Let them eat cake”, and simultaneously the well known quote “You can’t have your cake and eat it too.” Do these sayings apply to the intention of the video? Absolutely. The things we thought most about was apathy and consumerism but after the video was shot the signifier of the cake exploded. SG: Where do you see Modern Style Sari in terms of goals and where you situate yourself in relation to Cake? I think for Cake it was mostly about privilege and excess. But for Modern Style Sari is was simply about learning how to wear a sari. How do I work this thing that all the other women in my family know how to do and wear. Just this past May was the first time that I independently put on a sari- with the help from a YouTube informational video! That is where the text from Modern Style Sari stems from. I find it interesting that customs such as the wearing of a sari or recipes get passed on generation by generation of women via the internet causing the customs to potentially become so fractured and distilled. I have had this fascination with Indian culture because for such a long time I felt outside of it and growing up I didn’t really like being Indian. I couldn’t and didn’t want to understand until recently, another thing that prompted me to want to learn how to wear a sari. In the video, my mom is the one putting the sari on me while a portrait hangs in the background of her when she was my age wearing a sari. SG: We read in an interview with you gave with the Concordia University’s Ethnocultural Art Histories Research Group a year ago that you wanted to expand into fibers materials. Has that happened for you? Yes! I really wanted to make and play around with traditional Indian garlands, that is what prompted me to want to get into fibres. You see many cab drivers or rickshaw walas or homes that adorn different styles of garlands over the door; usually they are flowery, beaded, sometimes they adorn pictures of mythological figures ranging from super elegant to super tacky. I look at these garlands as small gestures that can alienate or draw people in. Depending on the colour combination, depending on the flower selection, depending on what icon is represented the garlands invite people from certain cultural backgrounds or alienate people who, for example, may associate a particular shape or colour with something negative. Yellow and orange are welcoming colours to my family and to myself and so when I see those who adorn black garlands, I am thinking to myself, “what are you doing?” Similarly, there is a practice which occurs mostly in South India where housewives will create a mandala- a spiritual and ritual symbol representing the Universe- that is meant to invoke the goddess to visit the house; the housewife will draw this shape outside their home everyday in chalk. The gestures of the garlands and mandalas are ones of welcoming but also really meek and subservient in a way; the housewives are doing their wifely duties but simultaneously evoking their power and connecting to the goddess and inviting her in everyday and showing to people “I am a good woman.” SG: The understanding of necessity apart from choice seems to be a common link in your work. Yes, there is a sense of doing things for other people and also questioning when am I doing this just for myself? It is a recurring theme throughout different female practices. When these women hang their garlands it gets confusing to me that even if she really does want to do this, are they putting themselves first or does that even factor into their equation? Maybe that just has something to do with me thinking as an individual being raised in Canada. I am doing these 42
things because I really desire to do them but I am also using all of these conventional female practices, like wearing a sari and making a garland. What does it mean to take these gestures and symbols, divorce them from maintaining a family institution, and replacing them into an art context. When does duty end and desire begin?
â€œModern Style Sariâ€? video still 3. 2010.
Traditional Indian garland in artistâ€™s home.
Est-ce que ça vous dérange (Does This Bother You?) at Rats 9 BY BRADEN SCOTT AND RYAN CONRAD “The photocopier, which is invested with the double function of imitating and repeating, of reproducing, is hijacked by an act in which I see the artistic gesture…” – Jean-François Lyotard In lieu of the recent vernissage held on October 13, 2013, artists Jean Marois and Pauline Charest could not be more pleased. Est-ce que ça vous dérange (Does This Bother You?) drew an audience that perfectly filled the Rats 9 Gallery, extending the event two hours past schedule without any major fuss. The exhibition is the extension of a political art project that took place earlier this year, which, with the help of a vibrant audience, has transformed into something new. While snow still covered every square inch of Montréal, plans to warm up the city streets were in the making. Images from Charles Silverstein and Edmund White’s The Joy of Gay Sex were scanned, enlarged, and Xeroxed to be wheat-pasted around the city. Among these were clever image and letter collages of marriage critiques, wolf-headed boys in packs, and other like-minded jovial reminders of sexual rhetoric. After mapping out which public sites were to be ‘bombed’ with the printed images, a new Québec government campaign intended to ‘fight homophobia’ was released to the public and went viral on social networking media. The campaign used the slogan “Open: Are you really? (Êtes-vous vraiment ouvert?)” to call the viewer’s attention to images distributed online and through televised media. The images were meant to poll opinions in regards to any sexual trait that deviates from the reproductive heterosexuality historically ingrained within the national powers that colonised Québec and
Canada. In doing so, the most important aspect and reason for the oppression of marginalised sexuality was simultaneously left out of visual discourse. The intention to queer up the visual realm of the streets was redirected by Jean and Pauline to a new specific focus: to present to the public with the sexuality that the government questioned as a matter of opinion. For Jean and Pauline, the existence of this campaign, although made with the best intentions, presented too many problems that needed to be made visible. The government’s anti-homophobia campaign objectifies its subjects according to their sexual preferences, and at the same time hides the difference inherent in this sexual activity by presenting the non-heteronormative as “like anyone else.” Nearly 40 years ago, Michel Foucault wrote of societal formations that branched people into various species by using their sexual desires as a method of classification. In discussing the development of the term ‘homosexual’, the French philosopher writes: “Nothing that went into his total composition was unaffected by his sexuality. It was everywhere present in him: at the root of all his actions because it was their insidious and indefinitely active principle; written immodestly on his face and body because it was a secret that always gave itself away.”1 The homosexual that Michel wrote about in the mid-1970s came into being in the latter half of the nineteenth century. Putting up politicised street art around Montréal, Foucault’s reflections are heavily brought forth in the Does This Bother You? exhibition. The images from the government campaign confronted the public with question “Does this bother you,” inviting participants to choose “not at all, a little, or a lot.” Although intended as a campaign that fights homophobia, however, the characters chosen for the advertisements all ‘pass’ as ‘normal.’ This attempt to assimilate homosexuality to heteronormative standards justifies the need to alleviate negative opinions of their off-screen (invisible) sexual engagements (identities). Jean and Pauline address this void. Re-appropriating the didactic questioning format used by the original online governmental campaign for their posters of anonymous nudity and sexual engagement, 46
Wheat-pasting the streets.
Wheat-pasting the streets contâ€™d.
Jean Marois and Pauline Charest, â€œDoes this Bother You?â€?, Xerox Print, 2013.
Poster featuring participants at the vernissage, made in the photobooth.
Jean and Pauline show the city of Montréal a (tiny) glimpse of the sexuality that stirs ambivalence (or aggression) in the first place. Prints first went up in the halls of Concordia University, where Pauline discovered the John Molson School of Business quite hostile to and unappreciative of culture jamming that challenged the nation’s largest marketing organisation. Within two days, the fine arts buildings also succumbed to administrative orders, and had the prints systematically removed. Business is business. In the process of pasting the images around the city, initial reception was noticeably positive. It was not until the morning after the first night of biking around the streets with buckets of paste and folders of photocopies that the condescending criticism from locals was made evident—complete with a call for arrests. To avoid an annoying procedure that would just be so boring, Jean and Pauline took a break from wheat-pasting and observed the online media discussions circulating through local and national news sources. The importance placed on the project grew as it received more attention, however institutional efforts prevented these images from remaining in any public space. What does one do to resist the power of censorship? In line with Michel, Jean and Pauline infiltrated the institution and began sending off gallery proposals to ensure the images had a space to be seen. The six original images are: 1. Robert Mapplethorpe’s self portrait, in which he inserts a bullwhip inside his butthole. 2. A handsome young man engaging in fellatio with not one, but two dicks. 3. A curly blonde sex worker who holds her cock rigidly for the viewer to observe while she stares them down. 4. A smiling happy man, bent over a chair with his ass towards the viewers face 5. Montréal photographer Evergon with a young bound guy on his lap. 6. An oral orgy consisting of four people— resulting in a confusing interlace network of hairy torso’s and pubic patterns with too many penises to focus on any which one at once (say that fast out loud, it is quite a mouthful).
These six were enlarged and hung on gallery walls, with hundreds of 11x17 copies printed in French and English resting on the floor to be taken home by the audience. A comment overheard at the vernissage suggested that the series involved two art historical images and four pornographic. I would like to suggest that such an observation lacks deeper thought, and that a comment of this sort exposes that the viewer did not realise where they were standing while making such an utterance: a gallery of fine art. Throughout the opening night, viewers were encouraged to enter a private photo booth, where they could display themselves along with an assortment of props under the overlay used for the six images. This was not only included to put some fun into the vernissage experience, but to acknowledge a vast and ever expanding realm of sexuality and identities that cannot be contained in the aesthetic choices that spurred the creation of the initial six. The wheat-paste campaign thus expanded during its moment of exhibition, disseminating its critique of the government’s anti-homophobia campaign onto more viewers than it was possible to reach on the street. The original six wheat pasted images were a specific group of images that were meant to critique the structure of the original campaign—considering not only the sexuality as identity phenomenon, but also the mass amounts of money that could have been better used to help queer and trans advocacy organisations. With the expansion of posters that now include the writers and editors of this review, sexuality as identity becomes extremely convoluted and difficult to ascertain. Est-ce que ça vous derange can be described as a gay or queer project, but issues of visible sexuality, censorship, and the overarching theme of the public/private paradigm within the discourse of a society that would like to be considered progressive become relevant for all individuals, regardless of how the state categorises them.
1. Michel Foucault, The History of Sexuality, Volume 1: An Introduction, translated by Robert Hurley (New York: Vintage Books, 1978), 43
Gallery installation of the project at Rats 9 Gallery. 2013.
Braden Scott is in the process of becoming an art historian at Concordia University, completing a Baccalaureate in Fine Art with a Minor in Sexuality. Areas of interest centre on ancient art objects and contemporary visual culture, appropriating philosophical theories and methods from various strains of scholarship that suit his rebellious, whimsical style. At the moment, Braden is studying the work of Christine Ross— embracing the idea that depressive affect has saturated the realm of contemporary cultural production.
Ryan Conrad is an outlaw artist, terrorist academic and petty thief from a francophone mill town near the border between Quebec’s eastern townships and Maine’s western mountains. He is the co-founder of the Against Equality archives and the editor of the forthcoming anthology Against Equality: Queer Revolution Not Mere Inclusion from AK Press due out in the spring of 2014. He is a long time queer community activist and organizer and is currently teaching Sexuality Studies at Concordia University.
differing locations within Concordia University; part of the exhibition will be at Galerie VAV Gallery located in the VA building and rest of the works will be in the art history vitrine on the third floor of the EV building. Multiplicity is a consistent theme within the exhibition, not only through the varying perspectives presented by the artists or viewers entering the exhibition’s spaces, but the voices of Concordia art history students engaging with these works. The curatorial process was not of a singular voice but rather a collaborative process, taking into account various pedagogical approaches from each of the individual curators and their engagement with a selected work for their catalogue entry. Collectively, these voices have created a dynamic viewing experience that goes beyond a directed narrative from a singular Curator who often dictates how the viewer is to understand the art objects they’re viewing.
EMPATHY |ˈempəTHē| Aesthetic Reflections on Marginalization BY KRIS MILLAR VAV GALLERY CO-DIRECTOR
The proliferation of the normalized western art historical canon through accessible survey texts and major art institutions has been critiqued as a power that marginalizes artists and artworks that complicate or challenge this canon. Excluding artists who deviate from the linear progression of “art history” has resulted in the oversaturation of privileged artists who have been academically acclaimed and widely disseminated to the point of becoming household names. As a result, there have been multiple interventions and exhibitions started by curators and art historians in order to challenge this normative canon by looking at artists and artworks that complicate traditional art viewership enforced by major institutions.
This exhibition is not excluded from critique and it is important to acknowledge that while there have been strides made by presenting marginalized narratives that are not seen in mainstream art historical narratives or contemporary culture, problematic aspects could be seen in the use of the term empathy. One could argue that it implicates the viewer to feel obligated to have a specific emotional response to the artworks while that is not the intention of this exhibition. This exhibition embraces the multiplicity of perceptions involved in the exhibition, including viewers. Empathy is a strategy of engagement, to go beyond the realm of one’s own personal experience in order to relate to varying subject matters; it is culturally situated and contingent upon whether or not one is receptive to the experience. It is important not only as an academic tool to better understand the intersections of one’s identity, but to understand that an individual is not entirely oppressed or privileged in a dichotomous interplay—rather there is an ambiguity that is entirely situational.
It was with the motivation to engage critically with normative institutional strategies that two of Concordia University’s art organizations EAHR (Ethnocultural Art Histories Research Group) and Galerie VAV Gallery jointly produced Empathy |ˈempəTHē| Aesthetic Reflections on Marginalization. The goal of this exhibition is to create a multi-exhibitionary experience that focuses on artists and artworks that deal with complex and diverse subject matters in various mediums. Viewers are encouraged to go beyond a passive viewing role that rely on derivative modes of engagement in order to participate critically with what these artists have presented. These artworks are not sugarcoating their personal narratives or presenting a dichotomous interplay between good or bad, right or wrong, but rather to intervene when necessary to complicate the subject matters of contemporary art. Empathy |ˈempəTHē| Aesthetic Reflections on Marginalization will be housed at two 52
Mourad Kouri On The Edge: The Suicide Bridge I. Photography. September 2010, outskirts of Norsborg, Stockholm, Sweden. Selected piece from the series On The Edge. “Prohibited to jump off the bridge”, the sign says.
Sophie Watts Am I A Star Yet? Roller print on paper 9.5X7.5” 2010
Tamara Harkness Piece from the Come Clean series, embroidery
Empathy Curator List
Hannah van der Est Isabel Connolly Emma Sise Sarah Catherine De Montigny Racher Claude Bock Meriam Demers Kris Millar Ruby Chanel-Simard Aaliyeh Afshar Leyla Goka Katrina Jurjans
Mourad Kouri Jonah Miglovsky Victoria Dvorsky Chloe Wise Sophie Watts Tamara Harkness RIhab Essayh Chara LeMarquand Veronique Sunatori Alyse Tunnell