The next year is shaping up to be a good one, the confluence of some wild vision, crazy luck and so many kinds of generosity. As part of the Canada Council for the Arts Assistance to Aboriginal Curators for Residencies in the Visual Arts program, I will be working closely with Pip Day, the Director and Curator at Montréal’s SBC Gallery, to think through what sovereignty means in Canada, in Québec, in a gallery, from my specific subject position, in relation to a context that is new to me, in a country with a deep history of colonization, with an eye to the future. The adventure has just begun, but this program of sustained research, presentation and discussion places politically and socially engaged art at its core, specifically the sovereign self, civic responsibility and individual agency.
If exhibition-making can be posited as a spatial practice that thrives on living research, the essentially collaborative nature of cultural production must be recognized. Reflecting the inter- and cross-disciplinarity of current artistic and curatorial practices, I will focus on developing a series of public programming and a major exhibition that activate the idea of sovereignty from a multitude of perspectives. My educational background in philosophy and my experience with No Reading After the Internet as an experimental learning space represent my formal points of departure, but my goal is to collaborate closely with Pip in challenging my own ideas and assumptions about how pedagogy relates to artistic practices and audiences. I stand to learn a lot from her rich history of work on pedagogical models, on publics and on socially engaged practices.
Given that the sovereignty program privileges socio-politically engaged practices, the residency’s activities will depart from events and cultural developments as they occur in the world, and to attempt to read the gallery’s programming in relationship. Recent energy around the broader Idle No More movement such as Sovereignty Summer, and last year’s student protests in Montréal stand as specific examples of social movements that challenge the import of an idea like soverienty, and thus are places to begin thinking from (or examples to begin thinking through).
Are there ways to use the gallery as a space to enact sovereignty in ways that are not trite? What are our duties to others when the self is proposed as the central concern of sovereignty? What corresponding moral imperatives rise up from this contemporary understanding of the term? Does the reality of a globalized world make the development of interconnecting methodologies more important? What risks are there in trying to speak across cultures?
Under the mentorship of Pip, I will look at the widespread emergence of artists who address current and historical civic challenges to systems of governance and at questions of sovereignty from a global perspective. Generally, the gallery will be thought of as a platform exploring practices whose interests lie in worrying the fault lines of the seemingly entrenched parameters of political life.
I am imagining this residency to be a dialectic of sorts, which is the radical and significant opportunity to think alongside another in a way that resists flattening out either of our perspectives. Instead, I imagine that my engagement with Pip and SBC will encourage me to develop tactics for allowing problems to become their own solutions. Departing from Toronto, working in Montréal, thinking through a recent history of peaceful civil disobedience (like Occupy Wall Street and Idle No More), in a time of economic and environmental upheaval: I have much to learn and think through in trying to understand what it means to be a citizen of the world today and how my work as a curator can bear on these contemporary realities. And I believe this feeds back into the specific framework of this residency, that of sovereignty: is it possible to make a space for another and not fill it? Might this be a way of acknowledging the sovereignty of another in relationship to my own? I’m not yet sure how fruitful these propositions are, but I know that art and education get interesting when they shift from the conceit of explaining the world the way it is, to making me more curious about how strange we really are. And what better way to be reminded than by working in close proximity to another.