Happenings, SBC

Ashon Crawley’s “The Lonely Letters”

Ashon Crawley, Otherwise Possibility, Nancy Ambrose's Imagination number 2 (2017).

Ashon Crawley, “Otherwise Possibility, Nancy Ambrose’s Imagination number 2″ (2017), mixed media on canvas, 36″x48”.

I am headed to Montréal this weekend for an event with the phenomenal Ashon Crawley entitled The Lonely Letters: On the Hammond B-3 Sense and Sound Experience. Collaboratively programmed by myself and Pip Day, The Lonely Letters will be hosted at SBC Gallery as a preface to SBC’s upcoming programme, which will be rooted in the practices of care, study and deep listening, while considering the potential and limits of institutions. If you are around Montréal on Saturday afternoon, come join us…

The Lonely Letters is an in-progress text of autobiofiction in which writer and philosopher Ashon Crawley collectively considers the relationship of quantum theory, mysticism and blackness through an engagement with the noisemaking practices of Blackpentecostal spaces. In focusing on the relationship between the Hammond B-3 organ and sense and sound experience, Crawley will perform a meditation between friends, and between would-be lovers, about how the performance of and the listening to the Hammond B-3—and its chord changes, arpeggios, volume, timbre and tone—can elucidate experiences of black social life. The Hammond B-3 organ is an under-thought instrument, despite its presence in Blackpentecostal spaces before church services begin, throughout their duration and after their end, punctuating the sounds of praise, prayer and preaching. Building on the work in Blackpentecostal Breath: The Aesthetics of Possibility (2017), this performative lecture will attempt to build connective tissue between what might seem to be disparate ways of thinking worlds known and unknown—the religious and the scientific, the noisy and the musical—with hopes of considering the epistemologies of quantum physics as Blackpentecostal.

Ashon Crawley is an Assistant Professor of Religious Studies and African American and African Studies at the University of Virginia. His research and teaching experiences are in the areas of Black studies, performance theory and sound studies, philosophy and theology, and Black feminist and queer theories. His first book, Blackpentecostal Breath: The Aesthetics of Possibility (Fordham University Press, 2017) is an investigation of aesthetics and performance as modes of collective, social imaginings otherwise.



OAAG Curatorial Writing Award

A couple years ago, Heather Anderson and Sandra Dyck of the Carleton University Art Gallery reached out to see if I’d be interested in writing a catalogue essay for an upcoming mid-career retrospective of Meryl McMaster‘s work. Meryl’s photographs have often compelled long and slow looking, and so I was excited to say yes and have a formal opportunity to put language to the way her images work on me. As things go, it turned out that the other essayist for the catalogue was to be my dear friend Gabrielle Moser. We travelled to Meryl’s studio together and spent a day in midst of stories with her, spinning two complementary but distinct takes on Meryl’s practice for the publication. Although we were looking at the same pictures and heard the same stories, I learned so much from Gabrielle’s framing and analysis of Meryl’s practice. And so, the sweet ending to this story is that Gabrielle and I were jointly awarded the Ontario Association of Art Galleries‘ award for curatorial writing (2000–5000 words) for our essays that appear in the Confluence catalogue.

Said the jurors: “[Gabrielle Moser’s and cheyanne turions’s] essays reflect complementary texts that examine Meryl McMaster’s process and elaborates on the artist’s self discovery through photography and performance, shedding light on how these two mediums intertwine in the artist’s work. The two texts are constructive and open-ended analyses of the in the makingness of the artist’s practice.”

Here’s to more thinking and making alongside each other…

Happenings, SBC, Wood Land School

How does the line behave?


Image credit: Tsēma Igharas

In the ongoing becoming that is Wood Land School: Kahatènhston tsi na’tetiátere ne Iotohrkó:wa tánon Iotohrha / Drawing a Line from January to December, the second gesture launches this week with a cast of artists invested in thinking through what an inherited history makes in the present. It is an honour for Wood Land School to be thinking alongside Joi T. Arcand, Elisa Harkins & Nathan Young, Tsēma Igharas, Brian Jungen, Gabrielle L’Hirondelle Hill, Marianne Nicolson, Annie Pootoogook and Wendy Red Star.

The first gesture of this year-long project was concerned with the power of line to mark history and invoke memory. In this first gesture, we considered what it means to inherit a history. We made claims for where we have felt ourselves formed. We proposed that this is one of many ways to pick up the line.

In the second gesture we are asking the following question: how does the line behave?

Spanning video, photography, sculpture, drawing and performance, the works of the second gesture show us how to occupy the present. Here, the line acts as a point of departure for Indigenous relations, mapping time, family, Indigenous languages and non-human relations in the now. And yet, this isn’t a singular line of thought. What does a line of thinking become when it is collapsed or disrupted? In this second gesture, we complicate and converse with the idea of the line and materiality.

Wood Land School: Kahatènhston tsi na’tetiátere ne Iotohrkó:wa tánon Iotohrha / Drawing a Line from January to December has yielded many questions and ideas—for Wood Land School, for SBC, for the artists and for our publics. Collectively, we consider how this line acts, thinks and articulates itself under this particular condition we have created or implicated ourselves in.

Please join us at the launch of the second gesture on Thursday, 11 May 2017, 18:00–20:00, at SBC galerie d’art contemporain (372, rue Ste-Catherine Ouest, espace 507, Tiohtià:ke/Montréal). Elisa Harkins, Tsēma Igharas and Hilda Nicholas will be variously performing over the evening and they are not to be missed.

Happenings, Wood Land School

Before the Gesture Rests, a Conversation

Brian Jungen, (detail), 2017.

As winter turns to spring,  Wood Land School’s unfolding exhibition Kahatènhston tsi na’tetiátere ne Iotohrkó:wa tánon Iotohrha / Drawing a Line from January to December prepares to rest. Articulated through a series of gestures—clusters of activity that bring works into and out of the exhibition space— a suite of new drawings by Brian Jungen will soon join works by Annie Pootoogook, Alanis Obomsawin, Layli Long Soldier, ReCollection Kahnawake and Napachie Pootoogook. With this, the composition of forms that make the first gesture will be complete.

To mark the inclusion of Jungen’s work, which are the first drawings he has produced in over 20 years, Wood Land School will engage in conversation with the artist this Thursday, 30 March 2017. Please join us.

Following this, for the month of April, the exhibition will rest, playing out the energies between the works on display, collectively producing  a line that demarcates and describes inheritance.

In May, the exhibition remakes itself along with the world. Details of the second gesture will be announced soon.


Indigenous New York, Critically Speaking

This winter, I was invited back to the Vera List Center to participate in their ongoing program Indigenous New York, this time with a focus on how Indigenous creative production might reconfigure regimes of critical writing. As an invited participant in the event, I was paired with a fellow writer, Sadia Shirazi, and we were asked to respond to the prompt of “land writes—citing territory.” Shirazi and I had not met previous to this, but in approaching this work, we decided to engage each other in conversation, extending the call and response structure of the exercise, first over Skype then in writing, crafting a meditation of enactments of territory that extended from acknowledgements to bans. In a time when so many people have been barred access to the lands called the United States through executive orders, it was a strange decision to go there (and indeed, some other invited participants boycotted the event in response to the recent travel bans). And yet, I hope that there was some utility in going the US and to this event to discuss how the policies enacted on land are equivalent to politicized regimes of dispossession, and to imagine other ways of organizing the shapes we make when we come together. Below, Shirazi and I read from our text at the public portion of the colloquium. Entitled the cuts., our writing owes a debt of gratitude to the brilliant Layli Long Soldier and her book of poetry WHEREAS (2017).

And here, documentation of the panel discussion that followed:

And here, the collection of texts.

Happenings, Wood Land School

A Statement

Cultural work is not distinct from the political realities that shape civic society.

Statement reads:

Wood Land School offers our sincerest and deepest condolences to the Muslim community of Quebec City, and to those in the province of Quebec, throughout Canada and the United States, and around the world for the hateful act that was carried out at the Centre Culturel Islamique de Québec on 29 January 2017. We feel a deep sense of empathy and love for the families and people affected by this tragedy. Places of prayer should be safe and peaceful sanctuaries for our communities, our loved ones, our children and our families. As Indigenous people, we understand the need for these spaces to exist, and to exist without fear. We are deeply sorry for your loss and commit ourselves to fostering a world where such acts of intolerance are no longer conceivable.

With love and solidarity,
Wood Land School
Duane Linklater, Tanya Lukin Linklater and cheyanne turions, with Walter Scott


I am the Organizer of My Own Archive


© Sara Cwynar, “Soft Film” (2016). Courtesy of Foxy Productions.

Next week I head to Montréal for the opening of I am the Organizer of My Own Archive, a screening program I have curated for Dazibao, a centre dedicated to the dissemination of contemporary image-based practices. Housed within a building on Avenue de Gaspé that has been recently retrofitted from its factory past to a complex of arts spaces, Dazibao’s exhibition spaces include a petite bespoke cinema, which is where the program will be presented, from 02 February–01 April 2017.

In conceptualizing the program, I started with a short animation by the artist Maria Lassnig. Known primarily as a painter, this animation was made in 1992, when Lassnig was 73 years old. A totally vivacious babe, Maria Lassnig Kantate shows Lassnig making sense of her artistic ambition through a reflection on the struggles that produced her career. Although the work is 25 years old, I was struck by the unabated resonance of the misogyny and sexism she describes, of not being taken seriously as an artist because she is a woman, because she is single, because she refuses to play nice. In the face of continual neglect of her talent by the art world, she roots herself in curiosity and perseveres, constructing a narrative of her life where she is a super hero, brave and adventurous. What Lassnig shows me is how self-determination leads to a becoming of self that cannot come into being otherwise.

Gathered around Lassnig’s animation are videos by Stephanie Comilang, Sara Cwynar, Dylan Mira, Krista Belle Stewart and Martine Syms that foreground the recuperative force of articulating experience from a felt position within the social structures that hold our personal lives.

Our memories fool us when they seem to play as movies in our minds. What is left of our living is something more akin to a box of photographs—ruffled through, their order lost or barely held together. What we take for these movies are re-compositions of these still images into narratives, a process of sense making that is self-making too. I am the Organizer of My Own Archive presents a range of tactics for coming into relation with the remnants of personal and social histories, emphasizing the interpretive liberty at play in any project that aims to coax sense from isolated objects or recollected experiences.

The thing about understanding history as photographs, as opposed to movies, is that the order is up for negotiation and relationships can be proposed and constructed, or denied and torn apart. In organizing our archives, we write ourselves as we ought to be.