About the project
In the summer of 2013, the Art+Activism@NSCAD Project received a small SSHRC/NSCAD Research Grant from the Office of Academic Affairs and Research. Throughout the 2013/14 year we took this small seed money and created a wonderful array of public talks, exhibitions and projects.
This project was designed to bring together an interdisciplinary array of talent at NSCAD in order to renovate, expand, and deepen NSCAD’s already admirable strengths:
- a noble history of strong conceptual engagement;
- a dedication to community-based heirloom and innovative craft practices;
- traditions of public and civic media in the form of print-making;
- and perhaps the most sophisticated and dynamic academic capacity of any dedicated art college in Canada.
We are building on the idea that a focus on the terms of Art and Activism would allow us to build in novel ways on the strengths of NSCAD, and to engage new departures from areas of real interest and contemporary strength in the institution. Our ultimate aim with this project was to put NSCAD on the map in relationship to this topic; in other words, to make NSCAD a point of reference and a destination for others interested in art and activism, in particular for making, teaching about, and research related to art and activism.
With the help of this grant, we believe we have begun to accomplish this aim. We know that our numerous activities of the last year have contributed a great deal to the dynamism of the campus environment, to the research, art and scholarship being produced here, and to the renovation and enhancement of NSCAD’s reputation, locally, nationally and internationally.
To do so, we first created a robust web-based platform to help audiences within and beyond NSCAD engage with our programming. This included a comprehensive website (http://artandactivismatnscad.com) with additional information about all our events, an events calendar, a Twitter feed, a Facebook page, and other social media integration.
The year’s activities in review
Under the auspices of this grant, we organized the following events:
On September 13 and 14, the Art and Activism group co-sponsored (with the Nova Scotia Public Interest Research Group) a visit by the Beehive Collective, a Maine-based artists’ cooperative who specialize in creating murals depicting global events and protests. They delivered a public talk at Dalhousie University and a full-day workshop at NSCAD’s Port Campus.
From September 16-18 the Art and Activism group hosted Chase Joynt, a Toronto-based artist and scholar. During his visit, Chase staged an installation of his work Resisterectomy at the Anna Leonowens Gallery and made three public presentations: “First Person Trans” (September 16) “Teach Me to Question Everything” (September 17), and an artist’s talk (September 18).
On September 24, Dr. Kirsty Robertson, an associate professor of Contemporary Art and Museum Studies at Western University, delivered a talk titled “Art of the Copy: Labor, Originality and Value in the Contemporary Art World and Market” as part of the Art and Activism Project. This talk addressed the rise of the “artists’ village” of Dafen, China, where there is a growing industry for reproducing famous and popular artworks. The talk was held at the lecture theatre of the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia.
From October 2-5 the Art and Activism group teamed up with the Radical Imagination Project (a research initiative of which Max Haiven is a co-director) to host renowned international scholars Silvia Federici and George Caffentzis. Their visit coincided with the Halifax People’s History Conference and the Commons 250 Celebrations. Federici and Caffentzis delivered a total of four public lectures in venues throughout Halifax. The Division of Art History and Critical Studies also helped sponsor this visit by supplying accommodations for the visitors.
On October 9, we hosted Marc James Léger, a Montreal-based scholar and author, who delivered a talk titled “Psychoprotest: Dérives of the Quebec Maple Spring” at the lecture theatre of the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia.
The follow day, October 10, the members of the Art and Activism group joined Léger on a panel at the Tracing the City symposium (chaired by Bruce Barber) at the Khyber Centre for the Arts. Marc Léger presented a paper titled “For a Revolutionary Public Sphere.” Karin Cope presented a paper titled “10 Steps to Launching an Activist Campaign, or What I Learned from Art School.” Carla Taunton presented a paper titled “Decolonizing in the City:Indigenous Performance Art.“ Ericka Wlaker presented a paper titled “Badgered: Visual Culture and the Wisconsin Uprising of 2011.“ And Max Haiven presented a paper titled “Money, Art and the Crisis of Representation.”
On November 12, we hosted a screening of Halifax-based film-maker and community organizer Sobaz Benjamin’s documentary Race is a Four Letter Word at the Dalhousie Art Gallery. The screening was followed by a discussion with Benjamin and veteran Halifax-based filmmaker Sylvia D. Hamilton, whose exhibition Excavation: A Site of Memory was on display at the gallery.
On December 4, we hosted a screening of Martha Stiegman and Sherry Pictou’s film In the Same Boat/In Defense of our Treaties about the conflict over Mi’kmaq fishing rights in Bear River and surrounding area. Stiegman and Pictou joined us for the screening, which was held at the Dalhousie University School of Architecture building.
In our final event of 2013, we hosted a Queer Poetry Cafe on December 10 at the Queer Collective’s Gender Pit in the Anna Leonowens Gallery, featuring poets Karin Cope, Blonde Sparrow and Faizal Deen. All members of the audience participated in reading, writing and discussing the radical possibilities of poetry.
Throughout the month of January we were very pleased to host a residency by the Brooklyn, NY-based artist Caroline Woolard, with the support of the Foundation Division, the MFA Program and the Division of Media Arts. Caroline’s practice focuses on creating alternative economic spaces for artistic community resilience. She delivered a public lecture that packed the Bell Auditorium and made six class visits during her residency. She also worked closely with students on several projects. Caroline returned to NSCAD for a week in March to make several more class visits and continue her collaborations.
On January 10 and 11, we hosted a visit of Rhode Island-based artist Meredith Stern, a founding member of the Just Seeds Artists Cooperative, a print-making collective renowned for the their activist and community-based art practice. Meredith delivered a standing-room-only artists’ talk in NSCAD’s Boardroom on January 10, and the following day, led a printmaking workshop that kicked off the collaborative portfolio project Show of Force (see below).
On March 11, the Art and Activism group, along with the Radical Imagination Project, hosted a community roundtable event titled Art Evicted? Property, Policy, Politics and Potential, which featured representatives of The Eyelevel Gallery, the Khyber Centre for the Arts, the Anna Leonowens Gallery, the Roberts Street Social Centre, and Platform Halifax. The group discussed the present climate, the politics of money and space for artists and organizations in the city, and future possibilities. This event, held at the Bloomfield Centre, was very well attended and generated a great deal of media attention.
On April 3, the Art and Activism group, along with the Radical Imagination Project, hosted a screening of a new open-source documentary film Preempting Dissent with film-maker Greg Elmer, a Canada Research Chair at Ryerson University. This film addresses the increased crimininalization and surveillance of activism and protest since 2001. Who attended, etc. comments
On April 23 we were very pleased to see the launch of Show of Force at Plan B Merchant’s Cooperative, as part of the Mayworks Festival of Workers and Culture. Show of Force was the result of months of work spearheaded by Ericka Walker, which brought students and community-members into the printmaking studios to create works about activism, workers’ rights and social justice in Halifax. The portfolio exchange, which kicked off in January with a workshop with Meredith Stern (see above) saw the production of dozens of prints about a wide variety of topics. In the exhibition, these were paired with works from the Just Seeds Artists Cooperative.
On June 10, we co-sponsored with the National Indigenous Media Arts Coalition (as part of their annual conference, this year in Halifax) a special live recording of the popular podcast Red Man Laughing, hosted by Anishnaabe/Metis comedian Ryan McMahon. This event brought together NIMAC participants and local scholars and activists for a discussion about the politics and practices of Indigenous cinema.
We are currently planning our programming for the Fall 2014. Stay tuned for more exciting information soon!