F.6 ROUNDTABLE Radical Pedagogy: Strategies for Teaching Through Curation
Fri Oct 22 / 11:30 – 13:00 PDTvoice_chat join
- Sarah E.K. Smith, Carleton University
- Kirsty Robertson, Western University
In 2010, scholar Andrea Phillips argued for the connections between pedagogy and curating. In her assessment: "pedagogy and curating [have] both become practices, uncoupled from their institutional heritages. Pedagogy is installed in the armoury of contemporary curating as an alternative methodological possibility in which people can come together to learn and discuss things in galleries rather than seminar rooms." Phillips underscores the possibilities of curatorial forms of teaching and learning, which can be mobilized outside of the disciplinary spaces of the university. This panel brings together scholars, curators, and artists, to reflect on Phillips' assessment of pedagogy and curating and to consider the ways that learning or co-learning can occur through curation. In so doing, it connects to more recent scholarship addressing museums, curatorial practice, and critical heritage studies (Whitelaw 2006; Brady 2011; Aronczyk and Brady 2015; Chew 2016). Through a wide-ranging exploration of historic and recent curatorial projects, the panel aims to convey new knowledge about case studies, contribute to theoretical analysis, and critically reflect on personal experiences.
Sarah E.K. Smith is an Assistant Professor in Communication and Media Studies at Carleton University. Her research examines contemporary art, cultural policies, and institutions, with current projects addressing the history of the Independent Artists' Union and UNESCO's Museums Division. Recent publications include contributions to The Wiley Blackwell Concise Companion to Visual Culture and the International Journal of Politics, Culture, and Society. In 2016 Smith published the open-access, online, peer-reviewed monograph General Idea: Life & Work (Art Canada Institute). In 2020, her co-authored article "Unsettling Canadian Heritage: Decolonial Aesthetics in Canadian Video and Performance Art" was awarded the prize for the Best Article Published in the Journal of Canadian Studies by the Canadian Studies Network/Réseaud'études canadiennes. She is a founding member of the North American Cultural Diplomacy Initiative and a member of the Open Art Histories collective, which advances discussions of pedagogy, Open Education Resources, and visual culture in Canada.
Kirsty Robertson is an Associate Professor of Contemporary Art and Director of Museum and Curatorial Studies at Western University, Canada (London, Ontario). Her pedagogy involves curating large-scale speculative and experimental exhibitions with students. In her academic work, Robertson has published widely on activism, visual culture and museums culminating in her book Tear Gas Epiphanies: Protest, Museums, Culture (McGill-Queen's University Press, May 2019). Her work on museums has expanded into a new project focused on small- and micro-collections that repurpose traditional museum formats for critical and politically radical projects. In addition, Robertson is a founding member of the Synthetic Collective, a group of artists, scientists and cultural researchers working on plastics pollution in the Great Lakes Region and project co-lead on A Museum for Future Fossils, an ongoing "vernacular museum" focused on responding curatorially to ecological crisis.
F.6.1 Critical Curating, Decolonial Practice: Protest and Pedagogy and the "Sir George Williams Affair"
Christiana Abraham, Concordia University
This paper discusses the archival exhibition process related to Protest and Pedagogy: Representation Meanings and Memories, an exhibition held to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the "Sir George Williams Affair." The paper revisits the curating process through the lens of critical, decolonial, and resistive approaches that allow a rare glimpse into the archival records related to the 1969 event, Canada's most notorious student uprising, where students took over the seventh- and ninth-floor computer centre to protest anti-black racism in the classroom at Sir George Williams University. By revisiting these events fifty years later, the exhibition asked: What do these archival materials say to us today? This paper reinterprets the exhibition-making process as it challenges existing accounts of the "affair" that have focused on labelling the student action as violence, riot, emphasizing material damages, or tied to discourses of revolution through deliberate practices of subversion. In exchange, it highlights lesser-known narratives through images, sounds, newspaper accounts, official documents, and oral testimonies that bring the archives to life.
This paper is interested in ways in which critical, engaged, curating approaches enable a re-reading of these events. It asks: how can such an exhibition enable a re-interpretation and re-telling of the "Sir George Williams Affair"? The exhibition's functioning as the pedagogic practice allows reflection on alternative methodologies that challenge visual practices and opportunities for teaching-learning and dialogue.
Christiana Abraham is an Assistant Professor in Communication Studies at Concordia University. Her teaching and research focus on visual representations and culture; de/post-coloniality and gender; race, ethnicity and media; rural communications; and transnational and Global-South media practices. Abraham is the curator of Protests and Pedagogy: Representations, Memories, and Meanings, an archival exhibition that commemorated the fiftieth anniversary of the Sir George Williams Student protest. Prior to this, she curated From the Archives to the Everyday: Caribbean Visualities and Meanings, a collection of vintage family photographs of Caribbean life. Her work on visualities approaches the archive as a broadened space of community that prioritizes articulations of otherwise absent narratives. Some of her published works on visualities, race, gender and representation are featured in the Journal of Critical Inquiry, TOPIA, and Atlantis. She is a founding member of Protests and Pedagogy Collective and a member of Archives/Counter archives.
F.6.2 Reflecting on Grasping at the Roots
Christina Battle, Independent Artist and Curator
Grasping at the Roots was an exhibition organized for the Mitchell Art Gallery (Edmonton, Alberta) in early 2020. Featuring works by Eugenio Salas, Debbie Ebanks Schlums, Serena Lee, Shawn Tse, and with video by Scott Portingale, the exhibition took cues from mycorrhizae, mutually beneficial associations between fungi and plants. Fungi have the ability to enhance nutrient take up in plant roots, ensuring healthy development; in return, they benefit by absorbing the plant carbohydrates they require to sustain growth. The exhibition looked, not only to strategies artists use to support and sustain relationships with those they work with, but also to curatorial strategies that might, in turn, better support artists. Grasping at the Roots operated from the premise that this strategy of care has the ability to foster and develop community in sustainable and meaningful ways.
Artists in the exhibition privilege participation and working intimately with others as a critical part of artistic practice. In a time when many — especially those on the margins — face real-life threats and challenges, these artists prioritize community-building and engaged relationships built on responsibility and care. Grasping at the Roots began with the critical question of how to represent such works for the space of the gallery, which are, at their core, performative, site and time-specific. These works are in intimate relation with the participants they engage with; thus, strategies for presenting to others are critical to consider. I wondered how to translate the urgency, energy and intimacy at the heart of each work into the space of the static and how to ensure that each project's sense of site and community remained in central focus. I wondered: how should an audience come to these works? What nuances of engagement need to be provided in order to allow for an expansive reading within the space of the gallery?
Christina Battle (Amiskwacîwâskahikan/Edmonton) has exhibited internationally in festivals and galleries as both artist and curator; most recently at The MacKenzie Art Gallery (Regina), The Art Gallery of Southwestern Manitoba (Brandon), The Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art (Colorado), Latitude 53 (Edmonton), The John & Maggie Mitchell Gallery (Edmonton), Harbourfront Centre (Toronto), Capture Photography Festival (Vancouver); Forum Expanded at the Berlinale (Berlin), Blackwood Gallery (Mississauga), and Trinity Square Video (Toronto). Her work and research are situated around her recently completed PhD dissertation: Disaster as a Framework for Social Change: Searching for New Patterns across Plant Ecology and Online Networks (2020).
F.6.3 Alongside but at a Distance: Feminist Approaches to Curating, Mentorship, and Expertise
Gabrielle Moser, York University
Since 2016, the feminist working group EMILIA-AMALIA has been meeting monthly to read and write, organize film screenings and public talks, publish chapbooks and record oral histories, build archives and eat meals together. As a collective of eight writers, curators, artists and designers that operates without sustaining funding, E-A partners with galleries, museums, artist-run centres, film distributors and art book fairs to make our programming possible. Our relationship with institutions is, therefore, one of proximity and distance: we work closely but temporarily with organizations, often redistributing the resources available to us to BIPOC, women, trans and queer arts workers so they can realize unfinished projects, share their expertise and organize their thoughts in public.
The practice of affidamento, or entrustment, is central to everything EMILIA-AMALIA does. First identified by the Milan Women's Bookstore Collective in the 1970s, relationships of affidamento acknowledge disparities — rather than similarities — between women and use the differences in their competencies, skills, and lived experience as a generative force in their friendships. Affidamento, therefore, rejects the horizontal "sisterhood" of Anglo-American feminism and opens up the productive potential of intersectional differences. Witnessing and narrating one another's life is integral to affidamento, giving these relationships a public function as well as an intimate, private one. In this way, affidamento — much like E-A's relationship with institutions — involves a relationship of working alongside, but at a distance, from one another, recognizing and validating the other's different needs and desires.
This paper reflects on the varied strategies E-A has deployed over the past four years to embed affidamento into our curatorial work, treating galleries as spaces for intergenerational knowledge transmission. Focusing on three sessions that invited younger and older feminist practitioners to shape our programming — including a curated film screening about motherhood and death, a writing workshop about dreams from prison, and a reading group and screening about feminist killjoys and cancel culture — I chart the ways Italian feminist philosophy has informed the group's pedagogical work. In so doing, the paper theorizes gallery spaces as spaces of pedagogical participation which, as curator Irit Rogoff writes, are "generated by unconscious strategies of self-staging" that exceed what both galleries and universities imagine as possible for their visitors.
Gabrielle Moser is a writer, educator, and independent curator based in Toronto. She has organized exhibitions for Access Gallery, Gallery 44, Gallery TPW, the Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery, Oakville Galleries, and Vtape, and her writing appears in venues including Artforum, Canadian Art, Journal of Visual Culture, Photography & Culture, Prefix Photo, and Third Text, and the edited volumes Photography and the Optical Unconscious (Duke 2017) and Contemporary Citizenship, Art, and Visual Culture (Routledge 2017). Her first book, Projecting Citizenship: Photography and Belonging in the British Empire, was published by Penn State University Press in 2019. Moser has held fellowships at the Paul Mellon Centre for the Study of British Art, Ryerson Image Centre, the University of British Columbia, and was a Fulbright Visiting Scholar in the department of Modern Culture and Media at Brown University in 2017. A founding member of EMILIA-AMALIA, she holds a PhD in art history and visual culture from York University in Toronto, Canada, where she is an Assistant Professor in Aesthetics and Art Education in the Faculty of Education.
F.6.4 A Museum for Future Fossils
- Eugenia Kisin, New York University Gallatin School of Individualized Study
- Kirsty Robertson, Western University
A Museum for Future Fossils — a title that references paleobiologist Jan Zalasiewicz's 2016 observation that plastics will be the fossils of the future — is the name of an ongoing series of pedagogical projects and events dedicated to thinking curatorially about the Anthropocene and climate emergency. MFFF is a speculative and vernacular "institution" wherein planetary futures can be imagined, debated, and interrogated. The vernacular "museum" began in 2018 and thus far has included undergraduate classes, art exhibitions, workshops, talks, and a graduate summer school. Our main question is: how can artists, curators, scholars and others learn from each other and work together (or apart) to question and unsettle accepted patterns of learning, thinking, and action when it comes to the ecological crisis? Co-written by MFFF organizers, this paper offers a critical reflection on the process of collaboration across mediums, spaces, and disciplines. We ask what it means, theoretically and practically, to undertake a pedagogical and museological experiment that is informed by land-based pedagogy and models of civic engagement around art-science activisms. Exploring how histories of migration and settlement intersect with extractive regimes — of resources and knowledge — we analyze how and why community-based practice and kin-making are becoming art world norms.
Eugenia Kisin is an Assistant Professor of Art and Society at New York University's Gallatin School of Individualized Study and artistic director of the Gallatin WetLab, an art-science teaching gallery and learning laboratory. Her ethnographic and historical research focuses on the ways that things called "art" come to matter at a nexus of social action, extractive economies, and forms of governance. Through her work with artists and as editor of film and exhibitions at Visual Anthropology Review, Kisin is committed to scholarly and political engagement with the histories and futures of contemporary Indigenous art in North America.
Kirsty Robertson is an Associate Professor of Contemporary Art and Director of Museum and Curatorial Studies at Western University, Canada (London, Ontario). Her pedagogy involves curating large-scale speculative and experimental exhibitions with students. In her academic work, Robertson has published widely on activism, visual culture and museums culminating in her book Tear Gas Epiphanies: Protest, Museums, Culture (McGill-Queen's University Press, May 2019). Her work on museums has expanded into a new project focused on small- and micro-collections that repurpose traditional museum formats for critical and politically radical projects. In addition, Robertson is a founding member of the Synthetic Collective, a group of artists, scientists and cultural researchers working on plastics pollution in the Great Lakes Region, project co-lead on A Museum for Future Fossils, and Director of the Centre for Sustainable Curating at Western.