Visual Culture and Activism in Canada
Publication Year: 2011
Published by: Wilfrid Laurier University Press
Series: Cultural Studies
Title Page, Copyright
List of Figures
The idea for Imagining Resistance was first hatched in 2003 at the Universities Art Association of Canada conference at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario. As the conference drew to a close, we found ourselves chatting excitedly about the potential for bringing together scholars who explore the visual in activism. The first manifestation...
Imagining Resistance: An Introduction
When we began Imagining Resistance, our aim was to gather a series of essays exploring the role of art and visual culture in activism in Canada. Although this might sound straight forward enough, what became almost immediately apparent is that the topic is a fraught one, cut across with complexities, disagreements, and debate. The porosity of overloaded categories...
Refus global has been described as “one of the most important and controversial artistic and social documents in modern Quebec society.”1 Published in Montreal in 1948, the effect of the mere four hundred copies printed was widespread and far-reaching. As historian Ray Ellenwood has described, “Refus global is an important...
Speaking Pie to Power: Can We Resist the Historic Compromise of Neoliberal Art?
The transformation of the post war welfare or “Keynesian” state economy into its current, neoliberal form has dramatically altered the relationship between labour, capital, and the state. As noted in the introduction to this book, globalization, privatization, flexible work schedules, financial schemes, and hyper-deregulated markets have...
Canadian Artists’ Representation and Copyright
We’re going somewhere you won’t believe. London, Ontario has become a North American hotspot.” So said Canadian painter William Ronald in 1966, as he stormed onscreen at the CBC in an arts show like no other. The Umbrella (“it covers everything”) combined William Ronald’s acerbic (and occasionally chauvinist...
John and Yoko’s Media War for Peace
It is as though John and Yoko’s peace crusade and their imaging and imagining of resistance had begun in 1971. At least, that is the way it is presented in an online communiqué released by the media conglomerate CNN.With the digital clock set to June 22, 1997, we snatch a sound bite in the news group marked “Showbiz.”...
Carol Condé and Karl Beveridge: A Living Culture Needs a Living Wage
Union busting, the demise of public health care, the privatization of public services, gender politics, nuclear power, the failure of the North Atlantic fisheries, environmental threats to fresh water, protest and the media, jobs, and the environment—these are just some of the many issues dealt with in the portfolio of...
Monumental Interventions: Jeff Thomas Seizes Commemorative Space
I’m cycling through downtown Ottawa on an unseasonably warm day in autumn 2001. My destination is Nepean Point, a cliff top that rises up behind the National Gallery of Canada and overlooks the Ottawa River, and the site of a towering monument to explorer, geographer, and mapmaker Samuel de Champlain...
General Idea and AIDS
Passersby walking down the streets of New York and Toronto in the late 1980s and early 1990s may have found themselves confronted with a series of posters, each a brightly coloured red, green, and blue square with a stack of four letters—A.I.D.S. General Idea’s AIDS logo, an appropriation of Robert Indiana’s LOVE paintings,...
Resistant Performers and Engaged/ing Public (s)
One of the tenets of performance art, espoused as a truismof the form, is that it inherently resists the object-oriented premise of visual art production, thus refusing to participate in economies of circulation and reproduction. While it has been cogently argued that perhaps no “cultural discourse can actually stand outside the ideologies of capital and reproduction,” 1 performance art does seem...
“The Named and the Unnamed”: Gendering the Canadian Art Scene
On 6 December 1989, a man walked into the École Polytechnique at the Université de Montreal and opened fire, killing fourteen women and injuring fourteen others.1 The lone gunman who perpetrated the Montreal Massacre specifically targeted women, claiming that he was “fighting feminism” as he separated the male from female students. The massacre ended when he turned the gun...
Borders in the City
Borders in the City was a series of three performances that used simplematerials such as paper, chalk, sticks, and smallmechanical devices like radios to explore how invisible borders affected the construction of publicmemory and the circumscription of bodies deemed undesirable by the state. These interventions took place over eight months and sought to question the technologies of state control...
Crisis of Representation: Multiculturalism, Minquon Panchyat, and the “The Lands Within Me”
What does it mean to be Canadian? Pointing to a pamphlet produced by the Canadian Heritage Department, scholar and artist Monika Kin Gagnon notes the paradox at the centre of a “crisis of representation” in Canada. She notes, “On the one hand,…the pamphlet states that the Department of Canadian Heritage wants ‘to promote...
Bread and Five-Ring Circuses: Art, Activism, and the Olympic Games in Vancouver and London
It’s 2003 in Vancouver. I’m getting out of a limo, wearing a fake leopard-print coat, a wig, and disco boots. The Billionaires for the Olympics are crashing a promotional event in connection with the bid for the Vancouver hosting of the 2010 Olympic Games. The flyers we hand out draw attention to issues such as the loss of low-income housing and the fact that most people will not be able to afford...
Aboriginal Representation and the Canadian Art World
It is a cold day in 1988, just before the spectacular opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics in Calgary, Alberta. A woman walks out to the side of the TransCanada highway in Thunder Bay; she could be mistaken for one of the onlookers watching for a runner carrying the Olympic torch as it makes its way across Canada. But this is something different. As the torch-bearer approaches, the woman...
APEC at the Museum of Anthropology: The Politics of Site and the Poetics of Sight Bite
Throughout its two-hundred-year history, the public museum has been a powerfully attractive object for appropriative projects. It has been an important agent for the inscription of the universalizing ideology of modernity as well as of imperial hierarchies of Western nations and world cultures. At the turn of a new millennium the museum remains one of the most prestigious of public...
“Haven’t you ever wanted to put your foot through your television screen?” asked an actor in Media Burn, an outdoor spectacle staged in 1975 by the performance art collective Ant Farm. The answer, fifteen years later, is a resounding ‘Yes!’ Now, a generation of artists who grew up with television are beginning to rebel against...
Titanium Motherships of the New Economy: Museums, Neoliberalism, and Resistance
In 2006, just before the museum re-opened, I took a virtual tour of the Michael Lee Chin Crystal Gallery, the name of the new Daniel Libeskind designed wing of the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM), located in Toronto, Ontario. The new wing, which looks remarkably like a UFO that has crashed into the nineteenth-century stone...
Allan Antliff notes, “the downfall of the state and capitalism through working-class struggle is important, but … anarchism has always aspired to be far more than this. It demands an end to oppression in all its forms.”2 Though anarchism has had a living presence in Canada for far longer than the focus of this case...
Behind the Mask/I Am the Other: Solidarity and Struggle in The Fourth World War
The Fourth World War, a feature-length film produced by New York–based media collective Big Noise Tactical in 2003, takes its title from the Zapatista characterization of the “Fourth World War” as a period or condition following the Cold War.1 Zapatista Subcomandante Marcos explains: “The son...
When cultural guru Richard Florida made his move to the University of Toronto in 2007, he was greeted with a great deal of fanfare. His ideas about “creative classes” and the positive gentrifying role they play in revitalizing cities have won..
Toward a Conclusion: A Focus on the Visual Culture of Activism
As the essays in this volume attest, visual culture is an integral part of activism.Words like “spectacle,” “witness,” and “visuality” have become expected and essential components in dialogues about activist efforts. Indeed, one could argue that without these qualities, it is extremely difficult to engage in acts of protest...