Agnes will remain closed in compliance with the province-wide lockdown to curb the spread of COVID-19.

00:00
/
00:00
Audio

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Nam vestibulum sapien ut neque porta, faucibus blandit ante maximus. Mauris ut facilisis mauris, non vestibulum sapien. Donec eu gravida orci. Donec non risus ac libero congue placerat. Duis efficitur arcu ac diam eleifend consectetur. In congue, diam sit amet congue rutrum, felis mi placerat ligula, sit amet imperdiet erat neque porttitor.

Filter by
Recent
Fictioning Marginalia

Transcript

Fictioning Marginalia
Episode 1 | Vibe Check

Episode description

In Episode 1 of Vibe Check, a gently building soundscape introduces listeners to Neven Lochhead’s process of ‘sonic scaffolding’ and its effects. An interview with the artist about his currently closed solo exhibition From the vibe out becomes a base for auditory renovation, as the approaches driving the two-channel video installation gradually adjust to CFRC Radio’s immersive stereo habitat.

transcript

Neven Lochhead: You’re listening to CFRC 101.9 FM, located on the Queen’s Campus in the basement of Carruthers Hall and online at cfrc.ca. My name is Neven Lochhead. I’m an artist and curator based in Kingston. And welcome to the first episode of Vibe Check. This is a four-part radio art series that is being produced in relation to a solo video exhibition of mine called, From the vibe out, at the Agnes Etherington Art Centre. I’m so grateful to Dinah Jansen who agreed to and encouraged this idea I had to produce some kind of “radio-fied” version of that currently closed exhibition, that we could air on the CFRC airwaves over the next couple of months. I’m not really quite sure what a radio version of an exhibition is or could be. So I’ll say that partly this will be some kind of experiment in navigating an act of translation or transposition between art forms or art contexts. The first strategy that I’d like to try today will be to extend the sort of spatial poetics, or the density of the viewing experience of the installation, into musical formats and sonic arrangements. So you’ll hear a lot of that today, through the kind of incessant sound tracking and layering that I’ve composed underneath and over top of the spoken content for today’s episode. That spoken content for today is a bit strange in that it’s basically an interview with myself, which was conducted by Dinah Jansen, shortly after the opening of the exhibition in late February. If you can manage to make it through my meandering responses to Dinah’s questions, then at the very end of the episode I’ll be featuring a recording by a wonderful local artist named Andy Berg, who’s part of a group of artists that I’m working with as part of a learning experiment that we’re designing together called Fabricating Vibe. And so, this recording from Andy is from a workshop that they did called “Calibrate-Your-Gravity.” And it’s my hope that we might hear more from that group in future episodes, as that project develops as well. So I’ll leave it there for now. And I wish you luck with the episode. Thank you for listening in. And with that, I’ll hand it over to my good friend, Dinah.

Dinah Jansen: Hi Neven.

Neven: Hello Dinah. It’s great to be back on the air.

Dinah: It’s great to have you back on the air. And folks, we are talking with this fabulous CFRC alumnus about his new exhibition that is happening at the Agnes Etherington Art Centre, over the next couple of months. And we’ve got a lot to talk about with this exhibition. Neven, but before we get into all of the fun things that we’re going to learn about from you today regarding your exhibition, can you remind our listeners, maybe, about your time at CFRC back in the day. Some of our listeners might remember who you are from our airwaves.

Neven: Well, I appreciate the opportunity to revisit those years. I guess it would have been 2009 to 2013. I was involved in the station in a number of different ways over that period of my undergrad. Started out as a volunteer and actually had the chance to be Music Programming Manager in my second year of school, and revisited that role again in my fourth year. Yeah, I think about that time with a lot of fondness! I mean, I grew up in Kingston and I remember the feeling of being introduced to CFRC and the community, as kind of unlocking Kingston for me in a whole new way. And I came to realize how much — How many different communities pass through that basement. You know, artistic communities, for sure. Music communities. Also, academics. A lot of the activist community Kingston was involved with programming and things there. So it was — It was so transformative for me. It really defined my time at Queen’s. And I later realized how much I was learning, in that time, also about curating — And we’ll probably get to that later. But the role of being a programming manager called upon me to really think about curatorial practice and engagements with publics and just sensibilities, like how to produce the appropriate flow in a schedule, really influenced some of my more recent curatorial projects, where I’m looking at exhibition making through a kind of time-based lens and bleeding different media together and things like that. So, yes. That’s a bit of a long answer, but I just — I was so fond of CFRC and we were just reminiscing about you having a show back then called Primordial Soup and being one of those veterans who welcomed me in and made me feel comfortable and lucky to be working there — So, yeah. That’s my flashback.

Dinah: Well, for listeners out there who may not remember my show from back in the day, Primordial Soup too. When I retired my show and went on a temporary hiatus, I was finishing my doctorate at the time and had obvious things to take care of at the university in terms of –As well as student governance and my teaching responsibilities at the time too. So I went on hiatus. And as I’m walking out the door, Neven was the last person I saw at the station when I was — On that very sad day. And he gave me a very kind thank you card, which I still have. So it’s a real pleasure being able to welcome Neven back to our airwaves folks. A real treat for me. And I hope it’s a real treat for our listeners too.

Neven: They must be tearing up at this point.

Dinah: [ Laughter ] I feel great. I’m just — Yes, I’m so happy. So, Neven, let’s hear a little bit now about your work. You touched on it, even just in your last response there. Can you share a little bit about your artistic background? The work that you’ve been doing in your past residencies and installations. And even your teaching as an artist. Let’s hear more about what you’ve been doing since your time at CFRC.

Neven: Since I walked out the door.

Dinah: Since you left.

Neven: Yes. Well, really it was during that four-year period at CFRC when I really started to engage with, or see myself as an artist. Another kind of local connection I want to name is the Artel Collective, where I lived during that period as well. Which was a kind of gallery, also a house for artists in Kingston to collectively operate this programming entity. But, you know, in that period I was doing an English degree and I was making these performances and videos on the side and had professors who were encouraging me to apply to art school. And I did that in my fourth year. I ended up going to Syracuse University, in a sort of small MFA program in video art, kind of retro word. But it was very specifically focused on time-based media. And the teaching component down there was mostly TAing and running sort of crit environments with undergrads and things. I was lucky to get a job at – SAW Video in Ottawa, which is an artist-run centre, a longstanding one. It’s been around for almost 40 years now. And found myself in a kind of curatorial position. Yeah. Again, where I was kind of a director of programming, like I was at CFRC. Like many artists who find themselves in curatorial positions, it’s kind of — It can be kind of difficult to separate out your artistic practice from your curatorial practice or to like not have them contaminate each other too much. But gradually I figured it out, and I was involved in so many interesting projects at SAW, the main one being the establishing and operating of its new venue called Knot Project Space.

Dinah: So what brought you back to Kingston?

Neven: Well, I left — I left the job in early 2020. And I had some, you know, overseas projects and other things. But the pandemic hit. And I have family here and I just sort of moved back to have some stability in those early — Those early months. And I ended up enrolling in the PhD program at Queen’s in the Screen Cultures and Curatorial Studies program. And so that’s the reason I’m sticking around now. Is that I have — I have a position there and I’m again being able to do some TAing and working with students and so —

Dinah: And maybe we’ll entice you back to the airwaves.

Neven: I know! I was going to have a sub-meeting with you about how do I get on the — How do I get back on the air? [ Laughter ]

Dinah: Come to me!

[ Laughter ]

Dinah: Well, congratulations to you on returning to Queens University and entering into your PhD program. That’s wonderful news for Queen’s University and our community too. So, okay. And you’re doing some other really great stuff right here at the university as well. You have an exhibition underway now at the Agnes Etherington Art Centre, entitled From the vibe out. So Neven, let’s learn about the new exhibition. And from the Agnes’s description online, if I may check it out here, I understand that From the vibe out brings together your language propelled approach to the moving image, with your curatorial space making practice. A project that summons a semi-fictional, artist-led research Institute, as interlocutor. So Neven, in plain terms, break it down for us. What are you exhibiting at the Agnes? And what does it all mean? Boom!

[ Laughter ]

Neven: I could — I could try – You know, primarily I’d say this show is — It’s a solo exhibition of some work that I’ve made over the past eight months. So at a basic level, there is video work. It’s sort of dominated by these two large vertical projection screens that are the identical size of the doors to the room. So they kind of have this appearance of being cut out of the wall or otherwise being blockades to be put back into the wall. There’s also some print works. There’s sound components, speakers that are embedded in these objects that are kind of resonating from inside the image. And some text works on the reverse panel of these screens. That’s a kind of basic, what it is. I mean, what it also is, is, you know — It’s work that was made during a pandemic. And I feel like that’s important to point out that this isn’t a kind of project that was carried over from the before times. It was me revisiting an artistic practice in this period where like the art world, as we know it, was really upended and paused. And the relationship to publics was changed, and things like that. So I’d say that I really opened myself up to, okay, this is a destabilizing moment. How can I make a work that has traction in this time? And so it’s very much an experiment with this context. But as you also pointed out it — All of that gets wrapped in this semi-fictional frame of this Institute. And we could get into that. I think that that was, in some way — Yeah, a response to what I was just saying about how do you produce traction for your work? Or how do you kind of — How does your work land somewhere, right now? And as I was working, you know, I was making a solo exhibition work and working on these kinds of self-contained artworks. And I was kind of not getting excited by that. And I thought, this is not really pivoting enough in response to this moment. And, yeah. I kind of started to [ Laughs ] hallucinate this fictional institute that was based in Kingston. I was writing, I was doing a bunch of text experiments, writing with the voice of this institute. And that was producing a kind of more interesting dynamic for me, in that, this entity was demanding to institute itself through the work. It wanted to kind of emerge. And it was applying pressure to me, in the making and kind of saying, this is — We want to carry this kind of emphasis. Or we want to have a really specific focus on Kingston and things like that — So, it just became a kind of helpful tool for me to tether the work to some kind of — Some kind of sense of traction. I hope it’s making some sense.

Dinah: This really fascinating. I love how multi-tiered or multi-layered — Maybe tiered is the wrong word. It sounds a little too structural, I guess — But multilayered, anyway, the motif that’s happening here. But also I think that the media that you’re using — You use several different kinds of media to –

Neven: Yeah, absolutely. So I could talk to that. I mean, I think that that’s important because, I should also say that, you know, when you go to the show, you’re confronted with a lot of paper. Like it’s a digital work, but there’s this stream of documents that you are confronted with on the screens. And this was kind of my response to this fictional institute wanting to assert itself. So, I thought, what are some tools that I can use to do that? And I had just, as I said, moved back from Ottawa. And I had this kind of archive of notes and meeting minutes and PDFs that were the kind of grey literature or the kind of marginalia of an actual space making project that I was engaging in, in Ottawa. And I started to think of these in the same way of how, you know, in climate science we have these data points that we can locate in the now. And how these data points or these trends, in the present, can infer a kind of image of where we might be in 10 years, 50 years from now. So this kind of — I don’t know if it’s deduction or inference or something. But using a kind of set of coordinates to produce an image of some kind of future state. Or in this case, a kind of future institute. And so I started working with these documents. And I didn’t just scan and reproduce them. I altered them. I kind of would take PDFs and perform a kind of grangerization – a thickening of these documents. And through that, I started to see this institute forming. Through how they were making these documents, you know?

Dinah: Yeah. That totally makes sense! Yes. Okay. So I’m kind of curious then if we can — If we can explore a little more about the media. So your — Your work is drawing on like text on screen with moving images. There’s some minimalist music involved.

Neven: Right.

Dinah: Lots of colour. How do your media forms convey ideas and messages in the way that you want them to? In ways that other media cannot, for example, like a painting.

Neven: Yes. I wish I could paint…


Dinah:
Maybe this is like the kernel, like, what does it all mean? What is art, kind of stuff, right? But why did you choose — What is it — What is it about the media that you use that conveys messages that other media cannot, at least for you?

Neven: I wonder if I know exactly how to answer that. I mean, you mentioned the minimal music thing and it makes me think of how, you know, I make work for a gallery context often. And work with time-based media for a gallery context. And that situation of a gallery, it has a very specific type of viewership in it. You don’t know when a viewer will enter the work. You don’t know if they are even there to see your work. They might be passing through to look at the Rembrandts or whatever.

Dinah: Yeah. As some people at the Agnes do. [ Laughter ]

Neven: Yeah. As they should. So I’ve always thought of it as a challenge actually, for time-based work. And at the same time, I am sort of not a fan of seeing cinematic style works in a gallery, where you have to sit down for 45 minutes or something to take it all in. Or see the second half first and then see the first half later. So this can be challenging. It can also be liberating. You then don’t have to worry about your work having a beginning, a middle or an end. You have to kind of produce strategies in the work that will win the attention of that viewer and sort of compel them to commit to the work. That is really the starting point for me, when we talk about these other strategies of like minimal music or using text. I want to produce that commitment. And so I want people to encounter the work, be addressed by the work and to be kind of pulled into it. And also to feel like that there is some kind of system happening. That if they spend time with, they could sort of figure out that system. So I think that’s my connection to the minimal music. Is, how it’s different from kind of ambience in that — We do have a sense that there’s some kind of compositional strategy happening here. Like I think of the work of Julius Eastman specifically. A kind of more militant form of minimalism, that encourages — Encourages a form of committed listening, or committed viewing, things like that.

[ Music ]

Dinah: I’d like to learn a little bit more too, because we’ve talked about the text, as well, that appears in this work. Do you — Are you — What kinds of — What text are you using? You don’t have to give it all away to us, but are you writing specific like prose or poetry and then adding it in? Or are you selecting meaningful passages from Moby Dick or something? [ Laughter ] What is the text that you’re using?

Neven: It definitely varies from project to project.

Dinah: Okay. Is it your own creative work or are you using, or modifying the work of poets or authors elsewhere? Or you saw some news clips or something?

Neven: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Well, let’s take this project as the one to look at.

Dinah: Okay.

Neven: It’s definitely a blend of what you’re describing. There are a lot of PDFs in this work that have been rearranged. And titles of works that have, yeah, have been sort of turned inside out or are tripping over in themselves, and things like that. So there is definitely an element of having a relationship to texts which already exist. I became interested in this work specifically, with like the experience of like skimming through a book like this and how that’s a form of reading because you pick up the text that is in bold font. And it kind of — It carries like just the aroma of the concept or like the vibe of what the author is trying to do. And I wanted to try to privilege that type of skimming of — Or like speed reading a bunch of documents. So that strategy makes me want to write, or rearranged those texts, in a certain way, in that they need to sort of transmit something when they just move across the screen for two seconds. There’s also a form of writing in this work of marginalia, like where you have a text and you see the way a reader has thickened that text with their own private notes, or they put a heart somewhere or a star. And I became interested in that too. Like leaving this trace of the imagined institute and portray something about them as a thinking body, where there’s kind of thought at work in the archive — In the imagined archive, and things like that. But you know, unlike other projects that would require completely different – [ voice fades out ]

>> Nobody knows what an institution can do, just as nobody knows what a body can do. Only the practice of exhibition-making gives the organization a sense of what it is capable of inventing, of its range, of its reach, its core, its expertise, its strength, its focus, its sense of what is possible, feasible, imaginable, inventible. Kodwo Eshun.

Dinah: The current exhibition too is based — Like this is work that you’ve just created within the last year, since the pandemic became an everyday part of our lives. But it also sounds to me that the textual aspects are almost a little bit autobiographical, if I may, because you are a pre-comp, PhD candidate. You are speed reading at the moment and doing a lot of marginalia. And it’s going to get weirder and heavier as you move towards your comps too, right? [ Laughter ] So, was that intentional? Were you thinking about that as you were getting the texts together? Were you like, this is what I do. This is what I’m doing every day.

Neven: I mean, that’s a good point to bring up. And another layer to add to that is that, it is drawing from an actual archive that I produced by doing actual work as a curator. You know, actual work. I mean, I think it has autobiographical elements, but tries very hard to move away from those.

Dinah: Right.

Neven: That’s kind of a direction of it. It tries to draw a line with an arrow, away from those sort of specific autobiographical components, to point towards this other entity.

Dinah: Yes.

Neven: But you know, another thing that’s great about that is that, it means that making the work is possible because — Yeah. I think it just kind of folds into work that you’re already doing. And I found it a lot easier to sustain that behaviour I was mentioning, because it just sort of required tweaking a certain form of study that I was doing already, and will continue to be doing. And it does create a kind of strange relationship with that work in that, when I’m making notes, I sort of think, oh, maybe this is something for the institute. I’ll photocopy this and I’ll make another version that has it annotated in their voice or something like that. So it makes it — It kind of — It adds a bit of fun. [ Laughs ]

Dinah: Amazing. Thank you so much for sharing so much. We appreciate it.

Neven: You’re welcome.

Dinah: So, does the exhibition itself have local connections as well? I also understand that part of the theme is — Part of the theme was, as described on the Agnes’s website, it was something about an empty art space in downtown Kingston. Are we thinking of the Artel here? Or an imagined space? So, I had to ask!

Neven: No, of course. Of course. It’s explicitly stated there and also in the show that there’s this local connection. I think that choice goes back to something I was just saying earlier about the way that the pandemic has upended usual circuits of the art world, you know. I remember early on, in like April, watching webinars and things by curators and people running galleries that — I mean, while it was really a terrible situation, there was also this feeling of relief that — I remember one curator, Clementine Delice, she said, “We no longer have the pressure of the motherships, the biennials, the commodification of the museums, the residencies, the auction houses and the art fairs. The galleries are going to have to rethink what they did. It’s time to sharpen our pencils.” And so I felt that I — You know, I was in Kingston. And I wanted, as I said, this work to have some kind of traction with where I was and in this moment. And so I made an active choice to tether it to this city. And again, to transform something which I was experiencing, which is this space that I’m in right now. It’s an actual space downtown. It’s a studio space. It’s large enough to host events and exhibitions. So I wanted that to become a condition of the work too. That I could speculate about what this place could be in the future. Maybe this is where the institute would set itself up. So if I was in a different city, I might make that explicit connections to the local place as well. But it’s just because I am here that I wanted the work to behave in this very direct relationship with the Kingston. And now that it’s open, I feel quite happy about that, because I feel uneasy about inviting people from out of town to come to Kingston and see my show. But I can engage with artists who I know here. And we can look at the work together and extend things from that work. So I think I’m happy that it has been kind of scaled to the situation that we’re in. And we’ll see how that plays out now, over the course of the coming months. That’s kind of the exciting thing about making that move is that, the show is open, but now there’s like more work to do. And it kind of hangs in the balance, whether it does have traction or a kind of projective behaviour as a work. That’s up to the coming months, you know?

[ Music ]

Andy Berg: This is an energy force — — coming up out of the ground.

[ Background Sounds ]

>> Partially buried — — partially exposed. It is a strong communicator. It is accessible. And it has nutrient density. It is a rather odd thing.

[ Background Sounds ]

>> The question is, can this repel exclusionary language? Arrogance, doomsaying, exploitation, or disempowerment?

Neven: For sure.

[ Background Sounds ]

Andy: If it will function of selfishness — — bad lighting — — broken hearts — — billionaires — — fascism?

[ Background Sounds ]

>> Tried to figure out — — the blame game here. Is there a blame game? We talked about it.

Neven: We spent years labouring over —

Andy: We talked about childlike wonder.

Neven: A possible construction of a realizable site.

Andy: Curiosity.

Neven: We tested out video art strategies, group visioning exercises–

Andy: Generosity.

Neven: — and other celebrated assemblages, in hopes that they would guide our blueprints, grant applications.

Andy: We talked about efficiency.

Neven: We listened back to hours of field recordings and webinars, scrubbing through audio in search of some kind of directional…

Andy and Neven: Possible.

Andy: The unknown.

Neven: Eventually, we started to sense the presence of a constant lateral emotion, a vibe. Which at times seemed as big and as uneven, as the whole world put together.

Andy: We talked about the possibility of shape shifting.

Neven: We all consented to maintain it in us.

Andy: Strengthening — — and transforming.

Neven: We took to rotating simple objects in our hands; rocks, lanterns, pipes, all talking together about what we were seeing and not seeing.

Andy: When looking at this- — spewing out water — — is there a blame game?

Neven: Through rounds of observation, our mediations were activity recalibrating.

Andy: Why is there so much orange?

Neven: Our knowledges.

Andy: Under this water?

Neven: Rendering social, once atomized crafts of interpretation.

Andy: What discernment can we bring today upon this scene?

Neven: Our learning is changing the very thing being learned.

Andy: The fact is, that this is sitting on top of an artesian well.

Neven: We spend sleepless nights here.

Andy: And there is a large underground river —

Neven: Transforming.

Andy: — just above the little hill, where this pipe is.

Neven: These flows into a launch pad, a binaural habitat.

Andy: The water is rich with iron –

Neven: It’s not easy to hear the currents of our reality.

Andy: — and calcium.

Neven: Before it has happened to us.

Andy: That is why you have this beautiful orange colour today.

Neven: But it has become a necessity.

Andy: It is draining out.

Neven: A way for us.

Andy: And it is flowing into a bigger river.

Neven: To ground ourselves materially.

Andy: Which is flowing in.

Neven: In.

Andy: To.

Andy and Neven: The sea.

>> Vibe Check, episode one.

[ Music ]

>> Special thanks to Andy Berg.

Meet Emelie Chhangur, Director, Agnes Etherington Art Centre

Transcript

Meet Emelie Chhangur, Director, Agnes Etherington Art Centre
Emelie Chhangur, Director and Curator, Agnes Etherington Art Centre in conversation with Dinah Jansen, Campus Beat, CFRC 101.9 FM
Sandra Brewster’s “Blur” (2019)

Transcript

Sandra Brewster’s “Blur” (2019)
Sunny Kerr, Curator of Contemporary Art

>> Hi, there. My name is Sunny Kerr. I’m curator of contemporary art at the Agnes Etherington Art Centre. And we are here in the Agnes Atrium to talk about a new installation by Canadian artist, Sandra Brewster, called Blur. And Blur is, first and foremost, a bold statement regarding black Canadians, black Kingstonians, almost as if it’s saying, “We are here.” Really asserting a kind of presence of black people in our communities. And this is important because we live in a climate that can be sympathetic to a kind of postracialist idea, a post-racialism idea wherein it’s almost as if normative cultures, white centred mainstream cultures, are saying racism is historical. We’re not racist. But at the same time, one often hears broad assumptions or one makes oneself broad assumptions like, you know, Kingston is so white — Canada is so white, which enacts a certain kind of erasure of racialized peoples and black Canadians, particularly. And so with this work, especially through her material choices, Sandra Brewster is making this kind of strong assertion at the same time that it’s — it has many layers of complexity. So at the same time that it’s making this bold assertion, it is also doing it in a complex way that, I think, eschews the politics of tokenism, and makes more complex the, kind of, demand for multicultural representation. And I think, through her material choices, Sandra Brewster is also — one of the keys to the work is that certain things are always kept hidden. So essentially, the work is images of three black community members from Kingston. One of them, of course, appears twice. There are four figures, as you can see here. Brewster is depicting them here in blurred motion. And in — and that’s the way in which she really gets at a kind of transitional state at the same time as there’s this, kind of, sticking to or presence, there’s also a sense of movement and transition within. Really influenced, I think, by Sandra Brewster’s own heritage. Her — the legacy of her own parents’ migration to Canada from Guyana in the 1960s. And it’s through precisely the — the material process, which is a gel transfer process. Ink is printed right onto the walls in a quite unpredictable and labour intensive process. And — and through this they come to look almost like old, worn photographs because of the kind of tearing, creasing, and folding that happens during the gel transfer process. I should say, finally, that the installation was also designed as a commission for the collection, whereby Sandra Brewster visited Kingston and, through an open call, photographed members of Kingston’s black community and made these new works, one of which will be entering the Agnes collection and then can be remounted at — at this scale in the future.

Godfrey Kneller’s Scholar in His Study (About 1668)

Transcript

Godfrey Kneller’s Scholar in His Study (About 1668)
Dr Maxime Valsamas, Curatorial Assistant, European Art and Exhibition Curator, Agnes Etherington Art Centre

>> My name is Maxime Valsamas and I am the Curatorial Assistant, European Art at Agnes Etherington Art Centre at Queen’s University, and I am the curator of from Tudor to Hanover: British Portraits, 1590 to 1800. One of the works in the show that I am thrilled to highlight is Godfrey Kneller’s A Scholar in His Study, painted around 1668. Of the three works on display in this exhibition, this is the earliest example of Kneller’s work, and it shows exciting connections to two Dutch masters, Rembrandt van Rijn and Ferdinand Bol.

>> While Kneller is not an artist whose name is well known today, he was a sensitive and celebrated portraitist during his lifetime. In this audio guide, we will hear from experts from diverse fields from within the Queen’s community who will delve into the deeper connections and meanings found within this early work, focussing primarily on the connections it has to 17th-century Dutch art and society.

>> So, who was Godfrey Kneller? He was a German-born artist and completed this painting while studying art in the Netherlands. He was in both Leiden, and later in Amsterdam, where he studied under the celebrated artists, Ferdinand Bol and Rembrandt van Rijn. The impact that these two Dutch masters had on Kneller’s stylistic development are apparently in A Scholar in His Study, in both composition and subject.

>> After his studies in the Netherlands and a stint in Italy, he established himself in England during the mid-1670s, becoming the dominant portraitist of his time and as the court painter to the English monarchs, following the footsteps of such notable artists as Hans Holbein the Younger and Anthony van Dyck. In England, Kneller received a tremendous amount of praise and was hailed as the Shakespeare of English painting. A Scholar in His Study shows his tremendous talent as a young artist and also demonstrates a key moment in his early career when he painted in a Dutch Rembrandtesque style.

>> Looking in depth into A Scholar and His Study, will draw attention to the importance of this painting, its subject matter and iconography, and the artistic ties between Kneller, Ferdinand Bol, and Rembrandt. I’m joined by art historian, Professor Stephanie Dickey; historian, Professor, and Principal Emeritus, Daniel Woolf; and conservator, Natasa Krsmanovic.

Artistic Connections

Transcript

Artistic Connections
Dr Stephanie Dickey, Professor and Bader Chair in Northern Baroque Art, Department of Art History and Art Conservation, Queen’s University

>> Of the three Godfrey Kneller paintings on view in the exhibition, this is the only painting from his earlier period, and that shows a strong connection to the Dutch masters, Rembrandt van Rijn and Ferdinand Bol. Stephanie Dickey, Queen’s Professor and Bader Chair in Northern European Baroque Art, explains.

>> Very little is known about Kneller’s early period. We know he was born in Lubeck in Germany. And he first went to the Netherlands to study mathematics at the University of Leiden, probably intending some kind of a career in something like military engineering. But like many artists do, discovered that their real passion was art. So, in the case of Kneller, in 1662, he left Leiden and went to Amsterdam to study art. And there are different sources from the early period that describe what happened. Some say he worked with Ferdinand Bol. Some say Rembrandt. But by 1662, Rembrandt was in the last stages of his career. And I honestly don’t think he was taking in students who still needed to learn the nuts and bolts. So, it seems to be more likely that he either only worked with Ferdinand Bol, or he started with Bol and then maybe spent a period of time with Rembrandt.

>> Kneller’s Dutch art training with Bol and Rembrandt gave him the skills necessary to masterfully convey his subject’s through art. Bol embraced Rembrandt’s style, and he encouraged Kneller to follow a similar artistic path. The influences of Rembrandt and Bol are seen in the use of colour and handling of paint in Kneller’s A Scholar in His Study.

>> Well, if you think of paintings like ours, the clearest connections are the rich Earthy colours, very warm, ready colour scheme, and strong dramatic effects of light. And those are things that both of them learnt from Rembrandt. You can see Rembrandt’s impact also in some of the painterly touches, for example, in our painting, the gold brocade along the edge of the curtain has a really textural effect, thick paint treated in an almost sculptural way. That’s something that Rembrandt did. That’s something that he taught his students to do, including Bol, and including Kneller. In our painting particularly, the golden robe that the figure is wearing, a very similar robe can be seen in a number of paintings by Kneller, depicting scholarly figures, including one in the National Gallery in London. And the interest in these scholarly figures is also something that they share. It’s mysterious who this figure is exactly meant to be. The costume and the hairstyle are not typical of what a scholar, in contemporary terms, would have been wearing in the 1660s. So, it’s likely that Kneller is trying to make him look like a historical character. He has a large book, kind of dog eared book. He as a globe, which doesn’t necessarily identify him as a geographer. Globes were a mark of learning in generic terms for scholars. Every scholar worth his salt owned a pair of globes in those days, a celestial and a terrestrial globe. You had to have those in your study if you were a scholar of any note. We could also mention that Kneller’s style changed quite radically when he moved to England. He stopped painting in that very textural way. And his colour scheme also changed quite a lot. He pretty much transformed himself into a portraitist. And when he did that, he was deeply impacted by the work of the Flemish painter, Anthony van Dyck, who had also come from the Netherlands to England, but a generation earlier, and had worked for the Court of Charles I. Van Dyck’s impact in England was profound. You can see his impact in English portraits right through to the 18th century to people like Reynolds and Gainsborough. Tastes were changing. Rembrandt’s style was really becoming old fashioned. And a lot of the younger consumers of art wanted something that was more suave and more dignified. And so he really gave them what they wanted.

Scholars as Rock Stars

Transcript

Scholars as Rock Stars
Dr Daniel Woolf, Principal Emeritus and Professor, Department of History, Queen’s University

>> The 17th century saw increased literacy during a time of economic prosperity within the Dutch Republic. Books and the scholars that wrote them were an important element of society and, thus, significant enough to document in art. Godfrey Kneller painted several scholars and literary figures over the course of his career. This painting is emblematic of the interest in scholarly figures that caught the imagination of his contemporaries, and of Queen’s History Professor and Principal Emeritus Daniel Woolf, who provides some insights into the subject and historical context of the work.

>> Scholars, philosophers and scientists or natural philosophers, as they were known then, were pretty much the rock stars of the late 17th and early 18th century. Particularly in a place like the Netherlands, and elsewhere, obviously in England, but they made excellent subjects for study partly because, for the very first time in Europe, people who were reading works by scholars, historians, literary figures, actually had a curiosity as to what they looked like. Well, I particularly like this particular portrait because, from the point of view of somebody who is actually a historian of scholarship and historical writing and literature in the period, it has just about everything one could want. It’s got a lovely collection of rare books that we do not know what they were. But the portrait of a scholar is, I think, a very, very good and detailed portrait of a scholar actually at work and comparing that to, say, some earlier portrait of scholars, for example the classic medieval pictures of St. Jerome. It’s a much more lively portrait. You can almost see this particular scholar with his pen thinking about what it is he’s actually going to take from the book that he is reading and transcribe into his own book. I find the depiction of the scholar himself quite interesting. We don’t know who it was. It’s a fairly typical pose, but I find interesting the cap and particularly the shawl, while such garments were not uncommon in [inaudible] studies of the day, suggests to me that this might well have been a Jewish scholar being depicted. The iconography is very interesting. One of the most interesting things is what is not there. The books in the background, which are shelved by their fore-edge which is pretty common in the era, are not discernible as to subject or title so Kneller was obviously not concerned to depict particular books or particular branches of knowledge rather than simply to create a mise-en-scene of knowledge and scholarship. It’s also much darker than the foreground, so your eye is instantly drawn to the scholar himself and to the other items that are in the foreground. The globe itself is an important piece, partly because in addition to being such a mecca for scholarship and philosophy and art, the Dutch Republic at this period of time was also among the earliest of imperial powers. So I think the globe probably signifies the outward looking aspect of the Republic, but it also signifies that whatever else the scholar is doing, writing from one book into his own notebook, he is somebody of probably the multiple disciplines of the period in an age when there really were not disciplines as we came to know them which really is something of the 19th and 20th century.

Evidence Based Looking

Transcript

Evidence Based Looking
Natasa Krsmanovic, Conservator, Rare Books and Special Collections, University Archives, Queen’s University

>> In the 17th century, the Dutch Republic was a land teeming with scholars and books, yet because so few of the books in circulation from this time have survived, conservators have looked to artworks to find evidence of them. Books have an important place in Godfrey Kneller’s A Scholar in His Study, and they offer insights into the display of books and bookbinding practices of the time. Natasa Krsmanovic, the conservator at the W.D. Jordan Rare Books and Special Collections Library here at Queen’s tells us more.

>> When an object like a 17th-century book enters a museum, it has artifactual value, and so that’s what I find so compelling about these kinds of portraits. It’s interesting to see how the book-as-object is depicted, and often artists are so meticulous in terms of the details that they want to capture within a painting that we can do a lot of evidence-based looking to try and find aspects of techniques or details used in the book-binding trade within these items. One of the things that we might notice in the painting are actually how the books are stored on the shelf, for example. We think of the spine out as commonplace now in terms of the way that we store these materials, but actually within the painting, you can see that the fore-edge is what’s facing out towards the audience. This was a very common way of displaying 16th- and 17th-century books. You can also see that the books that are displayed on the shelves have clasps whereas the book that’s displayed in the foreground has these what are either leather or alum-tawed or maybe vellum tongs that come out, which would have been used as kind of ties for the book, so it’s really interesting to see how maybe working copies of books are depicted. So, a book that has a leather cover and gold decorative tooling would line, you know, the walls of your study, but these were probably books that you wouldn’t be breaking the spines of and laying flat and working with, and so they were beautifully ornate, and so they would be placed kind of on display, whereas the books that you’re kind of seeing in the foreground, you can see how they’re draping, they’re limp, and so the book boards aren’t hard. They’re actually quite soft, and that’s more indicative of potentially like a soft leather, a soft vellum, a soft paper cover. It’s really hard to find examples of books that have these kind of soft paper covers because books have such a longstanding history of being re-bound, and so we don’t have a lot of historic evidence in terms of some of these early binding structures, because they just either haven’t survived, or the tradition of re-binding was so prolific that we don’t have very many examples.

Curation and Exhibition: Dr Jacquelyn N. Coutré and Leiden circa 1630: Rembrandt Emerges

Transcript

Curation and Exhibition: Dr Jacquelyn N. Coutré and Leiden circa 1630: Rembrandt Emerges
Dr Jacquelyn N. Coutré, Bader Curator and Researcher of European Art in conversation with Dinah Jansen, CFRC
Horatio Walker’s Turning the Harrow – Early Morning (1898)

Transcript

Horatio Walker’s Turning the Harrow – Early Morning (1898)
Dr Marla Dobson, Assistant Curator, Canadian Art

>> My name is Marla Dobson and I am the Assistant Curator, Canadian Art at Agnes Etherington Art Centre at Queens University. I am also the curator of Nocturne, an exhibition exploring the night and the Canadian artistic imaginary. One of the works in the exhibition that caught my eye was Horatio Walker’s Turning the Harrow – Early Morning, completed in 1898. This work was painted on the Île d’Orléans, Quebec and depicts a lone farmer and his horse tilling the field by the light of the rising sun. Walker was a highly successful artist who split his time between New York City and rural Quebec and was known primarily for his canvases of farm animals and French Canadian labourers. Following in the footsteps of artists of the Barbizon School, Walker was often called the “American Millet,” after the realistic depictions of French peasants by Jean-Francois Millet. His paintings sold for record prices, principally in the United States and were highly sought after in the first decade of the 20th century. However, as the century progressed changing tastes in art meant that Walker’s work rapidly fell out of favour and was even deaccessioned from major museum collections. The story behind this canvas is therefore deeply rooted in historical moment and a period of transition and history of art in North America.

>>In this audio guide we will delve into the rich history of Walker’s Turning the Harrow – Early Morning through the eyes of two art curators and the local farmer, bringing to light the stories behind the painting from the perspective of settler Canadian art history, as well as the expertise of someone who has worked the land in much the same way as Walker’s lone figure. We are joined by Anne-Marie Bouchard, Curator of Modern Art at the Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec; Charles Summers, proprietor of Salt of the Earth Farm in Kingston, Ontario and Agnes’s own Chief Curator and Curator of Canadian Historical Art, Alicia Boutilier.

A Romantic Concept of the Landscape

Transcript

A Romantic Concept of the Landscape
Anne-Marie Bouchard, Curator of Modern Art (1900-1949), Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec

>> Inspired by global art movements such as the American and French Barbizon schools, Horatio Walker’s Turning the Harrow – Early Morning demonstrates the artist’s interest in painting simple, nostalgic views of real-life often set in the bucolic landscape of the Île d’Orléans in Quebec. Anne-Marie Bouchard, curator of modern art at the Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec explains.

>> Just as the American Barbizon painters, Walter was really influenced by the French Barbizon school. And he kind of valued simple and pastoral scenes painted directly from nature. He liked to paint the kind of traditional activity mostly taking place during the sunrise. And he always painted the same kind of scenes. I mean it was sheeps, cattles, chickens, pigs, always in the sunset or sunlight with the peasant working by their side. And he was really interested in just trying to put a kind of majestic landscape in which the animals could be at their most beautiful. He put a lot of effort in depicting the way of life and he had the kind of idea that the peasant and his relation to the landscape was conveying a kind of spiritual strength that was really particular. It was an idea that was absolutely generalized in French painting at the same time. And that was really popularized also by the political parties that were seeing the peasant and also the labourer as someone who had a kind of authenticity that was different from what we were able to see in the modern cities. And that it was through the peasant way of life and through the peasantry and the rural life that we were able to find back something we had lost in the industrialization. Walker promoted the kind of romantic concept of the landscape and this is maybe why he kind of fell in love with the Île d’Orléans when he first went there during the 1890s. He wasn’t the only one at that time, but I guess since we could find on the Côte-de-Beaupré  James Wilson Morrice and Maurice Cullen at the turning of the century. But they were already working in an impressionist way which was not the case with Walter who kind of stayed close to a more romantic depiction of the landscape with those kind of majestic sunrise and sunsets that he painted in a really different way. There was a distance with which Cullen or Morrice painted the Côte-de-Beaupré and there was not so much distance in the way Walter did because he lived with them most of the time since he had his omen on the Île d’Orléans also. And so he was not as ideologically engaged as was Millet or Courbet in France. They kind of had this relation with political views that it was possible to see that in their painting. We don’t see that in Horatio Walker. And so, he’d really stick to a romantic and nostalgic view of the landscape that was really close to the French Barbizon School and also to the American Barbizon School which I think he was in contact with when he went to New York City a couple of times, so, I mean he certainly know them really well.

Nostalgia for Old Ways

Transcript

Nostalgia for Old Ways
Charles Summers, Proprietor of Salt of the Earth Farm, Kingston

>> During the 19th Century, there was a growing interest in works of art that depicted scenes of everyday life. Since Horatio Walker’s Turning the Harrow-Early Morning presents a scene of a young man tilling the soil at dawn, we asked local farmer Charles Summers to take us through the process of harrowing. He shares his views and impressions of this painting based upon his own experience of farming the land.

>> Harrowing is a form of tillage, and tillage is when you work the soil. You would call it a form of secondary tillage. Primary tillage would be like ploughing or turning over land, and of breaking sod, whatever you want to call it. Harrowing is generally done to make a finer seedbed, kill weeds, prepare land for sowing. It’s relatively easy work, unskilled work. This type of job that this guy is doing in the painting, a boy would do that type of job. It’s not as precise. It’s not the job of ploughman, which would have been a man’s profession, like for adults and a very — more esteemed in the hierarchy of, you know, rural skills. These harrows and stuff are [laughs] — I’ve never used a wooden one. I have old sets of diamond drag harrows, you would call it. They’re basically the same. The spike tooth harrow. And they’re awkward because they do want to tend to flip when the horse turns sharp as he’s doing here. And from an agricultural or a farmer’s perspective, you have to look at this gentleman and feel sorry for him to a certain extent. Just having done this type of work and I — it is truly toil. And this is a very — obviously a strain. It doesn’t actually look like it’s going well necessarily, although, you always have to — you have to turn at end of the field, of course. This poor guy is also obviously out at the break of dawn here because you had to — when you’re going over a field three feet at a time, you have to put in a very long day. And that’s a long day for him and a long day for that animal, too. I mean, I guess he was looking to show something on the farm which was nostalgic. And there’s a magical quality to horses. So it’s easy to get like overly romantic or sort of to glamorize that beauty and that power. And then instead what he has here is very humble, very small and quiet. You know, this isn’t the Budweiser Clydesdales. This isn’t like 30 horses pulling a combine on a hill in Oregon or anything. It’s a very — this could be anywhere in the world at any time over the last, you know, 4,000 years. This is base level existence actually, this level of technology. And it’s very lonely, obviously. And I think that’s what sort of surprises me about this because I think when you look at nostalgia for the old ways in agriculture, a big part of that is because it was always like a community undertaking. You really couldn’t do everything by yourself. Not that you can today either, but there was a very like real family and community element. And instead here, we have one boy probably and his, you know, his nag of a horse, you know. And so it’s very humble, very plain.

Winding Paths of Institutional Ownership

Transcript

Winding Paths of Institutional Ownership
Alicia Boutilier, Chief Curator/Curator of Canadian Historical Art

>> How did Turning the Harrow – Early Morning arrive at Agnes and at Queen’s University? This painting has an unusual story in and provenance. Alicia Boutilier, Chief Curator and Curator of Canadian Historical Art at the Agnes Etherington Art Centre discusses the adventurous tale of how the painting was once held at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City and ultimately found its home in the Agnes collection of Canadian Historical Art.

>> Horatio Walker’s Turning the Harrow – Early Morning, has had a winding path of institutional ownership, indicative of changing fashions in art. The Ontario born artist made a very successful living through painting. Horatio Walker was talented, but also trend savvy. When the artist chose rural Quebec as the sustained subject for his art, he was joining a popular movement in American painting. As my curatorial predecessor, Dorothy Farr, has pointed out, it was the Barbizon style that sent Walker to Quebec and not Quebec that inspired a Barbizon style. By the late 1800s, when Walker was painting Turning the Harrow, he divided his time between summers on Île d’Orléans, just east of Quebec City, and winters in New York, where he had an art dealer on Fifth Avenue. He was an elected member of the Society of American Artists, and an associate, later full member of the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts. You could say he held dual artistic citizenship, but his market was really in the U.S. Wealthy Americans who had been collecting European art to represent a cosmopolitan view began to pay serious attention to art produced at home. Significant among those collectors was New York merchant George Arnold Hearn. Hearn was hailed as a contributor to the cause of contemporary American art. And as part of that cause, in the 1910s, he donated two Horatio Walkers, including Turning the Harrow, to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where he served as a trustee. Turning the Harrow hung for years in the museum. Walker having been fully adopted as an American artist. Then in 1956, the painting was deaccessioned and sold and kind of disappeared from the record. Though the Metropolitan Museum of Art kept its other Walker from Hearn, also of a harrower, American art and Canadian art, for that matter, had moved on to champion other movements by the mid-20th century. Around the same time, the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington also deaccessioned their Walker painting, entitled Ave Maria, which is now in the Art Gallery of Hamilton Collection. In 1977, the Agnes Etherington Art Centre mounted a comprehensive exhibition on Walker, with a publication by Dorothy Farr. As part of a professed series of reappraisals of Canadian artists who were important and successful in their own time, but who had fallen out of fashion. There was renewed interest in Walker’s work, as the story of Canadian art was being assembled and historicized in the post-centennial years. At the time of the exhibition, the location of Turning the Harrow was not known. But the ground was set so that when it emerged at auction again in 1994 it was purchased for the collection here. How to look at Horatio Walker today. A privileged artist, claimed, erased, revived, questioned, in two colonial countries, asserting nationhoods. There are so many critical issues raised through such idealization of labour, but I’m still arrested by the painting. It tells me something about enterprises imposed on the world, but also something about colour. The arrest lies not in the high-keyed tones of impressionism or the hot hues of post-impressionism, movements that superseded Walker’s popularity, but in the low light of dawn. The way the horse’s ears and mane are limbed from behind by the same light that catches the farmer’s right shoulder. The silvering of the land before warming up on a chilly morning, Walker really nails it. I retreat temporarily to his use of paint in depicting this scene.

Featured Podcasts
Curation and Exhibition: Dr Jacquelyn N. Coutré and Leiden circa 1630: Rembrandt Emerges
Dr Jacquelyn N. Coutré, Bader Curator and Researcher of European Art in conversation with Dinah Jansen, CFRC

Transcript

Curation and Exhibition: Dr Jacquelyn N. Coutré and Leiden circa 1630: Rembrandt Emerges
Dr Jacquelyn N. Coutré, Bader Curator and Researcher of European Art in conversation with Dinah Jansen, CFRC
The Art of Her Craft: A Conversation with Tau Lewis
Tau Lewis in conversation with Dinah Jansen, CFRC

Transcript

The Art of Her Craft: A Conversation with Tau Lewis
Tau Lewis in conversation with Dinah Jansen, CFRC
Collection Highlights
Godfrey Kneller’s Scholar in His Study (About 1668)

Transcript

Godfrey Kneller’s Scholar in His Study (About 1668)
Dr Maxime Valsamas, Curatorial Assistant, European Art and Exhibition Curator, Agnes Etherington Art Centre

>> My name is Maxime Valsamas and I am the Curatorial Assistant, European Art at Agnes Etherington Art Centre at Queen’s University, and I am the curator of from Tudor to Hanover: British Portraits, 1590 to 1800. One of the works in the show that I am thrilled to highlight is Godfrey Kneller’s A Scholar in His Study, painted around 1668. Of the three works on display in this exhibition, this is the earliest example of Kneller’s work, and it shows exciting connections to two Dutch masters, Rembrandt van Rijn and Ferdinand Bol.

>> While Kneller is not an artist whose name is well known today, he was a sensitive and celebrated portraitist during his lifetime. In this audio guide, we will hear from experts from diverse fields from within the Queen’s community who will delve into the deeper connections and meanings found within this early work, focussing primarily on the connections it has to 17th-century Dutch art and society.

>> So, who was Godfrey Kneller? He was a German-born artist and completed this painting while studying art in the Netherlands. He was in both Leiden, and later in Amsterdam, where he studied under the celebrated artists, Ferdinand Bol and Rembrandt van Rijn. The impact that these two Dutch masters had on Kneller’s stylistic development are apparently in A Scholar in His Study, in both composition and subject.

>> After his studies in the Netherlands and a stint in Italy, he established himself in England during the mid-1670s, becoming the dominant portraitist of his time and as the court painter to the English monarchs, following the footsteps of such notable artists as Hans Holbein the Younger and Anthony van Dyck. In England, Kneller received a tremendous amount of praise and was hailed as the Shakespeare of English painting. A Scholar in His Study shows his tremendous talent as a young artist and also demonstrates a key moment in his early career when he painted in a Dutch Rembrandtesque style.

>> Looking in depth into A Scholar and His Study, will draw attention to the importance of this painting, its subject matter and iconography, and the artistic ties between Kneller, Ferdinand Bol, and Rembrandt. I’m joined by art historian, Professor Stephanie Dickey; historian, Professor, and Principal Emeritus, Daniel Woolf; and conservator, Natasa Krsmanovic.

Sandra Brewster’s “Blur” (2019)

Transcript

Sandra Brewster’s “Blur” (2019)
Sunny Kerr, Curator of Contemporary Art

>> Hi, there. My name is Sunny Kerr. I’m curator of contemporary art at the Agnes Etherington Art Centre. And we are here in the Agnes Atrium to talk about a new installation by Canadian artist, Sandra Brewster, called Blur. And Blur is, first and foremost, a bold statement regarding black Canadians, black Kingstonians, almost as if it’s saying, “We are here.” Really asserting a kind of presence of black people in our communities. And this is important because we live in a climate that can be sympathetic to a kind of postracialist idea, a post-racialism idea wherein it’s almost as if normative cultures, white centred mainstream cultures, are saying racism is historical. We’re not racist. But at the same time, one often hears broad assumptions or one makes oneself broad assumptions like, you know, Kingston is so white — Canada is so white, which enacts a certain kind of erasure of racialized peoples and black Canadians, particularly. And so with this work, especially through her material choices, Sandra Brewster is making this kind of strong assertion at the same time that it’s — it has many layers of complexity. So at the same time that it’s making this bold assertion, it is also doing it in a complex way that, I think, eschews the politics of tokenism, and makes more complex the, kind of, demand for multicultural representation. And I think, through her material choices, Sandra Brewster is also — one of the keys to the work is that certain things are always kept hidden. So essentially, the work is images of three black community members from Kingston. One of them, of course, appears twice. There are four figures, as you can see here. Brewster is depicting them here in blurred motion. And in — and that’s the way in which she really gets at a kind of transitional state at the same time as there’s this, kind of, sticking to or presence, there’s also a sense of movement and transition within. Really influenced, I think, by Sandra Brewster’s own heritage. Her — the legacy of her own parents’ migration to Canada from Guyana in the 1960s. And it’s through precisely the — the material process, which is a gel transfer process. Ink is printed right onto the walls in a quite unpredictable and labour intensive process. And — and through this they come to look almost like old, worn photographs because of the kind of tearing, creasing, and folding that happens during the gel transfer process. I should say, finally, that the installation was also designed as a commission for the collection, whereby Sandra Brewster visited Kingston and, through an open call, photographed members of Kingston’s black community and made these new works, one of which will be entering the Agnes collection and then can be remounted at — at this scale in the future.

Digital Possibilities: Danuta Seirhuis on New Digital Strategies at Agnes

Transcript

Digital Possibilities: Danuta Seirhuis on New Digital Strategies at Agnes
Danuta Seirhuis, Digital Development Coordinator in conversation with Dinah Jansen, CFRC
Gallery Guides
Meet Emelie Chhangur, Director, Agnes Etherington Art Centre
Emelie Chhangur, Director and Curator, Agnes Etherington Art Centre in conversation with Dinah Jansen, Campus Beat, CFRC 101.9 FM

Transcript

Meet Emelie Chhangur, Director, Agnes Etherington Art Centre
Emelie Chhangur, Director and Curator, Agnes Etherington Art Centre in conversation with Dinah Jansen, Campus Beat, CFRC 101.9 FM
The radical possibilities of art
Katherine McKittrick, professor in Gender Studies and Cultural Studies, speaks with Michelle Bunton, Elvira Hufschmid, Sunny Kerr, Nadia Lichtig, Josèfa Ntjam, Anne Riley and Jol Thoms.

Transcript

The radical possibilities of art
Katherine McKittrick, professor in Gender Studies and Cultural Studies, speaks with Michelle Bunton, Elvira Hufschmid, Sunny Kerr, Nadia Lichtig, Josèfa Ntjam, Anne Riley and Jol Thoms.

Note: This conversation was edited for content and length.

Katherine McKittrick: And for me the radical possibility or what I have learnt from Black studies, particularly from people like Sylvia Wynter, but also Gilroy and Fanon is the role of art and cultural production. And the one question that I have for myself is how do we, — how do non-artists and artists have conversations where the artists’ work isn’t the object of analysis, but is instead part of the theoretical conversation? So, is there a way to think about art as theory and theory as art? So, the typical example that I give in my work — — when I am giving a presentation on interdisciplinary is how do we read Toni Morrison’s novels? Not her essays but — how do we read The Bluest Eye as a theoretical text? But that isn’t to discount the theorist, right? So, Judith Butler is usually my example. So, the example is what can Judith, — what can Toni Morrison teach Judith Butler, but also what can Judith Butler teach Toni Morrison? So, it has to be a conversation.

>> I think there is a tendency, particularly with black art to, — and I see this in the courses that I teach so, so often, to only position the art as object. And for me, the only way I could have survived this world, this academic world, was to believe with everything in my heart that black artists are intellectual interlocutors and brilliant. And often anticipate theory.

Jol Thoms: Yeah, that is something else I would — you know, which is part of like feminist decolonial practices also is this rejection of these universalizings and absolutes and rejecting the idea of, — you know being able to exactly define, which came up quite — it was quite apparent in your text. And we are having these situations where as artists, we are working in the science fields and kind of rubbing up against these onto-epistemic divides which are sometimes kind of generative, but I just — am worried which — in which direction those generative things are flowing.

Josèfa Ntjam: Because I really like the concept of indiscipline. And for me indiscipline is the porosity between multiple and different discipline in how you can connect history with poetry, with sociology and music and everything. And when I started to make some research when I was in my first year of school of fine art I made a lot of research about Afrofuturism and what is Afrofuturism. And for me, this is the same for you when you say about the concept of collective and not the individual concept, because Afrofuturism is not a movement and is not even a concept, but it is a kind of a flu [unintelligible] — and like you cannot touch the shape of Afrofuturism because it’s always in movement. So, you always have a new reference to put in Afrofuturism. It is – you will always have a new story and subjective, and maybe global story to put in Afrofuturism. And this is how I can connect your texts and your concepts. Even when you speak in your text about the shadows, it is also a concept I use in my work because we do not pretend to create in the shadows and maybe not in the lights. I have developed a lot of concept about the shadows and melancholy and like the soul adage. This is how you can create around this, — around the, — and in the darkness sometimes. This is maybe a really particular place to create revolt and build a new revolution away from light and public.

Katherine McKittrick: We use scientific concepts in a way that is — that enmeshes with our liberatory project in our art worlds. So rather than inserting, like for example, rather than hiring a black scientist, right? So rather than sort of looking for the black person, who is going to fix the problem and instead, like, are there any scientific concepts or ideas that we find useful around openness that can, — that are in conversation with the work we are doing, the anti-colonial work we are doing? So here, — you know, I am very interested in Glissant for example, and his relationship with computers. He is interested in computers; he is talking about computers. Sylvia Wynter’s very interested in AI as a recursive system. So, is there a way for us to sort of have a relationship with science that, — where we are not just talking about how we are oppressed by it?

>> And I think, I mean, because you are an artist, I feel like you have, — you know, at your fingertips creative ways to integrate this into a visual project. So is there a way for you, like, as an artist to sort of, — you know, use these tools in a liberatory, — like in a practical, concrete, liberatory fashion. So, what happens when you go up and you do an eye scan, right? And, or fingerprinting? So here Simone Brown’s work is really important to me. Like, fingerprinting, branding, tattooing, all these types of things that are produced. That produce the black subject and other marginalized people as always oppressed. How do we turn that around and subvert the very system that is seeking to enclose us? So those are the kinds of questions that I think about a lot — — in relation to science. But I don’t, — but I mean, I think the other thing that, — you know, that you said, and I think it’s important. And I think it’s something to keep in mind is that that’s hard work, right? Like that this isn’t, — it’s not easy to go up against science. It is not easy to sort of — because it — because science is a god, right?

>> There is that supposed neutrality that is very, very hard to — — call into question, I guess. But again, I’ll call up Sylvia Wynter in her reading was Aimé Césaire which is — this is what Césaire’s project is and this is what Sylvia Wynter’s project is, is that the sciences are half starved and they need the creative text in order to provide us with a fuller definition of what it means to be human. We need to parasite the scientific and the creative or Césaire said the science and the poets. That the poetics and the science, they have to be understood as always in conversation with each other.

>> So, to imagine the artist as the, — as someone who conveys an — like a rigorous intellectual theoretically nuanced project is I think part of — — you know, something that really — is something that is really helpful for interdisciplinarity and for practices of liberation. Because it — dislodges that idea around science as the only knower.

>> But also, in my research, I learnt that there are a lot of really interesting ideas in physics or in mathematics that are about openness, right? So, I feel like as a non-scientist. I am trained to understand science as a practice of — — finding definite answers. But then I started like looking at like the theoretical physics, like theoretical physics like the, those folks that come out of university of Waterloo. And they are like thinking about like endlessness and like mathematics that go on forever and infinity. And so, there is this generosity there that is really useful. And it is something that like black scholars talk about. Like, they write about this and artists, — you know, produce work like that. So, there is a conversation there. So, I think it is great that — if we are making those links.

Sunny Kerr: You – Katherine brought up this idea of kind of grabbing metaphors that are useful and beautiful and generative in the work.

Katherine McKittrick: Yeah.

Sunny Kerr: And you also at some point mentioned the idea of, — you know, recognizing or agreeing together on what we cannot tell and what maybe we should not know, or we should not even try to know. And then at another moment, — you know the idea of creating in the shadows of or using the darkness as a place for building a revolt. And so, — you know, there is a sense I think from our science partners that artists are going to make visible dark matter for us.

Katherine McKittrick: Right.

Sunny Kerr: — from this — the basic terms. And — you know, their understanding is a lot more nuanced than this I know. But there’s — it always seems to be the kind of default nature of this relation. And so, I am curious to know how this metaphor of dark matter resonates for you? And what does it — how does it relate to this question about why are we looking for dark matter?

Katherine McKittrick: Uh-hmm. That is a hard question for me to answer. So, — I mean, I don’t know much about dark matter, but I think it’s like fleeting and it’s not material, it’s not touchable, correct? So, for me, the materiality of that, — of the dark matter would be the narrative that produces it as what it is, right? So, which is manmade right? So, I think, — I mean, I think that I would think along those lines. Like I would think of it as a narrative that is produced by science, and itis also produced through the desire to know and pinpoint. But what does it mean to desire to know and make material dark matter? Why can’t we just sit with it and be okay with the fact that it is not knowable? Can — or can we — are we not designed to do that?

>> So is there a way to sort of keep these, like some sort of relationality, even though it is going to be uneven and clunky where the art is not beholden to the science.

 

Footnotes
Image Credits
Queen’s University
36 University Avenue
Kingston, Ontario
Canada K7L 3N6
T (613) 533.2190
F (613) 533.6765
aeac@queensu.ca
Agnes Etherington Art Centre is situated on traditional Anishinaabe and Haudenosaunee Territory.

Anishinaabemowin (Ojibway): Gimaakwe Gchi-gkinoomaagegamig atemagad Naadowe miinwaa Anishinaabe aking.

Kanyen’keha (Mohawk): Ne Agnes Etherington Art Centre e’tho nońwe nikanónhsote tsi nońwe ne Haudenasaunee tánon Anishinaabek tehatihsnónhsahere ne óhontsa.
© Agnes Etherington Art Centre 2021

Subscribe to our “This Week at Agnes” e-newsletter to stay abreast of events, news and opportunities at the art museum.