Cultural spaces like galleries can facilitate civic conversations, amplify polyphonic perspectives, and act as provocations to consider how we live together. The artists in Fugitive Rituals explore the possibilities of attaining sustenance and autonomous futures, while leaving colonial practices and frameworks behind.
Writer and scholar Tina Campt defines fugitivity as the daily practice of refusal. Not an act of flight, nor escape, nor strategy of resistance, but a refusal of the very terms of negation and dispossession. Using this definition, the exhibition itself is a fugitive act of self-determination, which actively shapes the culture in which it is embedded through the repetition, returning, and shifting of its practices – its daily rituals.
The works in Fugitive Rituals respond to various types of collections—artworks and cultural belongings from Agnes’s vault; apples foraged along the borders of Colonization Roads and other military sites in Ontario; and debris produced from exhibition-making as well as from daily living. In extending Campt’s description of going beyond simply looking at objects and images to being touched and moved by them, to listen to their “felt sounds,” these works amplify the quiet, yet deeply felt resonances of cultural belongings.
These resonating sounds guide visitors throughout the exhibition offering rituals to dream fiercely towards a self-determined futurity that is centered on the living. Through sonic meditation, as well as rituals of healing, grieving and dreaming, they allow objects and the spirits embedded within them to tell their stories, as what has been silenced returns and reverberates to haunt the gallery walls.
As we shift away from settler colonial practices of dispossession and institutional supremacy, how do we bring compassion and care to the acts of looking inward and reflecting on our own participation? How do we refuse the settler colonial terms embedded in all the spaces we occupy and in the air we breathe?
Exhibition design consultant: Nicolas Fleming
Special thank you to the artists in the project, Emelie Chhangur, Alicia Boutilier, Leah Cox, Mark Birksted, Scott Wallis, Ben Darrah, the larger Agnes Etherington Art Centre team, Althea Balmes, Clare Butcher and Jody Chan
Supported by the Canada Council for the Arts; the Ontario Arts Council, an agency of the Government of Ontario; David Bain Memorial Fund, Robert Sutherland Visitorship and the Inclusive Community Fund, Queen’s University.
Hero image: Cindy Mochizuki, 8 anew/m# (detail), 2022, water colour drawings and digital collage. Image courtesy of the artist