#TORONTO TOMORROW: Fashioning #Reconciliation at #Ryerson University with @rskucheran

Decolonizing and Indigenizing the Fashion Industry.

This panel addresses one of the many places Reconciliation can occur in Canada, even in fashion!

WHEN: Wednesday, February 2 @ 3:10 pm
WHERE: George Vari Engineering & Computing Centre Rm 103, Ryerson University, 245 Church Street, Toronto

FEATURING: 

For the Winter 2017 semester with support from its Aboriginal Education Council, the School of Fashion at Ryerson University developed Aboriginal curricula for its mandatory first year course FSN 223: Fashion Concepts and Theory, instructed by Dr. Ben Barry, Associate Professor of Equity, Diversity & Inclusion. A lecture was researched and delivered by Ojibway MA Candidate Riley Kucheran, and a panel event featured Angela DeMontigny, Métis Fashion Designer; Sage Paul, Setsuné Indigenous Fashion Incubator; and J’net Ayayqwayaksheelth, Nuu-chah-nulth Textile Artist, Cedar Bark Weaver, and Indigenous Outreach and Learning Coordinator at the ROM. ‘Fashioning Reconciliation’ is a conversation about Truth & Reconciliation, Cultural Appropriation and Indigenizing the Fashion Industry.

Synaptic City Collection (2012) from Sage Paul website

 

WE ARE CITIES: Mixed Bag Mag partners up with Citizens Academy to host a round table on city building in Ottawa

Leah Snyder of MIXED BAG MAG and Manjit Basi, founder of CITIZENS ACADEMY, are partnering to host a We Are Cities Round Table.

As the Nation’s capital, Ottawa has a unique cultural position and plays a significant role in determining the direction Canada will take on many important issues regarding the environment and human rights. Located on traditional Algonquin territory, the city has an active First Nations, Inuit and Métis community as well as a growing immigrant community; a large Francophone population with the province of Quebec just minutes away adds another element to the cultural milieu. Often labelled as a city of bureaucrats, in reality Ottawa has a thriving arts community that includes not only National institutions but a vibrant independent arts scene.

All of the above makes for an interesting dynamic and fertile ground to create big shifts especially around what deep diversity looks like in an urban context.

We would love your contribution to the conversation on city/community building in Ottawa. Please join us!
WHEN: Tuesday, March 17, 2015 5:30 – 8 pm
WHERE: Carleton University Art Gallery
1125 Colonel By Drive (St. Patricks Building)
For visitor parking information click here.

About We Are Cities:

“With your help we will build a vision and action plan to make Canadian cities healthy and exciting places to live, work and play. The campaign will bring peoples’ ideas together and build on the city-focused initiatives that are already taking place across the country. We Are Cities will help connect existing city-building work in order to strengthen and mobilize our collective efforts to enable the change we need. We Are Cities was launched by a number of organizations that believe that a prosperous future for Canada depends on thriving cities. For cities to succeed, citizens need to take an active role in identifying a path forward to achieve resilience, prosperity and inclusivity.” Find out more on www.wearecities.ca and follow at #WeAreCities.

Thank you to Carleton University Art Gallery for providing the space and also to Citizens Academy for their assistance in hosting this event.

THE CURATOR AS A 21ST CENTURY AGENT OF CHANGE: Leah Snyder presents at the Michaëlle Jean Foundation’s Power of the Arts Forum

Since the end of August life has been a blur of important events, all of which focus on CHANGE.

Change the way we protect the environment. In August, at the People’s Social Forum Ottawa, I was introduced to people who have become activists out of the necessity to ensure that the land we share is safe.

Change the way we fund community initiatives. In September I was one of 40+ professionals invited by the Governor General David Johnston to be part of a think tank at Rideau Hall that was centred around creating a new Foundation for Canada.

Change the way we construct historical archives. In October I participated in the Aboriginal Curatorial Collective Colloquium in Montreal where one of the main focuses was best practice design for the structure of digital archives that challenge entrenched national narratives.

Change the way we think about diversity. In November I presented at the Michaëlle Jean Foundation’s The Power of the Arts Forum. I encountered many cultural provocateurs who are adding to the discussion around what diversity looks like.

My own presentation assessed the role the institutional curator can play in facilitating deep cultural transformation in Canada.

Since 2010 when I began to write about contemporary culture in Canada I have been fortunate to to attend hundreds and hundreds (and hundreds!) of events. What this gives me is a bird’s eye view of the changing cultural landscape. I have the luxury of being able to stand back as well as step in allowing me both critical distance and intimate knowledge of the environment.

It was a great opportunity to speak at The Power of the Arts and my fellow presenters offered me even more inspiration, ideas and provocative food for thought around broadening the definition of what we mean when we say ‘diversity’.

Below is the transcript of my presentation as well as the Powerpoint images with the accompanying text. If you want to read the presentation along with the images you can click on the top left image and the rest will follow!

black stroke

black stroke

2013 was a year that Canada experienced a lot of growing pains. We are a young nation and sometimes we act with youthful grace and other times with the messy inappropriateness of bodies not yet used to the skin they are quickly expanding into.

Idle No More was a movement that probably wasn’t on most people’s radar when it first formed but it rapidly spread thanks to the brilliant ease that technology allows messages to travel.

What it also did was start to shake the foundational narratives and pushed Canada into a bit of an identity crisis.

And an identity crisis can be good a thing. Even healthy! If it is recognized as a moment to reflect back on who you were before the rug was pulled out from underneath you.

And like any identity crisis the signs were already pointing to a breakdown long before it happened. If you step away from the history of colonization and the impact it has had on Indigenous populations there are other histories Canada has had trouble acknowledging – slavery in Canada, the treatment of Japanese Canadians during World War II, and the unfortunate history of the community of Africville, Nova Scotia to name a few.

Canada has not always been a safe place for new immigrants and there are still areas where many Canadians feel they are outsiders in their own nation. LGBTQ rights have been a work in progress and away from urban centres it can still be unsafe to be open about your sexuality.

But I have hope. BIG HOPE! I know Canada is going to make it through this incredibly painful time where collectively as a Nation we are having to acknowledge hard truths about our history.

WHY am I so hopeful? Because I have the wonderful fortune of working in the Arts (and with people like this)

This is where I see amazing work being done. And I see a lot of that work happening in institutional settings.

Outside of producing Mixed Bag Mag I am also a web designer. Many of my clients are artists, and more specifically Indigenous artists whose work is about dialoguing with national narratives regarding historical and contemporary realities of First Peoples in Canada.

One of my clients is Jeff Thomas, a self-described Urban Iroquois, and who I have dubbed “The Godfather of Indigenous Urban Photography.” I will come back to him later but where I want to start my story is on a cold, winter night in Toronto that included a snow storm, a Tribe Called Red and a gifted ticket from a stranger on Facebook. I found myself, last minute, at the Art Gallery of Ontario for First Thursdays.

If you don’t know about first Thursdays, it’s a great event that happens the first Thursday of every month at the AGO. The night includes entry to the exhibits, live music, performance art, interactive demos and food. This particular Thursday A Tribe Called Red was performing.

Despite the cold it was a hot night! Sold OUT! I left my decision to go so late I couldn’t even get a media pass so I put a call out on Facebook and a friend -of-a-friend gave me his ticket.

I stood above the crowd packed into Walker Court in order to get a good photograph. What I witnessed made me stop and put my camera down to take it all in. I have these times as a photographer where I know I need to stop and spend time with the moment – to just feel the energetics of the space. I was having one of those moments.

Duncan Campbell Scott, the man who was head of Indian Affairs in the early 1900s was quoted as saying “The happiest future for the Indian race is absorption into the general population, and this is the object and policy of our government.” Here were 3 men – 3 men that if Duncan Campbell Scott had his way would not exist – being unapologetically Indigenous. And the crowd could not get enough of their beats that include mixing dance hall, reggae, hip hop and powwow.

One of the members of Tribe is Jeff Thomas’ son – Bear Witness.

I know he is damn proud of Bear’s work because as he says “he is reaching people I never could.” So why is Bear, a DJ who re-mixes club music, playing for a young, fashionable crowd so important? Because traditionally spaces of Western Culture are not welcoming spaces if you are someone who lies outside the dominant culture. If you are Indigenous, African, South American, basically any culture conquered by the European Countries and colonized you have undoubtedly found your culture being reduced to relics in the structures that dictate what is culturally relevant – even what is culturally ALIVE.

And now a quick history lesson on Museums and Galleries.

The history of what Philippe de Montebello, former director of The Metropolitan Museum Art, calls the “Universal Museum” is around 200 years old. The concept, which we are all familiar with, is to take a look at the world, in chronological order, a linear space where we move through time – a documentation of “PROGRESS.” This type of space allowed for aesthetic connections to be made between culture objects from varying places from the same points in time – a visual record of history – but whose history?

The Louvre was the first public museum. The princes wanted to show what they had “acquired.”

As de Montebello says “Western museums started because they felt legitimately entitled to take the art of the places they were conquering and bring them back to study them.”

With this start as the backdrop it is easy to understand how objects became festishized for their aesthetic and stripped of the human stories that accompany
…their creation,
…their use within their own culture context,
…and then the often tragic events that lead to their acquisition in the collections.

But in the context of the pluralistic realities that we live in now this way of organizing what is our experience of culture is highly problematic. We know there is more than one entry point to history and multiple views are not only valid they are necessary to reconstruct a strong foundation upon which to move forward.

While on a recent trip to New York City I visited the Brooklyn Museum. They had this tremendously beautiful gallery space that was about just that – the act of reconstruction.

As you entered into the space you were met with the words “CONNECTING CULTURES…Museums bring the world’s treasures to the public. Like many other museums The Brooklyn Museum collects works of art in order to inspire, uplift and inform.”

The room was a glorious hodge podge of exquisite and ancient craftsmanship and work by contemporary artists. It was clear that in this space notions of hierarchy were dissolved. A linear progression was abandoned. Instead there was a conversation between equals. And that is an important note of difference.

This image says it all because this young boy who was there studying and taking notes would have been denied access to this museum in a recent past.

Everywhere you turned in the museum you were met by thoughtful curation and diadatic panels that added more voices to the mix. And their emphasis on presenting contemporary African-American artists like Kehinde Whiley makes sense in a community where there is a huge Black population.

Ok, so enough about America, let’s get back to Canada and that night at the Art Gallery of Ontario. The AGO, at the height of Idle No More movement, just weeks after Chief Spence ended her hunger strike, had Tribe programmed to perform. Inside an institutional space that traditionally was about implied exclusivity the performance of 3 men related the message:

NOT ONLY AM I ALIVE, BUT I AM YOUR CONTEMPORARY.
NOT ONLY HAVE MY PEOPLE SURVIVED BUT WE THRIVE.

That’s powerful stuff, especially in light of the historical documents currently being uncovered that speak to the strategies to annihilate Indigenous populations here in Canada.

A few months after that Tribe performance at the AGO the National Gallery of Canada had an exciting opening – Sakahàn: International Indigenous Art Exhibit – that included 150 works of recent Indigenous art by over 80 artists.

This exhibit was the groundbreaking because of the fact it was the first of its kind – an exhibit that took an international scope of Indigenous artists alive, THRIVING, today. This wasn’t a show about surveying artifacts. This was an exhibit about the relevance of Indigenous artists using their practice as social commentary. Sakahàn was long in the making before Idle No More but the timing was certainly interesting as it situated the work of Indigenous artists working in Canada in the present tense. Canadians could frame the work with current events of Idle No More, Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the call for an inquiry into the  Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women.

Sakahàn means to strike a light, a fire, in the Algonquin language. Algonquin people, part of the greater cultural group of Anishinaabeg peoples, are the traditional custodians of this land where Ottawa is now located so it was an appropriate and important gesture to use this as the show’s title.

The three curators who organized this immense project were Greg Hill (Audain Curator of Indigenous Art) and Christine Lalonde (Associate Curator of Indigenous Art) of the National Gallery as well as independent curator Candice Hopkins (Elizabeth Simonfay Guest Curator).

I am grateful to Greg, Kayen’kahaka (Mohawk) of the Six Nations of the Grand River, for giving me an thorough tour of the show. What blew me away was the fact that the artists in this show were working way beyond being concerned with just an aesthetic. They were working from deeply personal spaces. They understood their role as artists and their responsibility as cultural producers to make visible what has been buried.

It was overwhelming, emotional, beautiful, and I went back 5 more times. One of the most powerful things that Sakahàn did was it reached out to the larger arts community in Ottawa. Auxiliary shows and events happened all over the city. This is where I felt Sakahàn had it’s most transformative impact. In Ottawa last summer, you encountered contemporary Indigenous art everywhere.

But Sakahàn wasn’t the only show that year that managed to squeeze itself into the institutional space to force open a crack to allow change in.

Between  2013 to 2014 I have lost count of how many shows I have attended that are about using an institutional space to create meaning around contested histories, controversies, and current events. This doesn’t even include the shows that came prior to 2013. Many people have invested blood, sweat and tears and had doors shut on them. It’s the legacy of their labour that allows for the incredible explosion of culturally transformative work we are witnessing now.

I have seen these types of shows in New York and here at home in Montreal, Toronto, and Ottawa as well as smaller cities like Kitchener, Oakville, Oshawa, and Markham. Something has definitely shifted!

The door is now open and there is no going back into the shadows.

In recent news The Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto has been open about their epic fail when they launched “Into the Heart of Africa” in 1989 – a re-framing of the Africa collection through colonial eyes. Although meant to be a critique, once it opened what was demonstrated was that the curators were still not willing to consider that perhaps their framing perpetuated hurtful narratives. There were protests that had little immediate impact but what we see now, as we approach the 25th anniversary, is a demonstration in best practice around the complexities of reconsidering history from alternate perspectives.

The ROM has brought in Julie Crooks and Dominique Fontaine to curate “Of Africa” a “multiplatform and multiyear project aimed at rethinking historical and contemporary representations of Africa.”

On October 24 the ROM Hosted a symposium in preparation for “Of Africa” that included panel discussion on “Learning from Into the Heart of Africa.”

“The elephant in the room” as Silvia Forni the ROM’s curator for African programming calls it has now become a moment upon which something transformative AND truthful can be built.

We are in a beautiful moment in time. We can be intentional about how we move forward to create change. There is opportunity for everyone’s voice to be represented at the table. Best practice around how to navigate this new space we are in is:

  • First acknowledge the hard truths

  • Second, like the ROM, acknowledge how communities were wronged

  • Be ok with being uncomfortable

  • Be open to learn something new

  • Inquire about Protocol

  • Outreach to communities

  • Get to know the leaders

I am going to book end this talk by finishing where we started at the AGO’s Walker’s Court. On July 30 this year, on a little warmer of a night, with no snow storms in the forecast, Beyond the Horizon: Anishinaabe Artists of the Great Lakes opened. At the very top of the court were a series of drums by Anishinaabe artist Robert Houle, who was also in attendance. The drums hang in the place where the German artist Lother Baumgarten was commissioned, in 1984, to do a site-specific work that he titled Monument for the Native People of Ontario. In this piece it was clear that neither Baumgarten nor the AGO did their research. The recent AGO renovation did away with the install and now Robert’s work intervenes in the neo-classical space with his series that references the Seven Grandfather Teachings of the Anishinaabeg peoples.

  • Zaagi’idiwin / Love

  • Nibwaakaawin / Wisdom

  • Dabaadendiziwin / Humility

  • Minaadendamowin / Respect

  • Debwewin / Truth

  • Aakode’ewin / Courage

  • Gwayakwaadiziwin / Honesty

The opening began with prayer and song by Elder Garry Sault who spoke in both Anishinaabemowin and English followed by a welcoming by Chief Bryan LaForme of the Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation.

Also on the agenda that  night was an awards ceremony. Metis artist Christi Belcourt, the woman behind the initiative Walking With Our Sisters, received the Ontario Arts Council’s Aboriginal Arts Award. When Christi got up to accept her award she used it as a platform to educate the audience about the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women. Her act was an important intervention into the space.

In the palatial court part of the Beaux Art structure built in 1920s and revamped by architect Frank Gehry in 2008 what could have been just-another-art-party became a somber and important moment of remembering.

When Andrew Hunter, Curator of Canadian Art at the AGO, came up to the podium to speak he made one thing clear – this was not a show of contemporary art paired with “artifacts” but of contemporary artists juxtaposed with past masters. Indigenous art has often been presented as relics of a dead culture far removed from contemporary realities and without relevance to current events.

This small statement powerfully defines how today’s institutional curator can be an instrument for change.

Andrew stood in solidarity with a community who has had the institutional door closed on them many times.

At some point in the evening I took a moment to go back up to the area where I watched A Tribe Called Red perform over a year before. Again, like that night, Walker Court was packed full of people from all backgrounds and all walks of life. I took a few photos. Then I put my camera down.

I listened to the moment.
I heard change.

Thank you. Merci. Miigwetch.
black stroke

Check out Mixed Bag Mag’s poster submissions for The Power of the Arts. Top poster features talented dancer / choreographer Emily Law, middle poster visual artist Ekow Nimako with his amazing work, and dancer / choreographer Esie Mensah, another beautiful talent!



CLOSING THIS WEEKEND: The Sahmat Collective – Art & Activism in India since 1989 at The Art Gallery of Mississauga

The Sahmat Collective is another great show at the AGM!

I recently had the chance to get in to the AGM to see this incredible show. The Art Gallery of Mississauga isn’t exactly small and it isn’t exactly large but it seems to be the optimal amount of space and it’s always beautifully utilized. The corridor that takes you into the main gallery feels like an intimate welcome that primes you for what lies ahead. There is also a cave-like alcove that works perfectly for video installations. Every time I see an exhibit here I am impressed!


Above images of gallery space courtesy Art Gallery of Mississauga.

The AGM is a gallery that is doing a tremendous job making their institution relevant to the broader community of Mississauga – one of the most culturally diverse in Canada. Their current exhibit The Sahmat Collective: Art & Activism in India since 1989 uses up almost every available surface in the gallery to create a time capsule of India at a moment in her history when culture clashes were reaching a boiling point.

“Since 1989, the influential Delhi based Sahmat Collective has offered a platform for artists, writers, poets, musicians, actors, and activists to create and present works of art that promote artistic freedom and celebrate secular, egalitarian values. The collective formed in the weeks after playwright, actor,and activist Safdar Hashmi was fatally attacked by political thugs while performing a street play. In the more than twenty years since, Sahmat has drawn on India’s secular heritage and an expansive group of collaborators to produce a series of projects that engage in important political and social debates through a mix of high art and street culture.” Read more…

I walked through the show with a friend who had grown up in Gujarat. As a Muslim she had memories of the religious conflicts. The exhibit timeline reached back to touch her early childhood. The Sahmat Collective was the result of a reaction to what was taking place around her, her family and others at this time.


Ways of Resisting
from Smart Museum of Art on Vimeo.

In urban settings where much of the population comes from abroad arts institutions can become midwives for the emergence of memories that provide a link to the motherland left behind. Galleries can give the members of their community an emotionally deep experience by participating with memory, not as nostalgia, but rather as place to locate dialogue that can impact social change here in Canada.

As part of the programming for The Sahmat Collective show the AGM did just that. “Thinking Globally, Acting Locally” was a panel discussion on “Art, Activism and Artist Collectives” that included Canadian artist duo Condé + Beveridge activists / artists whose careers stretch back even father than 1989. The panel posed the question:

“What is the role of the artist collective and what is the relationship between art and activism from both a global and local perspective?”

Galleries should also be looking at the spiritual topography that New Canadians layer onto the land as a way to be relevant to more diverse audiences. “Stories of our Landscape | Conversations after Sahmatwas an event that brought people out to ride along in the “Architecture Bus Tour” for “an introduction to the migration of various religious architectural traditions to the Mississauga cityscape.”

The exhibit curated by Jessica Moss and Ram Rahman and presented by University of Chicago’s Smart Museum of Art was

“animated by the urgent belief that art can propel change and that culture can reach across boundaries. Sahmat has offered a platform for an expansive group of artists and collaborators to present powerful works of art that defend freedom of expression and battle intolerance within India’s often divisive political landscape. Based out of Delhi, the Sahmat Collective uses a combination of high art and street art to resist forces that threaten the pluralist and democratic spirit of creative expression in India. In conjunction with this exhibition, the Art Gallery of Mississauga presents programming that interprets exhibition themes within the Canadian context to critically examine the role of the artist collective, the relationship between art and activism and the ways in which art has the capacity to make change.” Read more…

In plurality their is unity. With unity comes strength.

The Sahmat Collective: Art & Activism in India since 1989 closes this weekend October 19.
More info on AGM’s website as well as on Facebook and twitter @AGMengage.

To explore The Sahmat Collective further visit Vimeo for a selection of videos that give an informative background of their rich practice.

All above images by Leah Snyder for Mixed Bag Mag unless otherwise noted.

 

BEST WAY TO CELEBRATE VALENTINE’S DAY: #HaveAHeart Day on Parliament Hill

Boy in snow holding poster that saves Have A Heart for first nations children

Kids standing in solidarity with First Nations, Inuit and Metis children

The best led crusade may just be a children’s crusade because today on Parliament Hill small but mighty voices were articulate in their demands for Harper to “have a heart” with regards to issues around education improvements for Aboriginal children.

Children with teachers in front of the clock tower on Parliament Hill with posters in support with First Nations children

From the voices of babes.

One wee one said “I am just in Grade 3 but I know the difference between right and wrong.” She continued by saying “Mr. Harper, you spend money on silly things like rockets that don’t fly.” Enough said.

And don’t think that these kids are buying it regarding the First Nations Education Act. They get it that a one-size-fits-all education system and dollars handed out with conditions attached doesn’t translate into equitable and culturally based education. They could probably put a lot of MPs to shame with their proper pronunciation of Anishinaabe and knowing that Turtle Island refers to the original name for the continent that the governments of Canada and America now occupy.


“Stephen Harper, we’ve got some homework for you, make our Canada a better place for FN education”

It means nothing if it’s not true.

These kids stood up under the shadow of the Parliament Buildings and spoke to the fact that the National Narrative of an inclusive society that respects human rights falls apart when you look at the Canadian government’s past and present relations with Indigenous Canada.

Kids from all backgrounds – Somali, East Asian, Palestinian, European – showed up and represented.

These kids get it. And on a cold, winter’s day it is what  warms your  heart!

#HaveAHeartDay!







“The First Nations Child & Family Caring Society stands with First Nations children, youth, and families for equal opportunities to succeed.

Using a reconciliation framework that respectfully engages First Nation and non-Aboriginal peoples, the Caring Society provides high quality resources to support First Nations communities to empower children, youth and families. The award-winning Caring Society is proud to work with our partners in Canada and around the world to promote the rights of Indigenous children, youth and families.” For more information on their services visit their website.

Follow on First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada’s Facebook page and on twitter @CaringSociety.


All images by Leah Snyder for Mixed Bag Mag.

ONE DAY GET AWAY FROM THE GTA: Edward Burtynsky @ The McMichael & Land|Slide @ The Museum of Markham

A mirror set in grass that reflects the country like scene around it and has the words WONDER.
Land|Slide Possible Futures exhibit at the Museum of Markham. Work by IAIN BAXTER&.

Tomorrow’s forecast in Toronto? Perfect Weather with possibility of plenty of art!

Lots of trees with clearing where there is a sculpture, a path and a group of children walking byMIXED BAG MAG recommends heading North of the city this weekend for 2 important shows that speak to our expanding urban centres / suburbs and promote dialogue around how to be more intentional around our future growth.

Due to popular demand Canadian photographer Edward Burtynsky’s The Landscape that We Change is held over until Thanksgiving Monday at The McMichael in picturesque Kleinburg, Ontario.

“Burtynsky does not seek to position his images into the realm of political polemic. The artist has stated that they “are what they are.” His photographs engage the observer through what the artist refers to as a “duality” in the viewing process. In Burtynsky’s aesthetic interpretation, his images render the subject most often in rich colour, detail, and textural qualities. Simultaneously, the observer is made aware of the devastation and altered state of nature that is portrayed. The tension generated by mediating the dual nature of the individual’s response to the image is intended to provoke a thoughtful dialogue about the environment and societal attitudes.” Read more…

For more information on planning your visit to The McMichael click here.

Stone carving on large boulder with wood cabin and trees in the background
The grounds at The McMichael Museum in Kleinburg, Ontario.
Image of mirror in grass with words REFLECT on it and barn and trees in the background
IAIN BAXTER&’s “Markhamaze” at the Land|Slide Possible Futures exhibit.

Over in Markham is the much talked about Land|Slide Possible Futures exhibit that includes a large group of national and international artists covering the 25 acre grounds of the Markham Museum. Taking art of out the gallery space and plunking it into the perfect autumn setting of changing leaves, grass and blue skies was a pretty brilliant idea! Tomorrow will be my 4th visit. Green space + public art = My Idea of a Day Well Spent!

“Land|Slide Possible Futures is a groundbreaking large-scale public art exhibition which responds to a world in transition where the past, present and future collide. The landscape of Markham will be transformed by the work of over 30 national and international artists to explore themes of multiculturalism, sustainability, and community.” Read more…

 

FYI – FREE SHUTTLE SERVICE on Saturday from MOCCA & CSI Bathurst. Below info from Land|Slide’s Facebook page.

The Performance Bus ( Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art (MOCCA) – Varley Art Gallery – Markham Museum):

MOCCA to Varley Art Gallery: 2PM
Varley Art Gallery to Markham Museum: 5PM

Regular Bus:
MOCCA to Markham Museum: 4PM, 6:30PM & 8:30PM
Markham Museum return to MOCCA: 7:30PM & 10PM

And NEWLY ADDED: An Urban Planning bus coming up from the Centre for Social Innovation at Bathurst and Bloor (720 Bathurst St) at 1PM.

This will take you up just in time for a talk by urban planners/artists Department of Unusual Certainties at 2:30PM, and a planning tour led by Land|Slide planning experts Lisa Hosale, Sara Udow and Katherine Perrott.



All above images by Leah Snyder for Mixed Bag Mag.

Art work from top to bottom:
Inside the wigwam of Julie Nagam’s “singing our bones home” install
Close up at video for Camille Turner’s AfroFuturist performance “Time Warp”
Architect Frank Haverman’s install “Untitled” (I call it “Brilliant”)
IAIN BAXTER&’s “Markhamaze” at the Land|Slide Possible Futures exhibit.

Don’t miss these two really important exhibits!

Follow The McMichael on Facebook & twitter @LandSlide2013
Follow Land|Slide Possible Futures on Facebook & twitter @mcacgallery

FESTIVAL OF COMMUNITY & CULTURE: Manifesto in its 7th Year!

CONGRATS TO THE MANIFESTO TEAM ON ANOTHER YEAR OF AMAZING PROGRAMMING & IGNITING THE COMMUNITY!

This festival continues to show how when enough people connect on a vision something wonderful and fresh can occur. The weather today? Not so good but  Manifsto is offering plenty of food for thought  and inspiring creativity inside and away from the rain with their symposiums & talks.

NOON TODAY – SO MUCH THINGS TO SAY: Evolution Summit. An inspiring array of panel discussions, keynote speakers and mentor classes. More info…

3 PM TODAY – THE FLOOR AWARDS. Manifesto celebrates the best urban dance artists, educators, youth and community catalysts at our 3rd Annual Floor Awards. First created through community dance consultation, this awards provides a platform to honour the depth of creation and innovation happening in urban dance arts in Toronto. More info…

4 PM TODAY – HEARTIST. A pre-show panel discussion and audience talk back about the growth of mentor-mentee collaborations in Canada, how they work, and add value to the health of the Canadian arts sector. More info…

6PM TODAY – SACRED SEVEN ART SHOW – This year for the 7th Annual Manifesto Art Show we will explore the notions of connectedness and evolution as we present thought-provoking works from local artists as well as game-changers from across the globe.

“Everything in our world is sacred and interconnected – and we’re in the midst of an epochal shift to recognizing that truth in every realm of human endeavor.” – Stephen Dinan

More info…

For full festival details visit the Manifesto Festival website or follow on Facebook and twitter @Manifesto_TO.

(un)HAPPY CANADA DAY: Time for Revision / Admission

Re-thinking Canada’s National Narrative

O Canada! Our home on native land!

The Europeans arrived to wide open spaces. Empty. Land to be cleared, cultivated and tamed into lots and plots. Roads carved and structures erected meant a civilization existed where none had before. Terra Nullius – “land belonging to no one” therefore it was reasonable that it should now be theirs to claim as their home and native land.

That is what is taught. That the first settlers came and inserted themselves into empty spaces that were just waiting to be filled by hard work, some elbow grease and a sense of adventure.

And it is that legacy of entitlement and the idea that the land is just there for the taking that has brought us to a point in this country’s history where things like Canada’s breaking with the of Kyoto Accord is actually a logical chapter in tale that has long been fraught with environmental abuse followed by overt denial of that abuse.

In spite of overwhelming evidence that the Alberta tar sands is an environmental disaster of epic proportions the Government continues to promote it as a new frontier that makes economic sense even if it is at the expense of people and land – when necessary, selective amnesia works best.

Visual artist Camille Turner refers to Canada as a “landscape of forgetting.”  Her work on projects like Miss Canadiana and Hush Harbour deal with Canada’s accepted / expected overlooking of the history Black Canadians. Canada’s need to separate itself from its aggressive American Cousin whose obsessive enthusiasm for Manifest Destiny is always a PR nightmare has encouraged the adoption of ‘colonial-lite’ – some amount of assimilation is necessary but in the Canadian Mosaic no one gets burned in the Melting Pot. The only problem is that the facts that don’t properly support the fiction get erased – like slavery and a system of apartheid. They drop below the surface but they don’t go away.

In the dynamics of a family we see how generations can go on to willingly participate in a lie. It’s a survival mechanism to ensure the endurance of the clan but as the sins of the fathers are revisited on the sons, like a hiccup in time, the memories come back up.

For Canada that time has come. The ancestors are speaking through the lips of the children born at a time when things looked bright but these souls were perceptive to the fact that things weren’t right. A new generation of spiritual archaeologists are uncovering our culture and exposing it for what it is – problematic and painful. They are accessing the genetic archives where the emotional memories still exist.

This process of digging down through layers has become a mechanism for healing.

Though our language is still awkward and our methods may lack sophistication in the act of uncovering we come together – First Peoples, Settlers and New Immigrants – to get to the bottom of it.

So although unhappy it’s not without hope that I write these words.

black stroke

MIXED BAG MAG recommends Cultivating Canada: Reconciliation Through the Lenses of Cultural Diversity.

Cultivating Canada is a collection of essays produced by the Aboriginal Healing Foundation

“…Because Canada is a nation of diverse cultures, its people drawn from every region of the world, any discussion of reconciliation must include the perspectives of those who have arrived in more recent days and those who trace their family histories beyond western European colonial states…Those who have arrived in Canada from places of colonization, war, genocide, and devastation will very likely have valuable insights into historical trauma; their perspectives should be considered also.”  Read more…

black stroke

And some other important perspectives…

This day in history: July 1, 1967
in The Vancouver Sun

Our home on Native land: The celebration of colonization in Canada by Susana Deranger for www.briarpatchmagazine.com

Genocide, racism and Canada Day: An Algonquin-Anishinaabekwe love letter by Lynn Gehl Gii-Zhigaate-Mnidoo-Kwe for www.rabble.ca

Why I don’t celebrate Canada Day and never have by Judy Rebick for www.rabble.ca

Bill McKibben and Naomi Klein to join Canada’s tar sands ‘healing walk’ by Stephen Leahy for The Guardian

Canadians increasingly reporting aboriginal identity by Gloria Galloway and Tavia Grant for The Globe & Mail

Happy Colonization Day? by Michael Redhead Champagne

DOVE REAL BEAUTY SKETCHES CAMPAIGN: Where the Stats At?

quote saying only four percent of women worldwide consider themselves beautiful

The real truth about “The Real Truth About Beauty: A Global Report”.

This 4% stat wasn’t adding up for me when I first encountered it. I was immediately suspicious.

As someone who doesn’t hover in spaces where dominant culture reigns supreme and as someone who has photographed women of all cultural backgrounds for 20+ years I know the situation of women’s self-esteem isn’t as dire as Dove would make it seem. I circulate in communities where I encounter many women who are comfortable in their skin and who find things like injecting ass fat into their cheeks for the sake of beauty the butt of a joke (most definitely pun intended!).

I am not denying that in Western culture there is a long entrenched tradition of socially sanctioned self-deprecation and body shame. And I know that it can translate across cultures. But 96% of ALL women around the globe can’t see that they are uniquely beautiful?

I am also someone who has had a career in branding and marketing making my BS radar quite acute.

So I got to digging.

I found what I was looking for on Dove’s web page titled Surprising-Self-Esteem-Statistics.

Surprising indeed.

Map of the world flipped asking the question can data be neutral? the delivery can change the way we see our world.

So here is the breakdown. I think the visual of the list illustrates the overarching cultural narrative being presented as fact.

The world according to Dove.

North America:
United States
Canada

Europe:
The Netherlands
Portugal
UK
France
Italy
Germany
Russia
Poland
Romania
Spain

South America:
Brazil
Argentina

Central America:
Mexico

Middle East:
Saudi Arabia
Turkey

Asia:
China
Japan

Southern Asia:
India

Along with the many countries absent from the above listed areas, the parts of the world missing in Dove’s study:

The Continent of Africa

The Caribbean

Central Asia

Australasia

The Oceania Region

The Islands of the Indian Ocean

In other words, from Dove’s #RealBeauty perspective, it is mostly North American and European women who speak as the majority for  female voices worldwide.

So I guess worldwide doesn’t mean the ENTIRE world.

#RealConvenient

As the real truth may just be too inconvenient for their marketing strategy. 

And I have a funny feeling that the women that were interviewed in the countries listed above were probably selected from the large urban centres where they have more access to the internet as well as exposure to the Western marketing machine. I also wonder were the women interviewed in Saudi Arabia actually Saudi or were they American women living in an international compound?

#JustSaying

Dove does not disclose the ethnic demographics of its studies and in countries like Canada and The United States the population from where you draw your research can greatly change the results.

#Indigenous #Lesbian #Urban #Bi #Rural #Transgender #Immigrant

#Question the source.

Quote saying Dove's perspective: North American and European women speak for the majority of female voices worldwide. So I guess worldwide doesn't mean the ENTIRE world. Who knew?

MIXED BAG MAG recommends Women For Women International – a women’s initiative doing real work on nurturing women’s self-esteem and self-worth in countries impacted by war.

U ROCK & I ROCK: And the Continued Tale of Why the Dove Campaign Pissed Me Off Part 2

Female toddler in yellow outfit playing on floor with plastic container.
Me in 1971. This photo captures what I hope still comes through as an adult – a happy, playful, open soul. 

DISCLAIMER: My critique is not with the women featured in the newest Dove Campaign. I appreciate that they demonstrated vulnerability in opening themselves up as they did. If this was a documentary presented by an independent female filmmaker with opportunities for productive dialogue I would have a different opinion – but consider the source.

“Only 4% of women worldwide consider themselves beautiful.”

Let me begin by saying I don’t buy that stat!

When Dove first came out with their “Campaign for Real Beauty” in 2004, although in big agreement that there needed to be more diversity in beauty advertising, I wasn’t buying into their feel good message because their products contain chemicals that are known to be toxic, carcinogenic and damaging to a woman’s body and health.

Years ago I owned a green cleaning business. I researched deep into Sick Building Syndrome and how what were using to decorate and clean our homes with was making the inside of our buildings more polluted than the LA freeway at rush hour. The more I researched the sicker I felt at the incredible hole we were digging ourselves into. My research also included personal hygiene products. There and then I simplified – baking soda, vinegar and tea tree to keep my house clean; organic coconut or olive oil and glycerin soap for my beauty routine with the occasional indulgence of vegan body cream when the funds allowed.

Because of a serious car accident my business ended shortly before it got off the ground but I never let go of what I learned and the knowledge I gained allowed me to become more informed as well as critical to brand brainwashing.

So yes, I thought Dove, owned by Unilever, was hypocritical in its proselytizing about its love for women and its desire to promote healthier self-esteem while they sold products that encouraged us to slather our skin with some pretty unhealthy stuff.

I tuned Dove out – that is until the “You are more beautiful than you think” Campaign went viral and I could no longer ignore their damn brand.

I am tired to the bone of mixed messages and beauty campaigns that plug into female self-loathing.

When speaking to a friend just after watching the video my first critique was that despite their promotion of diversity the women featured are predominantly white – the opening scene begins with the thin legs of a young woman walking into a room. She is white, blonde, model proportions looking like the Nordic nemesis from my youth. Next scene – young, dark haired, thin, white woman. Next woman – white, blonde, middle-aged. Back to the dark haired woman shown walking with slender legs in skinny jeans, cute in a Charlotte Gainsbourgy kind of way. Another white woman appears…

More images of white women, many of them slender, young, attractive and fashionable with only brief seconds of non-white women and one black man slipped in, each with little to no dialogue.

My friend’s rant on her Facebook wall:

“The sad music with the message ‘you’re prettier than you think’. Because that’s all we are, right? That’s our only currency – being pretty. Tears of joy “I’m prettier than I thought!” This is feeding some gender bs that makes my blood boil.”

Yet again our self-worth is being bound to our appearance. When do we get released from that yoke?

One comment on her wall wrapped it up well:

“The main message is you should recognize your natural beauty and that you’re less fat than you think? I guess it’s a step up from other beauty ads, but it also ain’t really liberating.”

Self-deprecation is defined as the act of belittling or undervaluing oneself.

Thin, blue-eyed, short-nose used as positive descriptors and fat, dark circles, wrinkles as negative.

After our rant this blog post, by Jazz Brice, popped up on my feed:

Why Dove’s “Real Beauty Sketches” Video Makes Me Uncomfortable… and Kind of Makes Me Angry

She did the math on the diversity (or lack thereof).

“Out of 6:36 minutes of footage, people of color are onscreen for less than 10 seconds.”

Jazz’s post echoed much of what my friend and I discussed.

“Why are so many females I know having such a strong reaction to the sketches video, being moved to the point of tears? 

Because the message that we constantly receive is that girls are not valuable without beauty. 

Brave, strong, smart? Not enough. You have to be beautiful. And “beautiful” means something very specific, and very physical.”

Let’s say that again – BEAUTIFUL MEANS SOMETHING VERY SPECIFIC AND VERY PHYSICAL.

She goes on to say:

“My primary problem with this Dove ad is that it’s not really challenging the message like it makes us feel like it is. It doesn’t really tell us that the definition of beauty is broader than we have been trained to think it is, and it doesn’t really tell us that fitting inside that definition isn’t the most important thing. It doesn’t really push back against the constant objectification of women. All it’s really saying is that you’re actually not quite as far off from the narrow definition as you might think that you are (if you look like the featured women).”

WELL SAID!

And like her I also felt unsettled by this woman’s words that wrapped up the commercial:

“I should be more grateful of my natural beauty. It impacts the choices and the friends we make, the jobs we go out for, the way we treat our children, it impacts everything. It couldn’t be more critical to your happiness.”

Who was the focus group for this marketing campaign? A panel of J Crew models?

As I watched the clip for a second time while writing this post it finally hit me what I was unable to put my finger on before. Dove, for all its “movement marketing“, has aligned itself not with the hopeful “beauty-is-all-encompassing” message. What it has aligned itself with is the white aesthetic notions of the dominant culture and at the same time plugged into the culture of shame regarding the body, culturally sanctioned self-deprecation and privileged guilt regarding fat that can only surface in a capitalist system where constant consumption is the goal. You will not find people starving themselves to be thin where there is scarcity of food. You will not find people complaining about their crows’ feet in places where all-inclusive vacations to the sunny South aren’t the norm. Pinge. Burge. Guilt. Shame. But don’t forget you are more beautiful than you think which makes you worthier than you know (to the marketplace).

That folks…is a white thing!

I will bet that the real reason they didn’t use more non-white women was because the dialogue would not be to the level of self-deprecation for the sound bites they required. Who better to perpetuate the message of shame (cue tears of guilt for saying bad things about yourself) and take the scolding that you are not appreciating the natural beauty you really have (but we aren’t going to free you from that nagging notion that you are somehow not enough).

Growing up in this culture I know it well. Putting down one’s body and lamenting over appearance became ritualized behaviour upon leaving the innocence of adolescence and a rite of passage for moving onward into womanhood. Not only was it accepted it was expected. Walk into any women’s change room at a mall on this continent and listen in on the conversations. Something has gone terribly wrong.

Thanks Dove for nothing…but slick marketing; soft shots of white loft spaces with white girls, camera pans of skinny legs, predictable (read sterile) décor and manipulating music. This is the Forrest Gump of marketing campaigns.

To criticize the miracle my body is and the vehicle it gives me to be present in this world is not something I am willing to partake in.

It took time for my Mediterranean-featured self to come to terms with my looks but when I stepped out of this culture for the first time I encountered non-North American aesthetics of beauty that were less binding then the ones I was experiencing back at home. Upon returning, I started the process of deconstructing the anxiety the advertising had created in me. By the time I accepted my own appearance and decided I actually loved my features I also realized that that journey brought me to a place where I found my outward appearance mattered less than I thought. It took a car accident and wondering if I would ever be able to walk again without pain to love my body for its ability to heal, be grateful for that and to understand I do stand in a place of privilege.

I will keep my lop-sided laugh lines as to me they are proof that I smile often and wink with my left eye as I do. 😉

So I declare it here – I am not one of the 4%.

I am beautiful for the same reasons I see beauty in the other women who are in my life and who I value for what they offer:

Vibrancy. An engaging smile that says – “I am accessible, let’s have a chat.”

Intelligence. A way of looking at the world with a discerning mind so when something isn’t working and they have the skill set to make a change they go after it with gusto and suggesting – “Maybe our skill set can be combined? Let’s collaborate”

Playfulness. Even though they question the world around them they don’t lose that child inside that still believes in magic, serendipity, surprises, and unexpected places just around the corner – “Let’s go explore together sometime.”

Compassion. They are not going to just walk by someone who is visibly hurting. They will take the time to stop and listen. Saying – “If you ever need help let me know.”

Empathy. Fundamentally believing that we are connected and if we don’t acknowledge the stories of others we lose the chance to enrich our own experience as a human being. They are the type of women to say – “Maybe there is something in my story that will strengthen and inspire a part of you. I am not afraid to open up and share.”

I really hope the reactions to this campaign will move women to collectively to say enough is enough. To not echo these words:

It (outward appearance) couldn’t be more critical to your happiness.”

But rather:

“It’s nice but not a necessity to defining my value.”

Dark haired woman smiling in mirror as she takes a photograph of herself. Me at 42 years old. Sweaty with no makeup covering the ‘dark circles’ under my eyes, unthreaded brows and hair askew but happy after a spring afternoon spent outside and quite digging how healthy I look!

 

 

 

Some more antidotes to the Dove Campaign!

Brené Brown’s Ted Talk on “The Power of Vulnerability”

Vulnerability – where real beauty lies.

They (people who have a deep sense that they are worthy of love and belonging) believed that what made them vulnerable made them beautiful. They didn’t talk about vulnerability being comfortable nor did they talk about it being excruciating… they just talked about it being necessary. They talked about the willingness to say I love you first, the willingness to do something where there are no guarantees…the willing[ness] to invest in a relationship that may or may not work out. They thought this was fundamental”

Thandie Newton’s Ted Talk on “Embracing Otherness, Embracing Myself”

Thinking beyond the value of self-worth to the value of oneness.

“I still believed my self was all I was. I still valued self-worth above all other worth and what was there to suggest otherwise. We’ve created entire value systems and a physical reality to support the worth of self. Look at the industry for self image and the jobs it creates the revenue it turns over. We’d be right in assuming that the self is an actual living thing. But it is not. It‘s a projection that our clever brains create in order to cheat ourselves from the reality of death. But there is something that can give the self ultimate and infinite connection and that thing is oneness, our essence. The self’s struggle for authenticity and definition will never end unless it is connected to its creator, to you, and to me and that can happen with awareness – awareness of the reality of oneness and the projection of self-hood.”

Some more opinions on the Dove Sketches Campaign:

Globe & Mail
Dove has it wrong. It’s probably better not to think about your looks by Adriana Barton

The Toronto Star
Dove Sketches video manipulates our emotions by Tracy Nesdoly

The National Post
A Cultured Life: Dove’s latest ‘Real Beauty’ ads are about selling soap, but they raise debate over body image, too by Maryam Siddiqi

The Huffington Post
Why Dove’s “Real Beauty Sketches” Video Makes Me Uncomfortable… and Kind of Makes Me Angry by Jazz Brice

The Problem With Dove’s Real Beauty Sketches Campaign by Kate Fridkis

Who Could Benefit from the Dove Real Beauty Sketch Campaign? Men.  By Sheila Moeschen

Dove’s ‘Real Beauty Sketches’ Ad Campaign Tells Women ‘You’re More Beautiful Than You Think’ (VIDEO) by Emma Gray

Ladies: Dove’s “Real Beauty Sketches” Are More Condescending Than You Think by Rondi Adamson

Forbes
Dove, Your ‘Sketches’ Idea Is More Beautiful Than Your Critics Think by Will Burns