Abbas Akhavan’s practice ranges from site-specific ephemeral installations to drawing, video, sculpture and performance. The direction of his research has been deeply influenced by the specificity of the sites where he works: the architectures that house them, the economies that surround them, and the people that frequent them. The domestic sphere, as a forked space between hospitality and hostility, has been an ongoing area of research in his practice. Recent works have shifted focus, wandering onto spaces and species just outside the home—the garden, the backyard, and other domesticated landscapes. Akhavan is the recipient of Kunstpreis Berlin (2012), Abraaj Group Art Prize (2014), and the Sobey Art Award (2015).
Whether through performance art, experimental video, photographs, recipes, interventions in gallery windows, or creative/critical writing, Randy Lee Cutler’s practice explores the aesthetics of appetite and embodiment. She has authored numerous essays published in C magazine, Pyramid Power, The Fillip Review, FUSE magazine, Vancouver Art & Economies, Uncanny: Experiments in Cyborg Culture, West Coast LINE, n.paradoxa, Blackflash Magazine, Canadian Art and Yishu Journal of Contemporary Chinese Art on topics as diverse as digestion, truth-telling, orientalism, feminism, photography and social change. Originally from Montreal, she lives in Vancouver where she maintains an experimental relationship with pedagogy, gardening and reading.
Ken Lum is a Vancouver based artist. His work is concerned with issues of identity, especially as they relate to image production in contemporary urban society. Lum has participated in Documenta XI, Shanghai Biennale, Sydney Biennale, Carnegie International, Sáo Paulo Bienal, Venice Biennale, and Johannesburg Biennale. His writing has been published in Art & Text, Art Margins, and Nka: The Journal of Contemporary African Art and Art & Collections. He is Founding Editor of Yishu: The Journal of Contemporary Chinese Art. More recently, Lum has been working on a number of public art commissions in Vancouver, Vienna, Toronto, Stockholm, Zurich, and Leiden that involve a language of critical urban politics. Lum was made a Guggenheim Fellow in 1998, and awarded a Killam Award for Outstanding Research.
Sven Lutticken is an Amsterdam based writer, critic, and historian. He contributes regularly to catalogues and art magazines such as Artforum, New Left Review, Afterimage, and Texte zur Kunst.
Ashok Mathur is a writer, cultural organizer, and artist-researcher. He currently holds a Canada Research Chair in Cultural and Artistic Inquiry at Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops, BC. His recent novels include Once Upon an Elephant, a contemporary re-visioning of the Mahabharata’s creation story of Ganesh, and The Short, Happy Life of Harry Kumar, a retelling of the Ramayana through the lenses of current globalized politics and movements. His most recent project, A Little Distillery in Nowgong, is a multifaceted novel tracing the migration of a Parsi family from pre-independence India through postcolonial contexts and travels.
Kristina Lee Podesva is an artist, writer, and curator based in Vancouver. She is the founder of colourschool, a free school within a school dedicated to the speculative and collaborative study of five colours (white, black, red, yellow, and brown) and co-founder of Cornershop Projects, an open framework for engaging with economic exchange. She is also Co-editor at the Fillip Review.
Ted Purves is a writer and artist based in Oakland. His public projects and curatorial works investigate the practice of art in the world, particularly as it addresses issues of localism, democratic participation, and innovative shifts in the position of the audience. Purves recently received a visual arts grant from the Creative Capital Foundation and a Creative Work Fund grant from the Elise and Walter Haas Foundation. His book, What We Want Is Free: Generosity and Exchange in Recent Art, was published by State University of New York Press in 2005.
Sadira Rodrigues is an independent curator and arts administrator based in Vancouver. She has curated a number of exhibitions by local, national, and international artists. She was the Assistant Curator of the 2004 Shanghai Biennale, and also curated At Play at the Liu Haisu Museum. She has been a sessional Instructor at Emily Carr Institute since 2001 and has a Masters in Art History from the University of British Columbia. She has written for journals and catalogues, including Thirdspace and Yishu—Journal of Contemporary Chinese Art, and co-organized symposiums such as Locating Asia and InFest: International Artist Run Culture. Formerly the Manager of Arts Programs for 2010 Legacies Now, she is currently involved in a range of projects including public programming at the Vancouver Art Gallery, and diversity facilitator with the Equity Office at the Canada Council for the Arts.
ABBAS AKHAVAN, KRISTINA LEE PODESVA, MOHAMMAD SALEMY
September 12–October 31, 2009
Race: Proposals in Truth and Reconciliation
What are the possibilities of talking about race today? It is critical that we continue to challenge the conditions of racism, marginality, exclusion, and xenophobia. But how does one approach talking about a subject whose archaeologies of knowledge have been laden with histories of conflict and contestation? And how does one do this with a commitment to generosity, truthfulness, and reconciliation?
Over the last year, there has been an escalating presence of race in every aspect of social, political, and economic life. Barack Obama’s “A More Perfect Union” speech in Philadelphia became the most popular video in the world, drawing 1.2 million views in the first 24 hours after it aired. Described by some writers as the most important speech on race given by any American politician, it pointed to the fact that racial discord in the US, although entrenched, distracting, and emotional, was not necessarily intractable. It is this disavowal of intractability that forms the core of Speaking Truth to Reconciliation. Is it possible to engage with a fraught subject, but with a commitment to moving beyond questions of accountability or accusation, towards a conversation that both acknowledges the conditions of exclusion, while seeking shared ground?
Through an exhibition and forum Speaking Truth to Reconciliation brings together artists, writers, and curators to consider the possibilities of discussing this contested subject and “speaking out.”
The artists will engage with Artspeak as a site of dialogue and discussion that takes the principle of “truth telling” as a framing device, while considering these concepts poetically, pedagogically, and declaratively.
Curated by Sadira Rodrigues
Speaking Truth to Reconciliation (a project in two parts)
ABBAS AKHAVAN, RANDY LEE CUTLER, KRISTINA LEE PODESVA, KEN LUM, SVEN LÜTTICKEN, ASHOK MATHUR, TED PURVES, MOHAMMAD SALEMY
October 23–October 24, 2009
Speaking Out: A Lamentation for Parrhesian Strategies
Emily Carr University Theatre, Room 301, South Building
“My intention was not to deal with the problem of truth, but with the problem of truth-teller or truth-telling as an activity… Who is able to tell the truth? What are the moral, the ethical, and the spiritual conditions which entitle someone to present himself as, and to be considered as, a truth-teller? About what topics is it important to tell the truth?… What are the consequences of telling the truth?… And finally: what is the relation between the activity of truth-telling and the exercise of power, or should these activities be completely independent and kept separate? Are they separable, or do they require one another?”
—Michel Foucault, Discourse and Truth: the Problematization of Parrhesia (1983)
In a two-day forum, local and international speakers will consider the possibilities of “speaking out” in the context of cultural production. Speaking out describes adopting a position which is perceived to be oppositional to mainstream cultural production and which chooses to reveal the limitations or structures in the operation of power. Speaking out also implies a consequence to the act of intervening or critiquing these institutions. The act of speaking out is not only intellectual, but extends to the value of the speaker as a social individual, his or her place in society, the consequences on their cultural capital, and the ramifications of talking about things most people do not want to.
The project will include a publication co-published by Artspeak and West Coast Line.
FRIDAY OCTOBER 23
6:30pm / Sadira Rodrigues
7pm / Ken Lum
SATURDAY OCTOBER 24
10am / Sven Lütticken (virtual)
11am / Ted Purves
12:30–1:30pm / Break
1:30pm / Ashok Mathur
2pm / Mohammad Salemy
2:30pm / Kristina Lee Podesva
3pm / Abbas Akhavan
3:30–5pm / Panel: Randy Lee Cutler, Ken Lum, Kristina Lee Podesva, Ted Purves, Sadira Rodrigues
Curated by Sadira Rodrigues