Canadian Museums Association Annual Conference
I was really fortunate to attend the Canadian Museums Association annual conference this week. In my professional life, and as an artist it was a really useful time to see what galleries and museums across Canada have been working on, and really pinpoint were the focus of their work lies. I found the bulk of that effort was focused around: Online/Digital Initiatives, Accessibility and Inclusivity/Decolonization.
It was a really useful time to consider how my institution can work towards goals set in each of these areas, but how I can also tackle them within practice.
I have been trying to be very concussions of how accessible my work is, and only using online when it actually seems right for the project, rather than trying to use either as a gimic, but I think I could do more to include cultural diversity in work work and decolonize my practice. I have added an acknowledgement of the unceded, ancestral lands of the Mi’kmaq and Wolastoqiyik Nations of which I work on (Sackville, NB) to my bio/website, but maybe I should also do more research about where the servers are for my online projects and acknowledge my privileged of using those lands as well?
I have also been thinking that maybe I should translate all of my work to french as well. Working in a bilingual province, I should acknowledge the Acadian ancestry of the area.
I also think I should only show my work in fully accessible spaces from now on, to reduce the already high amount of exclusivity in the art world. (More on this when I speak about Tangled Art + Disability below) but this is the institution I should look to for advice and leadership when mounting DIY exhibitions.
This conference really just reminded me that there is SO MUCH work still to be done. Artwork to make, decisions to consider, ideas to promote, and step to take to make a fair and inclusive art world. I may not be able to solve all the problems right now, but working one issue at a time, I could enact some change of what the standard are, and hopefully be a part of their changing.
This trip also afforded me the time to visit other museums and galleries outside of Atlantic Canada and just take in as much art as possible.
At the Art Gallery of Ontario I explored their expansive collection of historical and Canadian art, but was pleasantly surprised to see a small exhibition of Vija Celmins prints. I later realized I had only seen a small part of a larger exhibition opening May 4, but it was still a delight to see the 6 small works in person. Night sky, desert and ocean messotints were on view, each of which I could get lost in the mark making, super rich dark blacks that really only printmaking could achieve. They were so much more rich in person that in online reproductions.
I had a similar feeling when seeing a number of Betty Goodwin drawings from the collection in person. The mark making in them was so rich, and I felt I could feel her making each mark as I saw them. For both Betty and Vija I have read so much about their work online, but seeing them in person switched something for me, it really clicked how special these works were. But while I really enjoyed the experience it was surprising to see most gallery visitors whizzing right by these small exhibitions, only making small comments like “is that supposed to be the night sky or something?” on their way to the bigger exhibitions. It made me a bit disheartened for these subtle works, which take time to get into, to be brushed over by so many, and I wondered if I didn’t know about these artists before hand would I have done the same?
Kara Hamilton: Water in Two Colours was a small exhibition too, but demanded a lot of attention. Using found objects but transforming them significantly the exhibition was comprised of a few sculptures that were familiar but also uncanny. A life size whale tongue, but made of gold, and cut out from a wall to show the architecture of the room, or a crown made of fake gold earrings with women’s names, took the common place to another level. The materials were not hidden in either, and created a second reading beyond the purely symbolic.
The AGO was the only large gallery I had time to attend, but it was nice to see what is going on at the large scale, though I actually think the smaller DIY spaces had the most exciting this going on both as an artist and arts administrator, maybe because they don’t have so much institutional baggage, but also maybe because there are lass funds?
Notes to self on the other great venues visited with excellent exhibitions:
Tangled Art+Disability: Outliers on Tour with works by Chris ‘Bucko’ Binkowski, Christine Negus, Eugene Lefrancois, Michael Keshane and Michel Dumont
Red Head Gallery: What I Tell the Sky, and What the Sky Tells Me, works by Leah Garnett
Open Studio: Superstratum by Morgan Wedderspoon and Monarchs, Mexico and Milkweed by Liz Menard.
InterAccess: Film Path / Camera Path with under-titles by Daniel Young & Christian Giroux
The Power Plant: ᓄᓇᙳᐊᓕᐅᕐᓂᖅ ᓄᓇᕐᔪᐊᙳᐊᓂᒃ by SHUVINAI ASHOONA, Same Dream by OMAR BA and Witnessing by ALICIA HENRY
Textile Museum of Canada: Beads, they’re sewn so tight Artist: Bev Koski, Katie Longboat, Jean Marshall, Olivia Whetung