Vitriol: Art and its Discontents

Participant Biographies and Abstracts

Pansee Atta - MA, Cultural Studies, Queen's University

Decolonial museology, grassroots resistance, and the labour of representation


This presentation investigates two significant moments of grassroots resistance in the context of ethnographic exhibition in Canadian cultural institutions. In so doing, it uncovers the ways that racialized communities negotiate with representational processes, not simply as spectators or ‘stakeholders’, but as cultural producers.

The Lubicon Cree boycott of The Spirit Sings and the Toronto Black community’s protest of I nto the Heart of Africa represent two major moments of community resistance of ethnographic exhibition. These two events were significant in shaping museological practice and policy, affecting the landscape of Canadian museum exhibition to a significant extent.

The formation and impact of these two critical events demonstrates racialized communities’ agency in governing self­representation through d irect action, which becomes a means of negotiating with cultural institutions. Racialized communities are sought to act superficially as 'stakeholders' in the representational process within the institution, but the tacit compliance of the community a round the institution is simultaneously required to support the aura of authenticity in institutions of an ‘international’ stature ­­ the efficacy of these protests therefore reveals a slippage in museum managerial practices. In this way, racialized communities perform a requisite act of labour in the process of ethnographic exhibition; that of grassroots curation and ‘authentication’.

This presentation suggests that this labour is significant not just in historically (re)structuring representational processes in Canadian cultural institutions, but also in its critical potential in shaping decolonial futurities, locally and globally. Finally, this presentation considers the role of Muslim communities in contemporary exhibitions of ‘Islamic Art’, unraveling the ways that institutional desire underlies the representational occlusions which ultimately align with the interests of the Canadian liberal order framework. 


Pansee Atta examines issues of migration, culture, resistance, and belonging as part of her artistic/ academic/activist practice. She works in Ottawa, Montreal, and Kingston, and is completing an MA in Cultural Studies at Queen’s University.

Rawa'a Bakhsh - PhD, Cultural Studies, Queen's University

Street Art, Crawler Cranes and Saudi Arabia Abstract 


Since the last three weeks, as a sign of protest, I have been wheat pasting and sticker bombing the streets of Jeddah, Saudi Arabia with the help of my friends by using an image of a collapsed crawler crane. This is in response to a recent occurrence that took place on September 11th 2015, when a crawler crane toppled and fell on the worshipers in the grand mosque of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, killing over 111 people and injuring over 300 more. While this accident’s news was spread like fire ubiquitously, the reaction from the Saudi Public was on both ends of the spectrum; some were raged and extremely furious, while the others said that it was “Gods will”. However, the government’s reaction was merely limited to a series of media-visits to the wounded and the location of accident. Whether it be political, nonviolent or any other type, in Saudi Arabia, protests are unfortunately not allowed. The public in Saudi Arabia is under severe control, and freedom of expression is inexistent in this country. This further leaves no tolerance for public art like graffiti, stencil or wheat pasting as it is deemed as political. Experimenting with graffiti’s role in expressing political thoughts is considered as a protest in a strictly monitored environment like Saudi Arabia. Is there any possibility when street art could act like the voice of the oppressed, could it be the medium where the public can express their anger/feelings towards the government without being caught? Is there any prospect that street art’s qualities such as being fast, semi-permanent, loud, or anonymous could help in making people less afraid of expressing their feelings or rage towards such events?

This paper is regarding my social experiment in installing large-scale wheat pasting of the crawler crane that fell on the grand mosque. It walks you through the history, politics, freedom of speech and street art of Saudi Arabia since it is extremely rare to find an apposite street art in Saudi Arabia. This project being first of its kind throws light on the various difficulties, obstacles and dangers faced by the Saudi women artist like myself when attempting to express their thoughts through public art, and this eventually makes it almost impossible to perform an act like this. 


Rawaa Bakhsh (Saudi Arabia - Canada) Graduated from Jeddah- Saudi Arabia with bachelors in Graphic Design, After moving to Toronto she obtained her MFA from OCAD university where she worked on art creation as method of cultural adaptation, Currently she is undergoing her PhD - Cultural studies at Queens, where she continues to work with mixed media to create artworks that speak about the presence of political art in public spaces.  

Jade Boivin - MA, Histoire de l'art avec concentration en études féministes, Université du Québec à Montréal

L’humour en performance féministe : la satire et la personnification en tant que déplacement chez Tanya Mars. Réflexion critique de l’histoire de l’art 


L’histoire de l’art féministe qui émerge depuis quelques décennies a permis de mettre à jour les différents systèmes hiérarchiques et symboliques qui ont participé à la constitution des canons de l’art, et de ce fait, a soutenu l’émergence de nouvelles approches théoriques qui permettent de penser différemment l’art et ses discours. La question à l’origine de cette proposition est de voir comment les stratégies qui découlent de l’humour, et plus précisément la satire et la personnification, peuvent trouver leur pertinence critique au sein de la performance féministe : qu’est-ce que ça implique d’être une performeuse qui rit, qui se déguise et qui subvertie? En intégrant la satire au sein de ses performances, Tanya Mars procède de cette même remise en question. Trois performances seront donc analysées, Pure Virtue (1984), Pure Sin (1986) et Pure Nonsense (1987) : en personnifiant la Reine Élizabeth 1 (The Virgin Queen), l’actrice hollywoodienne Mae West ainsi qu’Alice au pays des merveilles, Mars creuse le rapport entre les femmes, leur représentation (idéalisée) et le pouvoir et plus largement, elle pose une critique qui vise le dualisme qui a forgé les représentations des genres au sein de l’art, où les hommes proposaient leur corps comme un site de transgression, tandis que les femmes jouaient dans une objectification historique du féminin. Il s’agira donc de démontrer que la satire et la personnification, dans ce contexte, effectuent un détournement du rapport entre les femmes, leurs représentations en performance et la réitération de l’objectification de leur corps. 


Pour me présenter brièvement, je suis une étudiante à la maîtrise en histoire de l'art avec concentration en études féministes à l'UQAM. Mon mémoire porte sur les liens entre représentation et pouvoirs au sein de la performance féministe des années 1980 et 1990 au Canada, et ma proposition se veut être un pan de ma réflexion actuelle à propos de la pertinence des stratégies dérivées de l'humour en tant que critique féministe en performance. Ayant terminé mon baccalauréat en histoire de l'art à l'Université Laval en 2014, j'ai par la suite travaillé en tant qu'assistante de recherche pour le projet Une bibliographie commentée en temps réel: l'art de la performance au Québec et au Canada, première phase d'un projet de recherche à long terme mené par ma directrice Barbara Clausen qui s'est clos avec une exposition en deux temps présentée à Artexte du 29 avril au 24 octobre 2015. J'ai aussi eu l'opportunité de présenter une conférence dans le cadre du colloque étudiant SVR - Sexualité et genre: vulnérabilité, résilience - organisé par la Chaire de recherche contre l'homophobie et qui a eu lieu en mars 2014.

Anna Foran - MVS, Visual and Critical Studies, School of the Art Institute of Chicago

Near, Far: Negotiating the Glocal at the Museum of Broken Relationships and Beyond


In 2006, Croatian artists Olinka Vištica and Dražen Grubišić created a temporary exhibit featuring a small selection of donated objects from broken romantic relationships — those of friends, and their own. After touring the successful concept around countries in former Yugoslavia, the Museum of Broken Relationships (MBR) was born. Housed semi-permanently in a national heritage site in Zagreb, Croatia, the museum is driven by what the creators cite as a perceived absence in our society: that of rituals and forms of memorialization which pay homage to the break down of personal relationships, whether romantic or other. Though the exhibit has always been a travelling one, the museum’s embeddedness in the Balkans necessarily frames it as a political site of mourning for the break-up of Yugoslavia and the trauma of the battles, both literal and legal, which ensued. While paying heed to the historical implications of the MBR, this paper is interested to situate the project against the backdrop of a larger shift in the last decade towards what might be called the ‘museumification of emotions.’ As an alternative to the monumental narratives recounted by large-scale museums, spaces like the MBR are turning to the emotional lives of individual people to story-tell through metonymy. This shift, manifested by other projects like Orhan Pamuk’s Museum of Innocence, registers a discontent with monumental narration, but also, it could be said, participates in a simultaneous and ubiquitous move towards a glocalized museological model, wherein the feelings of the visitor — near or far — always come first.


Anna Foran is a first year graduate student in Visual and Critical Studies at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC). She completed her undergraduate degree in Art History at McGill University, and spent last year working as a publishing assistant at Toronto's Art Gallery of Ontario. At the moment, she is working as a research assistant at SAIC and thinking about the relationship between art-making and other forms of labour, museological practices, and rooms. She also has a small collage practice. 

Karen Greenwalt - PhD, Art History, University of Illinois at Chicago

Beyond the Nation: Rasheed Araeen and the Art of Migration


When London-based Pakistani artist Rasheed Araeen erected a series of billboards across Britain in 1990, the work was met with violent results. In London, the National Front vandalized it, writing, “What’s It All About, Bongo?” and in Middlesbrough, it was graffitied and burnt by the PLO. Elsewhere, it was attacked with metal instruments, defaced with a swastika, and graffitied in Urdu, saying, “White people are bastards.” Each identical billboard consisted of an Oriental rug with Urdu script across the center. When translated it read: "White people are very good people. They have very white and soft skin. Their hair is golden and their eyes are blue. Their civilization is the best civilization. In their countries they live life with love and affection. And there is no racial discrimination whatsoever. White people are very good people.”

Titled The Golden Verses, this public art project was created in response to the 1988 publishing of Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses and the resulting 1989 fatwā that sparked violence around the world. The ensuing controversy reified stereotypical representations of Muslims as violent and intolerant religious extremists. Araeen responded by deploying similar tropes of identity—the Oriental rug, calligraphic script, and idea of the civilized white man. In so doing, he confronted their illusory nature, questioning the implications of these assumed social hierarchies. I contend that The Golden Verses functioned as a provocation, working to destabilize previously fixed notions of identity. Navigating the realities of immigration, Araeen’s work brings viewers face-to-face with the inequalities and fissures inherent to processes of globalization. This paper will argue that Araeen’s interventions as an artist, curator, and scholar reveal the myriad ways he sought to combat neo-colonialist ideology and confront the racist attitudes he experienced as an outsider living in London. 


Karen Greenwalt is a PhD candidate in Art History at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) where she focuses on contemporary Pakistani art.  She is the recipient of a junior fellowship from the American Institute of Pakistan Studies (2015) and the UIC Chancellor’s Award (2016). Greenwalt has held positions at the Art Institute of Chicago in the Departments of Contemporary Art and Photography, and has worked as a Curatorial Assistant at Gallery 400, UIC. In 2011, she curated the Bolt Residency’s inaugural exhibition at Chicago Artists’ Coalition. Greenwalt received an MA in art history from UIC and a BA in government from Lawrence University, Wisconsin. 

Jasmine Inglis - MA, Art History, Carleton University

The Road to Repatriation: The Kwakwaka’wakw Sacred Potlatch Collection


The repatriation of Indigenous objects in Canada represents a difficult history of colonial policies and art objects confiscated and wrongfully taken. The confiscation of approximately 700 Kwakwaka’wakw potlatch items in December of 1921 from a raid on Village Island, British Columbia, began a long and difficult fight to have those objects returned to their home communities. The confiscation and subsequent arrests and imprisonments of high ranking chiefs and family members were legal, although questionable, under section 149 of the Indian Act enacted by the Canadian government in 1884, which prohibited the potlatch. It read, “Every Indian or other person who engages in or assists in celebrating the Indian festival known as the “Potlatch” or in the Indian dance known as the “Tamanawas” is guilty of a misdemeanor, and shall be liable to imprisonment of not more than six months and not less than two months...” 

Scholar Ira Jacknis has called these narratives of repatriation cross-cultural, as each side has their own version of the truth that is often at odds with that of the other. In the case of the Kwakwaka’wakw potlatch collection, these cross-cultural exchanges between communities and museums experienced a long road of negotiation and conflict that eventually saw the bulk of the collection returned home. These conflicts extended beyond the museum and community level however, and provoked longstanding rivalries between Kwakwaka’wakw communities to re-emerge. This paper seeks to examine the traumatic raid on Village Island and the subsequent confiscation of potlatch objects that led to the formation of two Kwakwaka’wakw museums, while considering the continued practice of the potlatch as an act of resistance, against the damaging government policies that sought to destroy cultural practices and many forms of Indigenous visual culture. 


Jasmine Inglis is a second year Master of Art History candidate at Carleton University. Prior to beginning at Carleton, Inglis studied at Concordia University, completing a Bachelor of Fine Arts in August 2014. Her research focuses on how contemporary Aboriginal artists use their artistic practice as a form of resurgence for their communities, especially through the lens of identity politics, Canadian history and post-colonialism. Her master’s thesis focuses on the work of three contemporary Northwest Coast Aboriginal artists, and explores how their artistic practices address land loss and environmental issues in British Columbia. In October 2015 Inglis presented part of her research at the Native American Arts Studies Association Biennial Conference in Santa Fe, New Mexico. From June until September 2015 Inglis worked as a research and editing assistant in the Grantsmanship Department at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. From November 2015 until February 2016 Inglis worked as a research assistant to the Curator of First Nations History at the Canadian Museum of History in Gatineau, developing content for the new Canada History Hall opening in 2017. 

Stephanie Keating - MA, History of Art and Architecture, Boston University

Marketing the Revolution: GRAV and Une Journée dans la Rue


In May 1968, Parisian students took to the streets to protest De Gaulle’s Fifth Republic and advocate for a more inclusive, democratic society. Two years prior, the Paris-based collective Groupe de Recherche d’Art Visuel, or GRAV, produced Une Journée dans la Rue, a series of nine different events throughout the center of Paris designed to challenge the French public’s discourse in new and interesting ways through the group’s particular brand of participatory art. GRAV conceived Une Journée dans la Rue as a deliberate intervention into Paris’ public space. Through their writing, including an artist statement handed out during the different events, GRAV articulated their vision of an art that subverted how participants interacted with everyday society.

Throughout their career, however, GRAV’s revolutionary tendencies were criticized in contrast with the group’s commercial success. The Situationist International, who I use as a symbol of larger neo-avant-garde critiques, judged the group’s social and political commentary as superficial in the face of GRAV’s participation in the art market. Well aware of its critics, GRAV’s rhetoric functioned on two levels. Une Journée dans la Rue not only acts as public intervention, but it also responds to groups like the Situationists and reestablishes their revolutionary credentials. Using a Marxist discussion of theory and practice, this paper seeks to place GRAV within the larger context of the rhetoric of revolution during the 1960s. In my twenty-minute presentation, I seek to show that GRAV, despite its inconsistencies, offers another perspective to the rise of Marxist collectives in Paris leading up to May 1968. 


Stephanie Keating is a second year Masters student at Boston University in the History of Art and Architecture program. Her research focuses on the postwar neo-avant-garde collectives in Europe and Latin America. Additionally, she examines how these groups and other avant-gardes have been institutionalized on the canonical and museological levels, paralleling her own work as a museum professional. She completed her B.A. in the History of Art and Architecture with a minor in French at Middlebury College.

Shahbaz Khayambashi - MA, Cinema and Media Studies, York University

The Act of Seeing with One's Own Eyes: The Internet Death Video


In the age of easily-accessible and affordable high-speed internet, a variety of taboo, countercultural or otherwise underrepresented subjects began to become more easily accessible and more freely available. One of the most medium-specific, yet least studied, subjects within this phenomenon is what I have termed the internet death video. These are videos which depict the real, unsimulated act of an individual dying, captured by an individual present at the event, and distributed online, where it can be viewed by an audience. Death images were a commodity that came along in the early days of the internet, but the advancement of streaming meant that videos could be uploaded, distributed and shared more easily and to a wider audience. My submission to this conference is a section of my recently completed Master's major research paper, wherein I construct a theoretical background for the internet death video, how it functions within both cinematic/academic culture and the general culture of mass society. I accomplish this by methodically studying this phenomenon through a variety of media-based and cinematic theories, including realism, hyperrealism, theories of spectatorship, theories of pleasure and displeasure and the ethics of seeing. It is through these lenses that I discover why this phenomenon exists, why it interests so many viewers, why it is controversial (beyond the most superficially blatant reasons) and why it serves as such a fascinating subject, especially now. This is a very timely subject matter, with more and more internet death videos becoming the subject of legendary consumption, and it has many real world implications in a wide variety of related fields and subjects, including the news, people's need for evidence and popular cinematic culture. All in all, it is necessary to understand the psychology behind this phenomenon, because the internet death video is slowly working to a point where representations of real death will become accepted within the public sphere. 


Shahbaz Khayambashi is a theorist, curator, educator and artist, currently residing in Toronto, Ontario. He received his Master's Degree, in the field of cinema and media studies, from York University in 2015. His research interests include death in the media, necrostudies, new media and cultic viewing practices. He has presented his research in conferences such as Cine-Excess at the University of Brighton and New Voices at Georgia State University. He has also curated several successful video art programs, both independently and as part of Toronto-based curatorial duo, Citizens Committee on Moral Hygiene. He is currently involved in work on several projects, ranging from the academic to the artistic.

Julia McMillan - MA, English Literature, Dalhousie University

The Performance of Affective Archiving in Bracha L. Ettinger’s “Eurydice” Series


For Bracha L. Ettinger, the mythical figure of Eurydice “embodies a figure of the artist in the feminine” while also “awaken[ing] a space for the rediffusion of unresolved traumas” (Ettinger qtd in Buci-Glucksmann 99). Ettinger’s painting series “Eurydice” investigates the ways in which these spaces of intergenerational trauma interact with and are manifest through the female body. Her artistic process hinges on the collection, manipulation, and re-contextualization of archival photographs as a means of re-inserting and re-tracing the female form into the historical record of the Holocaust. While much scholarship on the “Eurydice” series analyses the paintings themselves, often alongside Ettinger’s theories of the matrixial gaze, I am specifically interested in examining the performative aspects of Ettinger’s process of creation. This paper thus explores the ways in which Ettinger’s methods engage in an affective performance of archival intervention and reparation. I argue that in collecting, manipulating, and re-contextualizing archival materials in order to re-trace the female body’s place in Holocaust history, Ettinger, as the artist-archivist, inserts her own body into the work as a means of performing a reckoning process with intergenerational loss and mourning. In this way, she resists and fights back against exclusionary representations of women’s experiences during the Holocaust, and inserts female subjectivity in a process of traumatic confrontation and reconciliation that is both represented by and felt through the body. My paper draws on aspects of affect, archive, and performance theories as a means of contextualizing Ettinger’s work within a broader context of archival art practices. Specifically, I use Diana Taylor’s consideration archive and the repertoire and Lauren Berlant’s work on trauma and affect in order to illustrate the ways which Ettinger’s pieces expand the boundaries of archival investigation to accommodate a gendered experience of trauma. Overall, I argue that framing Ettinger’s process of creation as a form of performative archiving offers a new way to think through archival representations of women during the Holocaust.


Julia Fleur McMillan is currently pursuing an MA in English Literature at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Her research generally operates at the intersection of literary studies, Canadian studies, and art history.  She is currently interested in examining Canadian citizenship and immigration policies in relation to contemporary literature and visual art. Julia completed her B.A in English and Art History at Mount Allison University in Sackville, New Brunswick. 

Kristen Millar - MA, Art History, McGill University

Looking Outwards: Exploring 19th Century Visual Culture Beyond Continental Europe


When discussing nineteenth century European art, it is centered on artists and movements based within the geographical boundaries of the continent. Consequently, artworks and materials produced about European colonies are excluded. it allows for art historians to discuss artworks produced during this period without engaging with Europe’s colonial histories and the atrocities committed to gain power; specifically the genocide of millions of Indigenous communities and African peoples. As art historians remaining critical of our discipline’s conceptualization of the parametersaround European art history cannot remain stagnant. It is necessary to recognize the interactions between the colonies and continental Europe by travel, product import/export and the slave trade.

This paper will focus on engaging with connecting the colonies back to continental Europe by broadening our use of the term visual culture and consider illustrated travelogues as art objects. These travelogues were written about in every colonial nation by European men, which document the interaction between colonial subject and colonized land. Broadening the definition of European art to include artworks, such as the illustrated travelogue, to discuss colonial imagery and its influence on the continent acknowledges institutional racism in art history.


Kristen Millar is a second-year master’s student in art history at McGill University. She received her BFA in art history and interdisciplinary studies of sexuality from Concordia University in 2014. She has curated extensively independently and collaboratively, as it is an important methodology in her art historical practice. Her research and curatorial interests include historic travel narratives, visualization of identity in art production, the perpetuation of racism in visual culture and contemporary art production. 

James Pepper Kelley - MVS, Visual and Critical Studies, School of the Art Institute of Chicago

Visualizing Criminality: Detective Writing and Alienation in the Second Empire


In the Paris of the nineteenth century, as the Foucauldian spectacular system of power continued its transition to the modern disciplinary model, visual identity became increasingly linked to stability and security. By the late 1800s, deep-seated anxiety had become attached to figures that threatened to destabilize the class-affiliated order by visually “passing,” types that were considered aberrant if not outright criminal. The disciplinary system encouraged this paranoid obsession and, in media terms, posited two popular written formats as the solution: faits-divers and detective writing.

While the fait-divers, tales of violence, wonder, and tragedy, worked to shock readers into a state of receptivity, detective writing functioned in a positivist instructional fashion, holding out the promise of self-security by means of an alienation routed in visuality. If the crowd became “the newest asylum of criminals,” (Benjamin, 1938) detective stories affirmed the individual’s ability to break up this mass by abandoning collectivism and “horizontal conjunctions” (Foucault, 1973) in favor of internalized, “scientific” examination—albeit, one ultimately beholden to bureaucracy.

Societal imagination focused on two types of criminals, the organized, alternative society and the singular, evil genius. Early systems of visual classification, hovering in between the spectacular and disciplinary, sought to distinguish both types, efforts that would evolve into the archival work of Alphonse Bertillon and Sir Francis Galton (Sekula, 1986). Detective writing called upon the receptive reader to internalize both potentialities in the interest of personal safety, leaving as the only recourse a deep alienation from individuals and groups alike.

This paper considers the destabilization of conventional codes of identity in late 19th century Paris and looks to the fait-divers and the detective story as instructional texts against such uncertainty. It uses a close reading of one of the first detective novels, Émile Gaboriau’s L’affaire Lerouge, to link the form’s narrative strategies to contemporaneous methods of criminal investigation. Finally, it argues that these texts promote the exchange of ambiguous collectivism for “secure” alienation within the disciplinary system of power.


James Pepper Kelly is a graduate degree candidate in the Master of Arts: Visual Critical Studies program at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Kelly is an arts writer whose articles have been featured by ArtSlant, Bad at Sports, and Chicago Artist Writer, where he also served as a guest editor. In 2014 he received ArtSlant’s Staff Residency in Paris, and he was commissioned by the Hyde Park Art Center to write the catalog essay for the organization’s biennial Ground Floor exhibition. Kelly is also a nonprofit arts administrator, having served as Managing Director of Filter Photo (2009-2015), Executive Director of LATITUDE (2012-2015) and Interim Professional Development Director at Chicago Artists Coalition (2014). He is helping to organize SAIC's Art Words conference in the spring of 2016. Kelly holds a BA in English from Wesleyan University.

Maude Pesant-Johnson - MA, Art History, Concordia University

How much blood is too much?


Si la relation entre les pratiques performatives et le concept de spectacle demeure ambigüe, leur correspondance dans l’affect du spectateur s’impose malgré la résistance de l’un ou de l’autre. Le potentiel émotif lié à la forte condition symbolique de l’art de la performance se trouve augmenté aussitôt que l’image produite par le performeur investit les codes de la violence, notamment. Avec le travail de Michelle Lacombe et de Adriana Disman, deux artistes montréalaises, cette stratégie se précise en opérant sous différents registres de l’automutilation. Quelles sont les implications d’un tel usage de la violence? À travers ces deux pratiques, les politiques de la performance sont repoussées, altérées, refusées, autant de mots qui perdent leur sens face à la réalité manifeste qui jaillit des blessures auto-perpétrées. L’expérience vécue par le spectateur, empreinte d’une nervosité proportionnelle à la durée et l’intensité de l’entreprise, mène nécessairement à un détachement momentané de la raison. Ainsi, malgré l’apparente simplicité des actions de Lacombe et de Disman, des sensations fortes sont générées dans l’affect du spectateur.

Par conséquent, en quoi certaines performances refusant a priori le spectaculaire communiquent cependant à travers le même langage dans l’affect du spectateur? Fondée sur cette question, ma présentation vise à mettre en lumière les implications de l’ébranlement des politiques du performatif à travers l’analyse de performances ciblées dans la pratique de Lacombe et de Disman. Je me pencherai sur les notions d’émotions fortes et de réalité en approfondissant la complexité de l’automutilation au sein de leur travail, laquelle ne réside pas dans l’action physique comme telle mais plutôt dans la multitude de couches de sens engendrée.


Maude Johnson est candidate à la maîtrise en histoire de l’art à l’Université Concordia. Elle cumule un diplôme d’études collégiales en design de mode (Collège LaSalle) et un baccalauréat en histoire de l’art (UQÀM). Sous l’égide de son parcours pluridisciplinaire, elle s’intéresse notamment à la connexion entre mode et art contemporain. Ses recherches interrogent la relation entre le corps et l’espace en explorant, notamment, les pratiques performatives, l’archive, et les nouveaux médias. En 2015, elle remporte le concours d’écriture Jeunes Critiques de la revue esse arts+opinions.

Damien Smith - MA, Art History, Concordia University

Sex, Garbage, Art and Confusion: The Dreadful Hilarity of Miriam Elia’s We Go to the Gallery.


“The rubbish smells,” says Jane (standing in front of an installation/heap of garbage bags).

“‘It is the stench of our decaying Western civilization,” says Mummy.

New Words: Rubbish Smells Western

— Miriam Elia, We Go to The Gallery (2014)

Miriam Elia, a painter trained at the Royal College of Art and a comedian and comedy writer published We Go to the Gallery, a crafted and nostalgic piss-take and pastiche of contemporary art and its pretentious discourse. Elia re-casts and détournes the format of the British Ladybird educational series Key Words Reading Scheme, an instructional/pedagogical reader for primary school children, into a darkly droll evisceration of contemporary art. In We Go to the Gallery comedy plays out through the non-performative use of craft and technique, through the re-crafting of the didactic language and “key words” of the primary school reader. Humour, mockery, and critique are filtered and reconfigured through standard art making and art historical convention, through image and text alone.

The primary reader format as a pedagogical trope is easily recognized, and remembered, from childhood. The public idea of contemporary art as a joke, as a field that requires extrinsic and arcane knowledge to “get it” is one humorously or vitriolically derided mercilessly. Amongst art-insiders, the same sentiment (if shared) gets disconsolately expressed in secret. The original Ladybird characters of Peter and Jane, as does the figure of Mummy reveal both archetypical and psychoanalytical stereotypes: the children are the naïve and misunderstanding art-students/general public and Mummy is the declarative voice of authoritative discourse. It is Mummy’s imprimatur, her declarations, that provides the punchline to each page Elia détournes. Punchlines are re-enforced by the grimly reductive and dark humoured koans of three key words at the end of each page. Peter and Jane’s fraught (mis) readings of the artworks Elia depicts feeds from and reveals the anxieties and stench of sex, class, capital, and identity that contemporary art so often cavalierly purveys whenever we go to the gallery.


Damien Smith is a 2nd year Master's student in art history at Concordia. Smith’s research interests focuses on modernist architectural historiography, gender and material culture. Smith is also a practicing artist and has exhibited throughout the United States, U.K., Canada and Europe. His work is held in the collections of the Print and Drawing Council of Canada, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, The Houston Museum of Fine Arts, and The Walker Art Center in Minneapolis. Smith completed his BFA at The School of Fine Art and Music, University of Guelph.