A panel discussion featuring three photo-based artists with culturally-specific knowledge to engage in a dialogue concerning photography's varying and complex relationships to land— including ideas of sovereignty and diaspora and how they bump up against each other in the contemporary art context.
Panelists: Alex Jacobs-Blum, Kablusiak, Esmond Lee
Moderator: Macy Siu
In 2022, Gallery 44's Access and Inclusive Action Committee worked collectively to research and develop a new organizational Land Acknowledgement. These conversations revealed a shared interest in exploring ideas of land in relation to Gallery 44's position as an established yet ever-evolving medium-specific, artist-run organization. As a collective writing on behalf of a larger, community-responsive organization, we discussed personal subjectivities and a desire to open this dialogue further to explore land and photography through the lens of individual lived experiences and cultural knowledge.
Land and Photography: Perspectives on Sovereignty and Diaspora is the result of commitments named in the new Land Acknowledgement to initiate programs driven by artists with culturally-specific knowledge who bring practices of care to challenging topics.
The talk is co-produced with OCAD University, and their multi-year research initiative exploring the experiences of BIPOC artists and arts workers today to consider the successes and ongoing challenges resulting from shifts in EDI and policy in the arts sector. The project will contribute knowledge to the ways that pathways of inclusion have been developed against specific contexts such as anti-racism movements and Indigenous activism in the arts in Canada since the late 1980s. This project is a collective gesture with multiple artist-run centres (Daphne, Gallery 44, Grunt Gallery, Hamilton Inc., Trinity Square Video, and SAVAC) to take the pulse on the effectiveness of inclusion in the arts today and to respond dynamically to the experiences of artists and arts workers through arts-based programming. This work has been envisioned by artists and researchers Suzanne Morrissette, Immony Men, and Ashok Mathur to support dialogue, research, and the development of networks of support between BIPOC artists and arts workers.
Alex Jacobs-Blum (Lower Cayuga of Six Nations/ German), is a lens-based artist and curator based in Ohròn:wakon (Hamilton, ON). Alex’s deep passion for community, relationship building, uplifting youth and challenging settler colonialism are integral to her practice and methodology. She strives to empower change by pushing boundaries to disrupt institutional spaces.
Alex received a Bachelor of Photography at Sheridan College in 2015, where she was awarded the Canon Award of Excellence for Narrative Photography for her thesis. Since then, Alex’s artistic work has been exhibited at the University of Ottawa, Centre for Artistic + Social Practice, the Woodland Cultural Centre, and Critical Distance Centre for Curators. She is currently the Indigenous Curatorial Resident at Hamilton Artist Inc. where she developed her first curatorial exhibition, Born Celestial.
Kablusiak is an Inuvialuk artist and curator based in Calgary. Born in Yellowknife and raised in Edmonton, they received a diploma in Fine Art from Grant MacEwan University in 2013 and completed their Bachelor in Fine Arts from the Drawing Department at the Alberta College of Art and Design (ACAD) in 2016 . They recently completed the Indigenous Curatorial Research Practicum at the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity, were a previous member of Ociciwan Contemporary Art Collective and are also part of the inaugural all-Inuit curatorial team for the Winnipeg Art Gallery's Qaumajuq, which opened in March 2021.
Kablusiak uses art and humour as a coping mechanism to subtly address diaspora, and to openly address mental illness; the lighthearted nature of their practice extends gestures of empathy and solidarity. These interests invite a reconsideration of the perceptions of contemporary indigeneity and counter the stigma surrounding mental health.
Since graduating, Kablusiak has been heavily involved in Calgary's art scene; they have made work for Femme Wave (The Garden, 2016), Sled Island (Group, 2017), Contemporary Calgary (Oki Y'all, 2017) and are a board member of Stride Gallery since 2016. Recent awards include the Alberta Foundation for the Arts Young Artist Prize and the inaugural Primary Colours/Couleurs primaires Emerging Artist Award in 2018 . Kablusiak was also shortlisted for the 2019 Sobey Art Award and the 2021 Kenojuak Ashevak Memorial Award. Their work has appeared in multiple issues of Inuit Art Quarterly, including on the cover of the Spring 2022 Break Up issue. They are represented by Jarvis Hall Gallery in Calgary, AB.
Esmond Lee is an artist, researcher, and architect based in Scarborough. Lee explores long-term, intergenerational experiences of migration in peripheral spaces. He holds a Master of Architecture and is pursuing a Doctorate in Critical Human Geography. Lee draws from these backgrounds to examine identity, belonging, and nuanced cultural and political borders in the built environment. Recent public artworks include a 250-foot long installation for Nuit Blanche Toronto, developed during his time as the Doris McCarthy Artist-in-Residence, and a 30-foot tall installation at Malvern Town Centre for CONTACT Photography Festival. Lee’s current projects include two photobooks: Below the City, recognized by the Burtynsky Grant, and community-driven book for Woodside Square Library as the TPL Artist-in-Residence. His works are in the permanent collection of The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) and Doris McCarthy Gallery (DMG) at University of Toronto Scarborough (UTSC). Lee is supported by the Toronto, Ontario, and Canada Art Councils.
Macy Siu is an artist, design researcher, and foresight strategist who is driven by expression and empowerment tied to the hyphen of in-between spaces. With a background in advocacy for artists, intellectual property law, and internet public policy, she has since turned to design processes as a tool to better understand change and drive more society-centered solutions. Working at the intersection of art, law, and design, she now spends her time rethinking what legal access for creatives should/could mean, and co-dreaming more inclusive and collective futures through speculative and critical design.