Citizen Subjects: Photography, Race and Belonging in Canada

The front page of The Clarion newspaper from 1947, featuring a photograph of the Prevoe family.
Monday, November 27, 2017 - 12:00pm to 1:00pm

In this talk, Gabrielle Moser discusses her current research project that analyzes how racialized subjects pictured themselves as citizens around 1947, the date that Canada’s first citizenship laws were enacted. Through extensive research in local and state archives, this project aims to analyze how viewers recognize citizens through modes of photographic self-presentation.

 

Gabrielle Moser is a writer, educator and independent curator. Her writing appears in venues including Artforum.com, Canadian Art, Journal of Visual Culture, Photography & Culture, and Prefix Photo. Moser has held fellowships at the Paul Mellon Centre for the Study of British Art, the Ryerson Image Centre, the University of British Columbia and was a Fulbright Visiting Scholar at Brown University in 2017. She holds a PhD from the art history and visual culture program at York University in Toronto, Canada and is an Assistant Professor in art history at OCAD University.

Research Rendezvous is a series for faculty and students to share and learn about research at OCAD U. Light refreshments will be available.
Presented by the Office of Research and Innovation

 

Venue & Address: 
Room 701K, 205 Richmond St. West
Website: 
https://www2.ocadu.ca/research/gmoser/project/citizen-subjects-photography-race-and-belonging-in-canada
Email: 
research@ocadu.ca
The event poster

RE:ORIENTATIONS

Richard Fung’s RE:ORIENTATIONS  brings together a filmmaker, historian, and sociologist to produce a groundbreaking longitudinal documentary film on LGBTQ Asian Canadians covering a 30-year period. It fosters collaborations between community groups and academic institutions and brings critical conversations around sexuality, race, and nation to wider audiences.

RE:ORIENTATIONS (2016) revisits the interview subjects of Richard Fung’s 1985 film Orientations: Lesbian and Gay Asians, which was the first documentary on diasporic queer Asians in North America. RE:ORIENTATIONS presents seven surviving subjects of the original documentary with raw interview footage from the 1980s, putting them in dialogue with their younger selves. Their reflections on identity, sexuality, racism, activism, and cultural expression are contextualized through conversations with six younger queer and trans activists, scholars, and artists. The project examines continuities and transformations in identities, political discourses, social processes, and legal frameworks as they relate to the intersecting and continually shifting categories of ‘LGBTQ’ and ‘Asian Canadian’.

RE:ORIENTATIONS had its world premiere at Inside Out: Toronto LGBT Film Festival on Saturday May 28, 2016.The film was presented in international LGBT film festivals as well as Asian and Asian diaspora festivals. It has been acquired by university libraries and screened at universities and academic forums. In addition, RE:ORIENTATIONS opened the inaugural Shanghai Queer Film Festival and was the focus of a residency and roundtable at Simon Fraser University, to be published in a peer review journal.

Re:Orientations has produced enriched discourse among, and advocacy on behalf of, LGBTQ and Asian/Asian diaspora/Asian Canadian communities. and provided a pedagogical tool for academic institutions and a resource for research.

 

This research was supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.

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Creator: 
Still from Re:Orientations - Interview subject on a Toronto street, standing before a wall covered in LGBTQ-postive statements
Photograph of a dancer performing. He is lying on the ground, wearing a mask.
Film still: a photograph of a man playing the piano while an elderly man listens in the background.
Monday, October 30, 2017 - 10:15am
Lab Member: 
Richard Fung

Ross Bullen's "Race and the White Elephant War of 1884"

P. T. Barnum’s white elephant Toung Taloung
Friday, October 13, 2017 - 1:45pm

Ross Bullen, faculty member within the Faculty of Liberal Arts and Sciences, has published a new essay entitled "Race and the White Elephant War of 1884". Please feel free to read his work on The Public Domain Review at http://publicdomainreview.org/2017/10/11/race-and-the-white-elephant-war...

 

Citizen Subjects: Photography, Race and Belonging in Canada

When Canada’s first citizenship laws came into effect in 1947, photography had already been representing this mode of belonging in the country for more than 50 years. Citizen Subjects explores this unique context that allowed Canadian citizenship to emerge as a subject of photography long before it became a legal category. Building on research conducted in local, municipal, and national archives from coast to coast, this multi-year research project explores the intersections of photography, race, and citizenship, testing the promises—and limitations—of visual representation in securing identities and rights.

PROJECT OBJECTIVES: 

  • To source representations of racialized subjects in local, municipal and state archives in the lead up to 1947 and to analyze the visual vocabulary that subjects used to present themselves to the camera as citizens;
  • To evaluate how photographic claims to citizenship in Canada participated in global and transnational understandings of citizenship around 1948, a period of intense activity around de-colonial, civil rights and nationalist independence movements;
  • To engage recent debates about citizenship, race, and photography by problematizing these terms’ historical conjunction with colonialism;
  • To disseminate findings through a one day public symposium at OCAD in Fall 2018, an exhibition at Gallery 44 and Critical Distance in Toronto in Spring 2019, journal publications, conference presentations, pedagogical activities, and an online archive;
  • To visualize the effects of changes to citizenship and immigration law, with the potential to inform Canadian policy formation. 

Comprising exhibitions, scholarly articles, a series of newly commissioned public installations, and an interactive website that allows users to build a visual vocabulary of citizenship, this interdisciplinary project invites audiences to think critically about questions of belonging in and around Canada’s sesquicentennial year. How did subjects use the camera to make claims for equality as citizens before the law offered them any such protections? What are the gestures, expressions, poses, and modes of dress that we recognize as performances of citizenship? How were race and citizenship imagined, and pictured, alongside one another?

Citizen Subjects is framed around an important date in thinking about the history of visuality and citizenship it Canada, focusing on the period leading up to the enactment of Canada’s first citizenship laws in 1947. These were, somewhat unbelievably, the first citizenship laws in the British Empire. The period between the end of the Second World War and the start of the Cold War is important for thinking about Canada’s relationship to global and transnational politics, because it marks a host of other nationalist and de-colonial movements happening worldwide, including the passing of the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Man, the partition of India and Pakistan, the start of apartheid in South Africa, and the destruction of Palestine and the creation of the state of Israel. Examining race and citizenship between 1946 and 1948 therefore illuminates how Canadian visual culture participates in global and transnational movements, and also forces the spectres of the transatlantic slave trade and settler colonialism—two global processes foundational to twentieth century politics—to come back into the frame of how we picture belonging in Canada.

In a contemporary moment marked by increasing restrictions on citizen rights, such as the recent cap on Syrian refugees permitted into Canada, public debates about the global refugee crisis, and political movements such as Idle No More and Black Lives Matter, the project of building a visual vocabulary of citizenship takes on political urgency for a wide range of audiences in Canada. By examining how citizenship appears in photographs, Citizen Subjects develops critical knowledge about why certain subjects continue to be left out of legal framings of citizenship and builds the public’s visual literacy for recognizing current claims to citizenship by immigrant communities, people of colour, and Indigenous subjects.

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES:
Timeline of World Events (1947-48)
Blog post about in-progress research
Classroom on “Spectatorship, race and citizenship” (Video program curated by Gabrielle Moser)
Instudio Article "Picturing Race and Citizenship — with Dr. Gabrielle Moser" by Heather Beaumont"

This research was supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.

Creator: 
Image of gloved hands handling photograph.
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Monday, September 25, 2017 - 12:00pm
Lab Member: 
Gabrielle Moser
Embed Video: 

Sight and Site: Bounded Geographies in Contemporary Representations of Slavery

Kimberley Brown
Tuesday, September 26, 2017 - 7:30pm

Kimberly Juanita Brown’s research engages the site of the visual as a way to negotiate the parameters of race, gender, and belonging.  Her book, The Repeating Body: Slavery’s Visual Resonance in the Contemporary (Duke University Press) examines slavery’s profound ocular construction, the presence and absence of seeing in relation to the plantation space and the women who existed there. She is currently at work on her second book, tentatively titled “Mortevivum: Photography, Melancholy, and the Politics of the Visual.”  This project examines images of the dead in the New York Times in 1994 from four geographies: South Africa, Rwanda, Sudan, and Haiti. Brown argues that a cartography of the ocular exists in documentary images to normalize global violence, particularly if the victims are black. Brown is the founder and convener of the Dark Room: Race and Visual Culture Studies Seminar.  The Dark Room is a working group of scholars who are invested in the intersection of critical race theory and visual culture studies.

Co-sponsored by the Faculty of Liberal Arts and Sciences and the School of Interdisciplinary Studies, OCAD University, and the Cultural and Artistic Practices for Social Environmental Studies, Faculty of Environmental Studies, York University.

Venue & Address: 
room 187, 100 McCaul Street

Useless Beauty: Notions of Beauty and Utility<br>Part of Scotiabank Nuit Blanche at OCAD

Scotiabank Nuit Blanche
Saturday, October 4, 2008 - 11:00pm to Sunday, October 5, 2008 - 11:00am

Useless Beauty, curated by OCAD Professor Johanna Householder and Jennifer Rudder, features work by artists KC Adams, Lois Andison and David Krippendorff that addresses notions of hybridity, gender, race, beauty, utility and fashion. The exhibition is presented in part as a response to ORLAN’S week-long residency at OCAD (part of OCAD’s Nomadic Residents program), and her video reading, presented at approximately 9 p.m.

The Works in Useless Beauty:

KC Adams: Cyborg Hybrids and Cyborg Hybrid Accessories
Winnipeg artist KC Adams explores the intersection of technological and socio-cultural evolutions. Adams presents a cross cultural-technological ideal, an intriguing interplay of contemporary race politics and analytical detachment. Useless Beauty showcases Adams’s Cyborg Hybrids photographic series, in which the artist theatrically stages celebrity-like portraits of models with mixed Aboriginal and European ancestry. The images belie their subversive and specific political edge. Her puns and double entendres, hand beaded and chosen by Adams’s subjects, speak to a shared politic in a way that is layered with cultural significance and poignancy. With her Cyborg Hybrid Accessories, Adams further animates her photographic works by subverting our obsession with portable, personal technologies with a sharp political and satiric edge.

Lois Andison: Camouflage 1 and 3 and maid of the mist
Toronto-based Lois Andison’s sculptural works examine the relationship of technology to nature and the body. With Camouflage 1 and 3, Andison proposes a kind of wearable technology that enables its wearer to employ actions of natural display, still only partly understood behaviors. Camouflage 1 is a stunning hybrid: a dress with an elaborate Elizabethan collar covered with Queen Anne’s Lace. The collar responds to a visitor’s approach by clicking into a series of positions, spectacularly articulating both seduction and protection. Camouflage 3 literally extends this metaphor in a couture garment with an extendible/retractable neck that spouts smoke, referencing both Sybiline riddles and prophecies and the joke of a woman blowing her top.

With maid of the mist, Andison twists a hatter’s steaming block into a complex metaphor for the female psyche by piercing an iconic portrait bust with holes that emit steam, finding a compelling vision inside the notion of a steaming brain.

David Krippendorff: Behind the Curtain and Night of 1000 Stars
Perhaps the strongest metaphor in the classic film The Wizard of Oz is the illusion of power. In Berlin-based artist David Krippendorff’s work Behind the Curtain we are presented with the slowed down movement of the curtain that hides the wizard himself. Here the “moment of discovery” is frozen — the curtain never opens to reveal the impostor behind it. The endless and mesmerizing motion creates a sense of expectation, which is never fulfilled.

One of the first signs of human existence found in outer space was the transmission of television signals. Space has therefore “witnessed” our existence through endless television shows, films, newsreels and soap operas. Krippendorff’s video Night of 1000 Stars considers human significance in the context of the infinity of space and time, in contrast to the greatest of Hollywood aspirations — to be a “star”.

About Johanna Householder, Curator, Useless Beauty
Co-curator and OCAD Professor Johanna Householder, is a multidisciplinary artist and writer. She is a founder of the 7a*11d International Festival of Performance Art which takes place in Toronto, Oct. 23 to Nov. 2, 2008. With Tanya Mars, she co-edited Caught in the Act: an anthology of performance by Canadian women, in 2004.

About Jennifer Rudder, Curator, Useless Beauty
Jennifer Rudder is the Curator of Gallery Stratford. From 2003 to 2007 she was Director/Curator. Rudder is Editor of the monograph Ordinary Marvel: Susan Kealey, published in 2003 by YYZ Books in Toronto and Southern Alberta Art Gallery in Lethbridge, Alberta. She served as contributing editor for the art publications MIX and Canadian Art, and has written for Fuse and Lola magazines. As an independent, Rudder has curated numerous exhibitions including Crime and Punishment for the Agnes Etherington Art Centre in Kingston, Ontario which toured to Gallery 44 in Toronto and the Mendel Art Gallery in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. Jennifer was Executive Director of the Toronto Outdoor Art Exhibition for five years and Director of YYZ Artists Outlet between 1983 and 1993. She is currently completing a Masters of Visual Studies at the University of Toronto and is an Instructor at Brock University.

Venue & Address: 
Auditorium 100 McCaul St., Toronto, Ontario
Cost: 
Free