Mark

Water Activism and Community

 





Greenwood UTM, with the support of the Blackwood Gallery, hosted a community consultation event on

Thursday, July 29, 2021, 6:00 PM - 7:30 PM EDT 
 
In this presentation and discussion, Dr. Robert Case, Associate Professor in Social Development Studies at Renison University College at the University of Waterloo discussed his practice of water activism, environmentalism, and community organizing. Dr. Case’s work was presented as part of the consultation and development of lyfeboat prototype, the development of a fully-functional boat for community use led by artist sean procyk and the Blackwood.  

lyfeboat prototype is a project rooted in architectural intervention, adaptive reuse, and public engagement. Slated for launch by the Blackwood in 2022, it will serve as a gathering place for community education, a work of experimental architecture, and a self-sufficient floating sculpture.

Interested institutions, groups, and individuals were invited to discuss their ideas for how lyfeboat prototype can be used in their community.


Dr. Robert Case is an Associate Professor in Social Development Studies at Renison University College at the University of Waterloo, Ontario, and a volunteer on the board of directors of a local citizens' group called the Wellington Water Watchers. He teaches in the areas of social policy, social ecology, and community organization, and his focuses on community organization and social action, with a particular focus on community organization in the context of opposition to groundwater bottling in communities around North America.

sean procyk is an unsettler artist and playground designer. his practice focuses on creating immersive public engagements through site-specific installation, architecture and community workshops. Each project responds to its regional context, with a particular focus on the relationships that exist between landscape, community and ecology. procyk’s work explores processes of ecological succession, land-based disturbance, human alienation and collective action. he works primarily with found, reclaimed and natural materials. procyk’s works have been exhibited at Hamilton Artists Inc., Latitude 53, Stride Contemporary Art Gallery, Elemental Festival, Convergence Conference on Art and Technology in Banff, and Nuit Blanche Toronto.



Survival and Growth


This Pride month, Greenwood UTM is highlighting past contributions to Blackwood's programming that amplify awareness for and encourage dialogue about issues relevant to the LGBTQ+ community. The Greenwood team recognizes that Pride is not just about celebration, but also about continuing to create spaces where underrepresented voices and communities are amplified. The spotlight series has organized the following artists and publications thematically according to the specific ways in which they enable us to think about care, social justice, decolonization, identity, and the future. We are sharing artistic works, articles, and projects hosted by the Blackwood that engage with these themes, including works by Thirza Cuthand, Hazel Meyer, Anthea Black, and more. We encourage you to look further into the work of contributors highlighted in this spotlight series on our instagram page

The title for this series, Survival and Growth, comes from Sister Outsider, a collection of essays and speeches by Audre Lorde.






(Dis)Placed: A Virtual Artist Spotlight and Talk Series
January 15 - February 11 2021


The Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area is home to many diasporic communities. Approximately half of the region’s current population was born outside of Canada—making the region a natural place for meaningful discussions on the complexities of movement, language, and community belonging. What does it mean to be Canadian, when Canada has become a crossroad for such a rich diversity of peoples? Are traditional definitions of “home” meant to be challenged, reconciled, stretched, or embraced in our current geopolitical context? In 2021, Greenwood engages with contemporary discourses in Ontario’s diasporic experience. (Dis)placed: A Virtual Artist Spotlight and Talk Series considers the fallout of westernization and the effects of displacement, cultural belonging, and visibility on our local communities. 

Greenwood’s forthcoming programming series takes the form of two artist talks hosted in tandem with a collection of four virtual artist spotlights. (Dis)Placed showcases the diverse and intergenerational interpretation of diaspora by artists and arts activists in the Greater Toronto Area. In response to a year of unprecedented events, Greenwood— an initiative led by Blackwood Gallery Work-Study students— considers the importance of providing a space for emerging voices to grapple with cultural movement and belonging complexities. (Dis)Placed invites emerging and mid-career artists to unpack these present-day experiences, activating various perspectives on space, belonging, and place in our communities. 


We at Greenwod recognize (Dis)Placed as an opportunity to examine, learn, and unlearn traditional definitions of diaspora in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area. For this reason, we have complied a list of resources that influenced our direction – a collection of works that process themes of cultural belonging, identity, assimilation, and intergenerational doubt in North America. It is our hope that this small sampling proves insightful, tying together traditional and contemporary discourses on the subject:

  • Dionne Brand, What We All Long For (Toronto: Penguin Random House Canada, 2005). 
  • Jana Evans Braziel and Anita Mannur, Theorizing Diaspora: A Reader (Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, 2003).
  • Judith M. Brown, Global South Asians: Introducing the Modern Diaspora (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006). 
  • Roger Brubaker, “Revisiting ‘The ‘Diaspora’ Diaspora,’” Ethnic and Racial Studies 40, no. 9 (2017), 1556–1561.
  • James Clifford, “Diasporas,” Cultural Anthropology 9, no. 3 (Aug. 1994), 302-338.
  • Robin Cohen and Caroline Fischer, Routledge Handbook of Diaspora Studies (Abingdon: Routledge, 2018). 
  • Sneja Gunew, “Serial Accommodations,” Canadian Literature no. 196 (2008), 6-16.
  • Media Farzin, “The Imaginary Elsewhere: How Not to Think about Diasporic Art,” Bidoun, originally published in Summe 2012.
  • Maurice Halbwachs, On Collective Memory, [Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, (1925) 1992].
  • Stuart Hall, “Cultural Identity and Diaspora,” in Jonathan Rutherford (ed.) Identity: Community, Culture, Difference (London: Lawrence & Wishart, 1990), 222-237.
  • Smaro Kamboureli, Scandalous Bodies: Diasporic Literature in English Canada (Waterloo: Wilfred Laurier University Press, 2009).
  • Jacques Khalip, Anonymous Life: Romanticism and Dispossession (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2009).
  • Saloni Mathur, The Migrant’s Time: Rethinking Art History and Diaspora (Williamstown: The Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, 2011).
  • Linda Nochlin, “Art and the Conditions of Exile: Men/Women, Emigration/Expatriation,” Poetics Today 17, no. 3 (Autumn 1996), 317-337.
  • Kobena Mercer, Exiles, Diasporas & Strangers (Boston: MIT Press, 2008).
  • Edward W. Said, Reflections on Exile and Other Essays (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2002). 
  • Tahseen Shams, Here, There, and Elsewhere: The Making of Immigrant Identities in a Globalized World (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2020).
  • University of Toronto’s Centre for Diaspora & Transnational Studies, Between, Across, and Through, Podcast, October 1, 2019 – ongoing.

Acknowledgements


The members of Greenwood UTM would like to thank all of our contributors for generously sharing their work and trust with us throughout the production of (Dis)Placed. With full hearts, we thank Shaheer Zazai, Idil Djafer, Florence Yee, and Abedar Kamgari for their continued cooperation, patience, and enthusiasm. We are honoured to reach and represent artists with such a rich diversity of backgrounds. We would also like to extend our sincere thanks to the Blackwood Gallery staff for their generous guidance throughout this series' production. Our final thanks are to Greenwood's growing digital audience. It is through your viewership that we are able to continue elevating emerging student and mid-career voices from our local community. We cannot thank you enough for your generous support.

With gratitude, 
–Greenwood UTM, the Fall 2020 - Winter 2021 Blackwood Gallery Work Study Team

Muskoka Dittmar-Mccallum, New Media Assistant
Nancy Hamdy, Outreach Assistant
Megan Kammerer, Collections Assistant  
Nicholas Markowski, Outreach Assistant
Jessica Velasco, Collections Assistant
Anila Wahid, New Media Assistant



Shaheer Zazai 


“The digital nature of the project has allowed me to be able to speak in a new visual language that strangely mimics carpet knotting technique. They are both a play of numbers and density per square inch – the rest is left to improvisation. This language has also served as an opportunity to bring my heritage to a contemporary dialogue” - Shaheer Zazai, 2020.


Shaeer Zazai, Carpet No. 6 (digital print, produced in Microsoft Word), 2017. 

Shaheer Zazai’s practice navigates processes of cultural identity, hybridity, movement, and migration. Each work simulates a process of resettlement, re-enacting the lived experience of diasporic peoples. In doing so, these images provide a unique opportunity to explore the condition of being (dis)placed. 

Zazai reconciles traditional visual motifs with new media by digitally mimicking the process of Afghan carpet-weaving. BWG FD ALL SC, for example, depicts another of the artist’s works currently shown in the Blackwood Gallery’s Burning Glass, Reading Stone lightbox series. However, here it is deconstructed and split into various stages of completion. Zazai visually analogizes the textile codes of carpet weaving with those of digital programming. His recent works, such as NS46 7F, appear entirely computerized, as if distorted by glitch. While the digital renderings retain the decorative patterns of traditional weaving design, they also abstract these patterns beyond immediate recognition. Zazai’s work then speaks toward the dissonance of diasporic experiences, exploring the simultaneity of cultural detachment and connection.  

Shaeer Zazai, 44 NS 10F (digital print, produced in Microsoft Word), 2019.                               
Shaeer Zazai, NS46 7F (digital print, produced in Microsoft Word), 2020.
Q: Tell us about yourself. Was there a specific moment when you, as an artist, knew that you needed to create work that engaged with diasporic themes? Was this always a goal in your practice or did you gradually integrate these themes into your work?A: My practice has always been focused on my relationship with my home country without specifically aiming to be creating work that engaged with diasporic themes. With the development of the digital work the theme of diaspora became more visible to me. 

Q: The Greater Toronto Area has become a cultural crossroad for a rich diversity of peoples from across the globe. How do you identify/position yourself as an artist in this context engaging with themes of diaspora in 2020? What are the messages surrounding this identity and current themes of belonging that you try to convey or amplify in your practice?  
A: The digital work, for me, has raised the question of the development of identity in diaspora. What happens to identity when it lives between cultural identity and environmental identity?  

Q: Tell us more about your ongoing digital carpet series. How has the project enabled you to explore the connections, or disconnections, between your Afghan heritage and current experience as an artist in Canada? Does the digital nature of this project have an impact on how you navigate these relationships?   A: I realized this much later but the carpet series is the pivoting point when my perspective of my own culture changed. Prior to the carpet series, I was focused on Afghanistan’s history and politics from a position of rejecting one’s cultural identity. The process of making the carpet series changed my perspective from rejection to trying to understand what it means to be in diaspora. 
The digital nature of the project has allowed me to be able to speak in a new visual language that strangely mimics carpet knotting technique. They are both a play of numbers and density per square inch – the rest is left to improvisation. This language has also served as an opportunity to bring my heritage to a contemporary dialogue.

To learn more about Zazai’s artistic practice, you can view his website or follow their Instagram account.

  

Shaeer Zazai, BWG FD ALL SC (digital print, produced in Microsoft Word), 2020.