Author(s): Daisy Duncan
Editor(s): Roxanne Cornellier
In October, members of the EAHR ABLM research team set off to Toronto, for a short trip centered around the annual UAAC Conference, this year held at the University of Toronto. ABLM was presenting a panel at the conference: The Impact of Afrofuturism and Black Lives Matter in Canadian Art, with Dr. Alice Ming Wai Jim and Research Assistant Nicholas Raffoul chairing, and Andrea Fatona, Rah Eleh, Marissa Largo and Fritz Pino presenting. While the conference was our central reason for the trip, the ABLM team was able to make the most out of our four days in Toronto–we saw so many great panels, visited many galleries, and made valuable new connections.
The trip was rich with impactful experiences, but a few stand out as exceptionally special and representative of the value of this trip. The first stand-out moment happened shortly after we arrived in Toronto, when we headed to OCAD University to meet with Andrea Fatona, her team from the Centre for the Study of Black Canadian Diaspora, and Toronto-based artist Danilo Deluxo. We talked for several hours about our ABLM Oral Histories project, and the collaborative components between our groups. This was our first time meeting in-person as a collective group, which was especially meaningful.
Another stand out experience of the trip took place on the first evening of the UAAC conference, after the panels. Conference attendees converged at the Art Museum, on the university’s campus, for a reception and awards ceremony, as well as a viewing of the current exhibition, As We Rise: Photography from the Black Atlantic, an especially beautiful and striking collection of photographs, featuring works by the likes of Carrie Mae Weems, Deanna Bowen, and Stan Douglas, among many others. While this exhibition was certainly a highlight from the trip, the real memorable moment from this evening was when Dr. Alice Ming Wai Jim was awarded the inaugural award for the advancement of equity, diversity, inclusion and accessibility, which recognizes and celebrates the achievements of those whose work fosters change and builds an equitable, diverse, inclusive, and accessible community in Canada. This was one of only three awards given out that evening, and as it had been kept a secret beforehand, we, the ABLM research assistants, were surprised, and so happy and proud to be there to witness Alice receive this impactful recognition.
Dr. Alice Ming Wai Jim accepting her award for the advancement of equity, diversity, inclusion and accessibility, at the Art Museum at University of Toronto. Photo courtesy of the EAHR-ABLM team.
Another highlight was of course the ABLM at UAAC panel: The Impact of Afrofuturism and Black Lives Matter in Canadian Art, which took place on the second day of the conference. The panel was well-attended, and all the presenters’ projects and discussions were incredibly rich–especially when put into conversation with one another, which happened towards the end of the panel through a question period and shared discussion. It was great to see how our ABLM research focus connects and links to the work others are doing within the Canadian art world, and how impactful the shared conversations and collaborations can be, within this context.
The presenters from the The Impact of Afrofuturism and Black Lives Matter in Canadian Art panel, in discussion with one another. From left to right: Dr. Alice Ming Wai Jim, Marissa Largo, Fritz Pino, Rah Eleh, Dr. Andrea Fatona. Photo courtesy of the EAHR-ABLM team.
The final standout moment took place on our last full day in Toronto, when the ABLM teamwent on a gallery tour around the city. Starting bright and early with the Mercer Union Gallery, we followed that with a visit to Arsenal Contemporary Art. From there, we went to the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA), where we saw HOUSE OF CARD (Thomas Demand, Martin Boyce, Rirkrit Tiravanija, and Caruso St. John) which featured some surprise karaoke in an interactive component of the exhibit. TPW Gallery followed the MOCA, where Piña, Why Is The Sky Blue? (Stephanie Comilang and Simon Speiser) was showing. This exhibition had been referenced by Marissa Largo and Fritz Pino in their presentation for our ABLM panel, so it was exciting to experience the work in person. We each tried the virtual reality (VR) component while in this exhibit, which was a really fun and interesting experience. This gallery visit was followed by a stop at the Textile Museum, viewing Simone Elizabeth Saunders’ exhibition, Unity–a show rich with Afrofuturist themes that engages with our research project. This busy day of gallery visits came to a close at The Image Centre, with our final exhibition visit–Deanna Bowen: Black Drones in the Hive. This exhibition also spoke to our research group’s interests and themes. it was perhaps fitting–a full circle moment–that we finished our trip with Bowen’s show, with Bowen currently teaching at Concordia.
ABLM research assistants trying out the virtual reality component of Piña, Why Is The Sky Blue? (Stephanie Comilang and Simon Speiser), at the TPW Gallery.
This reflection does not even cover a fraction of what took place during our ABLM visit to Toronto, in October 2022, but hopefully provides a snapshot of the valuable and expansive experiences that this trip provided our research group.
ABLM research assistants Nicholas Raffoul and Temple Marucci-Campbell at Deanna Bowen: Black Drones in the Hive, at The Image Centre. Photo courtesy of the EAHR-ABLM team.