Upcoming Symposium To Explore Shifting Notions Of Identity

The other day I sat down with artist Loretta Paoli of Strandline Curatorial Collective to talk about an upcoming symposium that she and independent curator Elizabeth Matheson have co-organized called Shift: Dialogues of Migration in Contemporary Art. The symposium, which is being presented in partnership with the MacKenzie Art Gallery and with the assistance of a number of local arts, culture and community groups, will be held at the MacKenzie from April 8-10.

Shift has been in the works for over five years, says Paoli, who started discussing the project with Matheson when she was a curator at the Dunlop Gallery. “I was doing my masters, and looking at a lot of issues around immigration, and the idea of language-crossing and culture-crossing, and moving from place to place,” she says. “At the same time, Elizabeth was doing some international projects with artists who have transnational careers. Many [specialize in] community-based and collaborative projects, and have lived in different countries.”

Featuring a variety of presentations, panel discussions, film screenings, workshops and performances, Shift will examine the accelerating pace of change in the  21st century, and how we, as individuals and communities, are constantly redefining ourselves in relation to other individuals and communities, our geography, technology, and many other touchstones of identity.

“Having worked in galleries, Elizabeth has a lot of interest in how galleries and museums are changing in response to global migration and changing communities and what they’re doing different to try to include everyone compared to what they traditionally used to do,” says Paoli.

“My interest is more what individual artists have done. But the two are interconnected, because if the galleries understand what artists are trying to do with communities then they can work with them and come up with [innovative] programs and projects.”

With Saskatchewan’s economic fortunes on the rise, and people flooding into the province from across Canada and around the world, the symposium is happening at an opportune time. And Paoli feels that the viewpoints and ideas that will be presented and discussed at the gathering will be of interest to a broad range of groups from government and business to the arts and community services.

Symposium highlights include a presentation by artist Jayce Salloum on April 8 at 10 a.m. While based in Vancouver, Salloum has worked on community art projects in many locales from Lebanon and Palestine to New York, Berlin and Cumberland House in northern Saskatchewan.

At 7:30 p.m. that night, there’s a performance by Regina artist Michele Sereda called Navigating which was inspired by a 2006 visit she made to her ancestral homeland of Ukraine. The performance will be followed by a reception.

April 9 at 2:45 p.m. Lithuanian-born, Israeli-raised artist Esther Shalev-Gerz will discuss her thoughts on the issue of trust in contemporary art practice with Matheson. That will be followed at 7 p.m. by a performance by aboriginal hip hop artist Eekwol at Artesian on 13th, and an opening reception at Neutral Ground (1822 Scarth) at 8:30 p.m. for the exhibition Primitive Tongues by Kenyan-born, Toronto and New York-based artist Brendan Fernandes.

Summing up the symposium, Paoli says “it’s a unique event that hasn’t happened before. To have this many people gathered together in one place, talking about these ideas, is a great opportunity.”

For registration information and a complete schedule of events visit www.shiftsymposium.ca

To register by phone call 584-4292. The fee for all three days is $90, while for students, seniors and the under-employed it’s $70. For one-day it’s $40, and the fee includes lunches, continental breakfasts and refreshments.

Author: Gregory Beatty

Greg Beatty is a crime-fighting shapeshifter who hatched from a mutagenic egg many decades ago. He likes sunny days, puppies and antique shoes. His favourite colour is not visible to your puny human eyes. He refuses to write a bio for this website and if that means Whitworth writes one for him, so be it.