MARCH 31, 2021 @ 6 pm

Montréal En Action Webinar, Virtual

Resisting Systemic Racism in Cultural Spheres

Speakers: James Oscar and Raven Spiratos

About: Join art critic/curator James Oscar and researcher Raven Spiratos for a webinar presentation on how systemic racism shows up in the art and culture sector.

Oscar examines underlying structures in the City of Montreal’s cultural policy and other institutional structures that maintain racial exclusion; Spiratos explores the works of Diasporic Afro-descended artists who identify, resist and reimagine our realities to sustain and inspire the latter.

11 APRIL 2020 @ 10 – 11:30 am


OSU History of Art Graduate Student Symposium, Ohio, USA – On Radical Practice: Representing Politics, Resistance, and Subversion

Speakers: Meghaa Ballakrishnen, Maxwell Dunbar, Raven Spiratos

DECEMBER 6, 2019 @ 1:15—2:45 p.m

OCAD University, Toronto, Canada – Reparative Frames: Visual Culture After Reconciliation

Respondent to Panel Repair and/as Social Justice

Speakers: Eve Tuck, Julia Emberly, Nataleah Hunter-Young, David Eng

OCTOBER 18, 2019 @ 9:00 am—10:30 am

NYU Tisch School of the Arts, New York City, USA – Black Portraiture[s] V: Memory and the Archive. Past/Present/Future

Speakers: Natasha Henry, Dr. Lynn Jones. Rachel Lobo, Syrus Marcus Ware, Raven Spiratos

Race and Re-membering in Canada

Ranaway “Big With Child”: Uncovering Bett from the Quebec Fugitive Slave Advertisement Archive traces the life of an enslaved woman of African heritage named Bett who absconds from the forced service of two Quebec merchants in late eighteenth-century Canada. As the only documented winter escape of this region, the harrowing tale of Bett is further heart-wrenching when it is discovered that she was running away during her third trimester of pregnancy. Her child does not survive the escape and when Bett is apprehended, she is tried and found not guilty of infanticide.Found in the fugitive slave and for sale advertisements, Bett’s resistance and resilience to slavery are revealed when reading them against the grain. In this talk, Spiratos endeavours to recuperate as much of a portrait of the indelible Bett as possible through a phenomenological consideration of the compounded symptoms of malnutrition, a characteristic of the enslaved condition, and pregnancy. Additionally, she posits that the winter aspect of Bett’s escape is a central feature of her plan rather than a mere sign of desperation and/or delinquency. This talk seeks to supplement the barren state of black portraiture in colonial Canada by demonstrating the presence of self-affirming black Canadians throughout its history.

SEPTEMBER 11, 2019 @ 5:30—7:30 p.m

Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, Montreal, Canada –Hypothèses Symposia Series

“Defying Systems of Surveillance: Re-defining Nationhood in Camille Turner and Camal Pirbhai’s WANTED Series”

2017 was the year of commemorative birthdays; Canada’s 150th, Montreal’s 375th and Expo 67’s 50th anniversary. The Art Gallery of Ontario’s exhibition Every. Now. Then: Re-framing Nationhood (2017) took this time to look introspectively on what Canada 150th was actually purported to celebrate.

Contemporary artists Camille Turner and Camal Pirbhai thoughtfully invoke the two-century history of Canadian slavery by bringing to life the descriptions found in the surveilling systems of runaway slave advertisements (Simone Browne 2015). Taken from archives of colonial Canadian newspapers, Pirhbai/Turner re-imagine them into portraits in their photography series WANTED (2015). Although the series comprises ten compelling photographs, three among them were selected as part of Every. Now. Then. While Jack (figure 1) and Unnamed Woman (figure 2) are positioned outside the exhibition space, Bell (figure 3) opens the show. The “oppositional gaze” (bell hooks 2015) of this Black woman is telling of the aim of this exhibition as her haunting presence (Katherine McKittrick 2006) embodies the ultimate counter-narrative of Canada’s alleged benevolence. Instead, the artworks speak to the legacy of colonization that built Canada, and the ways in which such exploitative methodologies ushered in the geological era we currently find ourselves in, the Capitalocene (Katheryn Yusoff 2018). While Bell and others were bought and sold as chattel/commodities, Pirhbai and Turner’s works explore these entangled aspects all the while re-dressing them by portraying the freedom-seekers (Charmaine A. Nelson 2015) as self-sovereign.

Operating between the traditions of portraiture, history painting and the aesthetics of fashion photography, the artists fold multiple temporalities in true Afro-futurist form within the photographs that re-dress our Western fixation on linear history-telling by incorporating a circular model of time that co-exists with the former. This essay explores the ways in which WANTED “release[s] the past so that the present is livable” as this series is a triumphant feat of Canadian radical Black imagination (Pui-lan Kwok, 2005).