Visual Culture and Activism in Canada
Paper 294 pp.
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Imagining Resistance: Visual Culture and Activism in Canada offers two separate but interconnected strategies for reading alternative culture in Canada from the 1940s through to the present: first, a history of radical artistic practice in Canada and, second, a collection of eleven essays that focus on a range of institutions, artists, events, and actions. The history of radical practice is spread through the book in a series of short interventions, ranging from the Refus global to anarchist-inspired art, and from Aboriginal curatorial interventions to culture jamming. In each, the historical record is mined to rewrite and reverse Canadian art history—reworked here to illuminate the series of oppositional artistic endeavours that are often mentioned in discussions of Canadian art but rarely acknowledged as having an alternative history of their own.
Alongside, authors consider case studies as diverse as the anti-war work done by John Lennon and Yoko Ono in Montreal and Toronto, recent exhibitions of activist art in Canadian institutions, radical films, performance art, protests against the Olympics, interventions into anti-immigrant sentiment in Montreal, and work by Iroquois photographer Jeff Thomas. Taken together, the writings in Imagining Resistance touch on the local, the global, the national, and post-national to imagine a very different landscape of cultural practice in Canada.
J. Keri Cronin is an assistant professor in the Visual Arts Department at Brock University. She is also a faculty affiliate in Brock’s Social Justice & Equity Studies Graduate Program, the editor of The Brock Review, and part of the organizing committee for Greenscapes, a biennial conference on the cultural history of gardens held at Brock University. She is the author of Manufacturing National Park Nature: Photography, Ecology and the Wilderness Industry of Jasper National Park (2010).
Kirsty Robertson is a professor of contemporary art and museum studies at the University of Western Ontario. She has published widely in her two major areas of research, globalization, creative industries and activism; and the study of wearable technologies, immersive environments, and the potential overlap(s) between textiles and technologies. She is completing her manuscript Tear Gas Epiphanies: New Economies of Protest, Vision and Culture in Canada.
“A sparkling collection of original essays on the political function of contemporary art, film, and performance in Canada. Through short overviews of important moments in the history of Canadian art activismfrom Refus global and the work of General Idea to culture jamming and aboriginal art activismthey have ensured that this volume will be the starting point for discussions of the activist function of art in Canadaand elsewherefor some time to come. A rich resource for anyone interested in the political possibilities and limits of artistic practice today.”
— Imre Szeman, Canada Research Chair in Cultural Studies, University of Alberta
“A smart and comprehensive look at the multiple ways in which art has engaged with politics in the Canadian context. This book provides a thorough account of the ever-shifting relationship between art and activism. Part of the rich usefulness of the book is its openness to considering activism in its different forms, from the recent anti-Olympic projects by artists in Vancouver through the public interventions made by John Lennon and Yoko Ono during their Canadian visit of 1969. Imagining Resistance is particularly well-suited for teachers of art history and cultural studies. Well-written, rigorous, and accessible, this is a field-defining book and an important event in the study of Canadian art and culture.”
— Will Straw, Department of Art History and Communication Studies, McGill University