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Conflict, Commemoration, and Displacement


In conjunction with the exhibition Daniel Alexander: When War is Over, artists and scholars explore the repercussions of conflict through themes of commemoration and displacement. Invited speakers consider ideas such as the role of collective memory in the historicization of conflict, the effect of migration on conceptions of identity, and the role of art and photography in reshaping perspectives about conflict, both past and present.

Speakers include Daniel Alexander, Sam Bernier-Cormier & Victoria Masters & Emily Miller, Blake Fitzpatrick & Vid Ingelevics, Sara Knelman, Gabrielle Moser, and Cyrus Sundar Singh. Two panel discussions among participants will further explore questions raised by the papers. Free and open to the public; no registration required.

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10:30-11:00 Arrival and Introductions

11:-00-11:20 Daniel Alexander
When War Is Over: A living memorial to the displaced casualties of WWI and WWII

11:25-11:45 Sam Bernier-Cormier, Victoria Masters & Emily Miller
Remembering World War I Through Photo Albums

11:50-12:10 Blake Fitzpatrick & Vid Ingelevics
The Labour of Commemoration

12:15-1:00 Panel discussion chaired by Sara Knelman

1:00-2:00 Lunch

2:00-2:20 Sara Knelman
Women, Displacement, and Collaboration

2:25-2:45 Cyrus Sundar Singh
Floating to the Lure of the Promised Land: A Condition of Displacement

2:50-3:10 Gabrielle Moser
Heat, Displacement and the Right to Opacity

3:15-4:00 Panel discussion chaired by Daniel Alexander

4:00 Reception

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Speaker Abstracts and Biographies

When War Is Over: A living memorial to the displaced casualties of WWI and WWII
Daniel Alexander

Alexander’s exhibition and publication, When War Is Over, explores the ongoing commemoration of the 1.7 million Commonwealth War Dead from WWI and WWII. This commemoration is undertaken by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) who designed, built and maintain over 2,500 cemeteries, 21,000 other burial grounds and over 200 memorials to the missing. Ongoing maintenance of these cemeteries and memorials has created an ever-pristine living memorial.

An early decision by the CWGC banned the repatriation of bodies, burying soldiers and engraving the names of the missing in close proximity to where they died. These cemeteries and memorials now stand as a physical record of a displacement of individuals across the earth.

In this presentation Alexander will discuss the exhibition of When War Is Over, and the artistic decisions made during the creation of his work in order to raise questions about how we view this act of commemoration in a contemporary context. There will be a focus on new work made specifically for this Canadian show and on the displacement of Canadian soldiers.

Daniel Alexander is an artist and educator based in London, UK. His work has been exhibited internationally and published in a number of books. In 2016 Alexander published a photographic monograph titled When War Is Over with Dewi Lewis Publishing. Alexander is an Associate Professor in photography at London South Bank University where he is the course director for the BA(Hons) Photography degree course.

Remembering World War I Through Photo Albums
Sam Bernier-Cormier, Victoria Masters & Emily Miller

World War I occurred during a time of technological innovation, when war was mechanized and recorded in ways previously impossible. To mark the centenary of the end of WWI, the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) is hosting two exhibitions that feature a remarkable collection of photographic albums from this period.

Photography equipped amateurs, professionals, and officials with a means to document the logistics of war, its tedium and its tragedy. The creation of albums from these photographs implies much more than the images alone. The albums on display are objects of commemoration, at the same time displaced from the private realm of remembrance to the public realm of collective memory. Individual stories become part of a larger narrative. The presentation of multiple contrasting perspectives allow for a disturbance to the foundations of conventional history.

Through a closer look into selected albums from the collection, we will further examine the complex ways in which WWI was and continues to be visualized.

Sam Bernier-Cormier, Victoria Masters, and Emily Miller are second year graduate students from Ryerson’s Film + Photography Preservation and Collections Management Master’s program. They are currently curatorial interns at the Art Gallery of Ontario.

The Labour of Commemoration
Blake Fitzpatrick & Vid Ingelevics

This presentation considers walls, borders and their shattered remains as contested political sites and objects that are commemorated across a diverse range of symbolic registers. Primarily, but not exclusively concerned with the Berlin Wall, the artists Blake Fitzpatrick and Vid Ingelevics will show work from an ongoing project that locates the migratory and commemorated relic in sites where political divides, local debates and massively staged events all claim differing versions of history and the will to commemorate. The presentation, The Labour of Commemoration, will critically consider the contents of the exhibition of the same name held at Prefix ICA, Toronto, in the fall of 2017. The relationship of each of the key works in the exhibition to the themes engaged by the symposium will be discussed. These works, all produced in 2017, comprise: a three-channel projection video that simultaneously examines the construction, celebration and takedown of the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall in Berlin; an artist’s book that explores the appearance and movement of six two-ton slabs of the Berlin Wall in Truro, Nova Scotia between 2000 and 2014; the installation of a dozen small, 3D-printed replicas of a Berlin Wall souvenir originally bought for €3 in Berlin at Checkpoint Charlie; and, finally, a video/photographic work that examines the failure of commemoration at the Mexican-American border at the ironically named Friendship Park, where the American-built border fence ends as it dips into the Pacific Ocean. For further information on this project please go to the website: www.freedomrocks.ca

Dr. Blake Fitzpatrick holds the position of Professor and Chair in the School of Image Arts, Ryerson University. His research interests include the photographic representation of the nuclear era, visual responses to contemporary militarism and the post-Cold War history, memory and mobility of the Berlin Wall. His writing and visual work have appeared in the journals Public, Topia, History of Photography, Fuse, Ciel Variable, POV, Racar, and Prefix Photo.

Vid Ingelevics is a Toronto-based visual artist, independent curator and occasional writer. He currently holds the position of Program Director, Photography, in the School of Image Arts, Ryerson University. His work has often engaged with issues related to the representation of the past and the ambiguous space of the archive. His artwork and curatorial projects have been presented in Canada, the United States, Europe and Australia.

Women, Displacement and Collaboration
Sara Knelman

War memorials primarily commemorate the actions and lives of front-line military personnel, still disproportionately roles taken by men. In the private and domestic sphere, the labour, vigilance, determination and cooperation of women in sustaining family life, personal dignity and coherent identities in the face of displacement in the wake of ongoing conflict, is rarely given the same public recognition and collective understanding. Looking at aspects of two recent collaborative projects, Heike Steinweg’s Women in Exile (2016-ongoing) and Susan Meiselas’s A Room of Their Own (2017), this paper explores the roles of gender, visibility, narrative and collectivity in generating new forms of commemoration.

Sara Knelman is a writer, curator and educator. She has taught at the Courtauld Institute of Art, Sotheby’s Institute of Art, and Ryerson University, and has worked as Talks Programmer at The Photographers’ Gallery and Curator of Contemporary Art at the Art Gallery of Hamilton. She writes about photography for books and magazines, including Aperture, Frieze, Photoworks and Source: The Photographic Review. She is curator of the exhibition Daniel Alexander: When War Is Over.

Heat, Displacement, and the Right to Opacity
Gabrielle Moser

How might the production, transference and registration of heat allow us to see mass displacement differently? Through a close reading of Richard Mosse’s photographic series, Heat Maps (2016)—which uses a form of heat-sensitive, military grade camera to capture the experiences of migrants and refugees in camps, detention centres and crossings in and around the Mediterranean—this presentation considers heat as a byproduct of colonial contact, and as an elemental force driving global displacement. While Mosse’s photographs visualize unseen (body) heat through shifts in tonal value, these seemingly transparent images risk obscuring the other ways heat is produced through processes of resource extraction, sexual violence and embodied resistance to colonization. Drawing on the work of Denise Ferreira da Silva and Édouard Glissant, I consider the work Heat Maps performance in illuminating the global migrant crisis and question how it troubles the subject’s right to opacity in a time of mass displacement.

Gabrielle Moser is a writer, educator and independent curator. Her writing appears in venues including Artforum.comCanadian Art, Journal of Visual Culture, Photography & Culture, and Prefix Photo. Her first book, Projecting Citizenship: Photography and Belonging in the British Empire is forthcoming from Penn State University Press in 2019. She holds a PhD from the art history and visual culture program at York University in Toronto, Canada and is an Assistant Professor in art history at OCAD University.

Floating to the Lure of the Promised Land: A Condition of Displacement
Cyrus Sundar Singh

The protracted civil war in Sri Lanka was ignited by the deadly riots and ethnic cleansing known as Black July in 1983. The devastating civil war polarized its citizens along ethnic lines—a Sinhalese Buddhist majority, and a Tamil Hindu minority. The 26-year civil war, which “officially” ended in 2009, claimed over 100,000 lives, and displaced more than a million Tamils. Three decades later, a majority of these displaced Tamils are still waiting to return home. Through the creative use of multi-media together with contemporary first-person testimonies from the former—but still occupied—war-affected parts northern and eastern Sri Lanka Floating to the Lure of the Promised Land: A Condition of Displacement explores commemoration and displacement as weapons in the continuing subjugation of the Tamils in a post-conflict era.

The multi-media presentation moves through: an internally displaced persons (IDP) camp in Jaffna, Sri Lanka; onboard a resurfaced refuge lifeboat, which carried Tamil Sri Lankan refugees to Canada in 1986; a 150-day vigil by the Mothers of the Disappeared in Kilinochoci, Sri Lanka; onboard trains, planes and motor-scooters—all in 20 minutes.

Cyrus is a Gemini Award-winning filmmaker, a recipient of the Alan Sheppard Equity and Diversity and Inclusion Award from Ryerson University, and a recent graduate with a Master of Fine Arts (w/Distinction) in Documentary Media. He is also a musician, poet, storyteller, and change-maker pursuing a doctorate in Communications and Culture program. Positioning himself as an AcademiCreActive scholar, Cyrus continues to expand and find cracks in conventional boundaries presenting his research and research-creation projects at numerous local, national and international conferences, workshops, and festivals.

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