Ardele Lister: “Identity: Paradoxes, Praxis, Politics”

It was no accident that the birth of artist-run centres like Video Pool coincided with the birth of identity politics. The dissatisfactions with art, film and television fueled the aspirations for building participatory, egalitarian, democratic creative communities.

Media tools were clearly understood as fundamental to addressing/correcting the ways in which communities of women, Indigenous peoples, people of minority religions, races and ethnicities and people of non-heteronormative sexualities, sought relevant education in the use of storytelling tools and platforms for their own voices to be heard.

Facilities like Video Pool, where these new works could be made and seen by anyone desiring to participate, sprung up across Canada and the U.S. Thirty to forty years after the beginnings of both identity politics and artist-run centres, can we look at what work has been made and its impact on our communities and countries, at our successes and failures, at the limits of how we have defined, proposed and practiced work based on these notions of identity?

Have people claiming categories of identities (such as Canadian or Western or Feminist or LGBTQ) evolved to produce more, rather than less, commonality, larger groups and affiliations for political activism as artists, for making work that elucidates the aims of our identity politics? Or do we believe it is sufficient, as artists, to make art primarily for artists, and to be -if we choose- politically engaged in other areas of our lives?

What role does place have in our own self-definitions and in the work we make? Nature or nurture? When we examine the language we use to describe our identities, how has this language frustrated or hindered our best hopes for building working communities effecting change? How has late capitalism commandeered media as its best advertising tool, lulling the general population into unquestioning consumers, rather than producers?

Though technological advances have put the “means of production” into almost every Westerners’ hands, what are most people making with these tools?  How are all of us, as media art makers and distributors, curators or community-organizers, implicated in the current state of public media presentation and control? From our vantage point in 2017, what are we imagining and seeing ahead?

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Saturday, November 18