January 22nd, 2007
I’ve been invited to present an Art History paper at the English Conference at Stony Brook University, Manhattan, February 16th-17th 2007. It is titled: Canadian Artist-Run-Centres and Emergent Cultural Policy. Here’s an abstract:
Contemporary artist-run organizations in Canada have developed as cooperatives, parallel galleries, artist-run exhibition spaces, production centres and dissemination agencies, tracing a course between the (often utopian) objectives of their inception and the more prosaic demands of their ongoing administration. In this paper I examine three prominent Canadian ARCs: The Western Front (Vancouver), A Space (Toronto), and The New Gallery (Calgary), as examples of long-established, quasi-autonomous artist organizations with roots in the early 1970s, each of which characterize different tendencies in the schematic of the community-based network, or as ever-emergent institutions in competition for public funding. Their longevity is underwritten by mixed fortunes in organizational stability, differing degrees of approximation to the canonical ‘centre’ of Canadian conceptual/ post-conceptual art history, and by their positions against the backdrops of Multiculturalism, Feminism, Post-Colonialism, Anti-Racism and Queer Politics. The problematic of Artist-Run Centres’ existence as both community-based organization and apparatus for national cultural exchange, and as beholden to the paradigms of the very cultural institutions to which they were originally conceived as ‘the alternative,’ are evident in differing ways throughout this paper. Forced relocations, disputed views of community and burned-out personnel characterize this history. Within this milieu of organizational failure, the continuing re-emergence of ARCs in many ways negotiates the conditions of inoperative community as proposed by Jean-Luc Nancy. ARCs, as Clive Robertson suggests, are best described as an apparatus, the breaking and reassembling of which is often necessary to fulfill the conditions of their primary purpose.
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