Memefest 2014: Radical Intimacies
This year’s Memefest deals with a theme very close to my heart, and one that has been on my mind a lot lately; the abject failure of dialogue (or as Memefest founder Oliver Vodeb puts it, “what if dialogue is fucked?”.
Ever since I published my Graduate Certificate thesis back in 2002, through the work I do with Four Minutes to Midnight, and in how I’ve engaged with my studio practice, a dialogic approach has always been central to my work and belief system. It’s something I’ve consistently argued for as a model for social change work and as a visual design approach.
Within this span of time we have seen the reification of social media in our lives, identity/branding practices redefined as conversations and storytelling, connectivity and crowd-sourcing. On the flipside, within our social movements, we’ve witnessed the popularity and prevalence of Occupy-style organising (GAs, working groups, consensus, “non-violence”). Oftentimes, “dialogue” is expressed as an end goal in itself. Meanwhile it can be easily argued that the (western) psyche is more fragmented than ever, isolated and compartmentalised through all this dialogue, and genuine social solidarity seems harder and harder to build across movements. Not to mention the gross failures of dialogue at the geo-political level. Part of me would like to think, it is nothing more than a process of general commodification (because that’s enough to deal with!), but what if it’s something deeper, something intrinsic. Yes, what if dialogue is fucked? Where does that leave us?
The festival/friendly competition is open to all (students and non-students), with several categories for submissions: Visual Communication, Critical Writing, and Participatory Art (Beyond…). I will be curating/judging the Visual Communications category this year, and am really looking forward to seeing all the work submitted.
The deadline for submissions is September 20th! Learn more and submit your work here.
Notes on the Allied Media Conference
Toronto (+1 Montreal, +1 NYC via Tennessee) AMC crew returning to the Wayne State parking lot
Last weekend I attended my first ever Allied Media Conference in Detroit, Michigan. I was deeply inspired (and a little overwhelmed) by both the conference and the city itself, and hope to be back for the next edition. The AMC brings together thousands of participants engaged in media activism, a large percentage of whom also present sessions and workshops, and truly is a network of networks. It being my first conference, I don’t feel like I’m well positioned to attempt to describe it, in all its diversity and complexity, but I thought I would share some notes all the same, to document and provide touch points moving forward back in Montreal.
I participated in fewer sessions than I intended to, the pace was far faster than I had imagined, and I often felt I needed a break to absorb and reflect afterwards, rather than rush to the next one. I spent a lot of time hanging out in the Future Design Lab practice space, or wandering the Wayne State grounds, chatting with people and sharing stories. As the weekend progressed, the Future Design lab filled with images and texts, mind maps and posters (and wormholes!), it was a beautiful thing to observe this rich accretion of ideas.
Allied Media Conference
This week I’ll be heading to Detroit to participate in the 16th Annual Allied Media Conference. I’m very excited, and slightly nervous, to be presenting a caucas/workshop on Designing Cultures of Resistance.
Extending from the talk I gave at Howl’s Art, Anarchism and Social Movements panel, I want to continue to explore the concrete aspects that surround the practice graphic design, or a specific designed object, and discuss how they can contribute to building a healthy and vibrant culture of resistance (to neoliberal capitalism). My angle comes from a bit of a Neo-Marxist perspective, and the aspects I’ll be looking at are: Materiality and Affect, the contexts of Production and Distribution, (Visual) Language and Identity. Typed out like this, it seems a bit daunting and a bit vague, but the goal is to not be overly theoretical, to ground it in concrete objects and experiences, and most importantly, to engage and listen to what others have to say.
I’m really looking forward to taking in as much as I can of what the conference has to offer, to meet so many great people doing such amazing work, and to get the chance to build something together…
I’m copying + pasting their network principles below, because they’re beautiful and righteous, and they’ll give you a good idea of why I’m so stoked. See you in Detroit!
We are making an honest attempt to solve the most significant problems of our day.
We are building a network of people and organizations that are developing long-term solutions based on the immediate confrontation of our most pressing problems.
Wherever there is a problem, there are already people acting on the problem in some fashion. Understanding those actions is the starting point for developing effective strategies to resolve the problem, so we focus on the solutions, not the problems.
We emphasize our own power and legitimacy.
We presume our power, not our powerlessness.
We spend more time building than attacking.
We focus on strategies rather than issues.
The strongest solutions happen through the process, not in a moment at the end of the process.
The most effective strategies for us are the ones that work in situations of scarce resources and intersecting systems of oppression because those solutions tend to be the most holistic and sustainable.
Place is important. For the AMC, Detroit is important as a source of innovative, collaborative, low-resource solutions. Detroit gives the conference a sense of place, just as each of the conference participants bring their own sense of place with them to the conference.
We encourage people to engage with their whole selves, not just with one part of their identity.
We begin by listening.
Issue 13 launch at Formats
Tuesday June 10th 2014, 2:09 pm
Filed under: events
Please join us this Thursday, June 12th at librairie Formats for the official Montreal launch of Issue 13 of Four Minutes to Midnight. Though we recently held an intimate launch party amongst friends during the Howl Arts Festival, I’m excited to be partnering up with Formats for this, and to introduce the project to their network of artist-run centres.
In conversation with John last night, it struck me again that we’ve been doing this for ten long years, from London and Montreal, from Brixton and Mile End. Over that time we’ve promoted and published an astonishing collection of artists, writers, musicians. It’s been quite a journey, and there are far too many people to thank, but I think the best way is to just keep doing what we’re doing, and getting it out there the best we can. Or someone can bring us a cake to share…
RSVP on Facebook here.
Allied Media Conference Fundraising
I’m very excited to announce that I will be participating in the upcoming 16th edition of the Allied Media Conference in Detroit this summer. It’s an event that I’ve heard a lot of great things about, but haven’t had the opportunity to participate in until now. In their own words:
“The AMC is a collaborative laboratory of media-based organizing strategies for transforming our world. The AMC is a network of networks – social justice organizers, community technologists, transformative artists, educators, entrepreneurs, and many others — all using media in innovative ways.”
On the invitation of Toronto-based designer and community organiser Una Lee, I’ll be hosting a session entitled Designing Cultures of Resistance as part of the Future Design Lab. Though, I’m still working out all the details, what I want to address with participants is the ways in which (graphic) design can contribute to community building, beyond its role as a direct communications tool. In other words, how does design operate in affective and strategic ways to build solidarity within and between communities of resistance?
I’ll be writing more about the AMC, and my participation within it, soon. But for now, I wanted to humbly ask for a little grassroots support in order to get me and our crew of artist/activists from Montreal to Detroit. The Future Design Lab has set up a simple fundraising page, please check it out, and if you can, spare a little change for social change.
Donate to the Future Design Lab.
Issue 13 now in production
The long awaited (in my mind at least) thirteenth issue of Four Minutes to Midnight is in the final stages of production. The screen-printed covers have been delivered to the printers, Kata Soho, and they’ve just finished the interior printing on their end. Next steps; cutting down the sheets, collating the pages, binding, and trimming to the final book block. Exciting stuff!
I’ll be posting the details of the issue itself when it’s ready, but for now I wanted to share some in process images and announce the upcoming launch party. We’re excited to be launching the issue as part of the Howl Arts Festival, Tuesday, April 29th at le Cagibi, with musical performances by Loosestrife, Stefan Christoff and our own John “Triangles” Stuart. An inaugural festival of art and revolution seems to be the perfect context to bring this zine/book into the world, especially considering how Four Minutes to Midnight acted as a touchstone to Stefan and I forming the Howl Arts Collective all those years ago. This has been a very long time coming, so we’re hoping you can make it out to celebrate with us.
RSVP on Facebook here.
Howl! Arts Festival
I’m very excited to announce the upcoming Howl! Arts Festival—les voix survolent la ville, a celebration of art and revolution. This first edition, taking place over 6 days at the end of April, brings together a host of local artists and events committed to the deepening of community engagement and grassroots activism, with a focus on the struggles of First Nations, Inuit and Metis.
The festival opens with a benefit concert for Missing Justice featuring Odaya, Sarah Pagé and AurorA, followed the next evening by Regards sur le 7eme feu. This 11 musician ensemble performance presents a conceptual work envisioned and composed by Xarah Dion and Stefan Christoff, exploring issues around the future of the North. Other events include a fundraising concert for those arrested under the unjust Montreal bylaw P6 during (and after) the Quebec student strike of 2012, a screening of Alanis’ Obomsawin’s documentary film Hi-Ho Mistahey!, and a panel discussion on the relationship between art and gentrification.
The festival closes with the launch of the 13th issue of Four Minutes to Midnight, which has been almost two years in the making. Much more on that very soon!
The visuals and poster for the festival were created by LOKi design, and printed by Chris at la Presse du chat perdu. The graphic approach was equally inspired by the explosive force of Vorticism, the imagery of a dense city seen from above, and a personal attempt to work with abstraction in a politically coherent way.
More details for the festival on the Howl! website, and on facebook here.
Colloque Recherche-Creation: Demo or Die
I recently presented a talk at UQAM’s Centre des Sciences as part of a conference on the state of Research-Creation. I was invited as a member of Artivistic, but I have to admit, I felt a bit out of my league amongst seasoned academics and artists, addressing a subject I wasn’t sure I quite understood properly. Nonetheless, I tackled it from my own perspective, presenting Artivistic’s Promiscuous Infrastrcutures project, and was happy to contribute to the more action-oriented panel Demo or Die.
You can view the video documentation of the panel below (my talk starts 29 minutes in):
Many thanks to Gisèle Trudel for organising the panel and inviting me to rpesent, and many thanks to my fellow panelists, Mel Hogan, Alexandre Castonguay, Sandeep Bhagwati, and Sally-Jane Norman.
Brahja Waldman’s Quintet Street Poster
Street poster designed for Brahja Wladman’s Quartet (Quintet for the show) double album launch this Friday at Café Resonance. Howl co-produced the album, and I also designed the CD packaging, images coming soon.
Facebook event here. Photo by the city’s best poster paster-upper, Stefan Christoff.