the feminist exhibition space

femlab is a creative laboratory for feminist practice at the University of Alberta.

It features creative work that has been created by U of A students in undergraduate courses in Women’s and Gender Studies, by MFA students and graduates, and feminist artists across the university and our wider community.

Tashina Makokis

In our most recent show, Edmonton-based artist Tashina Makokis sets up a visual call-and-response between two very different kinds of paintings.

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Tashina Makokis, The Cancer Paintings 2016-17

On the gallery’s east wall are brightly coloured portraits of familiar figures from Canadian history. Nellie McClung, George Simpson, Emily Murphy, Frank Oliver, John A McDonald, and Duncan Campbell Scott each pose sedately and calmly. Makokis’s painting is bright and bold; she represents the faces of their figures (oh, the eyes!) in captivating ways. But each of these portraits is disrupted by disconcerting blobs, tentacles, cancerous growths around the face. These scratchy patches, which are made from paint mixed with pumice, rise up from the canvases; they threaten to take over the faces of these so-called “great Canadians.” Makokis challenges their greatness and, instead, draws our attention toward the roles that these and so many celebrated historical figures have played in the reproduction of colonial settler violence.

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Tashina Makokis, 2017 

The west and north walls of the gallery hold three large landscape paintings, each representing not the land but the artist’s nude body. These erotic landscapes are set against ugly portraits in ways that call attention to the dynamic of a colonial gaze. These are celebratory paintings that insist upon the reclamation of indigenous bodies and lives.

Tashina Makokis is a nehiyaw iskwew from Saddle Lake Cree Nation.

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Nellie McClung 2017

 

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Duncan Campbell Scott, 2017 (detail)

Within our bodies floating

“Picture some place where you feel safe. Some place you can go to feel good, to feel grounded, to save you from the memories” – Becky Thera

Becky Thera’s exhibition of new work in femlab is raw and suspenseful. The exhibition is both triumphant and troubling; it is a quiet display of loss and reclamation. In the secluded basement gallery in Assiniboia Hall, the viewer is greeted with a display of video screens and cloth prints.

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The video screens depict women’s bodies in water. In three of the screens, these bodies move through water in ways that at first invoke a feeling of drowning and then make it apparent that they are still in control. On a fourth videoscreen, set off to the side,  another body lays in a pool of dark liquid in a bathtub. She barely appears to move and leaves the viewer anxious for something, anything, to happen. The embroidered images on on stained fabric panels are simple yet exuberant portraits of defiance. 

This is an exhibition that is full of contradictions: it is expressive and in-your-face, while also quiet and reflective. These contradictions within the gallery speak to the personal and political complexities of sexual assault, without actually mentioning it directly. This omission is poignant – here, as elsewhere, sexual assault remains nearly invisible despite its oppressing pervasiveness among us.

guest post by Lynsey Race, Gender and Social Justice Studies MA student.

The Virtual Feminist Bookstore

“Books leave gestures in the body; a certain way of moving, of turning, a certain closing of the eyes, a way of leaving, hesitations. Books leave certain sounds, a certain pacing; mostly they leave the elusive, which is all the story. They leave much more than the words.”
― Dionne Brand, A Map to the Door of No Return

The Virtual Feminist Bookstore, curated by Winnipeg-based artist and scholar Roewan Crowe, is an installation that includes a wall of video screens, digital textile work produced by Steven Leyden Cochrane called Bookstore Artifacts, a microphone, a framed poster of Angela Davis, and stacks of feminist periodicals borrowed from the Winnie Tomm Reading Room, which is housed in the Department of Women’s and Gender Studies at the University of Alberta. Intended to elicit the feeling of the increasingly rare feminist bookstore, the installation draws visitors in to participate in the creation of a feminist poetry shelf.

The Virtual Feminist Bookstore is an installation and a happening waiting to happen; waiting for you, the visitor, to step into the imaginary space of the bookstore, to read and record a feminist poem that holds meaning for you. Step up to the microphone. Take a deep breath. Read the poem. Be present to its words, feel its energy.

Your poetry recitation will be added to the virtual feminist poetry shelf; your video recording will be added to the video monitors that, for now, await you.

The Virtual Feminist Bookstore: Screening Recitations, Bookstore Artifacts, and a Happening Waiting to Happen is on view and waiting for you at femlab until January 13th.

Sunaura Taylor

 

“I argue that for humans to stop treating animals as exploitable ‘things,’ we must actually continue to have relationships with them, relationships that are not shaped by ownership (pets), spectacle (zoos), or exploitation (eating them), but by interdependence…”
-Sunaura Taylor

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Self portrait with Manatee, courtesy of Francis J. Greenburger Collection, New York

Sunaura Taylor is a painter, writer, and activist whose work emphasizes connections between disability politics and the rights of non-human animals.
On the gallery’s west wall are two self-portraits in which the artist highlights the relationship between her body and the body of non-human animals. Self-portrait with Moose and Self-portrait with Manatee ask that viewers look at bodies of animals and humans in ways that emphasize connection rather than difference.

20160628_090741The works in the gallery include 7 small paintings of animals that draw attention to the exploitation of non-human animals in factory farms. The factory farm paintings depict felled cows, culled chickens, and dead lambs.

In an altered artist book, Taylor places her own figure in the pages of a book about arctic animals. When visitors flip through the pages of the book, they find the human figure positioned in intimate and often vulnerable relation with polar bears and bison. The works demand that we move away from relationships based in exploitation and toward a recognition of our ethical responsibilities to recognize human and non-human interdependencies.

Taylor holds an MFA from the University of California at Berkeley and is a PhD student in American Studies at New York University. She is at work at a book titled Beasts of Burden, which explores the deep entanglements of disability and animal justice. By taking up a process that she calls “cripping animal ethics,” Taylor compels her readers and viewers to think deeply, sometimes uncomfortably, about what separates the human from the animal, what divides the disabled from the nondisabled, and what it might mean to break down these divisions.

Sunaura Taylor Selected Works 2008-2016 is curated by femlab’s gallery director, Michelle Meagher, with the assistance of Tashina Makokis in coordination with the Decolonizing Critical Animal Studies, Cripping Critical Animal Studies conference hosted at the University of Alberta June 21-23, 2016 and organized by Chloe Taylor and Kelly Struthers-Montford. Sunaura was a speaker at this conference, and her work was the topic of a plenary discussion by leading feminist disability scholar Alison Kafer.

20160622_171146 (3)We were thrilled to host, with CAS/CCAS, a reception with Kafer, Taylor, and other conference participants on June 22nd.  Check back here for news about a closing reception, tentatively scheduled for September 14th. For more information, why not visit the artist’s webpage, http://www.sunaurataylor.com

Self Portrait With Moose and Self Portrait With Manatee appear courtesy the Francis J. Greenburger Collection, New York. All other works appear courtesy of the artist. Special thanks to Blair Brennan, FAB Gallery and to Natalie Loveless, HDVAC and the Research-Creation and Social Justice CoLABoratory.

 

Flowered

Flowered is a collaboratively produced art installation that recognizes, commemorates, and remembers missing and murdered Indigenous peoples in Canada.
IMG_2513Beginning in September 2015, BFA student Damien Potts, Lori Myers, an Aboriginal Student Advisor in the Faculty of Arts, and Genevieve Jacques, a member of the U of A’s Community Social Work Team, have provided members of the campus community and the broader public the opportunity to create the flowers that comprise this installation.

Each flower signifies the stolen life of an Indigenous person. Though the majority of Indigenous people to have gone missing and been murdered in Canada over the last several decades have been women, Flowered honors the memory of transgendered and two-spirited people as well as men and boys whose lives have also been cut short. Visitors are encouraged to reflect on the missing and to create their own commemorative flower that will be added to the gallery wall. To learn more about this pressing issue, see Sisters In Spirit , the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, and follow the government’s plans for a national inquiry here. For on-campus resources, why not check out the Aboriginal Student Services Center, which is supported by the Dean of Students, or the Faculty of Native Studies.IMG_2509

The show will be on view in femlab from March 1st to September 15th, with an opening reception on March 16th at 1pm in Assiniboia Hall 1-50. Please come by to make a flower.

NOTE: Flowered is installed in the new (and bigger) femlab space in Assiniboia Hall, 1-50. This space has been painted in colors of the Cree medicine wheel.

femlab, like the University of Alberta and the City of Edmonton, is located on Treaty 6 territory. A welcoming place for peoples from around the world, this territory has been marked for centuries by the footsteps of diverse Indigenous peoples, such as Cree, Saulteaux, Blackfoot, Metis, and Nakota Sioux.

 

WGS 101 Creative Projects

“How do the objects that surround us every day tell stories about gender?”

IMG_2493Students in WGS 101 Representations of Girls and Women were posed this question in Fall 2015. 120 students were asked to produce creative projects that reveal, transform, challenge, subvert, or otherwise expose the ways that gender – shared and largely taken for granted ideas about masculinity and femininity – are embedded in the objects, images, and artifacts that surround us daily.IMG_2487

More than a dozen creative works from this class are on view at femlab from February 15th through to April 15, 2016.