In Fall 2020, Emily Carr University of Art + Design’s Shumka Center for Creative Entrepreneurship hosted a monthly series of online roundtable conversations titled “Critical Transformations: A Forum on New Futures.” Curated by Ceci Moss, the events invited visionary artists, curators, activists, designers, architects, and arts organizers around the globe to discuss their work in creating groundbreaking new models for the arts sector during unprecedented times. In the face of challenges such as the pandemic, an economic recession, and rising fascism, alongside the opportunities of social justice, creative problem-solving, and bold thinking, these talks were meant to lift up new models and ways of thinking.
During their presentation in the “Institutional Reformatting” session, curator Vanessa Kwan reflected on the representation of the present in artist Angela George’s Tsleil-Waututh weavings (pictured), which express time stretching seven generations forward and back. Kwan asks, “How do we imagine institutions operating differently? How do we imagine what we do engaging with more philosophical aspects of time and place and location and responsibility, which have very real ramifications when taken into our practices in the real world?” Kwan suggests that art spaces act as portals for imagination, where this responsibility towards several generations, both in the past and in the future, can and should be part of the decision-making process. This radical reframing lies at the heart of all of the “Critical Transformations” discussions. The hope is that these convenings will plant seeds for a different orientation towards arts organizing.
The following compiles all of the video documentation from these events, with a topic guide for ease of navigation.
How do you build greater equity within a community using design practices? How can design principles be used to empower and center marginalized people? This roundtable invites a group of designers and researchers to discuss their innovative work at the intersection of design and social justice.
Topics: intersectionality, social justice, building greater equity within a community using design practices, community engagement and agency within the design process, participatory design, design justice, systemic hierarchies within design education and how they perpetuate
This event assembles a group of directors of West Coast independent art spaces to reflect on their experience founding and/or managing small, experimental, community-building and utopian venues for contemporary art. What alternative models do these venues provide? How is their approach indicative of the future of arts organizing?
Topics: practicing abolition, activism, dismantling white supremacy, art’s capacity to realize social evolution, communes, cultivating ecological awareness, using empathy as a catalyst to build community, resistance, adaptation, being resourceful, leading with kindness, slowing down, care
How can we radically rethink and realize different structures for the production, distribution and reception of contemporary art? Given the current interwoven status of art, technology, communication, and activism, can there be a truly revolutionary path for the arts sector? This conversation brings together a group of leading-edge curators and artists who have used direct, actionable means to achieve these endeavours in their work.
Anaïs Duplan, Founder, Center for Afrofuturist Studies and Program Manager, Recess
Willa Koerner, Director, The Strange Foundation, and Former Content Director, The Creative Independent
Jen Delos Reyes, Founder & Director, Open Engagement
Moderated by Ceci Moss
Topics: Black futurity/Afrofuturism, scaling organizations/individual practice, contextualizing labour in an art ecosystem based in white supremacy, sustaining an artist led culture outside of museums and galleries that embodies new values and ethics, intentional long term audience development
Whether developing new and unexpected exhibition platforms such as Other Sights or collective research and development teams such as NAVEL’s Assemblies program, these artists, teachers, and curators have developed new structures for critical art production, in a way that prioritizes interdependence, non-hierarchical systems, and information-sharing. This discussion will consider the many ways to reimagine “institutions” from the ground up.
Michael Holt, Co-Director, NAVEL and Alice Yuan Zhang, Co-Organizer, Virtual Care Lab
Caroline Woolard, Author of Making and Being and Artist
Vanessa Kwan, Program Director, grunt, Curator/Producer, Other Sights and Artist
Moderated by Ceci Moss
Topics: Indigeneity/mindful collaboration with historically underrepresented groups, trauma-informed approaches within organizations, horizontal organizational models, rethinking the digital/providing care through the digital, solidarity economy/networks, kinship, interdependence
Ceci Moss is a curator, writer and educator based in Los Angeles, USA. She is the founder of Gas, a mobile, autonomous, experimental and networked platform for contemporary art. Her first book Expanded Internet Art: Twenty-First Century Artistic Practice and the Informational Milieu is released through the Bloomsbury series International Texts in Critical Media Aesthetics. Her writing has appeared in Rhizome, Art in America, ArtAsiaPacific, Artforum, The Wire, CURA, New Media & Society and various art catalogs. Previously, she was Assistant Curator of Visual Arts at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, Senior Editor of the art and technology non-profit arts organization Rhizome, and Special Projects Coordinator at The New Museum. She is currently a Lecturer in Curatorial Practice at California College of the Arts and she has held teaching positions at University of Southern California, Scripps College, the San Francisco Art Institute and New York University.