fORUM: Sebastian De Line with Qanita Lilla

10 November 2022 6pm

Listening to the Vault 

On the surface, the museum vault is a storage unit and a place of sanitized preservation. But it embodies an unseen reality. It is where Indigenous and African Ancestors (remains and cultural belongings) live. It is a home, not of light, warmth, and intimacy above ground but a bunker—an underground address where concrete and steel bring order and distance. In this event, we share our journey underground into the vaults of the Agnes Etherington Art Centre to record a soundscape of our visit with the racialized Ancestors. Along the way, we draw on Hungry Listening (2020), a text by xwélméxw (Stó:lō) writer and curator Dylan Robinson that understands listening as a sonic encounter occurring between particular logics and bodies. In our case, it is the encounter with the lively space outside the museum and the silence inside it. We listen to the hunger of the entities who exist inside the vault, and look to engage with them differently, to rethink how they are housed as well as the curatorial demands we make of them. 

Sound recording edited by Evan Wainio-Woldanski.

Sebastian De Line is an artist and PhD candidate in Cultural Studies at Queens University, Kingston (ON), where they are also the Associate Curator, Care & Relations at the Agnes Etherington Art Centre, and Teaching Fellow in the Department of Languages, Literatures and Cultures. Recently, De Line was Curatorial Fellow at the Toronto Biennial of Art (2022). Their doctoral research focuses on the manufacturing of Capitalist values and economies that transform agential Indigenous and racialized Ancestors into labouring objects” of extraction, accumulation, and consumption determined by the acquisition criteria within museum collections. De Line’s writing has been featured in the Journal of Visual Culture (SAGE Publications, Vol. 19, 2020); and  Junctures: The Journal for Thematic Dialogue 19 (Otago Polytechnic Press, 2018). 

Dr Qanita Lillais Associate Curator Arts of Africa at Agnes Etherington Art Centre, Queen’s University, Kingston (ON) where she intercedes on behalf of the Lang Collection of African Art. Her research interests engage the radical potential of museums, and the life and after-life of objects within collections; including the complexities of rematriation/repatriation objects. Lilla’s curatorial work in galleries and digital environments explores African collections, as well as broader representations of racialized minorities and excluded narratives. Her first Canadian exhibition and podcast With Opened Mouths opened at Agnes Etherington Art Centre in 2021. Her most recent writing appears in Translocations: Histories of Dislocated Cultural Assets (De Gruyter, forthcoming 2023). 

fORUM: Sebastian De Line with Qanita Lilla is the third in a series of four events guest programmed by Resonance and Transmission that extend on the themes of the exhibition Aimée Zito Lema: Scryer in the Archive. 

Resonance and Transmission is organized by a group of curators, writers and researchers based in London, Montréal, Toronto, and Amsterdam interested in overlooked feminist histories and generational processes of knowledge transmission, comprising Giulia Damiani, Gabrielle Moser, Vanessa Parent and Helena Reckitt.

fORUM is Mercer Union’s ongoing series of talks, lectures, interviews, screenings, and performances. Admission to our public programming is free, and all are welcome.


SoundCloud player image: Photographer Bernard Clark working with the team at Agnes Etherington Art Centre, Kingston to document the permanent collection, 2022. Photo: Tim Forbes