Public conversation with Deanna Bowen

1 November 2017 7pm - 9pm

Admission is free, and all are welcome
Join us for a conversation between artist Deanna Bowen and art historian Gabrielle Moser responding to Bowen’s current exhibition, On Trial The Long Doorway. Combining historical research with strategies of reenactment, dramaturgy, and performance, this newly commissioned installation continues Bowen’s interest in activating overlooked and forgotten histories of race relations in Canada. It takes as its starting point the 1956 CBC teleplay of the same name: a court room drama that tells the story of a rising Black legal aide lawyer assigned to represent a young white student accused of assaulting a fellow Black student that unfolds in locations across Toronto.

Thinking about how histories of anti-Black racism in Canada are in dialogue with politics across the border and around the world, Bowen and Moser will discuss the teledrama’s resonance with the Massey Commission Report (1951), the Emmett Till Murder Trial (1956) and legacies of transatlantic slavery in North America. How does this work foreground the latency of learning from difficult histories in Canada, and the ongoing effects of intergenerational trauma? How might it conceive of Canada as a site of radical potential, and what can institutions do to support this work?

Deanna Bowen makes use of a repertoire of artistic gestures in order to define the Black body and trace its presence and movement in place and time. In recent years, her work has involved rigorous examination of her family lineage and their connections to the Black Prairie pioneers of Alberta and Saskatchewan, the Creek Negroes and All-Black towns of Oklahoma, the extended Kentucky/Kansas Exoduster migrations, and the Ku Klux Klan. The artistic products of this research were presented at the Royal Ontario Museum of Art, Toronto (2017); the Art Museum at the University of Toronto (2016); the Institute of Contemporary Art at the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia (2015); McMaster Museum of Art, Hamilton (2015 – 14); and the Art Gallery of York University, Toronto (2013). Her works and interventionist practice have garnered significant critical regard internationally. She has received several awards in support of her artistic practice including a Canada Council New Chapter Grant (2017); Ontario Arts Council Media Arts Grant (2017); John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship (2016); and the William H. Johnson Prize (2014). She was part of a contingent of invited Canadian presenters in the Creative Time Summit at the 56th Venice Biennale in 2015; and her writings and art works have appeared in numerous publications including Canadian Art; Transition Magazine; Towards an African-Canadian Art History: Art, Memory, and Resistance (all forthcoming); TOPIA: Canadian Journal of Cultural Studies; PUBLIC Journal; North: New African Canadian Writing – West Coast Line; and FRONT Magazine.
Gabrielle Moser is a writer, educator and independent curator whose current research project, “Citizen Subjects: photography, race and belonging in Canada,” examines the role photography played in allowing racialized subjects to claim the position of the citizen in post-war Canada. Her writing appears in venues including, Canadian Art, Journal of Visual Culture, Photography & Culture, and Prefix Photo. She holds a PhD from the art history and visual culture program at York University in Toronto, Canada and is an Assistant Professor in art history at OCAD University.
On Trial The Long Doorway  is curated by Georgina Jackson.
Deanna Bowen’s commissioned project is made possible with leading support from Partners in Art.
The project is commissioned and produced through a partnership between Mercer Union, a centre for contemporary art, Toronto, and the Contemporary Art Gallery, Vancouver. The project will be expanded in 2018 commencing with a residency in Vancouver supported by the Vancouver Foundation leading toward a future exhibition.
Deanna Bowen would like to acknowledge support through the Media Arts Program from the Ontario Arts Council, an agency of the Government of Ontario/un organisme du gouvernement de l’Ontario.
A theatrical performance of On Trial The Long Doorway will be in development after the exhibition, with support from the Theatre Centre, Toronto. Special thanks to the Theatre Centre, Toronto, in particular Franco Boni.
Special thanks to the Estate of Stanley Mann, and Mrs. Joan Mann.
Image credit: Toni Hafkenscheid