Screen shot 2016-05-18 at 3.48.50 PMNadine Blumer

January 2016

I. A Better World via the “Virtual Reality Empathy Machine.” 

“How Virtual Reality (VR) Can Create the Ultimate Empathy Machine” is the title of a TED talk first broadcast in March 2015. It has generated more than 1.2 million views in its first months online. The speaker, interactive media artist Chris Milk, prophetically describes how the immersive quality of VR not only transports viewers into another world, but also effectively alters perceptions and may even change the world. VR is a “machine,” he declares, through which “we become more compassionate, we become more empathetic, and we become more connected. And ultimately, we become more human.”

Milk gives the example of the UN-funded VR film, “Clouds Over Sidra,” which was shown to delegates at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland in January 2015. This film takes viewers into a Syrian refugee camp in Jordan through the eyes of a 12-year old girl named Sidra. As Milk explains, “When you look down, you’re sitting on the same ground that she’s sitting on. And because of that, you feel her humanity in a deeper way. You empathize with her in a deeper way. And I think that we can change minds with this machine.”[i]



Sheron Edey (Project Director) in action.

Standing on their Shoulders is a community-based project designed to preserve the heritage of Black English-speakers in Little Burgundy and to create a new generation of griots or cultural interpreters.  The project aims to:

  • Capture the rich Black history of Little Burgundy from community residents and elders.
  • Share and teach Little Burgundy’s Black History so that everyone can celebrate its contributions
  • Identify and interpret the stories, landscape, and heritage of the district
  • Retell the Black history of Little Burgundy

Over the course of the project, 20 youth participants will create inspiring short films of Little Burgundy’s history.  This project cannot succeed without a host of partners and supporters.  CEREV is one of our supporters and we recently took up their offer to run two workshops for our budding griots. (more…)

The authors of this post, Gaelyn and Gustavo Aguilar of TUG Collective (University of Maine at Farmington), first worked in the CEREV Exhibition Lab as part of our working group at the Hemispheric Institute’s Encuentro. They returned to CEREV in February 2015 for a week of seminars, exhibition experiments, and performances.

Having spent a week in the Exhibition Lab, as part of the Hemispeheric Institute of Performance and Politics Encuentro session in June 2014, we were keen to return to CEREV to continue tweaking with the curatorial aspects of our project, Who Eats at Taco Bell?, with the goal of fostering critical feedback by widening the circle of collegial engagement.


The author of this post, Dr. Tracy Zhang, is Research Associate at Concordia’s Simone de Beauvoir Institute. Tracey and her Anti-Racist Feminist Media WSDB498I course worked with Lex Milton & CEREV’s facilities in the Fall 2014 semester.

During the fall of 2014, I had the privilege of teaching a course, entitled “Anti-racist Feminist Media”, at the Simone de Beauvoir Institute (SdBI). Before the semester started, I had two important encounters that shaped my pedagogical approach to this course. The first was a CBC radio program about a social media campaign, called “Women Against Feminism.” The radio host facilitated a live discussion on the meanings of feminism among a law student, an editor of a feminist magazine, and a freelancer, critical of feminism. I was intrigued by how the mainstream media today is increasingly responsive to social media. Feminist as well as anti-feminist ideas can crisscross the various media spheres that constitute and influence our everyday experiences with sexism and racism. Together with my students, I wished to explore how the class could help translate students’ critiques into audio-visual materials that would allow them to participate in feminist debates beyond the academy.


The author of this post, Nuria Carton de Grammont, curated Narcotraffic and the Art of Violence in our Exhibition Lab from November 20-27, 2014. The project featured the artistic work of Carmen Giménez Cacho, Philémon Cimon, Maria Ezcurra, Jacqueline Fortson, Ileana Hernández, Flavia Hevia, Daniela Ortiz, Carlos Rojas, and Amanda Ruiz and their exploration of aesthetic strategies to educate viewers on the extreme violence caused by narcotraffic. The exhibition and its accompanying roundtable discussion were co-sponsored by the Chaire d’Etudes du Mexique Contemporain, the Centre d’Etudes et de Recherches Internationales, and the Réseau d’etudes sur l’Amérique latine à Montréal.

Ma recherche de postdoctorat, au Centre d’Études et de Recherches Internationales de l’Université de Montréal, porte sur la culture visuelle et la représentation de la violence dans la guerre contre le narcotrafic qui touche actuellement le Mexique.

Dans le cadre des mobilisations sociales qui se manifestent aujourd’hui pour exiger justice, l’art a pris une place fondamentale comme moyen d’expression politique. C’est aussi une esthétique qui se propose de perpétuer la mémoire collective des 125,000 disparus depuis la déclaration de guerre faite par l’ex-président Felipe Calderón en 2006.


The author of this post, Margaret Jean Westby, mounted her project Orbital Resonance in the CEREV Exhibition Lab on October 17 as a component of her PhD in Humanities through Concordia’s Centre for Interdisciplinary Studies in Society and Culture.

“Thinking of atmospheres also returns us to the breath, to the continuous and necessary exchange between subject and environment, a movement that forms a multiplicity existing within the space necessary for sound to sound, and for Being, in whatever form, to resonate”
– Frances Dyson, Sounding New Media

My research encompasses both theoretical and practical approaches towards exploring strategies to re-map gender imbalances, behaviors, and engagement in the area of technologically augmented dance performance. My principle research question is: how in art and technology projects do interdisciplinary considerations and frameworks for collaboration shape our understanding of gendered bodies and technical interactions? In theory, this involves the creation of an unconventional genealogy of key historical and contemporary female artists that hybridize human and non-human phenomena in their works. In practice, Orbital Resonance is one intervention aimed at answering my research question.


How do you open a museum that already feels closed?

I asked myself this as I participated in the “grand opening” of the long-awaited, heavily scrutinized Canadian Museum for Human Rights in Winnipeg. Begin with the architecture: the structure is spectacular in a Darth Vader sort of way. Approaching the building with colleagues from CEREV and the University of Winnipeg’s Cultural Studies Research Group, I felt dwarfed by its immensity. Its rounded, earthy aspects remind me of Metis architect Douglas Cardinal’s Canadian Museum of History (formerly The Canadian Museum of Civilization). But inside, the effect of being “herded” along alabaster angular ramps reminded me of Daniel Libeskind’s modernist and deconstructionist tropes, including the Stair of Wonders, at the Royal Ontario Museum. The CMHR’s Tower of Hope and Garden of Contemplation recalls the Canadian War Museum’s Regeneration Hall. But while most museums addressing historical injustice and struggle offer memorial spaces to honour victims, the CMHR does not. The mixed architectural metaphors reflect the museum’s thematic diffuseness – it is not grounded by a major historical event from one place and time, nor is it anchored by a strong collection of material culture.


The author of this post, Caroline Künzle, mounted her multimedia project Is this a joke? / C’est une joke? in our Exhibition Lab from March 14 – 20, 2014 as a component of her MFA in Creative Practice at the Transart Institute.

Cultural prejudice and racism are not laughing matters. Not for those who experience manifestations of them, nor for those who are conscious of and sensitive to the hurtful, destructive nature of these manifestations. And yet in order for all members of society to recognize the ways in which cultural prejudice and racism manifest themselves and play themselves out in people’s daily lives, it is crucial that productive spaces exist in which these uncomfortable and ugly matters can be acknowledged, spoken about, described, pointed to. Ideally, these spaces are safe, inclusive and respectful and the verbal exchanges on these matters are carried out in a fashion, which enables dialogue and understanding rather than provoking divisive argument or worse. A particularly effective one that appears to continue to grow in popularity is the practice of stand-up comedy. In the telling of jokes, through the comedy nights that happen in bars and clubs around town, people gather together regularly to listen to comics tell them about the moments of prejudice, racism or cultural misunderstanding that they have experienced or witnessed in their daily lives. This occurs mostly in a spirit of mirth and unification rather than in anger and divisiveness. I believe that those moments are worthy of consideration as guiding posts towards pursuing this unifying spirit further.


image: Avram Finkelstein and Ian Bradley-Perrin in the Exhibition Lab in January

This post by Ian Bradley-Perrin and Mary Caple is the final piece in a series of blog posts reflecting on projects that our affiliates, staff, and students have been producing this year that deal with HIV/AIDS. Together, they co-organized “Collective Strategies for Visual Production on the Issue of HIV Criminalization.” This workshop took place in the CEREV Exhibition Lab in January 2014 and was led by New York-based artist, activist, and writer Avram Finkelstein. They then spoke at the Visual AIDS event “Flash Collectives: Creating Agile Strategies for Social Change” on February 28, 2014 at the Brooklyn Community Pride Center in New York. See our list of relevant links at the bottom of the page for more information on these events and related pieces written by Mary and Jenny Doubt.

On January 24, fourteen students, activists, and artists joined Avram Finkelstein in CEREV’s Exhibition Lab for a day-long workshop, “Collective Strategies for Visual Production on the Issue of HIV Criminalization.” We organized the session with the goal of collectively creating, in one day, a visual campaign to bring awareness to the criminalization of HIV/AIDS in Canada.


image c/o Ian Bradley-Perrin and Vincent Chevalier/PosterVirus

The author of this post, Jenny Doubt, is a postdoctoral affiliate at CEREV. In collaboration with Ian Bradley-Perrin (MA candidate, History), she is developing a ‘prototype exhibition’ examining the implications of the development of legal and media-led master narratives about HIV/AIDS in Canada.

Two documentaries charting the considerable contributions of now-prominent groups of AIDS activists recently appeared: How to Survive a Plague (David France, 2012) and Fire in the Blood (Dylan Mohan Gray, 2013). Plague tells the story of two US-based activist coalitions, ACT-UP and the Treatment Action Group (TAG), as they confront the American medical and political establishment during the 1980s and 90s in an attempt to transform AIDS from being a death sentence to a manageable health condition through the acquisition of antiretroviral medication. Fire brings us to the global south, and stages a similar conflict between the western pharmaceutical industry – in particular the intellectual patents that protect the profits of big pharmaceutical companies in the United States and United Kingdom – and the struggle for the affordable generic treatments required to mitigate the mass devastation visited on the populations in the global south by HIV/AIDS – in particular in Africa and Asia. Both documentaries are based on considerable archival footage: Plague draws from ‘never before seen’ archival footage from ACT UP, while the considerable efforts of Zachie Achmat’s South African Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) provide an important narrative arch to Fire. Together these two documentaries made me wonder about the process we seem to have arrived at in the HIV/AIDS epidemic: that of documenting its histories. In particular, I wonder about the roles that memory and cultural imperialism may come to play in moulding these histories. Is there a place for the expression of nostalgia given the intersection of memory in narratives that depict important challenges to state and multinational power structures?


Center for Ethnographic Research and Exhibition in the Aftermath of Violence