Uncontainable Collections Research Project:
Permanence/Impermanence: The Life of Public Art

with Allison Glenn, Vanessa Kwan, Mohammed Laouli, and Raqs Media Collective, moderated by Jenifer Papararo

Pour une version de la vidéo doublée en français, veuillez consulter cette page: https://agyu.art/project/collections-incontrolables/

On Thursday, May 04, 2023, an online conversation on the life of public art with prominent artists and curators whose work critically engages with notions of “publicness” as it relates to “public art,” “the public sphere,” “public space,” and “publics” occured. Allison Glenn (United States), Vanessa Kwan (Canada), Mohammed Laouli (France, Germany, and Morocco), and Raqs Media Collective (India) participated in the second edition of the Uncontainable Collections Research Project to workshop the theme Permanence/Impermanence: The Life of Public Art. This iteration of the series functioned to activate, question, and learn from involved arts practitioners on the challenges and importance of public art as a form of inspiration, as community-engagement, and as a marker of time and place.

Time was a key theme for this edition, particularly as it related to histories and who and what is deemed worthy of representation, as well as the power structures that lead these decisions. We engaged individuals and collectives who conceive and present counter-models to the conventions of public art and, as such, re-orient our understanding of how public art can function and exist as an alternative to traditional practices — most notably, away from historic and commemorative monuments and grand formalist gestures that demand space and define time as permanent. To this end, we queried those who define public art as a form that emerges with an acknowledgement of the time it was produced, and with an understanding of its impermanence.

For this online conversation, each participant gave a 10-minute overview of their research and practice before joining a collective conversation that used public art to counter codified notions of public space. In preparation for this live discussion, we conducted pre-interviews with each of the participants, addressing the principles and ideals of democracy in how public space is inhabited; how decolonial acts of resistance de-centre monuments that glorify settler-colonial histories; what role communities can play in the commissioning of public art; and the limitations and risks of working in public spaces. Transcripts of these interviews are available, below.

This iteration of the workshop was produced collaboratively by AGYU staff Allyson Adley, Liz Ikiriko, and Jenifer Papararo. The preliminary interview questions were developed with York University graduate class, ARTH 6000, led by professor Anna Hudson.

The Uncontainable Collections Research Project presented by AGYU is an annual workshop series initiated in 2022 as part of our drive to make York University’s art collection more accessible to the public and for research purposes. The series aims to serve as a pedagogical tool for faculty, students, and arts practitioners while also informing the development of collection policies that promote ethical current practices of collections care as our gallery expands and transitions into the Goldfarb Gallery of York University. This transformation will include the renovation of our current gallery spaces into a Visible Vault for the University’s art collection, which includes over 1,700 works. Each workshop in the Uncontainable Collections series is anchored by a small selection of works from connected streams through the collection as well as topics pertaining to contemporary strategies for collections management such as: acquisitions, community engagement, conservation, education, interpretative planning, repatriation, and the ethics of museological care.


The 2022 and 2023 editions of this workshop series have been funded by the Elizabeth L. Gordon Art Program, a program of the Gordon Foundation administrated by the Ontario Arts Foundation. We would like to give special thanks to all the participants for being so generous with their time and knowledge. We thank Anna Hudson for inviting us to participate in her ARTH 6000 graduate class including Abbey Humphreys-Morris, Kimberley Rush-Duyguluer, Jamie Cameron, Zachary Scola-Allison, Bahareh Rostakiani, Isabelle Segui, Julia De Kwant, and Rana Khattab for discussion and assistance in developing the interview questions for this edition.


Participant Biographies:
Allison Glenn is currently one of the curators for the Counterpublic 2023 Triennial, running April 15 to July 15, 2023, in St. Louis, presenting, in collaboration with The Griot Museum of Black History and the George B. Vashon Museum, the work of Sir David Adjaye OM OBE, Matthew Angelo Harrison, Mendi + Keith Obadike, and Maya Stovall. Glenn received substantial critical and community praise for her curatorial work in the groundbreaking 2021 exhibition at the Speed Art Museum in Louisville, Kentucky, titled Promise, Witness, Remembrance, an exhibition that reflected on the life of Breonna Taylor and centered on her portrait painted by Amy Sherald. The New York Times selected the exhibition as one of the best art exhibitions of 2021. Her writing has been featured in catalogs published by The Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Prospect New Orleans, Princeton Architectural Press, Studio Museum in Harlem, California African American Museum, Kemper Art Museum, and Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art, and she has contributed to Artforum, ART PAPERS, Hyperallergic, Fresh Art International, ART21 Magazine, and Gulf Coast Quarterly, amongst others. She was listed on the 2022 ArtNews Deciders list and the 2021 Observer Arts Power 50 List.

Vanessa Kwan is an artist, producer, and curator with a focus on collaborative, site-specific, and cross-disciplinary practices. They are currently Director/Curator at the Libby Leshgold Gallery at Emily Carr University on unceded xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish), and səlilwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh)  territories (Vancouver, Canada). They have worked in artistic leadership roles since 2003, contributing to organizations such as the Vancouver Art Gallery, Grunt Gallery, Other Sights for Artists’ Projects, Access Gallery, Powell Street Festival, and Out On Screen. They regularly write, speak, and publish on art and culture and since 2017 have been producing residency projects across the Pacific Rim (Vancouver, Seoul, Melbourne, and Sydney) exploring artist-led creative exchange. In addition, they have produced significant public art works including, with Erica Stocking, Geyser for Hillcrest Park; Speaker A, a permanent sound installation co-created with Theatre Replacement (Maiko Yamamoto and James Long); and Particles, an upcoming collaborative media work.

Born in 1972 in Morocco, Mohammed Laouli lives and works between Rabat, Marseille, and Stuttgart. His artistic practice explores themes of postcolonialism, feminism, and cultural migration. Spanning the disciplines of painting, collage, video, sculpture, photography, and public interventions, his work examines and raises questions around structures of power and systems of domination that manifest across societies. Laouli’s work has been the subject of numerous solo exhibitions as well as group exhibitions including the 13th edition of the Bamako Encounters – African Biennale of Photography; Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, Madrid; Manifesta 13 Marseille; Rautenstrauch-Joest-Museum, Cologne; the Tate Modern, London; Cube Independent Art Room, Rabat; Dak’Art Biennial, Dakar; Kunstmuseum Mülheim; Grassi Museum, Leipzig; Institut de Monde Arabe, Paris; ZKM I Centre for Art and Media, Karlsruhe; and the Marrakech Biennale.

Raqs Media Collective is a group of artists which includes Jeebesh Bagchi, Monica Narula, and Shuddhabrata Sengupta. Based in New Delhi, India, the group has been collaborating since 1992 on a variety of arts-based initiatives including installations, films, publications, and lecture-performances. Informed by philosophical interrogation as well as historical investigations, their artistic practice challenges and resists regimes of power and property. Their work has been featured internationally at Documenta as well as at the Venice, Istanbul, Taipei, Liverpool, Shanghai, and Sao Paulo Biennales. Raqs Media Collective have had solo exhibitions at the National Gallery of Modern Art in New Delhi, the Arab Museum of Modern Art in Doha, the Manchester Art Gallery, and the K21 Museum of 21st Century Art in Dusseldorf, among others.




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