Care Crisis, Care Connective An Open Forum on Cultural Work

With Helena Reckitt and Curating and Caring workshop participants, Raju Rage, Lisa Busby and the Element Choir, Precarious Workers Brigade, Jacqueline Hoàng Nguyễn and Boo Watson

Hosted by Letters & Handshakes

Saturday, September 23, 10am–6pm
Blackwood Gallery, UTM

FREE & Open to the public.

Presented in conjunction with the exhibition Habits of Care on view at the Blackwood Gallery from September 11–30, 2017, and as part of Take Care, Circuit 1: Labour of Curation.

Image: Claire Fontaine, Untitled (corps étrangers), 2017. Latex balloons, plastic bags, hempseed, yellow and red millet, linen seeds, canary seeds and whole oats, dimensions variable. Eighty-one individual elements. Courtesy the artist.

Care Crisis, Care Connective: An Open Forum on Cultural Work
With Helena Reckitt and Curating and Caring workshop participants, Raju Rage, Lisa Busby and the Element Choir, Precarious Workers Brigade, Jacqueline Hoàng Nguyễn and Boo Watson
Hosted by Letters & Handshakes

Saturday, September 23, 10am–6pm
Blackwood Gallery, UTM

The forum is FREE, open to the public, and includes lunch, free childcare, and transportation from downtown Toronto. A free shuttle bus will depart from Mercer Union (1286 Bloor Street West) at 9:15am, returning for 6:45pm. Registration for shuttle bus and lunch is required. Please RSVP.

The idea of the crisis of care highlights the diffuse strain and persistent inequalities that pervade the work of care—even as the perpetuation of the dominant system of production structurally relies on care’s unbroken performance. Cultural work and art institutions are hardly immune to the symptoms of care crisis. This open forum assembles artists, activists, curators, and researchers to navigate care gaps in curatorial practice in particular and the cultural sector in general. The primary goal, however, is to share vocabularies, experiences, and frameworks to aid in centring an ethos of care in efforts to transform conditions and relations in the cultural sector. Care Crisis, Care Connective: An Open Forum on Cultural Work unfolds through a sequence of workshops and performances.


10am–12pm: Curating and Caring Workshop
Curator Helena Reckitt and participants in the Curating and Caring workshops will present new propositions for curating with care.

Workshop supported in part through the Outreach, Conference and Colloquia Fund, Office of VP Research, UTM.

12–1pm: …yeah but can we listen tho?
Performance by Raju Rage

Raju Rage’s contribution will take the form of a remote audio performance on care and the cultural sector. Building on their earlier self-care performances in institutional spaces, which draw attention to the lack of care provided within such settings, the audio format is chosen as a way to avoid the exhausting demands that performance can place on the artist. Exploring how bodies are dis/connected, Raju Rage will centre on what healing and care might look like in the spaces we carve for ourselves and each other.

1–2pm: Lunch
Protocols, Policies, and Proposals Performed
Scores composed by Lisa Busby and performed by the Element Choir based on protocols, policies, and proposals for cultural care.

2–4pm: Training for Exploitation: Politicizing Employability and Reclaiming Education
Precarious Workers Brigade

Introduced by Nicole Cohen of Cultural Workers Organize

Kay Dickinson and Janna Graham will speak about Precarious Workers Brigade’s recent book, Training for Exploitation, which provides a pedagogical framework to assist students and artists in deconstructing dominant narratives around work, employability, and careers. They will conduct a workshop using tools from the book to critically examine the relationship between education, contemporary crises of work, artistic labour, and student debt. The workshop will address topics such as precarity, employment rights, cooperation, and solidarity, as well as show examples of alternative educational and organizing practices.

Workshop supported in part through the SSHRC-funded research project Cultural Workers Organize.

4–6pm: The Wages Due Song Workshop
Jacqueline Hoàng Nguyễn and Boo Watson

Hosted by Amber Berson

The Wages Due Song was written in 1974 by Canadian Boo Watson, a member of the Toronto-based Wages Due Lesbians collective. The song calls for women’s unwaged labour to be addressed as a workers’ struggle. The collective had ties to the international feminist movement Wages for Housework, which formed feminist groups to raise awareness of how housework and childcare are the basis of all social reproduction and industrial work. The groups were not only discussion clubs or thought experiments, but advanced real demands, with protest songs to go with them. “If women were paid for all they do, there’d be a lot of wages due,” sang the women campaigners in the 1970s. Jacqueline Hoàng Nguyễn and Boo Watson will lead a consciousness-raising workshop and write a song collectively with the participants to reflect today’s struggles.

Workshop presented in preparation for The Let Down Reflex, curated by Amber Berson and Juliana Driever for Take Care, Circuit 2: Care Work, October 16–November 4, 2017 at the Blackwood Gallery.

Participant Biographies

Amber Berson is a writer, curator, and PhD student conducting doctoral research at Queen’s University on artist-run culture and feminist, utopian thinking. She most recently curated World Cup!; The Let Down Reflex (with Juliana Driever); TrailMix (with Eliane Ellbogen); *~._.:*JENNIFER X JENNIFER*:.~ (with Eliane Ellbogen); The Annual Art Administrator’s Relay Race (2013, with Nicole Burisch); and was the 2016 curator-in-residence as part of the France-Quebec Cross-Residencies at Astérides in Marseille, France. She is the Canadian ambassador for the Art+Feminism Wikipedia project. Her writing has been published in Breach Magazine, Canadian Art, C Magazine, Revue .dpi, Esse, FUSE Magazine, and the St Andrews Journal of Art History and Museum Studies

Lisa Busby is a London-based composer, vocalist, and DJ. She performs and composes with bands The Nomadic Female DJ Troupe, Rutger Hauser, and Sleeps in Oysters, as well as working independently as a solo artist. She has released with record labels Seed and The Lumen Lake. She is particularly interested in using domestic or outdated playback media as instruments, but also works in long duration forms, performance video, text-based score, installation, and site-specific performance. Lisa has performed and exhibited in various solo and group situations internationally. She is also Senior Lecturer in Music at Goldsmiths, University of London.

Nicole Cohen is Assistant Professor at the University of Toronto. She is the author of Writers’ Rights: Freelance Journalism in a Digital Age (McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2016), which examines the labour politics of freelancing, and is a member of the collaborative research project Cultural Workers Organize, which engages with media and cultural workers’ collective responses to precarity. Nicole is on the Advisory Board of the Canadian Intern Association. 

The Element Choir is an improvising choir based in Toronto, Canada, created by Christine Duncan and Jean Martin and directed by Christine Duncan. The Element Choir works with both structured and non-structured elements, based primarily on a system of conduction cues. As an ensemble they explore textural and timbral sound qualities, soundscapes, rhythmic patterns, sound poetry, musical genre interplay, and extended voice techniques. This cinematic approach to group vocalizing presents both tonal and non-tonal material in a constantly evolving and “in the moment” sonic environment.

Kay Dickinson is Associate Professor and Undergraduate Programme Director of Film Studies at Concordia University. Her recent published work, Arab Cinema Travels: Transnational Syria, Palestine, Dubai and Beyond thinks through how cinema functions amid and in resistance to the machinations of transnational global capital. Her current project focuses on offshored film production within free zones that is facilitated through the principles of logistics. Prior to her move to Concordia, Kay taught at King’s College and Goldsmiths, both within the University of London. While there, she became a collective member of Precarious Workers Brigade.

Janna Graham is a practice-based researcher who has worked in the curatorial field for nearly twenty years, occupying positions at institutions such as Whitechapel and Serpentine Galleries, the Art Gallery of Ontario, Nottingham Contemporary, and developing projects for Van Abbemuseum and the New Museum. A key figure in what has been termed “the educational turn” in curating, she has developed exhibitions, residencies, research, and writing at the intersection of art and contemporary social urgencies including migration, gentrification, education, anti-racism, elder care, and indigeneity. Recent publications include Art + Care: A Future and Studies on a Road. Janna is a founding member of Another Roadmap for Arts Education Network and School, the Micropolitics Research Group, and Precarious Workers Brigade. She is a Lecturer in Visual Cultures at Goldsmiths, University of London.

Jacqueline Hoàng Nguyễn is a research-based artist based in Stockholm. Using a broad range of mediums, her artistic practice investigates issues of historicity, collectivity, utopian politics, and multiculturalism within the framework of feminist theories. Nguyễn’s work has been shown internationally in institutions including the Contemporary Art Gallery (Vancouver); EFA Project Space (New York); MTL BNL at the Musée d’Art Contemporain (Montreal); Kunstverein Braunschweig; Institute of Contemporary Art (Philadelphia); Mason Gross Galleries (New Jersey); and Gasworks (London). Nguyễn is this year’s Audain Visual Artist in Residence at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver and will participate in the fourth cycle of NTU Center for Contemporary Art Singapore's Residencies program.

Letters & Handshakes is a collaboration of Greig de Peuter (Department of Communication Studies, Wilfrid Laurier University) and Christine Shaw (Blackwood Gallery and Department of Visual Studies, University of Toronto Mississauga). Letters & Handshakes’ past projects include the exhibitions I stood before the source and Precarious: Carole Condé + Karl Beveridge, the forum Fighting Foreclosed Futures: Politics of Student Debt, and the symposium and micropublication Surplus3: Labour and the Digital.

Precarious Workers Brigade is a UK-based group of precarious workers in culture and education. We call out in solidarity with all those struggling to make a living in this climate of instability and enforced austerity. Our praxis springs from a shared commitment to developing research and actions that are practical, relevant and easily shared and applied. If putting an end to precarity is the social justice we seek, our political project involves developing tactics, strategies, formats, practices, dispositions, knowledges, and tools for making this happen.

Raju Rage is an interdisciplinary artist who uses art, education, and activism to forge creative survival. Based in London and working beyond, they primarily use their non-conforming body to bridge the gap between dis/connected bodies, theory and practice, text and the body, and aesthetics and the political substance. They work in performance, sculpture, soundscapes, and moving image, utilising everyday objects and life experiences to build new narratives of gender, race, and culture. They are an organizer with Collective Creativity arts collective. Recent performance and exhibition venues include ICA and Showroom (London), Nottingham Contemporary, and nGbK and xart splitta (Berlin).

Helena Reckitt is a curator and critic with a longstanding engagement with histories, and contemporary legacies, of feminist and queer artistic, critical, and political practices. She is editor of the books Art and Feminism, Sanja Ivekovic: Unknown Heroine, and, with Josh Oppenheimer, Acting on AIDS. In 2016, she edited two issues of the Journal of Curatorial Studies with Jennifer Fisher and, in 2015, she worked with six feminist curators and artists to develop Now You Can Go, which explored the transmission and resonance of Italian feminist practices across four London arts venues. Currently Senior Lecturer in Curating at Goldsmiths, University of London, she has previously held positions at The Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery (Toronto), Atlanta Contemporary Art Center, and the ICA (London).

Born in Toronto, Boo Watson began playing and composing music at the age of five, and played in bands for over three decades. In the 1970s she joined the Wages for Housework Campaign and co-founded Wages Due Lesbians. She wrote songs for the movement, many of which were published in Wages for Housework International's Conference Song Book (1975). Watson is a life-long activist working on environmental, feminist, and social justice issues. From 2000–01, Watson organized the only Green Gay Pride in Toronto, powered exclusively by renewable energy. She is now the owner of a hundred-acre art farm, producing organic food, music, theatre, and other arts in Manitoulin Island, Ontario.

Exhibition Photos

The Blackwood Gallery gratefully acknowledges the operating support of the Canada Council for the Arts, the Ontario Arts Council, and the University of Toronto Mississauga.

The Blackwood Gallery is grateful for additional support for Circuit 1: Labour of Curation from the Department of Visual Studies (UTM), University of Toronto Affinity Partners Manulife, TD Insurance, and MBNA, the Outreach, Conference and Colloquia Fund (Office of VP Research, UTM), and the SSHRC-funded research project Cultural Workers Organize.