Archive/Counter Archive will present a two-day symposium Dec. 10 and 11 on Black Lives and Archival Histories in Canada

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In 2017, York Research Chair in Media Art and Social Engagement Janine Marchessault received a Partnership grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) to the tune of $2.499 million for her multi-faceted project Archive/Counter-Archive: Activating Canada’s Moving Image Heritage. It had 43 co-applicants and collaborators from across Canada and globally, nine from York University across a variety of Faculties. It also involved 24 partner organizations from across Canada. The work emanating from this project began in 2018 and will span all the way to 2024.

As part of the project, Archive/Counter-Archive will present a 2020 online symposium Dec. 10 & 11. This year’s theme is “Black lives and Archival Histories in Canada.” Due to COVID-19, this year’s symposium will consist of one keynote talk and two panels that will be presented entirely online. The talks will not be recorded so participants are urged to register for the keynote and panels through Eventbrite.

Day 1

On Dec. 10, day one of the symposium, there will be a keynote the keynote presentation by award-winning multimedia artist Deanna Bowen. The title of Bowen’s talk is “Berlin, Berlin.” The presentation will be moderated by Monika Kin Gagnon.

Bowen’s presentation involves self-reflection and presentation of two interdependent exhibitions presented at the 2020 Berlin Biennale and the Kitchener Waterloo Art Gallery, from Sept. 18, 2020 to Feb. 28, 2021. Respectively, the exhibitions titled, “The God of Gods: Berlin, Berlin” and “Black Drones in the Hive” extend critical interventionist research of the White nationalist ambitions that inform Canada’s cultural history and national narrative. To register for the keynote, visit the Eventbrite symposium site at

Bowen is a descendant of two Alabama and Kentucky born Black Prairie pioneer families from Amber Valley and Campsie, Alberta. Bowen’s family history has been the central pivot of her auto-ethnographic interdisciplinary works since the early 1990s. She makes use of a repertoire of artistic gestures to define the Black body and trace its presence and movement in place and time.

She is a recipient of a 2020 Governor General Award for Visual and Media Arts Award, 2016 John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship, and the 2014 William H. Johnson Prize. Her writing, interviews and art works have been published in Canadian Art, The Capilano Review, The Black Prairie Archives, and Transition Magazine. Bowen is editor of the 2019 publication Other Places: Reflections on Media Arts in Canada. Her work addresses issues of trauma and memory through an investigation of personal and official histories related to American slavery, migration, the Civil Rights Movement and the Ku Klux Klan. Bowen is a dual citizen of the U.S. and Canada. She lives and works in Montreal, QC.

Day 2

On Dec. 11, day two of the symposium, there will be two panel discussions. The first will take place from 12 to 1:30 p.m. and is titled “Place-based/Institutional Engagements with Black Histories.” The panel features Janie Cooper-Wilson, Melissa Nelson and Andrea Fatona in conversation. It will be moderated by Warren Crichlow. This panel will discuss caring for diverse Black Archives from inter-generational perspectives. Panelists will explore the range of contemporary practices with community and institutional archives, their creation, and presentation. The discussions will engage with various types of preservation, research, archival pedagogy and training practices from Black practitioners in community, academic, artistic, and professional archival contexts. Each will speak from their own experience in archives: both material place-based practices and online engagements. Cooper-Wilson’s presentation is titled “Proactively Dealing with Racism in the Archives.” Fatona’s presentation is titled “Collecting and Re-coding Black Canada,” and Nelson will speak about “Critical Archival Thought: Integrating Anti-Racist and Anti-Oppressive Pedagogy and Training.” To register for this event, visit the Eventbrite symposium site at

The afternoon panel will run from 2:30 to 4 p.m. It is titled, “Artistic Engagements with Archives” and features Debbie Ebanks Schlums, Nadine Valcin and Cara Mumford and in conversation. The panel, which is moderated by Malini Guha, will bring together artists engaging with Black and Indigenous archives and histories, individually but also in relation to each other. Remediation is a practice that creates tension between the “official” archive and the archive that is generated from the artistic process. What is created for community out of these remediations is a way to remedy the erasure and/or misrepresentation of Black and Indigenous histories in the colonial archive. The panelists will speak to questions about missing archives and the creation of accidental archives that emerge out of their creative processes. Through the act of revaluation, there is room to challenge national discourses. Ebanks Schlums will speak on “Locating Archives in the Jamaican Diaspora.” Valcin will speak about “The Accidental Archive: Searching for Blackness in Canada’s National Audio-visual Archive” and Mumford will speak on “Treble and Bass: Layering Archival VHS with Phytograms in the creation of René Highway’s Prism, Mirror, Lens.” To register for this panel, visit the Eventbrite symposium site at