Browse the Belkin Collection
Ruins in Process: Vancouver Art in the Sixties

Subscribe to our mailing list
Site Search:


  1. Rebecca Belmore, Apparition, 2013.
    video, 4:00. Courtesy of the artist.


Traumatic Histories, Artistic Practice, and Working from the Margins

PAST - Friday, November 15, 2013, 9 am - 5 pm



At the UBC CHAN CENTRE, Royal Bank Cinema, 6265 Crescent Road, Vancouver, BC.
Seating for the symposium is limited and is on a first-come, first-served basis; please arrive early.

The symposium will convene around questions arising from the exhibition, including curatorial issues, the role of artistic practice in reconciliation (along with a fundamental investigation of the concept of reconciliation) and a broader theoretical discussion around modernity and indigeneity. The project of modernization in Canada, as elsewhere, attempted to segregate, assimilate and erase indigenous culture, leading to policies such as the Indian Residential School system. In this process, the artistic practices of Indigenous peoples has been both marginalized and, at the same time, an important tool for cultural vitality and survivance. In what ways have artworks taking up these often-neglected aspects of modernity come to shape current practice in art and art history? What kind(s) of curatorial imperatives can, or ought to, contribute to the project of art & reconciliation? These are just some of the critical questions we hope to address together during the symposium.

9 am: COFFEE


Larry Grant, Adjunct Professor, First Nations Language Program and Resident Elder, First Nations House of Learning, UBC

Shelly Rosenblum, Curator of Academic Programs, Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery, UBC

Participants will discuss the current climate of curating contemporary Indigenous/Aboriginal art. What recent shifts in methodology have occurred and in what ways are localized histories, belief systems and practices being integrated into the broader discourse around contemporary art? How do exhibitions that grapple with difficult issues affect the future direction of Indigenous/Aboriginal art? Is there a new terminology developing in Art History that can address the work of Indigenous artists in more nuanced ways?

Moderator: Larissa Lai, Assistant Professor, Department of English, UBC

Richard Hill, Associate Professor, Department of Visual Art & Art History, York University, “What Big Teeth You Have Grandfather: Trauma and Rage in Woodland School Art”

Ryan Rice, Chief Curator, Museum of Contemporary Native Arts, “Bury The Ruler: Traumatic Histories, Artistic Practice and Working from the Margins”

Lucia Sanroman, Independent Curator, Mexico City, “Citizen Culture”

11:45 am-1:30 pm: BREAK, Lunch, Gallery visit

The term “reconciliation” has provoked a wide range of reactions in its use by the Canadian government’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission. What does this term suggest and what does it occlude? Are there alternatives? Where does art that addresses traumatic histories sit in relation to this discussion? How do artists participate in reconciliatory practices in their art works? Should Indigenous artists be responsible for making such gestures? This latter question is related to the relationship between art and healing as well, as in, how do artworks dealing with trauma contribute to healing either the artist or the public?

Moderator: David Gaertner, Post-Doctoral Fellow, First Nations Studies Program, UBC

David Garneau, Associate Professor, Faculty of Fine Arts, Visual Arts Department, University of Regina, “The Display and Consumption of Indigenous Pain: Empathy and Settlement”

Steve Loft, Trudeau National Visiting Fellow, Ryerson University, “Reconciliation…REALLY?”

Charlotte Townsend-Gault, Professor, Department of Art History, Visual Art and Theory, and Faculty Associate, Department of Anthropology, UBC, “Being There, or Not: Indigenous Performance Art”

3:15-3:30 pm: COFFEE BREAK

Current discourse around contemporary Indigenous art, as in other areas, has been shaped by and in response to the history of colonization and modernity across the Americas. How has the growing body of literature about and by Indigenous peoples affected the way we view modernity, and in turn, how are contemporary issues of land claims, sovereignty and cultural practice affected by this discussion?

Moderator: Dory Nason, Assistant Professor First Nations Studies and English, UBC

Shari Huhndorf, Professor, Department of Ethnic Studies, UC Berkeley, “Vision, Truth, Memory: Art of the Residential School Experience”

Dana Claxton, Assistant Professor, Department of Art History, Visual Art and Theory, UBC, “The Sublime is Always: Re/wilding the Primitive”

4:45-5:00 pm: CLOSING REMARKS

Tarah Hogue, Co-Curator, Witnesses: Art and Canada’s Indian Residential Schools, Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery, UBC

Traumatic Histories, Artistic Practice and Working from the Margins is made possible with assistance from the UBC Curatorial Lecture Series, supported by the Faculty of Arts and the Audain Endowment for Curatorial Studies in the Department of Art History, Visual Art and Theory.

For further information please contact: Jana Tyner at,
tel: (604) 822-1389, or fax: (604) 822-6689