by Kari Cwynar
Discussions of voice in contemporary art can reflect anything from the shape and form of sound and orality; the many manifestations of the spoken word in performance, video or artists’ talks; language as material in art works; to the broader ways in which voice is entangled with power and influence. Here the issue takes voice simply, as the act of speaking to one another and to the world. But the thread throughout this issue is voice as it is tied to agency and self-determination – who can speak, who is heard; when is it advisable – or political – to stay silent and when to scream; and when staying silent can betray those around us or ourselves.
As voice comes with being heard, it is always tied to listening. This issue privileges the back and forth of conversation. We’ve changed the magazine’s typical format, offering seven interviews and conversations in lieu of the usual features and columns. The idea, and the impetus behind calling the issue “Voice,” was to present many different voices; to publish artists and writers in their own words, with little editorial interference.
The artists featured in this issue work in vastly different ways – including video, documentary filmmaking, poetry, installation, performance, podcasts, exhibition-making, photography – and have been brought together because of the force of their voices and the ways in which their work generates critical conversations around art and institutions today. I couldn’t anticipate how these diverse texts would lie side-by-side, but there are remarkable overlaps and resonances between the texts, with many contributors touching upon issues of access and accountability and others digging into the structures around art – how one’s work is made visible, the challenges of working within institutional boundaries, the good (and otherwise) conversations and relationships that precede or follow the act of making one’s work public. As can be the beautiful thing with interviews, many of the conversations here reveal the personal side of art-making, the decisions and priorities that feed artists’ work before it is seen or heard.
The issue opens with Amy Fung in dialogue with artist Deanna Bowen about Bowen’s new work The Long Doorway, which, at the time of publication, is soon to open at Mercer Union in Toronto; Charlotte Henay and Raven Davis hold a frank discussion about Indigenous experience in Canada through the lens of Davis’ recent performance and installation work; Esmé Hogeveen and Charles Officer discuss Officer’s documentary films and the question of what constitutes Canadian audiences, looking at Officer’s recent documentary on Desmond Cole and his upcoming film about American political exile Nehanda Isoke Abiodun. We follow Lena Suksi and Aliya Pabani on Pabani’s new podcast The Imposter, and Fan Wu and Prathna Lor’s epistolary text on spectres of race and alterity in literature, which was prompted by the epigraph by Vietnamese poet Nguyen Trong Hiep that sits at the beginning of Walter Benjamin’s The Arcades Project. jes sachse’s essay offers a look inside the conversations that shape, motivate and at times trouble her work as an artist, be they institutional, professional or personal.
We’ve extended the dialogue format to the book reviews section, with, in both reviews, a writer interviewing an author. Artist Fabiola Carranza speaks with Steffanie Ling about her recently published book of short stories, Nascar, which circles around subjects of professionalism and productivity in contemporary art; and scholar Katherine McKittrick interviews Rinaldo Walcott on the lingering impact of Walcott’s book Black Like Who?, a groundbreaking work published in 1997 tracing Black Canadian culture and identity.
As an editor, this issue is refreshing as it takes writing and publishing as relational – an exchange of ideas, with two minds and voices tackling each topic presented in these pages. Publishing is an act of making a conversation or a voice public, extending it and even historicizing it. To me, this issue takes up C Magazine’s responsibility to publish difficult conversations, and to listen closely to the art communities that surround us.