Letter to the Reader
by Jac Renée Bruneau and Kate Monro
Before you turn the page to find yourself inside this issue, we wanted to briefly share a few things about how we—Kate Monro, Publisher; Jaclyn Bruneau, Editor (the extent of C Magazine’s full-time staff); and, the board’s Equity Committee, Karie Liao, Annie Wong, and Vicky Wong—have been reflecting on this moment: unto itself, and as it pertains to our organization’s ongoing efforts towards anti-oppression, equity, and inclusion, and the ways we want and need to grow. Racism, especially anti-Black and anti-Indigenous racism, is a problem across the world, including in Canada and in our nation’s art sector. You’ve likely heard this too many times to count in past weeks, but we see the repetition of this acknowledgement as part of ensuring that it can never again be ignored.
Our content is a mix of pitched and solicited, and that ratio fluctuates from issue to issue. It’s important to us to post an open call, to invite people to think with us and to take us down roads we didn’t know existed. However, to this day we are still receiving a majority of pitches from white contributors and about white artists and discourses—yet we know that this is not for lack of talent, interest, and promise from BIPOC writers. While we do a significant amount of solicitation and mentorship to ensure that each issue includes a more representative cross-section of our community, that doesn’t really get at the root cause. Over the past five years, this has stimulated much discussion internally, and gradual efforts externally, to try and address it—namely through our Experiments in Criticism program, guest edited issues, and editorial advisory. Particularly in light of the powerful push for fair representation in the culture industry of late, why aren’t we hearing from a more diverse group of folks?
One part of the answer is that the majority of discourses pertaining to contemporary art and its historical canon have been informed by and continue to uphold Western European thought, values, and practices, systematically excluding non-Western worldviews, ideas and artistic expressions. This, despite that Europe is but one continent of the world among six others whose many peoples live in Canada and participate in its art world. While this may elucidate the foundation of the problem, there are practical barriers that need to be overcome in order to truly upend it. Emerging BIPOC critics must be encouraged to pursue art writing by instructors, and offered pathways to publishing by people further along in their careers to the same degree that their white counterparts are. Art publishing must ensure a culturally sensitive, safe, and productive forum in which BIPOC critics can develop, articulate and share their ideas. The precarious, inconsistent, and often modestly compensated nature of the opportunities that make it impossible to even imagine pursuing art writing—particularly for those who don’t have financial safety nets—must be rethought.
This is all part of what we—the expanded “we” now, including us as well as our peers in publishing, academia, artist-run centres, and public museums—need to do to decentre whiteness and usher in these unheard or underheard voices. It’s not about simply meeting a quota; numbers are relatively easy compared to the real, challenging tasks of capacity-building and cultivating diverse leadership. To this end, we previously worked with our board to introduce an Accessibility Policy and organizational equity goals, and more recently, with our aforementioned dedicated, permanent, and generous Equity Committee who worked steadfastly on our Equity Policy and Affirmative Action Procedures (all of which can be accessed online at equity.cmagazine.com) and continue to support our pursuits, helping define goals that are achievable given our financial and human resources.
We are currently incubating a few initiatives that will increase mentorship opportunities for BIPOC writers and editors, and more strongly support the close, care-full, critical, and constructive advancement of discourses surrounding BIPOC artistic practices and thought, by BIPOC and white writers alike. We will maintain and continue increasing the representation of equity-seeking groups across all of our operations, including on our staff, board of directors, and editorial advisory, and ensure anti-oppression principles are taught, developed, and made default in all decision-making, communications, and administrative processes. Frankly, we aren’t interested in a C Magazine that doesn’t centre this work.
We call upon all of our peers to commit to anti-racism and to take to heart these words by Angela Davis: “I am no longer accepting the things I cannot change. I am changing the things I cannot accept.”
Thank you for your continued interest in the magazine, and for your patience as we plot. We remain open to constructive criticism, as always.
Our thoughts are with our Black and Indigenous contributors and colleagues—past, present, and future—during this time.