Running with Concepts: The Empathic Edition

March 9–11, 2018

Blackwood Gallery, University of Toronto Mississauga


Image: Steven Eastwood, Island (film still), 2017. HD video, 90 minutes. Courtesy the artist.



Running with Concepts: The Empathic Edition

A three-day hybrid event

March 9–11, 2018
Blackwood Gallery, University of Toronto Mississauga

With invited presenters Joshua Clover & Juliana Spahr, Steven Eastwood, Nasrin Himada, Sheena Hoszko, Jakob Jakobsen, Carolyn Lazard, Robyn Maynard, Wanda Nanibush, M. NourbeSe Philip, Jeff Reinhart, and Pelin Tan.

Selected presenters Alana Bartol, Frog in Hand (Thomas Colford, Samuel Davilmar, Shadan Hyder, Paul Kitz, Cory McKinlay, Colleen Snell, Heather Snell), Declan Gould, Karina Griffith, Tea Hadžiristić, Yasmeen Nematt Alla, Matthew-Robin Nye, Sheharyar Raza, Jamie Ross, Lena Suksi, Susan Wolf, and Fan Wu.

Hosted by Christine Shaw


Full conference registration: $50
Friday registration only: $15
Saturday registration only: $25
Sunday registration only: $25
Students (with valid ID): FREE

The fifth edition of the Blackwood Gallery’s annual event concludes Take Care, a year-long program confronting the crisis of care. Bringing together artists, researchers, activists, and care professionals, Running with Concepts: The Empathic Edition explores the ethics of empathy, care as undercommons, and the prospects of a care coalition towards making care otherwise. The event asks: If care is a connective issue across social contexts and struggles, what might a new care coalition look like? What are the limits of empathy for promoting an ability to relate without identification, appropriation, or condescension? Running with Concepts: The Empathic Edition challenges prevailing assumptions about institutional forms of collective welfare and explores the limitations, and possibilities, of detaching practices of care from their tendency to reproduce dominant gender, racial, and economic relations.

Running with Concepts: The Empathic Edition appropriates the structure of Jakob Jakobsen’s project, Hospital Prison University Archive—in which he explores tensions between logics of care and logics of institutions—as the organizing device for the event. Borrowing from this strategy, each day is organized around a spatial-conceptual theme: UNIVERSITY, PRISON, HOSPITAL. The event opens with Friday evening presentations by Jakobsen, Karina Griffith, and Pelin Tan. Together they track pedagogy’s structures and methodologies through state institutions of care, reparations struggles, and extra-territorial spaces. Moving from academic and pedagogical tools to instruments of domination, punishment, and surveillance, Saturday’s events address the control of bodies and spaces—exploring how we might organize outside of systems of capture, oppression, and possession. Presentations by Alana Bartol, Yasmeen Nematt Alla, Nasrin Himada, Wanda Nanibush, M. NourbeSe Philip, Jamie Ross, Sheena Hoszko, Robyn Maynard, and Matthew-Robin Nye explore the insides and outsides of sites (carceral, cultural, conceptual, and infrastructural) that detain and delimit. Turning toward medical systems on Sunday, presentations by Frog in Hand, Sheharyar Raza, Declan Gould, Steven Eastwood, Naheed Dosani, Jenny Lau, Kimberley Widger, Susan Wolf, Carolyn Lazard, Jeff Reinhart, Tea Hadžiristić, Lena Suksi & Fan Wu, and Joshua Clover & Juliana Spahr interrogate and consider child and youth care, the treatment of gun violence, Alzheimer’s poetry, palliative care, therapeutic objects, accessibility guidelines, harm reduction, empathy burnout, and counter-reproduction, together mobilizing critical approaches to medicine and healing that “cut through apathy and empathy.” [1]

[1] Letters & Handshakes, Curatorial Statement, Take Care exhibition micropublication 00 (Mississauga: Blackwood Gallery, September 2017), 5.


Jackman Humanities Building, Room 100
170 St. George St, Toronto

7:00pm – Christine Shaw and Alison Cooley, Opening Remarks
7:15pm – Jakob Jakobsen, Care and Correction at the Hospital Prison University Archive
8:15pm – BREAK
8:30pm – Karina Griffith, The Empathic Curation of Republik Repair
9:00pm – Pelin Tan, Towards a Transversal Methodology and Alternative Pedagogy


Morning sessions:
Room 245, Instructional Building
, Building 334
University of Toronto Mississauga, 3359 Mississauga Rd

9am – Shuttle bus departs Jackman Humanities Institute for UTM
9:30-10:00am – Registration
10:00am – Alana Bartol, Orphan Well Woes: Remediation and Care in the Oil and Gas Industries
10:30am – Yasmeen Nematt Alla, Translating Empathy into Art: Stories from Syrian Refugees
11:00am – BREAK
11:30am – Nasrin Himada, Wanda Nanibush, M. NourbeSe Philip, The Gift of Grief is Care (organized by Nasrin Himada)
12:30-2:00pm – LUNCH
Afternoon sessions:
(Principal’s House), Building 301
University of Toronto Mississauga, 3369 Principal's Road

Ongoing throughout afternoon – Video installation of Karina Griffith’s Repair (2017) and Entitled (2016)
2:00pm – Jamie Ross, The Prison Witch
2:30pm – Robyn Maynard, Thinking Through Harm Reduction, State Violence, and Black Lives
3:00pm –BREAK
3:45pm – Sheena Hoszko, Of Birds and Ointments: Carceral Art, Harm, and Care 
4:30pm – Matthew-Robin Nye, Turbulent propositions, emergent relations: Difficult Proposals and what might come from them
5:00pm – Gallery tour (artists and curators in attendance)
6:00pm – Bus returns for Toronto


Morning sessions:
Room 137, Innovation Complex/Kaneff Centre,
Building 314
University of Toronto Mississauga, 3359 Mississauga Rd

9:00am – Shuttle bus departs Jackman Humanities Institute for UTM
9:30-10:00am – Registration
10:00am – Frog in Hand, How do we know?
10:30am –Sheharyar Raza, Between Me and You—A Deadly Loss of Empathy
10:45am – Declan Gould, “her words clues, symptoms to a foregone opening”: Care and Collaboration in Alzheimer’s Poetry
11:15am – BREAK
11:45am – Steven Eastwood, The Interval and the Instant: Inscribing Death and Dying (in conversation with Dr. Naheed Dosani, Dr. Jenny Lau & Dr. Kimberley Widger)
12:45-2:00pm – LUNCH
2:00pm – Susan Wolf, workshop with Shared Weight

Afternoon sessions:
University Council Chambers, Davis Building,
Building 313
University of Toronto Mississauga, 3359 Mississauga Rd

2:30pm – Carolyn Lazard, Conditions for a Speculative Access
3:15–3:30pm BREAK
3:30pm –Jeff Reinhart, Reorganizing Care Structures: One Nurse’s Perspective on Opioid Overdose Response
4:00pm – Tea Hadžiristić, Lena Suksi, Fan Wu, The Limits of Empathy: A Trio-logue
5:00pm – Joshua Clover and Juliana Spahr, Care and Counter-reproduction
6:00pm – Bus returns for Toronto


Click here for directions UTM and transit/parking information.

Presentation Descriptions


Joshua Clover & Juliana Spahr, Care and Counter-reproduction
In this presentation, which also involves the reading of poems, Clover and Spahr take up what they consider to be the fundamental problems of care: If care is a mode of reproductive labour, to what extent is it already captured in reproducing social relations as they are, rendering them more bearable, and preserving them? Can care accumulate revolutionary capacity in that circumstance as we hope, or is it continually dissipated in the endless churn of social reproduction within capital? Is care locked into the understanding of a micro-political resistance within the pores of hegemonic state and capital, or can we imagine an approach to care as a kind of counter-reproduction—one that reproduces and potentially accumulates revolutionary force without reproducing state and capital?

Steven Eastwood, The Interval and the Instant: Inscribing Death and Dying
ISLAND (2017) is a feature-length film made through close engagement with individuals with terminal illness, and the involvement and oversight of palliative care professionals at Earl Mountbatten Hospice on the Isle of Wight. The film, and its related multiscreen video installation, The Interval and the Instant, follows several individuals as they experience the year in which their lives will end. Illness progresses, relationships gently shift, and we are witness to rarely seen and intensely private moments. One person shares their acceptance of death, whilst another is surrounded by a community in shock.  ISLAND observes bedside care and the rhythm of breathing.  In a pathology lab, microscopic biopsies in close-up show the interior of bodies, our biology. 

Filmed over 12 months on the Isle of Wight, ISLAND is a life-affirming reflection on the phenomena of dying, portraying the transition away from active personhood and observing the last days and hours of life and the moment of death.  Like the ferries cyclically arriving and departing in this enigmatic landscape, the film appears buoyant, afloat. Death is shown to be natural and everyday but also unspeakable and strange. ISLAND attempts to engender a space where the phenomena of dying can be given an image, addressing the deficit of moving images of death in contemporary western culture.

Following the screening of an excerpt of ISLAND, Steven Eastwood will facilitate a discussion with local palliative care professionals Dr. Naheed Dosani, Dr. Jenny Lau, and Dr. Kimberley Widger, exploring issues around end-of-life care through the lens of film to consider the reach and impact of the work in terms of art and visual culture, language and linguistics, medical ethics and law.

Nasrin Himada, Wanda Nanibush, M. NourbeSe Philip, The Gift of Grief is Care
Organized by Nasrin Himada
Nasrin Himada, Wanda Nanibush, and M. NourbeSe Philip will engage in a conversation on healing as a collective and relational condition of care. Inspired by Philip’s poetry, specifically her book Zong!, Himada’s intention in organizing this gathering stemmed from thinking about Zong! not solely as book, or poem, or piece of art, but as ritual. Zong! conditions a space for healing that deeply engages, simultaneously, with the past, present and future. Nanibush’s writings, and leadership in social justice movements, teaching, and curating, also touch on this aspect of art’s healing powers. Together, this gathering grapples with art’s connection to care by focusing on healing rituals as they appear in our practices. Art is life and belongs to life in how it's lived, in ritual, in praxis, in thinking, and feeling, and healing. These relations are inherent to the process of making, and doing, and remembering, and contending with the pain and grief that is the work of everyday. This discussion explores how healing can move beyond the self—beyond an individualist project—and manifest as a collective one. 

Sheena Hoszko, Of Birds and Ointments: Carceral Art, Harm, and Care 
Hoszko’s presentation focuses on recent visual art produced in and outside of Canadian and American prisons, and situates art production and reception (or lack thereof) in relation to harm and care. By doing so, Hoszko asks the questions: what do we do when people cause harm? What do we do when we cause harm? 

Jakob Jakobsen, Care and Correction at the Hospital Prison University Archive
In this presentation, Danish artist, educator, and organizer Jakob Jakobsen will reflect on the relations between psychiatric treatment and academic learning, looking at the different shapes of subjectivity reproduced through these institutions. This lecture is a continuation of research currently being developed through the project Hospital Prison University Archive, a combined archive and radio station based in Copenhagen. Jakobsen’s work experiments with institutions as instruments of power: subtle training camps and space of violence that are reproduced every day. Here, he attempts to find words to explore the threshold between these institutional spaces, and will reflect upon whether new forms of anti-psychiatry and anti-pedagogy are possible. 

Carolyn Lazard, Conditions for a Speculative Access
In the United States, the mainstream discourse on accessibility has been dominated by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The ADA’s primacy has allowed institutions to address access on purely juridical terms, focusing on accessibility as an obligation and liability. Institutions are often motivated to make accommodations by fear of committing torts and being sued. This presentation reframes questions of access to re-centre the people affected by inaccessible space and acts of exclusion. Lazard's presentation explores how a primarily juridical relationship to disability undermines the lived experiences of disabled people and privileges the state, rather than the public(s) that institutions claim to serve.

Disability justice provides radical tools for an embodied and intersectional disability politics. Drawing on the work of artists, scholars, and activists in disability justice movements, this presentation discusses the need for a shift in our current conception of accessibility. What kinds of communities can we build when access goes beyond ramps, grab bars, and doorway measurements, and includes less quantifiable elements of a space? What about needs that can’t be met? How can disability and a perceived excess of need threaten the very stability of an institution? The future of accessibility depends on institutions that are capable of engaging complex models of disability, recognizing ability to be in constant flux. It’s critical to create the conditions for a speculative access; how can we account for the needs that we cannot see, that we cannot anticipate, and that do not yet exist in emerging experiences and identities?

Robyn Maynard, Thinking Through Harm Reduction, State Violence, and Black Lives
In this presentation, Maynard discusses the relationship between her writing, activism, and outreach, reflecting on nearly a decade of harm-reduction work that includes street-based outreach, prison workshops, youth group home visits and accompaniments to health, legal and social services. She will interrogate conceptions of health, advocacy, harm reduction, and abolition, asking us to imagine how these notions shift when we centre Black lives and Black feminist futures.

Jeff Reinhart
, Reorganizing Care Structures: One Nurse’s Perspective on Opioid Overdose Response
In August 2017, concerned community members, specifically harm reduction workers and people who use drugs, opened an unsanctioned overdose prevention site at Moss Park in downtown Toronto. A few weeks later, Reinhart began volunteering at this site. He was drawn not only by the urgency of the opioid crisis, but also by the site’s political configuration, which upended the biomedical hierarchy that is standard to most of the settings where he works. Reflecting on his interactions with the site and its people, Reinhart highlights political and social relations that might guide a reimagining of the institutions of care surrounding us today.

Pelin Tan, Towards a Transversal Methodology and Alternative Pedagogy
Tan will introduce her curatorial, spatial, academic, and artistic methodologies to ask: Is a transversal method possible? Can a collective experience of the translocal production of knowledge and of instant alliances lead to the creation of common spaces? What are the problematics and possibilities? Methodology is not only the means of a system for describing realities, it is a political tool that takes part in the process of knowledge production. On both theoretical and practical levels, such processes could well be vital in enabling the knowledge of everyday life to intervene in institutional bodies, and vital to the flow of alternative pedagogies into different platforms, resulting in the emergence of creative forms of solidarity in extra-territorial spaces. In discussing her ongoing projects, Tan shares her experiences of refugee camps, knowledge production in conflict zones, and alternative pedagogical structures.


Alana Bartol, Orphan Well Woes: Remediation and Care in the Oil and Gas Industries
Over the past year, Bartol has developed a series of artworks that examine the role of care and caretaking in the oil and gas industry. Orphan Well Adoption Agency and In Blood and Bone are ongoing site-responsive projects that include performance, installation, drawing, video, and participatory elements.

The number of orphan oil well sites in Alberta is quickly increasing. Even once the drilling has stopped, these sites threaten to contaminate land, water, and life in the region. Remediation can take up to ten years if levels of contamination are high. The Orphan Well Adoption Agency (OWAA) is a fictional non-profit organization dedicated to finding caretakers for orphan wells. Through symbolic adoptions, members of the public are asked to consider their role as oil well caretakers. The OWAA re-imagines dowsing, a form of divination used to locate water, sites, oil, and information, as a form of technology for remediation, one that might shift our relationship to natural resources, while simultaneously examining remediation, care, and the reliability of information. This talk presents some of Bartol’s recent work in this series, including correspondence from wells to their caretakers.

Frog in HandHow do we know?
How do we know? uses movement and relational inquiry to explore Child and Youth Care (CYC) teaching and learning.  Departing from an understanding of Child and Youth Care as a professional, relational practice that seeks to support marginalized young people, this project began by questioning whether empathy and caring can be taught, asking: if it is possible to value and trust instinctual wisdom, care ethics, love, relational knowing, and inter-subjective practices within academic institutions? How do we know? engages three CYC students, three dancers, and a CYC educator. Together, they explore the incongruence of preparing students for CYC practice within traditional academia, as they consider personal narratives and lived experiences of abuse, social injustice, mental illness, homelessness, oppression, and resilience, as positions of wisdom.

Declan Gould, “her words clues, symptoms to a foregone opening”:  Care and Collaboration in Alzheimer’s Poetry
This presentation explores how Dementia Blog (2008), Susan Schultz’s book of prose poems about her mother’s experience with Alzheimer’s, destabilizes the boundaries between subject and object and practices rhetorical listening. These strategies have the potential to shift the fields of Disability Studies and Poetics towards an expanded view of care, one which emphasizes collaboration between able-bodied people and people with Alzheimer's, as well as other types of neurodiversity. Alzheimer’s renders individuals unable to speak for themselves in a conventionally “coherent” manner. This has driven many writers to attempt to document and interpret their parent's Alzheimer’s despite the difficult ethical questions about appropriation that are inevitably raised during this process. As Gould argues, experimental poetry is uniquely equipped to intervene in these questions.

Karina Griffith, The Empathic Curation of Republik Repair
In autumn 2017, Ballhaus Naunynstraße, a post-migrant theatre in Berlin, hosted Ten Points, Ten Demands, One Festival—Republik Repair: Reparatory Imaginings from Black Berlin. As curator of this project, Griffith conceived and executed a program of a performance, theatre, film, music, and storytelling exploring the lived experiences of Black peoples in Europe through the framework of the CARICOM Ten-Point Plan for Reparatory Justice. Republik Repair addressed the global crisis of empathy in relation to these reparation struggles. Here, Griffith shares the limits and possibilities of mixing policy proposals with creative outputs through curatorial practice.

This presentation is complemented by a two-channel installation, in Lislehurst, of works that originally screened during Republik Repair in the BLACKOGNITIONS programme:

Repair (5:22 min, 2017). When Guyana gained independence from British colonial rule in 1966, the United States government feared the country would become another communist stronghold. Covert CIA interventions drove so many people out that it is now estimated more Guyanese live outside the country’s borders than within them. Repair shows how human and organic structures long to live in harmony with each other.

Entitled (5:02 min., 2016). What have you unlearned? When was the last time you were speechless? Entitled is a collective response to these questions, on which the Visual Creole workshop led by Karina Griffith at the Black Arts Retreat Souls Sisters Edition in Brandenburg, Germany was based.

Tea Hadžiristić, Lena Suksi, Fan Wu, The Limits of Empathy: A Trio-logue
What does empathy occlude? When might it efface difference by reducing difference to feeling? What are the limits of thinking of care as empathy? In this trio-logue, we interrogate the pervasive notion of empathy—often cast as the prerequisite or synonym for care. Insofar as the positive valuation of empathy is taken for granted across many discourses, this collective trio-logue will take a transdisciplinary approach to a critique of empathy and an exploration of its limits for professional care, political action, and literary experience. It begins with a fable about the boy who stuck his finger in the dike, then weaves through the construction of the empathizable political subject and its limits as a driver of political action, Daoist conceptions of the cosmos, close readings of contemporary poetry, the philosophy of Walter Benjamin, and accounts of empathy burnout in lived experience—to explore care otherwise than as empathy. The collective ends by expanding its discourse into the room, inviting audience members' thoughts into the trio-logue.

Yasmeen Nematt Alla, Translating Empathy into Art: Stories from Syrian Refugees
During the Syrian Refugee crisis, there was a desperate need for volunteer translators in the Kitchener-Waterloo region. As a native Arabic speaker, Yasmeen applied for the position and began two years of translating refugee stories for government forms, clinics, schools, and simple everyday errands. During visits to their homes, she got to know the refugees more intimately and in some of their conversations they confided aspects of their lives to her that they felt couldn’t, or shouldn’t, be divulged to their social workers or others in positions of power. Some of those sentiments were endearing and heartening while others were filled with sadness and despair. As an artist, Yasmeen’s work explores the notion of empathy—how art is a vehicle that enables a connection with people who have suffered in solitary silence. Her talk speaks to these experiences, and addresses the artwork she created in response to the idea of the translator—a role that positions the “other” as a kind of living prosthetic who enables the refugee voice and who also takes the role of empathetic listener.

Matthew-Robin Nye, Turbulent propositions, emergent relations: Difficult Proposals and what might come from them
The sitedness of learning, whatever its object of study, needs some turbulence to be felt, because it exists in the world and the world needs to be contended with.

What does “sitedness” mean when the production of knowledge takes place on actively contested land? Oka, Quebec is the site of ongoing illegal development on Kanehsatà:ke land. On behalf of Concordia’s doctoral program, Nye recently proposed a seven-day Field School to take place at Oka, where the object of study considers how we contend with our own work on uncertain grounds; this is, of course, contentious. Ethics of care come into play: how do you ask permission, and from whom, and when? In this presentation, Nye outlines these concerns, shows where they are in the process, and opens discussion for feedback. What potential relations emerge when you take a risk?

Sheharyar Raza, Between Me and You—A Deadly Loss of Empathy
In medicine, empathy is understood as the emotive and cognitive expression of concern for, and comprehension of, the person and their illness—conditions necessary for good patient care. Yet much will vitiate empathy for the other, only some of it amendable. This case study explores the quality of otherness that challenges caregivers who help trauma victims. It draws on Raza’s experience of caring for a young victim of gun violence in order to examine barriers to empathy and their impact on medical outcomes. The case illustrates how the same risk factors that cause the initial insult present a formidable hurdle to empathy and continue to harm victims throughout their journey within the healthcare system. The aim is to demonstrate that the failure to empathize with trauma victims can lead to further trauma, and suggest ways we can do better.

Jamie Ross, The Prison Witch
Chaplaincy is central to the established model of incarceration in Canada, in which the government provides some religious programming to aid in the “correction” of people convicted of crimes. Departing from the Christian formula of criminal justice based on the contrition and repentance of individuals, religious visitation can empower minority religious practitioners behind bars with the resilience and numinous tools to resist their jailors. The Prison Witch is a storytelling session based on visual artist Jamie Ross’ experience making religious visits to Pagan inmates in federal prisons in Quebec, with a brief history of minority religious chaplaincy in Canada. The session will close in the field outside the gallery with the opportunity to join in a group catharsis exercise using the body and voice. Wild-crafted herbal tea will be served. 

Susan Wolf, Shared weight
Weighted pads are used by healthcare professionals as a sensory tool, offering a deep-touch pressure, a proprioceptive input that can have a calming, organizing effect. These objects are used therapeutically by people with sensory processing disorders, psychiatric conditions, Attention Deficit (Hyperactivity) Disorder, and autism, as well as in classrooms to help students maintain focus.

Soft, blue, weighted pads and transformed neck pillows produced by Susan Wolf are available for conference participants throughout Running with Concepts and Wolf will lead a movement-based workshop with the objects during the final afternoon of the conference. Beyond a wish to soothe the anxieties of conference participants, Wolf is curious about the shared experience of wearing a therapeutic device and seeing a colleague, friend, or co-participant doing the same.

The objects are each approximately six to eight pounds and their collective weight is equivalent to the artist’s. This is a personal offering of labour and body. And why blue? As writer Rebecca Solnit explores in her exquisite A Field Guide to Getting Lost (2005), blue “is the color of an emotion, the color of solitude and of desire.”

Invited Presenters

Joshua Clover is a Professor of English and Comparative Literature at University of California, Davis. He is the author of six books, including poetry, cultural history, and political theory; his writing has been translated into a dozen languages. His most recent books are the poetry collection Red Epic (Commune Editions, 2015) and Riot.Strike.Riot: The New Era of Uprisings (Verso, 2016), a political economy of insurrection and re-narration of capital’s history. He edits Studies in Revolution and Literature for Palgrave Macmillan along with Bruno Bosteels.

Dr. Naheed Dosani is a passionate and respected advocate for marginalized and vulnerable populations with palliative needs. He serves as a Palliative Care Physician at the Inner City Health Associates (ICHA), William Osler Health System (WOHS) and is the founder of PEACH (Palliative Education And Care for the Homeless), a mobile, street- and shelter-based outreach service. Dr. Dosani serves on faculty as Assistant Clinical Professor in the Department of Family Medicine at McMaster University and as Lecturer in the Department of Family & Community Medicine at the University of Toronto (St. George).

Steven Eastwood is an artist and filmmaker whose practice spans documentary film, installation-based moving image, media arts, and theory. He holds a PhD from the Slade School of Fine Art, University College London, and teaches film practice at Queen Mary University of London. His feature-length film, Island, and multi-channel video installation, The Interval and the Instant, were made through close engagement with individuals with terminal illness and the involvement and oversight of palliative care professionals at Earl Mountbatten Hospice (Isle of Wight). Recent exhibitions include Fabrica (Brighton, UK), QUT Art Museum (Brisbane), KK Projects (New Orleans), and the Institute of Contemporary Arts (London).

Nasrin Himada is a Palestinian writer and curator based in Tio'tia:ke (Montreal), in Kanien'kehá:ka territory. Her research explores the politics of contemporary art practices, specifically focusing on experimental and expanded cinema, and contemporary media arts. Her writing has been published in Contemp+rary, C Magazine, Critical Signals, The Funambulist: Politics of Space and Bodies, Fuse Magazine, and MICE Magazine, among others.

Sheena Hoszko is a sculptor, anti-prison organizer, and settler living and working in Tio'tia:ke (Montreal), in Kanien'kehá:ka territory. Her art practice examines the power dynamics of geographic and architectural sites, and is informed by her family’s experiences with incarceration and the military. Selected solo exhibitions include Centre Clark and La Centrale (Montreal), A Space (Toronto), Artspace (Peterborough), The New Gallery (Calgary), and Forest City Gallery (London, ON), with upcoming projects at articule (Montreal). She is also an avid sci-fi/speculative fiction fan.

Jakob Jakobsen is an artist and organizer who recently opened the Hospital University Prison Archive in Copenhagen. He has developed the Antihistory project (2012-ongoing), investigating the Antiuniversity of London, established in 1968, as well as the New Experimental College of Copenhagen, established in 1962. He cofounded the trade union Unge Kunstnere og Kunstformidlere (UKK) [Young Artists and Art Mediators], Copenhagen; was professor at Funen Art Academy (Odense, Denmark); and was part of the Copenhagen Free University. With The Antiuniversity Research Project, he participated in And And And, dOCUMENTA 13 (Kassel). Jakobsen lives and works in Copenhagen and London.

Dr. Jenny Lau is a Palliative Care Physician at Princess Margaret Cancer Centre, which is a member of the University Health Network in Toronto. She is a Toronto lead in launching a Compassionate Communities initiative—a project with the goal of mobilizing communities to support individuals and their loved ones during times of illness, death, and dying outside of health institutions.

Carolyn Lazard is an artist working in video, performance, and text. Her work engages collective practice to address the ecology of care, dependency, and visibility. Lazard has presented work in numerous spaces across the United States, including at Light Industry, Anthology Film Archives, the New Museum, Museum of Modern Art, and the Whitney Museum of American Art (New York); the Wexner Center for the Arts (Columbus); and the Slought Foundation (Philadelphia). She has published writing in the Brooklyn Rail and Mousse Magazine, and is currently writing an Accessibility Guide for Common Practice. She is a founding member of Canaries, a healing and arts collective of chronically ill women and femmes.

Robyn Maynard is a Black feminist author, community organizer, and public intellectual based in Montreal. She has been a part of movements against racial profiling, police violence, detention, and deportation for over a decade. She has presented before the United Nations, and made numerous presentations across Canada and the United States on anti-Black racism, gender, criminalization, and the lasting legacy of slavery in Canada. She is the author of Policing Black Lives: State Violence in Canada from Slavery to the Present (Fernwood, 2017).

Wanda Nanibush is an Anishinaabe-kwe curator, image and word warrior, and community organizer. Currently, she is the inaugural curator of Indigenous Art at the Art Gallery of Ontario. She holds a Master’s in Visual Studies from the University of Toronto where she has taught graduate courses. Her curatorial projects include Rita Letendre: Fire & Light (Art Gallery of Ontario), Toronto: Tributes + Tributaries, 1971-1989 (Art Gallery of Ontario), Sovereign Acts II (Leonard & Bina Ellen Art Gallery, Montreal), The Fifth World (Mendel Art Gallery, Saskatoon) and the award-winning KWE: Photography, Sculpture, Video and Performance by Rebecca Belmore (Justina M. Barnicke Gallery, Toronto).

M. NourbeSe Philip is a poet, essayist, novelist, playwright, and former lawyer who lives in the space-time of the city of Toronto. Author of five books of poetry, one novel, and three collections of essays, her most recent work of poetry, Zong!, is a genre-breaking, book-length poem which engages with law, history, and memory as they relate to the transatlantic slave trade. Her most recent collection of essays is BlanK (BookThug, 2017). Winner of many awards including Guggenheim and Rockefeller Fellowships, and the Arts Foundation of Toronto Writing and Publishing Award, she is also a Dora Award finalist for her play Coups and Calypsos.

Jeff Reinhart works as a registered nurse in the LGBTQ Primary Care program at Sherbourne Health Centre (Toronto). There, the majority of his clients are lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, and other queer-identified people, and he provides nursing care to Sherbourne’s HIV Clinic—a low barrier, drop-in-based clinic for people living with HIV. He collaborates with community members and clinicians from across Canada through research, community mobilization, advocacy, and clinical care, focusing on a range of issues, including transition-related surgery, opioid overdose response, and HIV medication access and delivery.

An award-winning poet, Juliana Spahr's most recent book is That Winter the Wolf Came (Commune Editions, 2015). She edits the book series Chain Links with Jena Osman, the collectively-funded Subpress with nineteen other people, and Commune Editions with Joshua Clover and Jasper Bernes. She has edited many anthologies, including A Megaphone: Some Enactments, Some Numbers, and Some Essays about the Continued Usefulness of Crotchless-pants-and-a-machine-gun Feminism (Chain Links, 2011) and American Women Poets in the 21st Century (Wesleyan University Press, 2002) with Claudia Rankine.

Pelin Tan is a sociologist and art historian based in Mardin, Turkey. She is Associate Professor of Architecture at Mardin Artuklu University and contributor to Silent University, a pedagogical platform for refugees and migrants. She is currently researching the Pearl River Delta as “territorial sea” and is leading socio-spatial discursive research on refugee camps in Turkey and Palestine. She has participated in multiple biennials and triennials, including Istanbul (2007, 2015); Lisbon (2013); Montreal (2014); Oslo (2016); and Venice (2016).

Dr. Kimberley Widger's
research focuses on examining and enhancing structures, processes, and outcomes of palliative care provided to children living with life-threatening illnesses and their families. She is an Assistant Professor at the Lawrence S. Bloomberg Faculty of Nursing, University of Toronto, and a Nursing Research Associate with the Pediatric Advanced Care Team (PACT) at the Hospital for Sick Children.

Selected Presenters

Alana Bartol comes from a long line of water witches. Through performance, video, drawing, and research-based practices, her site-responsive artworks propose walking and divination as ways of understanding across places, species, and bodies. Her work has been presented in festivals and galleries in the USA, Romania, Mexico and Canada. She teaches at the Alberta College of Art and Design and is founder of the Orphan Well Adoption Agency (OWAA).

Originally from Cape Breton Island, Thomas Colford moved to Toronto when he was sixteen and has since danced with the likes of Janet Jackson, Shawn Mendes, and Imagine Dragons. Thomas is a passionate advocate and spent the past summer leading his mission to preserve youth art facilities in the Maritimes, raising $50,000 which benefitted five programs and buildings. Thomas moves forward fearlessly, never forgetting his mantra: “made with purpose.”

Samuel Dalivar began dance training at the age of fifteen, entering professional training with The Conteur Academy only three years later. He has worked with Eryn Waltman, Ryan Lee, Kelly Shaw, Stephanie Rutherford, Kevin Howe, Shawn Bracke, Akira Uchida, and others, including Universal Music’s production of “Deeper” by Kapri! Samuel is also involved teaching and working with young people as part of Dancers Give Back. 

Declan Gould holds an MFA from Temple University and is a PhD candidate in the Poetics program in the Department of English at the University at Buffalo. She is the author of the chapbooks Model Figure (Shirt Pocket Press, 2015) and "Like" or "As" (dancing girl press, 2018), and the article “‘I am/in pain’: The Form of Suffering in David Wolach’s Hospitalogy and Amber DiPietra and Denise Leto’s Waveform” (Journal of Literary and Cultural Disability Studies, 2017).

Karina Griffith’s films and installations explore themes of fear and fantasy, often focusing on how they relate to belonging. She is a PhD candidate at the University of Toronto's Cinema Studies Institute, where her research on Black authorship in German cinema interacts with theories of affect, intersectionality, and creolization. She has written for Women in German Studies Special Online Section on Race and Inclusivity, Berlin Art Link, and Shadow & Act. In 2017 she curated the festival Republik Repair: Reparatory Imaginings from Black Berlin, and she is currently the Artist-in-Residence for District Berlin's Decolonizing 68 project. 

Tea Hadžiristić is a political scientist and policy researcher whose work in Canada and the Balkans interrogates gender, poverty, inequality, labour, nationalism, and migration. She holds an MSc in International Relations Theory from the London School of Economics and Political Science.

Shadan Hyder is an advocate for all those marginalized by the system. As an advocate, Shadan strives to work in partnership with others to effect change. In addition to practical experience, Shadan has completed studies in Child and Youth Work at George Brown College, and Child and Youth Care (CYC) at Ryerson University, where she is now an MA candidate in the CYC program.

Paul Kitz is a child and youth care practitioner, trained at Ryerson University, who has most recently worked in nature mentorship and hospice/grief work. Before being drawn to work with young people, his focus was in environmental and media advocacy. He loves to play, sing, dance, and thinks pigeons and raccoons get a bad rap.

As a recent graduate of Ryerson University’s Child and Youth Care program, Cory MacKinlay is a passionate advocate with and for youth. He is currently a contributing author to an international child and youth care publication series documenting the experiences of children in residential care systems throughout the world. To all his work, Cory brings the wisdom gathered from his own journey as an Indigenous child walking through the child protection system.  

Yasmeen Nematt Alla is an Egyptian-Canadian artist whose practice approaches current issues through sculpture and installation, frequently employing text and kinetics. She explores solitary experiences while considering how to bridge the gap between what we know and what we wish to understand. Entranced by the power of text and its ability to dialogue with the onlooker, she creates sentences that act as portraits—of herself and others who share similar circumstances.

Matthew-Robin Nye is a visual artist, curator, and PhD student in Interdisciplinary Humanities at Concordia University.  He is invested in “wildnesses” that resist capture and form momentary utopias; in how perception informs landscape; and in fabulation as creative practice. Nye is developing the keywords “Refugia”— that place where process go to rest and regenerate—and “The Warble”— the moment when world announces itself to perception, hinting that something is awry in its unfolding.

Sheharyar Raza is an MD candidate and trauma researcher at the University of Toronto. His current research explores trauma caused by traffic crashes, concussions, and gun violence. Past work has focused on the neuroscience of prejudice, mechanisms of addiction, and positive psychology. He was a co-organizer for the inaugural TEDx conference at the University of Toronto and founding member of Flourish, an initiative aimed at early mental health intervention for undergraduate students.

Jamie Ross is a preschool educator, witch, and self-taught visual artist based in Montreal. Queer lineage—biological and cultural—is one of his main interests and is the subject of his recent book Rousings: A Luminous Brotherhood. His most recent solo exhibition was mounted at the Klondike Institute for Art and Culture (Dawson City, YK) and, from April to May, 2018, he will be exhibiting simultaneously at Verticale (Laval, QC) and Eastern Bloc (Montreal), in concert with pagan men incarcerated in federal prisons in Quebec, which he visits in his capacity as a witch. 

Colleen Snell trained at the Canadian Contemporary Dance Theatre (Toronto) and at École de danse contemporaine de Montréal before completing her MA at the London Contemporary Dance School. Her creative processes seek diverse collaborations across disciplines and have included installations in abandoned spaces, performance works with “non-trained” dancers, fight choreography for Eve of St. George, and participation in the Creative Gesture Program at the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity. Colleen is the Artistic Director of Frog in Hand Productions.

Heather Snell is drawn to the “in-betweens” where disciplines merge. She has participated with youth in wilderness adventures, played with toddlers in hospital settings, shared residential care with young people, advocated with youth challenged by brain injuries, and supported young people facing terminal illness. Formerly the Coordinator of Child and Youth Care (CYC) programs at Humber College, Heather is currently the Chair of Research with the Canadian CYC Education Accreditation Board, and is teaching faculty at both Ryerson and Strathclyde Universities.

Lena Suksi has formalized her desire to know what others are feeling through horoscope readings and poetic reinterpretation. She has worked at a crisis line and in support work.

Susan Wolf is a multidisciplinary artist working from a place of empathy, exploration, and relation. She creates animations, objects, and dance-based performance. In 2017, Wolf relocated from the salty shores of Halifax to Toronto to pursue collaboration and curiosity. In addition to her art practice, she works as an educator at the Art Gallery of Ontario and accessibility coordinator at the Toronto Fringe Festival.

Fan Wu is a translator and a poet whose first book of poems, Hoarfrost & Solace (espresso, 2016), stages an encounter between the American confessional and the Chinese nature poetry traditions. He holds two M.A. degrees from the University of Toronto, in Comparative Literature and Cinema Studies. He hosts a series of critical reading and creative writing workshops through Art Metropole, most recently focusing on the question of representing mourning and grief.


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. Additional support for Running with Concepts: The Empathic Edition is provided by the Department of Visual Studies (UTM) through the Graduate Expansion Fund.