Tag Archives: Artist-in-residence

Sara Ross

Interview with Nadine Valcin, 2015-16 Osgoode Hall Artist in Residence

Valcin photo

This week we have an interview with Nadine Valcin, one of the two women named as 2015-2016 Osgoode Hall Artists in Residence. Valcin is a documentary filmmaker, whose work has aired by broadcasters including CBC, TVO, W, TFO, and the History Network. We asked her more about her project and the relationship between her work and the law that will be explored during her time at Osgoode:

SR: Could you tell us a bit about yourself, your trajectory to becoming an artist in residence here at Osgoode? What attracted you to the artist in residence program?

NV: I was trained as an architect, have worked as a documentary filmmaker for nearly twenty years and am now also starting to write dramatic film scripts. The residency at Osgoode is a tremendous opportunity to immerse myself in an academic setting and explore a topic that is of great interest to me without having some of the time and financial constraints that often come into play when working on film project.

SR: What interests you about the law? What about your particular artistic medium: Why have you chosen it and how have you found it as a tool for engaging with the law?

NV: I’m interested in issues of social justice and how race, class and gender influences how people are perceived and treated in the world. The law fascinates me because it is meant to uphold the official parameters through which our society should operate.

Some of my work is related directly to the law. Years ago, I directed a documentary entitled Still Waiting for Justice for the National Film Board of Canada about a legal battle around racial harassment in the workplace. In addition to the project I’m doing at Osgoode, I am also writing a feature film script that deals with some of the issues around child soldier refugees.

Film, be it documentary or fiction, can raise awareness about important legal and ethical subjects while humanising them in very concrete terms. It is also about communicating what may be complex situations clearly and concisely.

SR: How do you view the role that art can play in legal education and/or the study of law?

NV: Art can be an important component of a legal education because it encourages creativity and the quest for different ways of tackling a problem. It also promotes seeing issues from a multiplicity of viewpoints and learning to adapt your message to effectively reach the audience you are addressing.

SR: Could you describe the project you will be undertaking at Osgoode?

NV: I am researching the topic of slavery in Canada to inform an interactive documentary project that is still in the very early stages of development.

The enslaved Africans who were on the margins of society weren’t well documented. One of the few ways in which they are visible is, for better or worse, through the legal system. Those who were accused of crimes, who escaped or who, in some cases, contested their status, have part of their stories inscribed in official court records. The artist-in-residence program is the ideal opportunity for me to delve into these legal records and to do broader research into the laws surrounding slavery in this country.

During my residency, I will be producing a video installation entitled Whitewash on a very specific part of that history. It recounts the story of the Shepard family starting with David and Kesiah Shepard, who were enslaved Africans brought by Loyalist Edmund Fanning, the Island’s second Lieutenant Governor in 1786. There are 9th generation descendants of the couple still living on the Island. Some of them retain darker complexions and African features, while others are very light-skinned with red hair. The piece looks at the process of assimilation that parallels the collective amnesia about Canada’s history of slavery.

SR: From what I understand, you’re seeking JD or graduate students who are interested in becoming involved in your project. How can students get involved? And how should they contact you?

NV: I am looking for students to help me scour legal documents for traces of stories about enslaved Africans (and about the Shepard family) that would shed some light about their lives here. I am interested in determining what the laws surrounding slavery were in this country, how they were applied and how those enslaved Africans were treated by the judicial system. I also need help for the production of the video installation and the documentation that will accompany it.

Students interested in the project can contact me at nvalcin@yorku.ca.

Sara Ross

September 16, 2015 Artist in Residence showcase

On September 16, 2015 artist-in-residence showcase featured last year’s artist-in-residence Julie Lassonde performing Counterbalance, and the unveiling of Cindy Blažević’s work Through A Prison System, Darkly: Criminal Justice Through the Lens of Kingston Penitentiary before an audience of Osgoode students and faculty. Here are some photos from the event.

Lassonde 1 Lassonde 2 Lassonde 3 Lassonde 4

Sara Ross

Update to September 16th Artist in Residence event

Cindy_Blazevic photo

Cindy Blažević, the 2013-14 Osgoode Artist in Residence, is joining Julie Lassonde in order to provide a demonstration of her installation piece Through A Prison System, Darkly: Criminal Justice Through the Lens of Kingston Penitentiary (2013-15). This installation will occur at the front entrance of Osgoode Hall between 1pm and 3pm on September 16, 2015. An excerpt from the installation’s media release is as follows:

As Osgoode’s inaugural Artist in Residence, Toronto-based visual artist Cindy Blazevic photographed Kingston Penitentiary after it closed its doors in 2013. “Seeing KP at the end of its life, without prisoners, allows us to see artifacts of lives lived within the building as well as the inherent limitations not only of this particular institution, but of any prison,” she said.

In order to better contextualize the photographs and what they might mean to different viewers, Blazevic then collaborated with upper-year Osgoode students to create a legal and historical narrative for those images, focusing on the challenges facing the Canadian penal system.

The result is the photo-based artwork, Through A Prison System, Darkly: Criminal Justice Through the Lens of Kingston Penitentiary, which will live permanently on kingpen.osgoode.yorku.ca, and which is accessible to the visual and hearing impaired. “The website is a choose-your-own adventure,” said Blazevic, who received Canada Council for the Arts and Ontario Arts Council funding for the project. “I don’t expect anyone to read or listen to the whole thing, but rather to be able to dip in and out. No matter where you land, it’ll be thought-provoking, maybe even perspective-altering.”

You can read more about the event at Osgoode Hall’s official announcement.

Sara Ross

Artist in Residence Julie Lassonde: A performance of Counterbalance

Julie Lassonde

This September 16th, Osgoode welcomes its 2014-15 artist in residence Julie Lassonde (LLM, LLB, BCL, BA Hons), founder of the first Francophone women shelter in Toronto, to Gowlings Hall for her performance of Counterbalance from 12:30pm to 1:00pm. A second performance will be held on September 20th form 3pm to 3:30pm. In advance of her anticipated performance, I took the opportunity to interview her about her upcoming project:

SR: [We] would be interested in knowing how you view the intersect between the law and the arts, specifically how this has played out in your career.

JL: I see the arts as providing space for reflection and contemplation through various forms that touch us at esthetic, emotional and intellectual levels. Law, for me, is an attempt at organizing our relationships to cohabit and achieve socio-political goals. One process impacts the other and each discipline can learn from the other. I am particularly interested in how non verbal communication and embodiment reinforce or shift the law.

SR: What led you to become interested in the artist in residence program?

JL: I thought it would be a great opportunity to engage with a community that values both art and law, as well as inquiries into their intersections.

SR: Any thoughts you might have about your time spent developing your Counterbalance project as the artist in residence at Osgoode?

JL: I am grateful for the opportunity that Osgoode provided me to exercise freedom of artistic expression, which is very similar to academic freedom. I think it is crucial that institutions such as Osgoode preserve these fundamental rights and allow for opportunities to put them in practice through funded programs and positions.

SR: How do you think legal education could further benefit from engagement with the arts?

JL: I believe that legal education should provide students with opportunities to discover different approaches to creating, understanding and practicing law. Context is crucial to law. Many artists have produced work that engages with law. Faculty and students can learn both from artists’ perspectives on law and from methodologies used by artists, such as representing ideas in various forms. The workshops I gave to Osgoode faculty and students during my residency made me realize that we still have a lot to learn from non-verbal interactions and from getting outside our comfort zones in our interactions as we engage with law.

The abstract of Ms. Lassonde’s LLM project includes the statement that she “will argue that embodied performance practices can be used to explore how law is transformed in daily life through physical acts.” A portion of Ms. Lassonde’s LLM project was published in the article: Julie Lassonde, “Performing Law” (2006) 1:1 The International Journal of the Arts in Society 151-158.