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Concordia’s VCR hosts curators-in-residence to increase representation of BIPOC filmmakers in collection

Curators will take a decolonial approach and focus on addressing gaps in the collection
March 22, 2021
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By Amelia Wong-Mersereau

Still images from the following films: Allah, Khalik, director. Black Mother. Grasshopper Film, 2018. Benchekroun, Hind and Memer, Sami, directors. Callshop Istanbul. Turtle Films, 2015. Tom, Paul, director. May I Live in Peace. Vihtèque, 2010. Akyol, Zayne, director. Under Two Skies. Vithèque, 2010. Still images from the following films: Allah, Khalik, director. Black Mother. Grasshopper Film, 2018. Benchekroun, Hind and Memer, Sami, directors. Callshop Istanbul. Turtle Films, 2015. Tom, Paul, director. May I Live in Peace. Vihtèque, 2010. Akyol, Zayne, director. Under Two Skies. Vithèque, 2010.

The Visual Collections Repository (VCR) in the Faculty of Fine Arts has launched a unique residency program this Winter term aimed at developing their moving image collection by acquiring more films by Black, Indigenous, and people of colour filmmakers.

Two recent graduates from Concordia, Tanvi Rajvanshi [MA 20, Film Studies] and Desirée de Jesus [PhD 19, Film and Moving Image Studies], will select 8 to 10 films each for the collection to acquire in digital formats such as DVD and Blu-ray.

“We have previously had artists in residence who worked with archival material to create art,” explains Pamela Caussy, Supervisor of the VCR, “and we have had a curator in residence who examined the films but didn’t quite assist with collection development. This program will focus on collection development around what we recognize as gaps in the collection.”

The VCR provides academic resources and visual materials to students and teachers in the Faculty of Fine Arts. It is an important hub for research and exchange and the program is part of the Faculty of Fine Arts’s larger mission to decolonize its curricula, adds Caussy.

“There’s still work to be done in terms of our approach to collection development,” says Caussy.

The VCR plans to have this residency program run on a yearly basis to continue growing and evolving based on the needs of the Faculty of Fine Art’s teachers and students.

An interest in how film programming might illuminate ‘the fullness of Black lives’

VCR Curator-in-residence Desirée de Jesus. VCR Curator-in-residence Desirée de Jesus.

The two residents started in January and have been working closely with Caussy and Charlie Lessard-Berger, the Moving Image Coordinator, who will purchase the materials requested by the residents.

“I appreciate the work Pamela and Charlie are putting into scheduling Zoom check-ins and making themselves available for really helpful conversations,” says Rajvanshi.

When Rajvanshi pursued her MA in Film Studies at Concordia she co-programmed the 2019-2020 screening series based out of the Global Emergent Media Lab, “Cinema in the Midst of Struggle.” She says her goal during this residency is to show how “histories of movement are marked by violence and trauma, which take many generations to negotiate or even to verbalize and understand.”

De Jesus, who was the Faculty of Fine Arts Valedictorian at the 2020 Fall Convocation, is an educator, film programmer, researcher, and video essayist. Her research and teaching concentrate on the intersections of race, gender, and aesthetics in film and digital media.

“I am interested in how film programming might illuminate what Christina Sharpe has called ‘the fullness of Black lives’ and interrogate the embeddedness of the white supremacist imagination in film studies and production.”

‘Thinking about the radical forms of community care that had developed online’

VCR curator-in-resident Tanvi Rajvanshi. VCR curator-in-resident Tanvi Rajvanshi.

Despite the challenge of adapting their services to the online environment, the VCR has continued to foster the Concordia community around its collection. The residents have taken the online nature of their residency into consideration as well.

“When I applied to the residency,” says de Jesus, “I had already been thinking about the radical forms of community care that had developed online in response to lockdown restrictions, and how they created moments of connection within broader disconnections. My series grapples with this possibility of transcendence or rapture in ruptured spaces as expressed through a selection of Black diasporic films.”

Rajvanshi sees room for creativity around how they will share their work. “The reach of an online event is much wider, and our audience doesn’t have to be in Montréal to attend.”

The residents will present their work in the form of a public presentation in collaboration with 4th Space this Fall semester of 2021. They will share curatorial research in the form of a roundtable discussion.

The Office of the Dean provided funding for the residency and the Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema has funded the purchase of the new acquisitions for the VCR.

Find out more about the Visual Collections Repository

For more information on the VCR Curator-in-Residence project please contact pamela.caussy@concordia.ca

For access to the films please contact charlie.ellbe@concordia.ca



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