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Veronica Mockler

Veronica Mockler is an artist and researcher of participatory dialogue. Investigating processes of shared authority, her work has unfolded within diverse settings in Canada and abroad, spanning curated art spaces, government offices, community organizations, and universities.

Politically collaborative, her dialogic interventions have taken on various shapes, including shared keynotes, listening scores, collective internships, unlikely interviews, documentary essays, citizen forums, digital takeovers, private consultations, video installations, public performances, site visits, workshops, and gatherings. Drawing from oral history discipline, documentary practice tropes, and the working-class roots of popular education, Mockler's work seeks to redefine who and how we can participate in the institutions of art, citizenship, and knowledge.

Mockler works on the un-ceded land of the Kanien'kehá:ka Nation, known as Tiohtià:ke/Montréal at Concordia University with Project Someone at the Centre for the Study of Learning and Performance, and as part of the UNESCO Chair in the Prevention of Radicalization and Violent Extremism. In this capacity, her dialogic and arts-based research focuses on the challenge of institutional inclusion and class solidarity, namely amid ecological crisis polarization.

Photo of Veronica working in Japan

The Ethics of Extremity: Listening to Bobby Lavery

Since 2017, Mockler has been spearheading an overseas, multifaceted project that initially began as an oral history investigation with Bobby Lavery and Susana Hennessey, a couple deeply involved in the Irish Republicanism struggle of the North of Ireland. This dynamic exploration into the ethics of extremity and representation has namely evolved into a sound installation for the second iteration of the Listening, Performance, and Conflict Symposium in 2019, which Irish Senator Ó Donnghaile visited during his trip to Canada. Mockler's ongoing research activities unfold in Belfast (Ireland) and California (USA), encompassing various mediums such as writing, archival research and digitization, oral history interviewing, photography, video, sound, and installation.

Part of a new "Extremity in Society and Culture" book series, a chapter in Lexington Press’ new book "The Ethics of Extremity: On Seeing, Hearing and Feeling Each Other," co-edited by Vivek Venkatesh, along with Nelson Varas-Diaz, will explore the work. Co-written by Mockler and Susana Hennessey, the chapter delves into the intricacies of how Bobby (Susana’s late husband) navigated extremity on a daily basis, framed within his ethos, activism, and lifework against systemic working-class polarization often misconstrued as sectarian identity politics in the North. A Long Kesh Irish Republican Army prisoner in the 1970s, Bobby, who later became an elected Belfast city representative, saw his son Sean and brother Martin murdered in their homes by Loyalist gunmen during his time in office.

This co-authoring with community collaborator Susana draws extensively from oral history interviews conducted by Mockler with the couple over the years. Beyond a mere reflection on Bobby's life, the work incorporates the distinctive perspectives of Mockler, Hennessey, Bobby’s family, community and prison comrades. Rather than presenting Bobby in a manner he might not claim for himself, the exchange is methodically framed as a dialogical exploration of the complexity and systemic materiality of extremity through the lived experiences and expertise of those who live and breathe it, that is, to this day.

This project over the years has been supported by Digital Art Studio Belfast, Listening, Performance and Conflict II Symposium, Acts of Listening Lab, Centre for Oral History and Digital Storytelling, UNESCO Chair in the Prevention of Radicalization and Violent Extremism, and the Intermedia Cyber Arts Department at Concordia University, Friends of Sinn Féin Canada, and the Coalition for Peace in Ireland.

Photo of Veronica working in Japan

The Extended Environmental Record

In the context of climate change research, social radicalization and polarization among communities where the research takes place can arise due to disparities in access to resources and opportunities. Such disparities can amplify concerns about economic stability among local stakeholders, exacerbate divisions in responses to intimidating environmental challenges, and provoke the sense of being “unheard” within what’s being highlighted by the research. To counteract this possibility, Veronica co-founded the Extended Environmental Record (EER) in collaboration with acoustic ecologist and artist Marcus Maeder at the Zurich University of the Arts ZHdK. EER is a cross-border artistic and scientific research practice rooted in participatory art, oral history, and acoustic ecology, that aims to integrate local stakeholders' voices and experiences into climate change research and data collection. From field listening sessions to data sonification performance, EER fosters collaboration across territories sparking international dialogue on this reality. The Extended Environmental Record in partnership with UNESCO Chair on the Prevention of Radicalization and Violent Extremism - specifically with its Canadian section at Concordia University in Montreal - focuses on arts-based dialogical methodologies in the prevention of ecological crisis polarization.

EER is strongly committed to gaining insight into how artistic forms of engagement can be used as methods of inclusion between distinct yet neighbouring countries and communities in the prevention of ecological crisis social polarization. Throughout the 3 years, the program will explore various artistic approaches, including data sonification, oral history interviewing and sampling, analog sound synthesis, acoustic field recording, live performance, and installation, to assess these mediums’ semiotic competency for environmental public pedagogy. EER as a program seeks horizontality in its intersection of art, science, and technology. Rather than pitting scientific knowledge against artistic knowledge or perpetuating the exclusion of local experiences and working knowledge, EER develops and upholds artistic, scientific, and experiential forms of knowledge, not by collapsing them into one, but rather by tending to each of them circularly in order to understand the relationships that exist between these distinct semiotic systems. Because EER strives for scientific and artistic collaboration with local stakeholders, not all of whom may be professional artists or possess in-depth expertise in the natural sciences, the processes of testing and developing mutual concepts and practices, reaching consensus, negotiating roles and responsibilities, building trust, and so on, are things that can only evolve over time. A commitment to an ongoing, flexible and reflexive process is crucial to EER as it explores environmental protocols that move away from extractive practices and encourage alternative ways of being and considering the environmental.

Supported by UNESCO Chair on the Prevention of Radicalization and Violent Extremism, Embassy of Switzerland in Japan, Pro Helvetia Swiss Arts Council, Institute for Computer Music and Sound Technology ICST, Zurich University of the Arts ZHdK, Uillinn West Cork Art Centre, Working Artist Studio, Technical University Dublin’s MA in Art and Environment program, and Crespo Foundation. 

The Third Screen

Veronica's exploration of inclusion methodologies takes on a dynamic form through the ongoing circulation and exhibition of her three-screen video installation, named "The Third Screen." Whether featured at a conference or exhibited in a white cube setting, the installation transforms these spaces into dialogical arenas. Within the video piece, the conventional process of communicating research results, both in art and research, undergoes a subtle ontological rebellion. Viewers find themselves immersed in the experience of research participants - Azzouz, Joanna, Kevin, and Sheida — who are directly included in the interpretation and communication of the final research output. Informed by the tenets of decoloniality, working-class oral history, and popular education, this immersive installation stands not just as a static display but as a manifestation of a dialogic approach for knowledge-making. Veronica encourages academics and artists to actively question the depth and phases of inclusion in their collaborations, pushing for a shift towards a more inconclusive and participatory engagement with those they work alongside.

An important occurrence of the impact of “The Third Screen” is evident in how it influenced an institution to embrace a dialogical platform over a monological one. This was particularly notable when the World Forum for Acoustic Ecology included “The Third Screen” in its 30th-anniversary conference, "Listening Pasts, Listening Futures." Here, Veronica in collaboration with the Forum’s Keynote Speaker, Amanda Gutiérrez, were able to sponsor Bénéwendé Segueda, a 17-year-old collaborator of Veronica’s to co-author and deliver the Forum’s opening keynote speech.

Over the course of the two months leading up to the Forum, Veronica and Amanda brought together their respective artistic practices to design and facilitate a series of five after-school workshops at the CSLP with their teenager counterpart, Bénéwendé. During these workshops, Bénéwendé was introduced to the history and practice of acoustic ecology as well as to what the two artists conjointly perceive to be at stake when engaging in the act of listening from an intersectional positioning.

An important goal of these individualized workshops was the co-authored writing of the inaugural "Shared Keynote" speech that was delivered on stage by Bénéwendé and Amanda. After engaging with different types of sound recording technologies and creating soundscapes of her own environment, such as her high school and neighborhood, Bénéwendé conducted interviews where she not only spoke of her experience in relation to those of older women from different intersecting backgrounds but also explored questions such as: What does it mean to listen through my ear, which is attached to my body, my gender, my skin, my age? How does my acoustic experience fit into what acoustic ecology traditionally offers?

The culminating highlight of this intergenerational collaboration was Bénéwendé's travel to the World Forum for Acoustic Ecology in Florida with Veronica and Amanda. This "Shared Keynote" speech was the conference's inaugural keynote address, which took place in front of an international congregation of over 250 scientists, artists, and activists. Bénéwendé, a 17-year-old Ivorian-Burkinabé-Québécoise high schooler from the Saint-Léonard borough, captivated the audience with her contribution, which included her talking about her life, her family, her concerns, and the ideas she wants to share with the world. Bénéwendé also decided to talk about the challenge of equality for women in the global south.

Following the "Shared Keynote", the Artist-in-Residence and her collaborators led a group conversation with conference attendees who attended the speech to gain insight into the experiences and perspectives of those in the audience. The following questions were explored:

Could this type of inclusive, participatory, and embodied discursive practice be implemented within your own institution (education, artistic, scientific)?;

Now that you have experienced, as an audience member, this sharing of discursive authority, could you, as artists, researchers, and decision-makers, see yourselves directly facilitating the inclusion of the community stakeholders with whom you work?; This would involve replicating the same approach that was piloted here by the three of us. By doing so, you would enable the community stakeholders to represent and speak for themselves about the work that you do together.

The audio and video documentation of both the "Shared Keynote" and the subsequent conversation are being articulated into an iterative media artwork that will be presented in various artistic and academic spaces as a tool for the discussion and implementation of more responsive, inclusive, participatory, and representative dialogic practice within these very institutions.

Supported by the Project Someone at the Centre for the Study of Learning and Performance, as part of the UNESCO Chair in the Prevention of Radicalization and Violent Extremism.

À l’image - Takeover

“À l'image — Takeover” is a participatory art series in which, over the course of two years, a group of young Montrealers intervenes and responds to Dazibao Contemporary Art’s exhibition programming, collaborating with each other and with Veronica, the artist behind the project, with whom they explore various embodied and digital art practices. Destiny Gbaniyi, Isha Sheriff, Mei Gannon, Sanaa Bishop-Méus, Sasha Ferst, Shayah Corbin, and Talayah Rattray develop a critical dialogue around the art center’s exhibitions, which, among other things, manifests online on Dazibao’s website over the course of the series. Conceived and led by Veronica, this work aims to invite the situated perspective of youth on a range of topics related to each exhibition, such as futurity, mobility, labor, environmental crisis, anticolonialism, and posthumanism. It also aims to give youth professional agency in the arts, in the realization, representation, and communication of their ideas. Seven young women between the ages of 13 and 21 answered the invitation posed by “À l'image — Takeover”, thanks to the support and promotion of the project by Black community mobilizers in Montreal’s Little Burgundy neighborhood.

On June 14th, a full-feature article was published by NOW Concordia on “Takeover”. Described as “under the Innovative Social Pedagogy (ISP) project, the ongoing work aims to foster the practice of speaking with others rather than speaking for them.” This media coverage not only showcased the ethos, versatility, and depth of the Innovative Social Pedagogy project, as well as the expertise of our Artist-In-Residence, but it was also an opportunity for two of the young women collaborating in the work to contribute to the interview and have their voices articulated and presented in this public, university-based platform. The article even caught the eye of Concordia's president, Graham Carr, who took the time to write a letter to Veronica. "Your collaborations with members of the Little Burgundy community show the markings of an empowering and educational experience for those involved. Making spaces - including art galleries - more accessible and engaged is a noble cause that fellow Concordians can greatly appreciate. Maybe you're helping to recruit a new generation of talented students to Concordia!"

Supported by Dazibao Contemporary Art, the Canada Council for the Arts, Ville de Montréal et l’Entente sur le développement culturel de Montréal, and the Innovative Social Pedagogy project via Employment and Social Development Canada.

Photo of Kaymarie, Hunnayna and Kendra

Stepping Into Halka: a participatory documentary internship

Veronica designed and led a one-year long Youth Documentary Internship, with powerhouse teenagers Kaymarie Sutherland, Hunnayna Hemed, and Kendra McDonald. Resulting in a participatory documentary essay titled “Stepping Into Halka”, the internship was designed with the three young women in mind who the artist met and connected with during a prior Landscape of Hope research project in Little Burgundy. "Stepping Into Halka" chronicles the experiences of Hunnayna, Kendra, and Kaymarie as they document the work and world of Halka. Halka was a multimedia performance collective consisting of academic researchers, university professors, world-famous metal musicians, DJs, and artists.

The documentary spans over a year and offers the three young women’s unique perspective on Halka's latest creative manifestation, which included a two-night public performance in Montreal and the recording of an album. Standing on the outside looking in (with a camera) became an interesting positioning for Hunnayna, Kaymarie and Kendra as they reflected, articulated, tested and expressed, through nonfictional media, the very ethics of their inclusion into the structural inner workings of academia, research, and artistic production.

After a production phase that spanned through the Fall, Winter, and Spring, the three young women were introduced to the post-production phase of nonfiction filmmaking. They completed all the steps, including storyboarding, media editing, and technical rendering, resulting in a fully-polished 30-minute documentary piece. The three youth received ongoing financial compensation, with payment on an hourly basis throughout the entire post-production process. Hunnayna, Kaymarie, and Kendra also participated in various promotional activities to make their work accessible to others. These activities included designing, printing, and distributing promotional materials, as well as articulating their experiences and creative process during live appearances, including on live TV during CTV NEWS AT FIVE. Additionally, the youth collaborators promoted the premiere screening of their documentary essay within their communities, families, friend circles, and schools.

Finally, on June 6, 2023, “Stepping Into Halka: a documentary essay”, premiered in J.A. DeSève Cinema as part of the “No Outsides: Underground Arts as a Catalyst for Pluralism in an Era of Polarization” Summer Institute, as a special featured event. Over 80 audience members from Montreal and around the world (due to the related Conference’s international attendee list), including Montreal City Councillor Craig Sauvé (the elected representative of the South-West Borough of Montreal which is where Hunnayna, Kaymarie, Kendra and their families live), gathered to watch the film premiere and then engaged with the three youth creators and Veronica in a 45-minute-long Q&A session about their creative process.

A web-based archive of the entire process behind the documentary essay “Stepping Into Halka” is being put together by Veronica in order to review and feature not only the final documentary piece co-created with Hunnayna, Kaymarie and Kendra, but to render visible and discussable the overarching collaborative process, pedagogical explorations, and shared-authority that was enacted through this alternative internship, which was grounded in “active, intimate, hands-on participation and personal connection” (Dwight Conquergood, 2002).

Supported by the Michaëlle Jean Foundation, the Innovative Social Pedagogy project via Employment and Social Development Canada, Fonds de recherche du Québec Société et culture, and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.

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