New Ryerson Image Centre exhibitions seek sovereignty through art

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By Elizabeth Sargeant

A new semester at Ryerson University means a new lineup of artists exhibiting their work at the Ryerson Image Centre (RIC) on campus. 

Dana Claxton, Rana Nazzal Hamdeh, Susan Dobson and Emmanuelle Léonard are featured in this semester’s exhibitions. The four artists are displaying photographs and multimedia pieces that explore spaces across the world that seek sovereignty and decolonization.  

“We’re so pleased to open our galleries once again after a long closure,” said RIC director Paul Roth told Ryerson Today. “The RIC team has worked hard to create a safe and welcoming gallery environment so our guests can experience these remarkable exhibitions.” 

Dana Claxton: Scotiabank Photography Award

Dana Claxton is a multidisciplinary artist and member of Wood Mountain Lakota First Nation located in Saskatchewan. Her work in film, photography and performance art examines spirituality, Indigenous culture and stereotypical representations of Indigenous communities in Western media. 

 Her exhibition covers a large portion of the space, with each wall representing a different theme: land, cultural belongings and the figures of Indigenous bodies. Her photography also highlights the aesthetic of Indigenous beauty and the pride in the diversity of regalia, combining it with contemporary art.  

“Art is within the realm of spirit,” Claxton said during a virtual RIC event on Sept. 22. 

“When it comes to [art], I’m very spontaneous and intuitive. For me, it’s something that I see and then I have to bring it out.”  

Claxton’s photography will be on display until Dec. 4.

Rana Nazzal Hamadeh: 1/1,000th of a Dunam

Rana Nazzal Hamadeh is a Palestinian-Canadian artist and graduate of Ryerson’s master of fine arts in documentary media. Her exhibition, 1/1,000th of a Dunam, explores Palestinian power within the form of land by photographing Palestinian territory in a frame of belonging versus denial.  According to Hamadeh, her work examines decolonization straight to the root of the territory—its soil.

In a statement to the RIC, Hamadeh wrote, “displaced peoples often collect and cherish soils from their lands of origin, and this practice embodies a knowledge explored in this exhibition. All the soil used here, both material and virtual, was collected in Palestine. It symbolizes memory and takes on new meaning as it travels from one occupied land to another and takes new forms.”

Hamadeh’s work can be seen at the RIC until Oct. 23.

Susan Dobson: Slide / Lecture

Photography professor at Guelph University Susan Dobson has created an exhibition out of abandoned lecture slides she’s discovered at Canadian universities to highlight the gap in curricula surrounding diverse representations of culture and art.

According to Dobson, upon reviewing her discovered old art history slides, she realized sections, such as West African Art, only featured around 30 slides, when other topics featured more than 100. In her exhibtion, Slide / Lecture,  Dobson photographed these slides as if dismantling the biases on the slides herself, seperating them into piles and displaying the exclusion of racialized people and women in art. 

Dobson’s work is on display until Dec. 4.

Emmanuelle Léonard: Deployment

Emmanuelle Léonard is a Canadian photographer whose exhibition Deployment highlights the complex presence of the military in Qausuittuq, Nvt. to assert Canadian sovereignty. Deployment features both photographic portraits and videos that highlight lives of soldiers, focusing on the passage of time, harsh climates and the anonymity that comes with militarized uniforms.

According to the RIC, the exhbition captures a space “where the climate crisis has intensified national, political and economic stakes.”

Léonard’s work will be on display until Dec. 4. 

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