Q&A: Art Gallery curator talks Buddhism and contemporary art

Victoria Arts Council’s Kegan McFadden checks in with Haema Sivanesan in advance of upcoming lectures

Haema Sivanesan is a curator at the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria. Photo contributed/AGGV

Haema Sivanesan, curator at the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, recently connected with Kegan McFadden, executive director of the Victoria Arts Council, for a Q&A regarding the Gallery’s public lectures on Buddhism, Contemporary Art and Social Practice, happening Oct. 25 and 27.

KF: You’re convening what promises to be an exciting conference considering the overlap of Modern Buddhism and Contemporary Art … why now and why Victoria?

HS: The project looks at an almost 100-year history of the impact of Buddhism on modern and contemporary art in North America. It’s an influence that doesn’t appear obvious in the work of avant garde artists and isn’t typically discussed. There seems to be a resurgent interest in Buddhism right now, perhaps with the popularization of ideas of mindfulness; so it feels a timely project. And Victoria, as a site of various progressive and counter-cultural movements, and with its many Buddhist sanghas, seems the right place to do this work.

KM: What can participants taking part in this conference expect from the proceedings?

HS: The conference is artist-centred, and I am interested in how artists draw on Buddhism as a methodology of art practice. Artists will be talking about – and sometimes showing us, through workshops, presentations and performances – how Buddhism informs their work. The conference won’t be a presentation of academic papers, but a thoughtful, conversational and participatory format for discussing how and why Buddhism informs the way artists make work.

KM: By presenting this conference in advance of the related exhibition, you’re really making your research visible in a way that is unusual for most curators as well as for most institutions … did you want to talk about that choice and how it relates to your larger way of working?

HS: I approach my work as curator as “a practice of thinking with artists.” I am interested in artists’ thought processes and the deeper reasons why artists make work. Making the research visible in this way, makes the curatorial process more transparent, affording an opportunity for the public to be exposed to, and participate in, this process. It’s also a way of engaging a public with a set of curatorial ideas before they have even decided to go into an exhibition!

KM: This research has received significant funding from major international foundations, but who are some of the local artists/institutions involved in this project?

HS: The research convening is a partnership with the University of Victoria, Faculty of Fine Arts, Multifaith Chapel and Centre for the Study of Religion in Society. I am thrilled and very grateful to be working with the University in this significant and inter-disciplinary way. Two UVic students have worked with the Legacy Art Gallery to produce a micro-exhibition of Buddhist art objects held in the University’s collection, which will be on display in the Fine Arts Building. And the Victoria Arts Council will be presenting a timely exhibition by local artist, Lynda Gammon, “Studio Practice: Meditation Practice,” which connects to the themes of the conference.



editor@mondaymag.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Art Gallery of Greater VictoriaVisual Arts

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Ocie Elliott: Facing the Music

Victoria duo describes effects of COVID crisis

YOUR AUGUST HOROSCOPE: It’s Leo Season!

Georgia Nicols giving us insight on what lies ahead this summer

30 years later, Sue Medley’s hit ‘Dangerous Times’ more relevant than ever

Vancouver Island singer/songwriter reflects on her ’90s national hit

Psychological thriller filmed on northern Vancouver Island debuts on AppleTV

‘Woodland’ is set in Haida Gwaii, but was filmed around Port McNeill

Symphony Splash goes virtual, revisits 2018 performance

Organizers postpone live event until Aug. 1, 2021

Island pub wants people to ‘drop five’ to keep music alive

Royston’s Charlie Aiken thinks his plan can help artists and venues alike

First Arts Alive sculptures of 2020 now installed

Oak Bay’s annual public art exhibition starts anew

Nanaimo fantasy writer co-authoring Old Norse phrase book

Joshua Gillingham partnering with author and professor on ‘Old Norse for Modern Times’

Cowichan’s 39 Days of July deemed a success, despite COVID-19

Musical productions live streamed from the Duncan Showroom this year

Gabriola’s Isle of the Arts Festival goes ‘mini’ on 10th anniversary

Gabriola Arts Council presents scaled-down, workshop-only IOTA Mini festival

Sooke Fine Arts Show reaches new audiences with virtual showcase

Voting for People’s Choice Award open until Aug. 3

Mural artists announced for Nanaimo’s inaugural Hub City Walls festival

Local artists Kara Dee Harrison, Russell Morland and Austin Weflen to paint downtown walls

Nanaimo musician Glen Foster releases new music video

‘Brains Brawn and Beauty’ is the latest single from Foster’s album ‘Not Far Away’

Most Read