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Queen’s hosts Inuit artist residency

Inuit women-centred filmmaking collective explores Indigenous culture, health, and multimedia.

Oana Spinu, Before Tomorrow (production still), copyright Arnait Video Productions, 2009
Oana Spinu, Before Tomorrow (Copyright Arnait Video Productions, 2009)

Update: Due to ongoing concerns over COVID-19, today’s Arnait events are cancelled. Find general information on the university's evolving response on the coronavirus COVID-19 information website.

Queen’s is hosting the world’s leading women-centred Inuit filmmaking collective, Arnait Video Productions, for a unique artist residency, running from March 10-16. Residency events are set to include Agnes Etherington Art Centre’s exhibition Inuuqatikka: My Dear Relations special film screenings, a series workshops, and a public roundtable event and feast.

As of 2019, Arnait has produced over 20 works, including three fiction features, a documentary feature, two television series, 12 short and mid- length documentaries, one short and one mid-length fiction film, and two animated films. Queen’s University Archives is in the unique position of holding a substantial portion of the Arnait archive.

“The importance of Arnait’s residency and associated exhibition hinges on intergenerational knowledge sharing, bringing together amazing Elders and collaborators, students, and researchers, to keep the work alive and accessible,” says Susan Lord, Queen’s Professor of Film and Media, and Director of the Vulnerable Media Lab, which is hosting the residency. “Arnait’s legacy takes us deep into the process of honouring the land and all living beings—and the work women do to pass on these ways of knowing.”

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During the March 13 roundtable and feast, Arnait members Madeline Ivalu, Susan Avingaq, Lucy Tulugarjuk, and Marie-Hélène Cousineau, will lead an intergenerational conversation about Inuuqatikka: My Dear Relations (curated by Nakasuk Alariaq, Linda Grussani and Tamara de Szegheo Lang) and the process of revisiting and remediating the Arnait video archives, with the help of their translator Zipporah Ungalaq.

From March 10-12, Arnait members led a series of Unpacking the Archive/The Living Archive: Process and Pedagogy workshops at the Isabel Bader Centre for the Performing Arts’ Art and Media Lab, speaking to a broad range of subjects, covering Inuit midwifery and traditional medicine, adoption and family, and filmmaking. During the workshops collective members will unpack the Queen’s archive of Arnait material in public and speak to the material they find of interest. Queen’s students will make recordings of these conversations, which will then made part of the Agnes Etherington exhibition.

Ultimately, the residency will centre on this archive and how the collective members want it treated, described, accessed, and remediated so that knowledge can be passed down to future generations in a manner that is ethically consistent with cultural practices.

“Arnait’s archive of decades of production materials are being digitized and described by students, and through conversations with the collective members,” says Dr. Lord, whose Vulnerable Media Lab is focused on the preservation, digitization, and remediation of audio-visual heritage by women, Indigenous and Metis peoples, and LGBTQ2 communities. “The Vulnerable Media Lab is a project and an infrastructure. The project is about the social ecology of both media making and the processes of preservation and access. This requires a lot of time and conversation to do in a way that is consistent with cultural practices. Numerous students are involved, including graduate students Sylvia Nowak and Valerie Noftle, and undergraduates Arvin Zhang and Ariane Grice.”

The Arnait residency, exhibition, and related events are part of the Archive/Counter-Archive project, supported by a SSHRC partnership grant and led by Janine Marchessault at York University. Other funders include the Visiting Artist in Residence fund of the Office of the Vice-Principal (Research); the Agnes Etherington Art Centre; the Faculty of Arts & Science, Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, and Indigeneity Fund, and the Poole Student Initiatives Fund Queen’s University; and the Leonard Schein Visiting Artist in Screen Culture in Film and Media Studies.

Learn more about the Arnait artist residency on the Vulnerable Media Lab website. Some of the residency’s film screenings are appearing as part of the Isabel Human Rights Arts Festival, profiled recently by the Queen’s Gazette.