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A Rembrandt to remember

Rarely-seen masterpiece gifted to Queen’s art museum in memory of honoured alumnus Alfred Bader.

Rembrandt's "Head of an Old Man with Curly Hair".
Daniel and Linda Bader recently gifted Rembrandt's Head of an Old Man with Curly Hair to the Agnes Etherington Art Centre at Queen's, in honour of Daniel's late father and Queen's alumnus, Alfred Bader.

Agnes Etherington Art Centre at Queen’s University will unveil Head of an Old Man with Curly Hair – a 1659 painting by legendary Dutch painter Rembrandt van Rijn, rarely seen by the public. Linda and Daniel Bader recently donated the piece to the museum in memory of Daniel’s late father and Queen’s alumnus, Alfred Bader. Dr. Bader, chemist, entrepreneur, visionary philanthropist, and discerning collector of art, passed away last December. His 95th birthday would have been on April 28, 2019.

Head of an Old Man with Curly Hair was one of my father’s favourite paintings,” says Daniel Bader. “It hung in his living room, where he spent hours admiring it, until he gave it to me in 2001. My wife Linda and I are proud to present this beautiful painting to Queen’s in my father’s honour.”

Alfred and Isabel Bader previously donated three Rembrandt paintings to the Agnes:

Rembrandt's "Man with Arms Akimbo"
Man with Arms Akimbo


Rembrandt's "Head of an Old Man in a Cap
Head of an Old Man in a Cap


Rembrandt's "Head of a Man in Turban
Head of a Man in Turban


With the addition of this remarkable gift to the Agnes, Queen’s University is now home to four of seven Rembrandt paintings in public Canadian collections. Head of Old Man with Curly Hair joins three of the painter’s acclaimed works previously donated by Alfred and Isabel Bader in 2003, 2007, and 2015. It also becomes the latest addition to the Agnes’s Bader Collection, which comprises over 200 paintings spanning the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries, with a focus on Dutch and Flemish paintings of the Baroque era. Together, the collection reflects Rembrandt’s sphere of artistic influence.

“This donation by Linda and Daniel Bader is an extraordinary gesture,” says Jacquelyn N. Coutré, Bader Curator and Researcher of European Art at the Agnes. “Not only is the work an exquisite rendering of old age and light that complements the three Rembrandt paintings in The Bader Collection, but its presentation to the Agnes honours Alfred’s memory in a tremendously appropriate manner. I am so pleased that this painting will be here to enrich possibilities for learning and discovery.”

The Rembrandt gift further advances the Agnes’s mission as a research-intensive art museum that provides experiential learning opportunities for Queen’s students across the university. Students and faculty of all disciplines at the university engage with The Bader Collection to build knowledge and seek inspiration through original works of art rather than reproductions. Even students in nursing and rehabilitation therapy have made use of the collection for study and research.

“Not only does the donation of this piece broaden the cultural and academic opportunities Queen’s offers its students and researchers, it speaks volumes about the deep, meaningful relationships our institution strives to build with those who spend time here,” says Daniel Woolf, Principal and Vice-Chancellor. “Drs. Alfred and Isabel Bader have made incalculable contributions to our university, and we are delighted that their love for Queen’s has inspired Daniel, and his wife Linda, to make such a meaningful gift to honour that legacy.”

Agnes will publicly debut Head of an Old Man with Curly Hair on Friday, May 3, 2019 at their season opening event. There, Agnes director Jan Allen will discuss the painting’s addition to the collection, and share the museum’s deep gratitude for the contributions of the Bader family.

“This painting extends the impact of The Bader Collection at Queen’s in powerful ways,” says Ms. Allen. “Thanks to the generosity and thoughtfulness of Linda and Daniel Bader, this outstanding work will be available for present and future generations.”

Agnes is a globally-networked art museum, which is home to significant, high-quality collections. In addition to The Bader Collection, collections include concentrations in contemporary art, Canadian historical art, and smaller holdings of African art, Indigenous art, and historical dress. Starting on August 24 and running until December 1, the Bader Gallery will host Leiden circa 1630: Rembrandt Emerges, an exhibition about the artist's early career and influences. The exhibition will travel the country with stops at the Art Gallery of Alberta (Edmonton), the MacKenzie Art Gallery (Regina), and the Art Gallery of Hamilton (Hamilton), until May 2021.

Learn more about the Bader collection and the newly gifted Rembrandt on the Agnes’s website.

Four launches and an unveiling

    LET’S TALK ABOUT SEX, BB: Grace Rosario Perkins, Running Towards the Sun, 2016-2017. Courtesy of the artist and Jack Barrett/315 Gallery.
    ANY SAINT: EMILY PELSTRING: Emily Pelstring, Scrying Mirror, 2019, cut mirror and glass-plate hologram. Collection of the artist.
  • Noah Quinuayark, Hawk(e)/ Hawk and Prey, 1961
    PUVIRNITUQ GRAPHIC ARTS IN THE 1960s: Noah Quinuayark, Hawk(e)/ Hawk and Prey, 1961, stonecut on paper. Gift of Margaret McGowan (Arts’78), 2017 (60-003.01) Photo: Bernard Clark
  • Zandra Rhodes, Dress, 1973–1976, silk. Gift of Sylvia Gillespie-Keyl, 1999 (C99-001.01). Photo: Bernard Clark
    STEPPING OUT: CLOTHES FOR A GALLERY GOER: Zandra Rhodes, Dress, 1973–1976, silk. Gift of Sylvia Gillespie-Keyl, 1999 (C99-001.01). Photo: Bernard Clark

Four new exhibitions will be celebrated during the Spring-Summer Season launch reception at the Agnes Etherington Art Centre on Friday, May 3.

Visitors will be among the first to experience the raw, open, and playfully discursive Let’s Talk About Sex, bb; the imaginatively staged Stepping Out: Clothes for a Gallery Goer; the immersive media world of Kingston artist Emily Pelstring’s Any Saint; and the research-rich Puvirnituq Graphic Arts in the 1960s.

There will also be a special art-unveiling in The Bader Gallery.

The Members’ Preview is scheduled for  5-6 pm and will be followed by a public reception from 6-7:30 pm.

This group exhibition, curated by Carina Magazzeni and Erin Sutherland, features new works, collaborative installations, performances, workshops, poetry, and film-based explorations that combine to create a narrative that expands the possibilities of sexual sociality. Let’s Talk About Sex, bb brings sex to the table to encourage open and raw conversations about our relationships to our own and each other’s bodies.

Artists featured in this show include G H Y Cheung, Thirza Cuthand, Dayna Danger, Shawna Dempsey and Lorri Millan, Vanessa Dion Fletcher, Gesig Isaac, Anique Jordan, Kablusiak, Ness Lee, Dan Cardinal McCartney, Grace Rosario Perkins, Tiffany Shaw-Collinge, and Arielle Twist.

Gallery-going emerged as a public pleasure in Canada in the late 19th century and continues to be an engaging cultural activity. Stepping Out proposes outfits and accessories that one might wear to an art museum. Drawing upon the Queen’s University Collection of Canadian Dress, the exhibition features clothing, from the 1860s to 1970s, stepping through gallery spaces and intermingling with contemporaneous works of art. Talented unknown dressmakers are highlighted alongside Canadian and international designers such as El Jamon, Elsie Densem, Jonathan Logan, and Zandra Rhodes. From walking sticks and moody landscapes to mod dresses and video art, many objects are on view for the first time.

The exhibition is curated by Alicia Boutilier, with Carolyn Dowdell, Deirdre Macdonald, Elaine MacKay, and Sophia Zweifel.

Stepping Out will be accompanied by a digital publication, launching in fall 2019, with feature texts on select garments by writers, curators and historians who have a history of working with the Queen’s University Collection of Canadian Dress.

Summoned from slow shimmering animations, mystic beings emerge amid other barely-restrained spirits. Curated by Sunny Kerr, this solo exhibition by Emily Pelstring is a space for immersive, transformative viewing made with outmoded imaging technologies and simple special effects. With Any Saint, Pelstring refines her approach to DIY aesthetics, performance experimentation and humour to evoke mythic narratives, dispersing them across installation, animation and hologram.

Pelstring is a Kingston-based media artist whose work has been shown internationally in galleries, film festivals and music festivals, including Transmediale Berlin, Seoul International New Media Festival and L’Alternativa Independent Film Festival Barcelona. She teaches in the Department of Film and Media at Queen’s.

Bold and immediate, Inuit prints captivated the 1960s art world. The second community to initiate a print program in the Eastern Arctic was Puvirnituq, Nunavik. Featuring works on paper donated by Margaret McGowan (Artsci’78), Puvirnituq Graphic Arts in the 1960s shows the early years of printmaking in the community, including rare experimental prints made before its inaugural annual collection of 1962. Although printmaking in the community was discontinued in 1989, the images by Juanisialuk Irqumia, Leah Qumaluk, and other artists (eight in the exhibition) left an indelible mark.

The exhibition is curated by Alysha Strongman under the supervision of Queen’s National Scholar in Indigenous Art and Material Culture Norman Vorano as part of the Research Studentship in Indigenous Art.


To Aug. 5, 2019: Rome, Capital of Painting
To April 12, 2020: The Art of African Ivory

Personal truths exposed

  • Biba Esaad
    Biba Esaad's thesis work "explores the way in which materiality (and subsequently, the meaning) of historic mediums, like oil paint, can be altered depending on their built environment, surrounding installation and more broadly speaking, aesthetic and spatial relationship."
  • Claudia Zilstra
    Through costume-making, Claudia Zilstra "explores her reproductive health, and what it means to be feminine in society today."
  • Jessica Lanziner
    Jessica Lanziner's thesis work "investigates the way that the abandoned becomes reclaimed through the passage of time and the process of decay."
  • Makayla Thompson
    Makayla Thompson's art "depicts scenes of peaceful animals attempting to live among the only species which destroys on such a large scale, knowingly, and with little to no regard for consequence - humans."

The culmination of years of study, creativity, and hard work is on display this week as the graduating class from the Fine Art (Visual Art) program hosts its annual year-end exhibition.

Ontario Hall has been transformed into an art gallery for Exposed: BFA 19, featuring the work of 24 graduating students. The exhibition started on Sunday, April 21 and continues to Saturday, April 27.

There is an impressive range and depth of artwork on display throughout the historic building, from multimedia installations and paintings to sculpture and prints, and much more.

The exhibition is open to the public and provides a temporary escape right on campus.

Exposed is open 9 am-4 pm daily. The closing reception will be held on Saturday, April 27 at 6 pm in Ontario Hall.

To learn more about the exhibition and the artists, visit the Exposed: BFA 19 website.

More information about the Fine Art (Visual Art) program is available online.

Reconstructing the life of an object

Lorna Rowley speaks with Master of Conservation graduate students while Vanessa Nicholas examines a shawl from the collection through a microscope. Photo: Garrett Elliott
Lorna Rowley speaks with Master of Conservation graduate students while Vanessa Nicholas uses a microscope to examine a shawl from the Queen’s Collection of Canadian Dress. (Photo: Garrett Elliott)

Research on the provenance, style, and material of the oldest garment in Queen’s Collection of Canadian Dress – a Regency-style day dress once in Agnes Etherington’s possession – has taken Vanessa Nicholas (BFA’07) and Lorna Rowley, the 2019 Isabel Bader Fellow and Graduate Intern in Textile Conservation and Research, on a journey from the Cataraqui Cemetery to the colonial United States, and has piqued their interest in fashionable florals and silk worms.

The dress is one of four garments – along with another dress and two shawls – in the collection that are the focus of the 2019 fellowship project. Each of the garments has been subjected to historical and scientific analysis with the aim of determining their provenance and materials.

“These garments and accessories all pre-date Confederation, and our oldest case study is a silk day dress made in a style that dates to the early 19th century” says Nicholas, a PhD candidate in the Department of Visual Art and Art History at York University, who has an Master's of Arts from the Courtauld Institute of Art and a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Queen’s. “Curiously, the dress’s silk likely dates to the 1770s or 1780s, and we have synthesized genealogy, fashion history and lab results to reconstruct the life of this object.”

This research will be contextualized within environmental history, which studies the relations between human culture and the natural world.

In residence until the end of April at the Agnes Etherington Art Centre and the Master of Art Conservation Program at Queen’s, Nicholas and Rowley have been sharing their expertise with conservation students through workshops and discussions, as well as consulting with other conservators and professionals in the field about their research.

Rowley holds an MPhil in Textile Conservation from the Centre for Textile Conservation and Technical Art History, University of Glasgow, and a BA in the History of Art and Design from the National College of Art and Design, Dublin, with a specialty in embroidery.

The two will present an insider art talk to the public on their research into some of the oldest materials in the Queen's Collection of Canadian Dress as part of the INSIDE AGNES: Music and Art Series on Sunday April 14, 2-3:30 pm. Admission is free, and all are welcome.

The Isabel Bader Fellowship in Textile Conservation and Research is a four-month residency and research opportunity that promotes investigation in textile conservation and costume history. Through the generous support of Dr. Isabel Bader, the fellowship links two of Queen’s University’s  unique resources: the Queen’s University Collection of Canadian Dress at the Agnes, which comprises more than 2,000 articles of fashion from the late 1700s to the 1970s, and the Master of Art Conservation Program, which offers Canada’s only graduate degree in conservation theory and treatment.

For more information, contact Kate Yüksel, Communications Coordinator at 343-333-5478 or kate.yuksel@queensu.ca.

Wellness through creativity

Art Hive @Agnes offers young adults the opportunity to relax, recharge, and expand their creative powers within a studio setting.

  • Arts educator and certified art therapist Harper Johnston speaks with one of the participants
    Arts educator and certified art therapist Harper Johnston speaks with one of the participants of Art Hive @Agnes, hosted at the Agnes Etherington Art Centre. (Photo by Garrett Elliott)
  • Art Hive @Agnes offers participants a chance to relax, recharge, and expand their creative powers within a studio setting.
    Art Hive @Agnes offers young adults (ages 18-24) a chance to relax, recharge, and expand their creative powers within a studio setting. (Photo by Garrett Elliott)
  • Art Hive @Agnes participant drawing
    As part of the Art Hive @ Agnes program, a team of Queen’s graduate students will create surveys, track data, and present findings in a final report. (Photo by Garrett Elliott)
  • Art Hive @Agnes participant creating
    Art Hive @Agnes is a weekly drop-in art and wellness program for young adults (18-24) currently being held at the Agnes Etherington Art Centre. (Photo by Garrett Elliott)

Art and wellness is the focus of a new weekly drop-in program for young adults (18-24) at the Agnes Etherington Art Centre

Facilitated by arts educator and certified art therapist Harper Johnston, Art Hive @Agnes offers participants a chance to relax, recharge, and expand their creative powers within a studio setting. The free sessions are being held at the Agnes 4-6 pm each Thursday until March 28. No prior art experience is necessary and materials are provided.

“Artmaking is innately therapeutic. We know this from the outstanding amount of positive research being reported today,” says Shannon Brown, Program Coordinator at the Agnes. “The idea that everyone is creative and can draw from their own personal expression to process and support inner transformation towards health is being embraced by those in healthcare and among the general public. When we step into a flow state, which happens when people are focused on an enjoyable task such as artmaking, blood pressure lowers, experiences of pain and worry drop away and personal agency is activated. Add to this a supportive community, such as an Art Hive community, and the participants can work side by side and share hopes and fears, gain acceptance and be witnessed in the creative act of artmaking and healing. It’s a beautiful process and we are grateful to be able to offer this special creative environment to the young adults of Kingston. “

As part of the program here, Michelle Searle, an assistant professor of the Assessment and Evaluation Group at Queen’s, will be overseeing an evaluation team made up of Queen’s graduate students. The team will create surveys, track data, and present findings in a final report. The purpose of these evaluations is to document the benefits of Art Hive, measure the attainment of the program goals, and evaluate the needs of participants to further improve the program.

The Art Hive @Agnes program aligns with the university’s increasing focus on the health and wellness of the Queen’s community. Earlier this year Queen’s adopted the Okanagan Charter and, in November, launched the Campus Wellness Project with the aim of advancing, encouraging, and supporting a culture of wellbeing.

“In today’s times where students are needing increasing amounts of mental health supports, it is important for them to have access to various types of therapeutic outlets and opportunities,” says Rina Gupta, Director, Counselling, Queen’s University. “Traditional counselling can be very helpful in times of uncertainty, but not all students feel comfortable talking about their concerns and/or negative experiences. The idea of being able to offer students the opportunity to express themselves through creativity and art is fantastic as it acknowledges the holistic needs of individuals. We fully support the Art Hive @Agnes project and we will be the first to refer students to it. We also look forward to future collaborations with the Agnes Etherington Art Centre, as we view art therapy as being a valuable addition to the mental health resources available to Queen’s students.”

Outreach partnerships supporting Art Hive @Agnes include: Counselling Services at Student Wellness Services; the Alma Mater Society Peer Support Centre; Kingston Health Sciences Centre and Queen’s Faith and Spiritual Life Services.

For information about the Campus Wellness Project and to learn about other consultation opportunities, visit the project website or contact Project Lead Jennifer Ross at campuswellness@queensu.ca.

Ka’tarohkwi Festival of Indigenous Arts brings top artists to The Isabel

[Jeremy Dutcher]
Jeremy Dutcher, winner of the 2018 Polaris Prize, will be performing at the Isabel Bader Centre for the Performing Arts during the Ka’tarohkwi Festival of Indigenous Arts. (Supplied Photo) 

The inaugural Ka’tarohkwi Festival of Indigenous Arts, curated by Queen’s Canada Research Chair in Indigenous Arts Dylan Robinson, is being hosted at the Isabel Bader Centre for the Performing Arts from Feb. 12 to March 24.

Supported by the Isabel and Alfred Bader Fund, A Bader Philanthropy, the Ka’tarohkwi Festival is an exciting multi-disciplinary blaze of Indigenous creativity at the Isabel celebrating the music, film, dance, multimedia, theatre, visual art, and virtual reality stories from the top Indigenous creators in Canada.

]Ka’tarohkwi Festival of Indigenous Arts]
Ka’tarohkwi Festival of Indigenous Arts

“ts’áts’eltsel xwoyíwel tel sqwálewel kw’els me xwe’í sq’ó talhlúwep! We gather together to experience this exceptional work by Indigenous artists from near and far,” says Dr. Robinson.  “This festival draws its name from the Huron and Mohawk word for the lands we gather on – Ka’tarohkwi. And as a xwelmexw (Stó:lō) guest here, I am grateful to the Haudenosaunee and Anishinaabe people for their leadership, and for these lands that sustain us and the creative work that is part of the festival.”

The festival includes top artists from across Canada such as such as Jeremy Dutcher, Tanya Tagaq, the National Arts Centre Orchestra, Monique Mojica, Bracken Hanuse Corlett, Dean Hunt, Digging Roots, Lisa Cooke Ravensbergen, and Tanya Lukin LinklaterThe Festival celebrates the creation of new works, and includes world premieres in the Wani’/Lost and Niiganni-Gichigami. Ontiatarío. Lake Ontario programs.

The festival film series is presented in collaboration with imagineNATIVE film festival and the Department of Film and Media. Filmmakers include Stephen Campanelli with a film inspired by Anishinaabe writer Richard Wagamese, Terril Calder, Jay Cardinal Villenneuve, Asinnajaq, Sean Stiller, Asia Youngman, Caroline Monnet, Zoe Hopkins, and Lisa Jackson.

“These prominent artists demonstrate the vibrancy of Indigenous arts today, and to these artists I say, ‘You have power, you have a voice. Raise your voice to be sure the people hear you,’” says Associate Vice- Principal, Indigenous Initiatives and Reconciliation Kanonhsyonne (Janice Hill).

The Isabel presents the virtual reality installation BIIDAABAN: FIRST LIGHT VR, March 17-25, created by Lisa Jackson, Mathew Borrett, Jam3, and the National Film Board of Canada, and hosts RESURGENT VOICES: Indigenous Oration and Aurality on Sunday, March 24, 4-6 pm where Geraldine King and Beth Piatote explore the sonic impact of Indigenous oration.

The Festival is affiliated with SOUNDINGS: An Exhibition in Five Parts at the Agnes Etherington Art Centre, curated by Candice Hopkins and Dylan Robinson, that includes newly-commissioned ‘scores’ by artists including Tania Willard, Tanya Lukin Linklater, Raven Chacon, Cristobal Martinez, Cheryl L’Hirondelle, Olivia Whetung, Peter Morin, and Ogimaa Mikana,  and a speakers’ series, entitled “Against Hungry Listening.” The exhibition is accompanied by a specially commissioned book of scores designed by Sebastien Aubin.

“The arts are a powerful voice in our society, and the profound messages from these outstanding Indigenous artists transformative. The Isabel is honoured to collaborate with curator Dylan Robinson and all the artists involved for their originality and creativity in bringing this festival to fruition, as we are to work with the Agnes Etherington Arts Centre, imagineNATIVE, and Queen’s Department of Film and Media as affiliated collaborators,” says Tricia Baldwin, Director of the Isabel Bader Centre for the Performing Arts. “We are grateful to our benefactors, the Isabel and Alfred Bader Fund, A Bader Philanthropy. This is especially poignant right now, as the late Alfred Bader, a man dedicated to artistic excellence and justice in this world, continues to inspire us forward."

View the Ka’tarohkwi Festival of Indigenous Arts schedule or visit The Isabel website.

Festival passes and individual tickets are available through the Isabel Box Office, 613-533-2424 (Monday-Friday, 12:30-4:30 pm), and online at queensu.ca/theisabel.

Agnes launches winter season

  • Visitors enjoy Soundings: An Exhibition in Five Parts.
    Attendees of the Agnes Etherington Art Centre winter season launch enjoy Soundings: An Exhibition in Five Parts. (Photo by Tim Forbes)
  • View of Rome, Capital of Painting
    Attendees of the Agnes Etherington Art Centre winter season launch view some of the works in the Rome, Capital of Painting exhibition. (Photo by Tim Forbes)
  • Attendees of the Agnes Etherington Art Centre winter season launch enjoy Soundings: An Exhibition in Five Parts.
    Attendees of the Agnes Etherington Art Centre winter season explore Soundings: An Exhibition in Five Parts, one of two new exhibitions. (Photo by Tim Forbes)
  • Curators Dylan Robinson and Candice Hopkins introduce their exhibition Soundings: An Exhibition in Five Parts.
    Curators Dylan Robinson and Candice Hopkins introduce their exhibition Soundings: An Exhibition in Five Parts. (Photo by Tim Forbes)
  • Visitors watch Heidi Senungetuk’s Qutaanuaqtuit: Dripping Music from Soundings: An Exhibition in Five Parts.
    Visitors to the Agnes watch Heidi Senungetuk’s Qutaanuaqtuit: Dripping Music from Soundings: An Exhibition in Five Parts. (Photo by Tim Forbes)

The Agnes Etherington Art Centre launched its winter season Thursday evening with the introduction of two new exhibitions.

Attendees of the launch event were able to view the new exhibitions – Soundings: An Exhibition in Five Parts, an immersive and evolving experience of Indigenous cultures, and Rome, Capital of Painting, which reveals the place Rome occupied in the mind of 17th-century artists.

“Our two new winter shows are gorgeous and revelatory. Rome, Capital of Painting, offers insights into the art of early modern Europe through The Bader Collection, while Soundings: An Exhibition in Five Parts reveals Indigenous cultures of North America through newly commissioned works by 14 contemporary artists,” says Agnes Director Jan Allen. “With the performative and evolving nature of the works in Soundings, its layers of meaning will unfold best through multiple visits. I hope the entire community responds fully to this invitation to explore decolonization and what it can be.”   



How can a score be a call and tool for decolonization? Curated by Candice Hopkins (Tlingit) and Dylan Robinson (Stó:lō), Soundings: An Exhibition in Five Parts features newly-commissioned scores and sounds for decolonization by Indigenous artists who attempt to answer this question. The scores take the form of video, objects, graphic notation, museological objects, and written instructions. At different moments during the exhibition these scores are activated by musicians, dancers, performers and members of the public, gradually filling the gallery and surrounding public spaces with sound and action.  The exhibition is accumulative, gaining new artists and players throughout the run of the show. Soundings artists include Raven Chacon and Cristóbal Martínez, Sebastian De Line, Camille Georgeson-Usher, Cheryl L’Hirondelle, Kite, Tanya Lukin Linklater, Ogimaa Mikana, Peter Morin, Lisa C. Ravensbergen, Heidi Senungetuk, Olivia Whetung and Tania Willard.

Soundings will be accompanied by a postcard publication of scores designed by Sébastien Aubin and a public listening series entitled “Against Hungry Listening,” which includes notable composers, musicians, scholars and artists discussing de-colonial, queer, feminist, black and Indigenous-specific forms of listening.

Public art installations by Raven Chacon, Camille Georgeson-Usher, Ogimaa Mikana and a curatorial score are on view on Queen’s main campus. These outdoor artworks are generously supported through the Isabel & Alfred Bader Fund of Bader Philanthropies. 

Soundings is affiliated with The Isabel Bader Centre for the Performing Arts’ concurrent Ka’tarohkwi Festival of Indigenous Arts. Visit The Isabel website for details on a diverse array of performances by acclaimed Indigenous artists working across theatre, dance, music, film and performance art.

Soundings is one of the 200 exceptional projects funded through the Canada Council for the Arts’ New Chapter program.


Rome, Capital of Painting reveals the place that the Eternal City occupied in the minds of 17th-century artists. From prints after famous relics of antiquity to paintings reflecting the most revolutionary artistic developments of the period, this show probes Rome’s layered appeal and invokes the pioneering manners of Adam Elsheimer, Nicolas Poussin, Michelangelo da Caravaggio and Annibale Carracci. Curated by Jacquelyn N. Coutré, the exhibition sheds light on the artistic attractions that prompted painter and theorist Karel van Mander to refer to Rome as “the capital of painting.”

Other artists featured in the show include Etienne Allegrain, Stefano Della Bella, Sébastien Bourdon, Leonard Bramer, Jean Ducamps, Adam Elsheimer, Hendrik Goltzius, Johann König, Antoine Lafréry, Johannes Lingelbach, François Perrier, Cornelis van Poelenburgh, Jacob Symonsz. Pynas, Michael Sweerts and Moses van Uyttenbroeck.


To April 7, 2019: In the Present: The Zacks Gift of 1962

To April 12, 2020: The Art of African Ivory 

The Conversation: In the post-truth era, documentary theatre searches for common ground

Reality-based theatre is one way artists are challenging the lies put out by politicians who exploit our contemporary insecurities.

[Porte parole]
Based in Québec, Porte Parole led by Annabel Soutar has toured and run several documentary theatre shows. Pictured here, The Watershed, a docudrama about the politics of water in Canada. (Photo courtesy Porte Parole)

With the onslaught of “alternative facts” or “fake news,” it can feel as though the ground has become almost liquid.

One strategy to confront the ongoing public lies has been to embrace journalistic principles and aggressively fact check statements. Reality-based theatre is also inspired by this same desire, tapping into the contemporary zeitgeist for authenticity.

In Canada and the U.S., we have been experiencing a flourishing production of reality-based theatre (also called “documentary drama”). Sometimes, it takes the form of an autobiographical performance where the performer and the character are the same people. Other times, it is a verbatim theatre where playwrights cull the script from interview testimony and archival documents. Plays created by the Montréal-based company Porte Parole, led by playwright Annabel Soutar, are a great example of verbatim theatre.

Yet, this quest for authenticity is an impossible dream.

Poststructuralism shattered our singular reality

Poststructural theorists from the 1980s and 90s like Jacques Derrida and Judith Butler rejected binary ways of thinking and instead asserted that our “realities” are made up of performative constructions. In other words, there is no absolute real; there are only representations of, or performances of, reality.

But poststructuralism has not just been about negating the idea of a singular reality. With its world-creating power, poststructuralism has been a potent feminist political tool used by feminist theorists, activists and artists to shatter monolithic conservative ideology. It was a way for many to strike against patriarchy, against conventionality, against strict norms, and was used to create space for otherness, for feminism, for LGBTQ identities.

Fredy is Annabel Soutar’s documentary play about the tragic death of Fredy Villanueva who was shot by a Montréal police officer in 2008. It premiered March 2016 at La Licorne in Montréal, directed by Marc Beaupré. (Photo courtesy Porte Parole)

However, since the performative power to generate alternate worlds is ideologically neutral, it has also been used in the interest of climate change deniers and the extreme right.

The poststructuralist genie is out of the bottle and we cannot put it back in: simply demanding aggressive fact checking and asserting a return to “capital-T” truth will not work. Given that realities are multiple and shifting, reality-based performances can help us to navigate the political landscape of “fake news.”

Embracing insecurity

The nostalgic-driven desire for security manifested in the 2016 Trump campaign, “Make America Great Again” and the Brexit slogan “Take Back Control” is directly linked to poststructuralist liquid uncertainty. These movements are stimulated by a flood of insecurity in the face of globalization, mass migration, social fluidity, the transience of traditions and conventional value systems.

As a researcher of Canadian theatre, I have observed that contemporary documentary plays that deal in reality and facts consistently conclude that nothing can be known.

On the surface, theatres of the real offer authenticity and certainty in their attachment to reality. But watching one of these plays does not produce a secure experience of truth. The closest we can get to an objective reality is the feeling of real, replacing fact with feeling.

Come from Away is an example of theatre based on reality.

Researchers Meg Mumford (Australia) and Ulrike Garde (Germany) coin the term “productive insecurity” in their work on verbatim theatre. They say that when artists intentionally display multiple points of view, it generates a sense of insecurity for the audience about what is true. This insecurity can be productive for the audience.

These feelings of insecurity are not just something to be endured but they should be embraced and fostered. The plays challenge established ways of knowing, urging us to be humbly aware of our limitations in the face of complex problems.

Theatres of the real do this. They provide emotionally and intellectually engaging environments and scenarios in which we can safely experience that insecurity. Theatres of the real give us a chance to develop the capacity for recognizing and managing our vulnerability.

Multiple truths?

Attention needs to be focused not on whether something is objectively valid as true, but on how that reality has come to be seen as true. What makes a truth true? Rather than pressing for an impossible singularity, documentary theatres of the real embrace multiplicity.

Rather than claiming direct access to the world as it is, these plays ask audiences to be thoughtful about how these staged realities came to be. What is selected? What is omitted? How is the narrative of a documentary world constructed? Often these plays deliberately expose these mechanisms of truth-making and knowing.

We can only ever partially know the world: we are surrounded by hybrids and multiplicities, creating more rather than fewer worlds. Breaking away from the rigidity of binary views: real/not-real; red!/blue!; we are better off with more perspectives, not fewer.

In moving the positive embrace of multiple realities from theory into practice, reality-based documentary theatre makes visible the processes of reality creation.

Searching for shared perspectives

In Lily Tomlin’s one-woman play The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe, the character of Trudy the bag lady says, “After all, what is reality anyway? Nothin’ but a collective hunch.” Focus here on the word “collective.” To have reality, we need to have community.

Lily Tomlin in The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the UniverseLilyTomlin.com

Linguist J.L. Austin, author of How To Do Things With Words, asserts a performance is only “felicitous” if there is “uptake;” that is, ideas presented in performances can only be valid if other people agree that they are valid. The need for uptake can slow down the creation of new dramatic worlds, restricting innovation. So change can be slow.

But we need to listen to each other as we work together to create a larger territory of shared perspectives. We need to rebuild social connections, so that more people can agree together on what constitutes reality. We don’t need to agree about content, only about process.

To doubt is to question appearances; to doubt is to contemplate and weigh. Doubt impels us to engage insecurity and question how representations are made.

When conspiracy theories flourish and lies are indifferently accepted, the thread between our lived experiences and our cartography of that world breaks. Returning to the first principles of how “reality” comes to be is a necessary first step.

Does what I see represent my local experience? Does my experience of reality align with other people’s? Are these the realities that we want? Instead of being fearful, insecurity makes me hopeful.The Conversation


Jenn Stephenson is a professor at Queen's University's Dan School of Drama and Music. She is the author of two books: Performing Autobiography: Contemporary Canadian Drama (UTP, 2013) and Insecurity: Perils and Products of Theatres of the Real (UTP, 2019).

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

The Conversation is seeking new academic contributors. Researchers wishing to write articles should contact Melinda Knox, Associate Director, Research Profile and Initiatives, at knoxm@queensu.ca

An evening of cheer

The Queen’s University Engineering Society welcomes the holidays with a festive tradition.

For the 73rd year in a row, Grant Hall will be ringing with the sounds of the season as the Engineering Society of Queen’s University hosts the Festival of Cheer.

The event is an opportunity for students and members of the Kingston community to come together, sing holiday music, listen to unique musical groups and spread holiday cheer.

Formerly the Festival of Carols, event co-ordinator Rebecca Wytsma says the change was made to reflect the diversity of the programming. This year the Queen’s Muslim Student Association, Queen’s Hillel and the Anglican Church, among others, will bring their own unique sounds and stories to the celebration.

The youth in the community will also be represented this year by the Young Choristers.

“It’s important to us to spread holiday cheer and bring the community and students together,” says Wytsma. “It is very important to keep this tradition going.”

Queen’s University Chaplain Kate Johnson is helping with the event this year and says it’s positive in many ways.

“The students have always provided the leadership and dedication to ensure this has been a tradition for 73 years," she says. "It’s such an amazing and joyful event that welcomes everyone with open arms. It’s wonderful.”

The event is running on Sunday, Nov. 25 at 7:30 pm at Grant Hall. Donations to the food bank are welcome and everyone is invited to stay afterwards for refreshments.

For more information visit the Facebook page.

Introducing our new faculty members: Ricard Gil

Ricard Gil is a faculty member in Smith School of Business.

This profile is part of a series highlighting some of the new faculty members who have recently joined the Queen's community. The university is currently in the midst of the principal's faculty renewal plans, which will see 200 new faculty members hired over five years. 

Ricard Gil (Smith School of Business) sat down with the Gazette to talk about his experience so far. Dr. Gil is an associate professor of business economics.

[Queen's University Ricard Gil Smith School of Business]
Ricard Gil is a faculty member in Smith School of Business. (University Communications)
Fast Facts about Dr. Gil

Department: Smith School of Business

Hometown: Barcelona, Spain

Alma mater: Harvard University (post-doctoral fellowship), University of Chicago (PhD), Universitat Pompeu Fabra (undergraduate)

Research area: Organizational economics

Hobbies include: European football, Netflix (House of Cards), food, sports

Dr. Gil’s web bio
Tell us a bit about your academic journey.
I completed my PhD at the University of Chicago. My first job was at University of California in Santa Cruz – which was a lovely place to be, at least for a little while. I recommend Northern California to everyone.
While at UCSC, I took a one-year hiatus to complete a post-doctoral fellowship at Harvard Business School. I was offered tenure at Santa Cruz, but made what might be considered an unconventional decision…I instead took an offer without tenure at John Hopkins University. I was single and young back then, so it made sense at the time.
In between, I took a year off and visited the MIT Sloan School of Management and the department of management at the London School of Economics.
Hopkins was a good experience as I had never taught in graduate programs before. I also met my wife and started my family in Baltimore.
I have lived in three different time zones since moving to North America – it has been an interesting journey so far!
What are you researching right now?
My scope of research has to do with firm behaviour. It’s all about governance.
The idea is, for very simple transactions like you and I going to the grocery store…there’s no governance for that. Why? Because it is very simple. You go to the store, you buy a product, they give you a receipt which is a contract that states if the product is not in good condition you can bring it back.
The world is not always characterized by these very simple transactions – especially when you have firm to firm, firm to government, or government to individual relationships. The complexities can come from the fact there are more than two parties involved, or how to define the limitations and the contributions of each party. You need to establish a good governance model in these cases.
I study how transaction characteristics drive the adoption of different governance models. I have studied it in the airline, movie, and TV industries…and I once even studied dry cleaning.
[Queen's University Ricard Gil Smith School of Business]
Dr. Gil demonstrates the demand and supply curve. From his career, it is clear his knowledge has been in high demand - he has taught and researched at five universities, including Queen's. (University Communications)
How did you decide this was what interested you, and that you wanted to research it?
You are basically able to observe the same sort of transaction, under the same circumstances, and understand why the diversity of governance models happens. I find that interesting.
I always thought that, through the study of many years, one comes out with many questions which others might not be reflecting on. I like to communicate those.
If I get to shake students out of their comfort zone and make them think in a way that is not conventional, it’s a good day. That’s what keeps it interesting.
What do you do for fun?
I am a soccer fan – I root for Barcelona. I like sports in general – European football tends to drive my weekend.
I like to travel. I watch a lot of movies and shows – not as much as I used to, with young kids I don’t travel as much anymore, and don’t get to watch movies in-flight. Having said that, I just finished the latest season of House of Cards. I am always looking for new shows.
How did you decide Queen’s was the right fit for you?
While I was at Hopkins, I came to Queen’s for a research seminar. I met some people and liked my experience here. There was a job opening a few months later and some of the people I met encouraged me to apply.
Kingston seemed more attractive than Baltimore, and the university’s student profile made it seem like a pretty good deal. So my family moved to Kingston in May – mainly to avoid moving during winter! My wife is happy, my four-year-old is enjoying his school, and our nine-month-old doesn’t seem to mind.
I am looking forward to teaching next year once it is determined who I am teaching. I hear very good things about Smith undergraduates.
In the meantime, I am helping the school with some committee work, getting ready for winter, and conducting some research and supporting my colleagues’ research. And I am once again navigating the bureaucracy to obtain Canadian permanent residency – I currently hold Spanish and U.S. citizenship.


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