Some of you may have seen a statement made by the MAC in a recent newsletter in response to the tragic and historic events occurring in the United States and resonating throughout the world, as well as here at home in Québec. In this context, it seemed essential to go back on the subject and share these few thoughts with you.
First, I cannot overstate my feelings of indignation and anguish at the homicide in Minneapolis, as well as the long-standing, systemic injustice that manifested itself in yet another case of police brutality, an occurrence that is still as frequent as it is unacceptable. Once more, we were informed thanks to a cell-phone video captured by a passerby who witnessed the incident. No later than a few days ago, two members of the indigenous community were shot by police officers in New Brunswick. How many events like this have gone unrecorded?
The eyes, hearts and souls of people from around the globe are now focused on the fight for Justice. We are at a pivotal moment in history and have a responsibility to take a stand; silence is not an option. We need to get things right as citizens and as institutions, and make sure we succeed, as the very core of our democracy is at risk.
We must stay attentive to xenophobia and nativism, two worrisome trends exacerbated by the pandemic firmly rooted all over the world. It is essential for museums to find ways to reinforce the fabric of society and make inclusion a fundamental value by opening themselves to all cultures and perspectives.
What can we do?
As a cultural institution, the MAC plays an important social role in the community. I feel the need to state what may seem like the obvious because all of us at the MAC want it to be clear that we categorically denounce all forms of racial violence and that discrimination and racism have no place in our museum, nor in our society.
Step by step, we move forward. We have come together to open up spaces for discussion and dialog though our exhibitions, our public programs and educational activities which, for several years now, have included programs specifically geared toward indigenous communities, persons with disabilities, and immigrant communities.
Over the last few years, our exhibition and acquisition programs have featured artists from diverse backgrounds and whose work deals with these controversial issues with depth and sensitivity. One immediately thinks of Arthur Jafa’s very powerful Love is the Message, the Message is Death, shown this winter and mentioned here because of it being so tragically relevant to what’s happening. We strive to program enriching conversations around our exhibitions and artists, who I will not list as the purpose here is not to instrumentalize their work. We will continue in our tradition of creating spaces for dialog and conversation during our next exhibition La machine qui enseignait des airs aux oiseaux, scheduled for Fall and featuring thirty or so artists from Quebec.
Just recently, we embarked on a yearlong initiative dedicated to supporting artists who chose to create in Quebec via the museum’s Acquisitions Fund, with a clearly formulated intention to ensure that our collection reflect the full diversity of our society.
Can we do more?
Of course, we can. And we are actively working on it. Together with our various committees and our partners in the community, we are examining different initiatives to support our message. We will share the product of these discussions as the initiatives develop.
Some of these actions will come to the fore quickly, while others will take longer to yield results. We certainly do not have all the answers, but we will continue to educate ourselves, listen to others and take part in the conversation.
We want to start by sharing some resources and organisations whose work and expertise inspired us. This is a brief selection and is meant as a starting point.
The MAC has the power and the reach to make a difference.
A Few Resources
To listen, to learn, to become an ally
- Librairie Racines: A library, performance and exhibition space highlighting the history, culture and living conditions of people of colour (in English and French).
- A selection of books for young people prepared by the L’Euguélionne library to teach kids about racism and race-based discrimination (in English and French).
- The Ligue des droits et libertés explains the concept of systemic racism in Quebec and proposes a list of words chosen to think about racism and anti-racism (in French).
- A list of organizations and initiatives to help black communities in Montreal, an initiative from Montrealers Marie-Livia Beaugé, Sarah Myriam Louis and Ricardo Lamour (in French).
- Afrotopiques Décoloniser les arts podcasts from R22 a French internet radio (in French).
- The body cast song from artist and activist Dua Saleh and the Cooped choreography from dancer Jamar Roberts (Work & Process at the Guggenheim) (in English).