‘Never Let the (Dis)Course Settle’ is an exhibit in your hands

The book brings together 12 artists from Concordia to create an experience beyond the traditional confines of a gallery

Photo courtesy Alex Dozois, graphic courtesy Anthony Napoli

With the pandemic challenging in-person exhibits, the curators of what would become Never Let the (Dis)Course Settle faced a novel task: how to translate work from a variety of artists and mediums into a single publication.

What resulted is a book that acts as a gallery for those interacting with it, with each chapter a new space to discover. 

Published as a part of the Art Matters festival, the book will be celebrated with a finissage this Friday, Oct. 22., at Anteism Books. Art Matters is North America’s largest student-run art festival, occurring annually in March. With the unique circumstances of this year, the book was released this past summer as an additional means to share local art. 

The curators of the book, Mallory Lowe Mpoka and María Escalona, began the process of selecting contributors in February. They set off with no particular theme in mind other than that of bringing together diverse artists from the Concordia fine arts community. 

“Our goal with the publication was to put in dialogue different practices and the work of people from various backgrounds,” said Lowe Mpoka. “But also to offer an accessible way for people to interact with art in a time where a lot of art spaces [were] closed.” 

The 12 artists featured in the publication span a wide breadth of mediums, from photography to performance. Each artist has a dedicated chapter where their work is displayed and described in both English and French. Not only are the works presented in print, they are meant to be interacted with by the reader: there are textured pages, others that fold out, and pieces that come apart and can be held.

Spencer Magnan’s chapter contains a letter written by the artist. Photo Courtesy Alex Dozois, graphic courtesy Anthony Napoli

“Each artist is given a space in the book—a chapter—where their piece is experienced differently,” said Escalona. 

In conceptual artist Spencer Magnan’s chapter, the performance project Tying Connections brings readers on his journey through a snowstorm in an attempt to physically connect his two childhood homes with 1,250 feet of rope. A folded letter written by Magnan is tucked inside the book, inviting the possibility to remove it for reading. 

“I liked the idea of having something intimate with it because it’s a very intimate piece,” said Magnan. “I think that the idea of taking out the letter that I wrote, and having it be a very personal thing, creates much more of a personal connection to work: it’s not sprayed out there for everyone to view if they don’t want to.” 

Although each artist produced work from different inspirations, the book’s curators said the resulting collection creates community and commonality. Before the chapters begin, the publication features what they call a “constellation” of the artists and the themes of their pieces, each linked to one another with a thin line. 

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“It’s a true collective labour of love and it’s also the embodiment of a yearning for kinship, for community.” — Mallory Lowe Mpoka

“It’s a true collective labour of love and it’s also the embodiment of a yearning for kinship, for community,” said Lowe Mpoka. “It’s what put us together: the need for community.” 

em Laferrière’s chapter is a deeply personal documentary, photography and performance piece exploring the artist’s family history between Colombo, Sri Lanka, and Montreal. An exploration, they said, that bubbled to the surface during isolation. 

“My whole life I’ve been told this story about where I’m from, so that I could explain to people why my skin colour is a bit different than my name should imply,” said Laferrière. “But I never really identified with that story.” 

em Laferrière’s chapter is a deeply personal documentary, photography and performance piece exploring their family history. Photo courtesy Alex Dozois

With this realization, Laferrière said they began asking questions to members of their family. Their chapter features the dialogue of one such conversation with their mother, a conversation that occurred via Zoom during pandemic lockdowns. 

The title of the book is a play on words conceived by the curators. Like water, they say the discourses presented by the artists in the book are ever-changing and moving. 

“How can we rethink our ideas, our systems, our oppressions?” said Escalona. “That’s what we were thinking: a discourse that has to adapt to the times that we live in.” 

A limited amount of free copies will be available at the finissage. The event will feature readings from some of the contributing artists and certain pieces included in the book will be on display. 

Beyond Friday’s event, Never Let the (Dis)Course Settle can be consulted in the Special Collections Reading Room at the Vanier Library. Copies are also set to be available in the Fine Arts Reading Room on the 2nd Floor of Concordia’s Engineering and Visual Arts Building. 

It features the works of Aaliyah Crawford, em Laferrière, Helen Park, Claudia Goulet-Blais, David Nadeau, Nadia Mariyan, Roxanne Boyle, Carolina Larrosa, Spencer Magnan, Lou Neveux-Pardijon, and Alex Dozois.