This is Paradise: Art and Artists in Toronto – conference call for papers

The conference “This is Paradise: Art and Artists in Toronto” will explore the relationship between the urban context and local artistic cultures in Canada’s largest city. Taking an interdisciplinary approach to the visual arts that incorporates perspectives from the fields of urban studies, cultural studies, sociology and economics, among others, the conference will convene at the University of Toronto in May 2015.

Recent exhibitions like Century City: Art and Culture in the Modern Metropolis (2000) and Traffic: Conceptual Art in Canada 1965-1980 (2010) – as well as research projects like “Ruins in Progress: Vancouver Art in the Sixties” (2009) and “Pacific Standard Time: Art in L.A. 1945-1980” (2011) – signal a renewed interest in considerations of place in the formation of distinct artistic cultures. “This is Paradise” will be a critical look at the concrete conditions facing artists working in Toronto, and the various forms of artistic practice that take place there.

The conference will encompass the mid-1960s – at the crucial paradigm shift from the modernism of New York-influenced abstraction in painting, to the local pluralisation of new media (site-related installation, experimental film and video, performance, mail art, collaborative practices, sound art) and new forms of institutions (including co-ops, artist-run centres, independent theatres and small press) – and will continue up to the manifestations of the present day. Within this framework, the conference aims to create a critical and interdisciplinary platform for exploring art and artists in Toronto.

“This is Paradise: Art and Artists in Toronto” will consist of a series of keynote lectures (45 minutes), thematic panels of three presentations (20 minutes) per panel, and focus sessions of three case-study presentations (20 minutes) per session.

The participation of scholars, artists, curators and students from all backgrounds is welcome – Visual Arts, Media/Film and Communication Studies, Visual Studies, Cultural Studies, Art History, Urban Studies, Sociology, Economics, Canadian History, as well as practitioners outside the academy.

The call for papers welcomes recent scholarship and critical perspectives on the conditions of emergence of artistic communities, artistic and curatorial practices, institutions and pedagogy related to art in Toronto, as well as its broader national and international contexts. Researchers are invited to explore (among other topics):

• histories of the city of Toronto from various social and political perspectives: colonial history, immigration, economics, labour history, urban development, government and grassroots politics, etc.
• critical art-historical accounts of art in Toronto – including accounts of individual artists; artist communities (artists’ scenes and social networks); institutional practice; and debates within and between various media (such as painting, photography, sculpture, installation, artist film and video, performance, public and community arts, artist interventions, and new media, among others)
• recurring artistic themes and organizational strategies that artists from various generations have developed in conceptualizing, depicting and engaging the city in which they live and work
• histories of local artist-initiated cultural practice – including artist-run exhibitions, publications, film/video festivals, and artist-organized exhibitions
• local artistic practice as reflected in gallery exhibitions and publications, and concretized in museum collections
• curatorial and theoretical attempts to present diverse as well as oppositional practices, traditions and histories in Toronto – including Aboriginal art, art of cultural minorities, women, and queer artists, socially engaged art, etc.
• cultural policy in Toronto and in the context of policy-making at the provincial and federal levels, as well as the effects of policy on artistic practice and institutional development – including questions of funding, patronage, censorship, gentrification and urban renewal, the monetization and “festivalization” of culture, globalization and the Creative Class paradigm, etc.
• strategies that focus on local artistic practice within a broader regional, national and international framework

The deadline for submissions is January 19, 2015, and notification of acceptance will be on February 16, 2015. Conference dates are estimated to be May 28-31, 2015.

This call for papers is open to both institutional and independent researchers. Aboriginal and culturally diverse researchers are especially encouraged to submit proposals.

Please send your abstracts (no more than 300 words) along with your CV (no more than 2 pages), with the subject heading “This is Paradise Conference” to the conference organizers at It is also possible to submit proposals for thematic panels (maximum of three speakers per panel).

The conference is presented by the Justina M. Barnicke Gallery and the University of Toronto Art Centre. The title, “This is Paradise,” is based on a work by Toronto artist Tom Dean.