Alissa Firth-Eagland

Alissa Firth-Eagland

Curatorial Statement
Reflecting the diversity of mediums, disciplines, and expressions found in contemporary art, my practice presents and contextualizes work in a comprehensive, but not predetermined way. My goal is to work with artists and audiences through form, media and strategy to challenge perceived rules, structures and limits of creative expression. The principles of my projects are linked to my own curatorial values: the development of new work, creative autonomy for artists, constructive negotiation, and intrinsic links between processes and concepts. My projects have been equally shaped by my Fine Art education. This background has influenced my understanding of independent curatorial practice; I see the independent curator as an engineer of parallel frameworks for the production, presentation, and dissemination of art and ideas.

I seek to engineer contrasts to dominant presentation models for contemporary art which focus on individual gain such as traditional gallery or museum exhibitions. I have been inspired by what German art theorist Irit Rogoff describes the value of creating meaning through group experience: “Beyond the shared categories of class, or taste or political or sexual orientations another form of ‘we’ is produced in these processes of viewing (art) and it in turn shifts the very nature of meaning and its relation to the notion of displayed visual culture.i” Rogoff encourages the participation of the viewer in a collective and mutual dynamic in order to move the viewing experience away from the realm of individual edification and the pursuit of cultural capital. My current project is Secret Publicity, a manifestation of democracy through shared group experience.

Secret Publicity is a public curatorial research project linking three major international cities for contemporary art (such as Vancouver, Berlin, London or Paris). One artist from one of each of these cities will create a new work both for publics and for a publication. The project weaves threads between these incomparable cities, and challenges contemporary notions of public, publication and publicity. It demonstrates the immense potential of critical publics and public criticality.

In our increasingly globalized world, the notion of public calls for radical renewal. This need goes hand in hand with privatization, decreases in cultural funding, gentrification of public space and fragmentation of communities. By highlighting a dying resource that belongs to everybody—the public sphere—this project asks questions about public and democracy. How is public created and maintained? When and where does it exist? What is public and how does public look? Secret Publicity will disrupt the status quo by creating and connecting undetermined publics, accidental publics, counter-publics and publics who may not be part of the art world. It remains important to reach new publics today because this gesture is a fundamental challenge to the power structures at play and makes space for debate by a new group of individuals. New contexts for art’s direct audiences and indirect audiences will be formed. These new contexts for art become the background for new links and ideas, and these new links and ideas can become new actions.

Democracy was born in public space. The ‘agora’ or public sphere was historically a location for group assembly for discussion, debate and news updates. Today, democracy is for sale. Secret Publicity proposes a historical manifestation of democracy—temporary assemblies of individuals for the sole purpose of expressive freedom. As such, this project will take on forms that foster interpersonal exchange and support new iterations of public, virtual, textual, and conceptual. Because these publics are temporary, their constituents cannot be predicted in advance. Instead, artists will determine a public they wish to reach, and use strategies in public work and in publication in the broadest sense: counter-publics, secret societies, contemporary word-of mouth myths and legends, relational practices, exchange, dissemination and publication. Through its printed form, the publication will link the public activities in the cities themselves, encourage performativity and engagement, serve as a long-lasting tactile object and build an international awareness of connective tissue through economical diffusion. Because democracy is a key element of this project it will be easily accessible and free.

Secret Publicity will draw connections not predetermined or predictable. It will connect several publics, challenge structures of the art world, and build democratic discussions that span local and national limits. The format and media of this project—publication and public works—are the tangible body of the project itself that give it long life. These forms do not come from theory. Rather, they harken back to the small-circulation journals and reviews that became counter-media created and used by the twentieth-century avant-gardes such as Dada, Surrealism and the Lettrist and Situationist Internationalsii.. As Sven Lütticken states: “the avant-garde worked with counter-media and the creation of counter-publics long before theory posited such notions…attempts to forge a different publicness, a counter-publicness.iii” It is the radical departure from dominant forms of publicness that makes this research unique.


Grants and Prizes
2010 Curatorial Project Grant, British Columbia Arts Council
2010 Travel Grant, Canada Council for the Arts
2010 Mobility Funding, Nordic Culture Point
2009 Canadian Art Writing Prize (Runner-up)
2009 Independent Critics and Curators Grant, Canada Council for the Arts
2009 Travel Grant, Canada Council for the Arts
2009 International Art Presentation, Mondriaan Foundation
2009 Project Grant (Symposium), Canada Council for the Arts*
2008 Project Grant (Screening Series and Catalogue), BC Museums Association*
2008 Project Grant (Exhibition and Catalogue), Canada Council for the Arts*
2008 Project Grant (Screening Series and Catalogue), Canada Council for the Arts*
2007 Multi-Year Operating Funding (2008 to 2011), Canada Council for the Arts*
2007 Travel Grant, Canada Council for the Arts
2006 Independent Critics and Curators Grant, Canada Council for the Arts
2006 Travel Grant, Canada Council for the Arts
2004 Media Arts Grant, Ontario Arts Council
*Grants secured in role of Director/Curator of Western Front Media Arts, Vancouver, CA

Residencies and Fellowships
2010 Curator in Residence, Hordaland Kunstsenter, Bergen, NO
2010 Curator in Residence, Frankfurter Kunstverein, Frankfurt, DE
2009 Curator in Residence, NKD Nordic Artists’ Centre Dalsåsen, Dale, NO
2009 Curator in Residence, Sølyst Artist Residency Centre, Jyderup, DK
2009 Curator in Residence, La Fonderie Darling, Montréal, CA (Inaugural Curator)
2006/07 Chalmers Fellowship for Curatorial Research, Ontario Arts Council
2006 Curator in Residence, Nordic Institute for Contemporary Art, Helsinki, FI

Professional Training
2007 Finance for the Arts, Ontario Association of Art Galleries, Toronto, CA
2006 Creative Organizations: Managing Conflict, University of Waterloo, Waterloo, CA
2006 The Art of Publishing, Ontario Association of Art Galleries, Toronto, CA
2005/06 Curatorial Practicum, Walter Phillips Gallery, The Banff Centre, Banff, CA
2002/03 Curatorial Incubator Participant, Vtape, Toronto, CA
1999/03 AOCAD, Ontario College of Art & Design, Faculty of Art, Integrated Media Dept, Criticism and Curatorial Practice Thesis. Graduated with Honours, Toronto, CA

Selected Curatorial Exhibitions and Projects
2010 Western Front: London Edition (May 2010, No Soul For Sale Festival, Tate Modern, London, UK, group show) Celebrating Tate’s 10th Anniversary. Artists tbd.
2010 How to act in the public sphere (May 2010, Le Magasin Centre Nationale D’Art Contemporain, Grenoble, FR, two-collective show) Bruce High Quality Foundation (New York, US) and Claire Fontaine (Paris, FR). Publication forthcoming.
2010 Secret Publicity (May 2010 to July 2010, group show) Micah Lexier (Toronto, CA), Patricia Reed (Berlin, DE and Montréal, CA), Althea Thauberger (Vancouver, CA).
2010 Learning from Vancouver Exhibition (January 29 – March 6, 2010, Western Front, Vancouver, CA, two-collective show) co-curated with Johan Lundh. Bik Van der Pol (Rotterdam, NL) and Urban Subjects (Vancouver, CA and Vienna, AT). Sponsored by the Mondriaan Foundation. Book forthcoming.
2010 Learning from Vancouver Symposium (January 29 – 31, 2010, Western Front, Vancouver, CA) co-curated with Johan Lundh. Bik Van der Pol (Rotterdam, NL); Tom Sherman (Syracuse, US); Hadley + Maxwell (Berlin, DE); Monika Szewczyk (Berlin, DE and Rotterdam, NL); Candice Hopkins (Ottawa, CA); Fiona Jeffries (New York, US); Urban Subjects (Vancouver, CA and Vienna, AT); Paul de Guzman, Am Johal, Laiwan, Randy Lee Cutler, Kristina Lee Podesva, Simon Levin, Glen Lowry, Matthew Soules, Althea Thauberger, Henry Tsang and Amy Zion (all Vancouver, CA).
2009 Learning from Vancouver Residency (January 2009, Western Front, Vancouver, CA), Bik Van der Pol (Rotterdam, NL)
2008 A Day in the Life of the World (December 2008), curatorial commission by Emily Vey Duke and Cooper Battersby (Syracuse, US).
2008 The Set Up (November 7 – December 19, 2008, Helen Pitt Gallery, Vancouver, CA, two person show) Vanessa Kwan and Eric Metcalfe (both Vancouver, CA).
2008 The F Word (October 17 – November 22, 2008, Western Front, Vancouver, CA, group show) co-curated with Candice Hopkins. Rebecca Belmore, Allyson Clay, Lisa Robertson, Nathalie Stephens, Kate Craig, Shawna Dempsey, Lorri Millan, Deirdre Logue, Lisa Steele (all Canadian); Jillian Mcdonald, Patty Chang (both New York, US), Klara Lidén (Berlin, DE), Salla Tykkä (Helsinki, FI). In association with WACK! Art and the Feminist Revolution, Vancouver Art Gallery. Catalogue.
2008 Between Us – A Vancouver/Toronto Exchange, YYZ Artists’ Outlet, Toronto, CA; and Western Front, Vancouver, CA, co-curated with Johan Lundh. (June – August 2008 at YYZ Artists’ Outlet, Toronto, CA; and September 2008 at Western Front, Vancouver, CA, group show) Luis Jacob, Will Kwan and Fedora Romita (Toronto, CA) and Paul de Guzman, Kristina Lee Podesva and Sara Mameni (Vancouver, CA).
2007/08 Curated Residencies at Western Front (Vancouver, CA) December 08, Kemi Craig (Victoria, CA), Cheyanne Turions (Vancouver, CA) and Liz Park (Vancouver, CA). September 08, Allyson Clay (Vancouver, CA), Lisa Robertson (Los Angeles, US) and Nathalie Stephens (Chicago, US). June 08, Emily Vey Duke and Cooper Battersby (Syracuse, US). May 08, David Clark (Halifax, CA), Mats Stjernstedt (Stockholm, SE). April 08, Darsha Hewitt (Montréal, CA). February 08, Heather Keung (Toronto, CA), Judy Radul (Vancouver, CA). November/December 07, Jude Norris (Toronto, CA).
2007 Kingdom Come (April 2007, Workman Arts Theatre, Toronto, CA, group show) Lisa Jeannin (Berlin, DE), Aurora Reinhard (Helsinki, FI), Jani Ruscica (Helsinki, FI), Saskia Holmkvist (Stockholm, SE), Gunilla Heilborn and Mårten Nilson (Stockholm, SE). Presented at the 20th Images Festival of Independent Film and Video.
2007 Sleepwalker Project Series (Sleepwalker Projects, Toronto, CA, four solo shows) Four artists created works for a nighttime street level window gallery on Queen West. Featuring new works by Karl Larsson (Stockholm, SE), Oscar Guermouche (Kalmar, SE), Jen Hutton (Toronto, CA) and Fedora Romita (Toronto, CA).
2006 Recent Canadian Video Shorts (June 2007, MUU Gallery, Helsinki, FI, group show) Benny Nemerofsky Ramsay, Daniel Cockburn and Aleesa Cohene (all Toronto, CA). Presented by the Nordic Institute for Contemporary Art at MUU Gallery, Helsinki, FI.
2006 ALMANAC (March 2006, Banff Centre, Banff, CA, group edition and launch). Dave Dyment (Toronto, CA), Jen Hutton (Banff, CA), Tim van Wijk (Victoria, CA). Exhibited at Invisible Reading Room (Melbourne, AS); Botkyrka Konsthall (Stockholm, SE); CESTA Social Transformation of the Arts (Amsterdam, NL); Taxi Gallery (Cambridge, UK); This Neck of the Woods (Rotterdam, NL); RAM Arts (Rotterdam, NL); eyelevel Gallery (Halifax, CA); and Anchor Archives Project (Halifax, CA).
2005 Sound Madness 1 and 2 (May – June 2006, various locations, Banff Centre, Banff, CA, group show) curatorial commission, Risa Horowitz (Toronto, CA), Linling Hsu (Los Angeles, US), Mohammed Al Riffai (Ottawa, CA), Kianga Ford (New York, US), Amir Amiri (Tehran, IR), Charles Fox (Regina, CA), Ujino & The Rotators (Tokyo, JP), Marco Calderon (Mexico City, ME), Isabelle Noël (Toronto, CA), Donna Szoke (Vancouver, CA), Ken Buera (Calgary, CA), Dave Dyment (Toronto, CA), Ellen Moffat (Saskatoon, CA), Jo Truman (Sydney, AS), and Jukka Nurmela (Helsinki, FI).
2005 Protecting freedom until there is no freedom left. (May 2005, print project published by YYZ Artist’s’ Outlet, Toronto, CA) Florian Wüst, (Berlin, DE).
2005 Feats, might. (March 2005, The Great Hall, Toronto, CA, group show) Daniel Cockburn, Benny Nemerofsky Ramsay and Brian Joseph Davis (all Toronto, CA). Co-presented by Fado and the Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art.
2004 Sorry for the Inconvenience (September 2004, various locations, The Junction, Toronto, CA, group show) co-curated with Emelie Chhangur. Lucia De L’Amour, City Beautification Ensemble, Westside Couture Club, Maria Legault, Free Dance Lessons (all Toronto, CA), and Kate Terry (London, UK). Nominated for Best Curated Exhibition at the Toronto Art Awards 2005.
2003 inside out and backwards (June 2003, VMAC Gallery, Toronto, CA, group show) emerging creators from across Canada, co-presented by terminus1525, an initiative of the Canada Council and Heritage Canada, as a part of the TRANZ<—>TECH 2003 Toronto International Media Art Biennial.
2003 This Is Paradise (April 2003, Peter Richmond Gallery, Toronto, CA, group show) Will Munro, Ken Ogawa, Benny Nemerofsky Ramsay, Zoë Stonyk, Daniel Borins and Jennifer Marman (all Toronto, CA), and Kate Terry (London, UK).

Selected Speaking Engagements and Public Presentations
2009 Critical Publics, Public Criticality (La Fonderie Darling, Montréal, CA)
2007 Media Arts in Canada (The Banff Centre, Banff, CA)
2007 Kingdom Come – Defining Nordic Identity (Images Festival, Toronto, CA)
2007 Troublemaking and Troubleshooting: Exhibition Making for Emerging Curators (Blackwood Gallery, University of Toronto at Mississauga, Mississauga, CA)
2007 Should I Stay or Should I Go? Canadian Arts Professionals working Internationally (Justina M. Barnicke Gallery, Hart House, University of Toronto, Toronto, CA)
2006 Creative Curatorial Strategies (U of T Curatorial Lab, Power Plant, Toronto, CA)
2005 Alternative Careers in the Arts (West Toronto Alternative School, Toronto, CA)
2005 Thinking Through Curating (OAAG, Banff Centre, Banff, CA)
2005 Exhibition Making for Emerging Curators (Cambridge Galleries, Cambridge, CA)
2004 Curatorial Thesis Strategies (Ontario College of Art & Design, Toronto, CA)

Selected Bibliography of Published Texts
2010 Welcome home. Essay. Editor, Maurizio Cattelan. Charley Contemporary Art Journal.
2010 Learning from Vancouver Catalogue essay. Western Front Media Arts.
2010 Interview with Gareth Long Canadian Art, Spring Issue.
2010 Interview with Will Kwan Yishu Journal of Chinese Art, Winter Issue.
2010 Review: Sven Lütticken’s Idols of the Market C Magazine, #105.
2009 The F Word – New Feminist Strategies, exhibition catalogue featuring essays by Alissa Firth-Eagland, Karen Henry and Candice Hopkins; and an interview with Lisa Steele. Western Front Media Arts.
2008 Narratives of Capture: The Video of Gareth Long exhibition catalogue featuring essays by Alissa Firth-Eagland, Liam Gillick and AA Bronson, Oakville Galleries.
2006 Unplugging Performative Video Art Canadian Theatre Review.

Selected Professional Experience
2011 Editor, Learning from Vancouver, Western Front Media Arts (Vancouver, CA)
2009 Co-Editor, The F Word, Western Front Media Arts (Vancouver, CA)
2007/09 Director/Curator of Western Front Media Arts (Vancouver, CA)
2008 Seminar Leader, Emily Carr University of Art & Design (Vancouver, CA)
2003/05 Office Manager, Vtape Independent Video Distribution Centre (Toronto, CA)

1. Irit Rogoff, comment on “We – Collectivities, Mutualities, Participations,” MODE5 – Towards a New Educational Model in Dance and Choreography Blog, posted Sat, 2005-03-19 17:14, (accessed May 2, 2009).
2. Sven Lütticken, “The Avant-Garde Repeated”, Secret Publicity: Essays on Contemporary Art, (2006: NAi Publishers, Rotterdam), 29.
3. Lütticken, 30.