"What's Your Problem?" In conversation with artists Kate Macdonald, KC Adams, and Mikiki
A friend once explained to me how all media is political. Propaganda has the ability to influence us with lasting impressions that can blur reality and challenge our own ability to recognize a truth. Similar to conflicts, media can be positive, negative, and more often complex. It is important to remember that visual art is one form of media that is capable of shaping culture and creating positive social change.
During my life, I had neither experienced nor observed the amount of national and global activism that I have in 2020. I remember watching the news and witnessing a vast group of protesters in New York City chanting “Black Lives Matter” in unison as I was filled with sublime feelings of positive change.
With an intention to continue conversations around social justice, Kate Macdonald, KC Adams, and Mikiki were invited to speak on the intersection of art and activism. These artists challenge traditional ideas of artistic practice by utilizing unconventional forms of art-making to address contemporary issues such as colonialism, gender identity, precarity, racism, stereotypes, and safe space.
I encourage audiences to identify problems that they have faced throughout their own experiences and to imagine ways to address them.
This project took place as a gathering across the lands of many nations. From Kjipuktuk - the ancestral land of the Mi’kmaq people where Arjun Lal and Kate Macdonald spoke from, Tkaronto, the ancestral land of the Mississaugas of the Credit, the Anishnabeg, the Chippewa, the Haudenosaunee, the Wendat peoples and now home and meeting place to many other nations, where Mikiki spoke from and resides, and so-called Winnipeg, the traditional territory of Anishinaabeg, Cree, Oji-Cree, Dakota, and Dene Peoples, and the homeland of the Métis Nation, where KC Adams joined us from. These lands are governed by the Treaties of Peace and Friendship, Treaty 13 and Treaty 1. We are all treaty people.
Kate was born and raised in Halifax and is proudly African Nova Scotian. She studied Performance Acting at Ryerson University in Toronto, ON. At the end of 2016, with the political climate swiftly changing around her (en election of a new president), she knew her reaction had to be radical. Out of this desire to make a change she Founded and Created The Magic Project. Which focuses on bringing marginalized brilliance to the forefront of social media using the arts. Kate is also a Community Facilitator and Youth Programmer. She hopes to continue creating workshops, holding space for community discussions and empowering youth through celebration. Her art practice has always included photography, poetry and performance theatre. But she has been long fascinated with the many avenues that art presents for self expression, especially around the themes of justice, healing, joy, magic and ancestral connection. Recently, Kate, Trayvone Clayton & DeRico Symonds created an African Nova Scotian community based, youth-led initiative called The Game Changers. After a year of working together in advocacy, activism, and community they decided to collaborate officially. Kate is currently the Branch Manager at the North Branch Memorial Library - a branch that has long been a staple in the African Nova Scotian community.
I am a Winnipeg-based social practice artist who graduated from Concordia University with a B.F.A in studio arts. I have had several solo exhibitions, group exhibitions and was included in the PHOTOQUAI: Biennale des images du monde in Paris, France. I have participated in residencies at the Banff Centre, the Confederation Art Centre in Charlottetown, the National Museum of the American Indian and the Parramatta Arts Gallery in Australia. I have received several grants and awards from Winnipeg Arts Council, Manitoba Arts Council and Canada Council for the Arts. My work is in many permanent collections Nationally and Internationally. Twenty pieces from the Cyborg Hybrid series are in the permanent collection of the National Art Gallery in Ottawa and from my installation Birch Bark Ltd, four trees are in the collection of the Canadian Consulate of Australia, NSW. Recently, I was the set designer for the Royal Winnipeg Ballet’s Going Home Star: Truth and Reconciliation. As well as having completed a public art sculpture for the United Way of Winnipeg called Community. I recently was recognized by the Winnipeg Arts Council’s Making A Mark Award and the Aboriginal Circle of Educator’s Trailblazing Award.
My art is based on socio-economic issues faced by North America’s consumerist culture. My focus has been the investigation of the dynamic relationship between nature (the living) and technology (progress). I create work that represents the human struggle to control our environment as well as the love/hate relationship we have over our excessive habit of consumption and conformity. Raised in a culture that emphasizes the wonders of technology yet still romanticizes nature and the natural world; I make sense of our present and future through my engaging work. I start with an idea and then choose a medium that best represents that idea. In the past I have worked in video, installation, drawing, painting, photography, ceramics, welding, printmaking, kinetic art and public art.
Mikiki is a performance and video artist and queer community health activist of Acadian/Mi’kmaq and Irish descent from Black Duck Siding, Ktaqmkuk/Newfoundland.
Their identity as an artist is informed and intrinsically linked to their history of work as a sexual health educator and harm reduction worker. Mikiki’s creative themes often address safety and responsibility, disclosure and self-determination, community building and reckoning with trauma and loss.
Mikiki has worked as a Sexuality Educator in Calgary's public schools, a Bathhouse Attendant in Saskatoon, & Drag Queen Karaoke Hostess in St. John's. Mikiki has worked in various capacities in the Gay Men's Health and HIV response in Ottawa, Montreal and Toronto, co-developing and implementing the first sexual health promotion programming specifically for gay men living with HIV/AIDS in Canada. Recently Mikiki’s work focused on Harm Reduction outreach & agency staff training, and conducting HIV testing. As well, Mikiki sat on numerous national, provincial and local boards, committees and research projects, like CAS the Canadian AIDS Society, CTAC the Canadian Treatment Action Council for HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis C, the Bad Date Coalition and the CHIME study involving PLWHIV acting as standardized patients in training medical students to deliver HIV rapid testing and reduce HIV stigma. Mikiki was a member of the research team, the Peer Research Assistant training team, a standardized patient research participant as well as an external HIV testing preceptor. Mikiki is currently an advisory member of Beyond LIVING’s Life Force, providing strategic direction for global HIV/AIDS advocacy in concert with the three global advocacy networks for People Living with HIV/AIDS; GNP+/ICW/Y+.
Mikiki is now dedicated to their art practice full time.
About the Curator
Arjun Lal is a Kjupuktuk/Halifax based interdisciplinary artist of Indian diaspora. He has completed a Bachelor of Fine Arts and is currently enrolled in a Master of Arts Education at NSCAD University. His work is driven by action, problem-solving, and creating dialogue in order to address issues of oppression including homophobia, marginalization, and racism. Lal has received several grants to support his work and will be researching Healing strategies for racial oppression within colonial media during the Summer of 2021, with support from Canada Council for the Arts.
What's Your Problem? Is a video series produced by Eyelevel that blends art, activism, and problem solving. We are hoping that these conversations help inspire participation for our future residency program, scheduled to launch in 2022. It was pitched and developed by Arjun Lal during their time working at Eyelevel in 2020/2021 as the Programming and Outreach Coordinator.