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Artwork removed after honoring jailed Hong Kong protesters

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HONG KONG (AP) — A Hong Kong department store took down a digital artwork that contained hidden references to jailed dissidents, in an incident the artist says is evidence of erosion of free speech in the semi-autonomous Chinese city.

It was unclear whether the government played a role in the decision to remove the artwork, it came just days after a slasher film featuring Winnie the Pooh, a figure often used in playful taunts of China’s President Xi Jinping, was pulled from local cinemas.

Patrick Amadon’s “No Rioters” was put on display on a billboard at the SOGO Causeway Bay Store for an exhibition that started last Friday, as the city was promoting its return as a vibrant cultural hub following years of pandemic travel restrictions. Art Basel Hong Kong, a prominent art fair in Asia, began this week, alongside other art events.

Hong Kong is a former British colony that returned to China’s rule in 1997, promising to retain its Western-style freedoms. The city was rocked by a massive pro-democracy protest movement in 2019, which ended after China imposed a “National Security Law” that criminalized much dissent. The city’s government has since jailed and silenced many activists.

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Amadon said he had followed the protests in Hong Kong closely, and he wanted his work to show solidarity with the protesters and remind people about the new reality of the city.

“It was too much watching Art Week in Hong Kong pretend the Chinese government didn’t crush a democracy and turn Hong Kong into a vassal surveillance state… because it’s a convenient location for a good market,” the Los Angeles-based artist said.

Amadon said he knew the work would be controversial and was surprised it had been displayed in public for days. It featured a panning surveillance camera.

Flashes of Matrix-like text showcased the names and prison sentences of convicted activists and other prominent figures in the pro-democracy movement, including legal scholar Benny Tai and former student leader Joshua Wong, who were both charged with subversion in the biggest case brought under the National Security Law.

These details were shown too fast to be seen by the naked eyes Amadon said, but viewers could see the details if they used a camera to capture stills. It also referred to journalist-turned activist Gwyneth Ho who was assaulted when she was live-streaming a mob attack in July 2019 during the massive protests sparked by an extradition bill.

The gallery that arranged the exhibit did not know whether the government ordered the work taken down, Francesca Boffetti, CEO at Art Innovation Gallery said in an email.

“Our intermediary told us that the owners of SOGO were concerned about the sensitive political content hidden behind Patrick’s work, so they decided to remove the work from the exhibition immediately,” Boffetti said.

No one mentioned any law or threatened them with fines, she added, but SOGO’s legal team asked the gallery whether it was aware of the content and message of Amadon’s work.

Local police and SOGO did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The Culture, Sports and Tourism Bureau told the Associated Press that it did not contact SOGO.

Amadon said the gallery told him in an urgent call that it was very concerned about its legal exposure after a conversation with SOGO.

Since the passage of the National Security Law, the city’s art and media communities have learned to be wary of crossing vaguely defined red lines. Pro-democracy newspaper Apple Daily was forced to close after authorities arrested its top editors and executives and accused them of foreign collusion. Some artists known for their political work left Hong Kong under the shadow of the law. Some filmmakers have stopped showing their work in the city. Even those producing non-political content have become cautious. But the government insisted that its residents continue to enjoy promised freedoms after the enactment of the law.

Amadon said what happened to his work showed that the city had lost its freedom of expression and artistic freedom.

“This objectively shows that they are no longer here in the same way that they once were,” he said. “From a narrative standpoint, I mean, it did have to get censored and taken down, I feel like, to be a completed piece.”

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Art therapy space gutted in 'terrible' Montreal heritage building fire – Montreal Gazette

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Les Impatients, which uses art to help people with mental health problems, lost its downtown workshop space, offices and gallery.

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A fire that swept through a 19th-century former monastery in downtown Montreal last week gutted the fourth-floor space of Les Impatients and has left participants in shock.

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The blaze broke out late Thursday afternoon at the Monastére du Bon-Pasteur building and quickly became a five-alarm fire requiring the intervention of 150 firefighters. It took until Saturday to bring the fire under control.

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The mission of Les Impatients, established in 1992, is to help people with mental health problems through the vehicle of artistic expression. The Monastère du Bon-Pasteur building, a multi-purpose building on Sherbrooke St. E., had been home to Les Impatients since 1999.

“A lot of people are in shock,” Frédéric Palardy said of participants. “It’s almost like a home for them. Some come twice a week.”

They participate in art workshops and, as well, some are in music and dance workshops and a choir — all organized by Les Impatients.

“The main thing is that everyone is safe and no one was hurt,” Palardy said. “My thoughts are for our neighbours.”

The multi-purpose building housed a seniors’ residence and a housing co-operative, Heritage Montreal, a daycare centre, condos and a chapel that served as a concert hall.

“I know a lot of people in the residence and the co-op,” he said.

But the fire “is terrible for us, too.”

Les Impatients was on the top floor and among the building’s most severely affected by the blaze, said Palardy. Although it is not yet known for sure, the fire is believed to have started in the roof.

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The space the organization occupied included its downtown workshop space, offices, gallery space and a boutique. Also lost in the fire were the organization’s archives, its musical instruments and about 10 per cent of its artworks.

With about 30,000 works, Les Impatients has what is believed to be North America’s largest collection of outsider art, Palardy said. The term describes art that has a naïve quality and was often produced by people without formal training as artists.

Les Impatients had insurance, but it was primarily for theft, Palardy said.

“We have to start from scratch,” he said, adding that the organization is working on an appeal.

Meanwhile, Palardy said the organization has received countless emails and messages of support, including a text Sunday from deputy health minister Lionel Carmant and messages from representatives of the City of Montreal’s culture department.

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“A part of the soul of Les Impatients has gone up in smoke,” the organization said in a communiqué. “The emotion and the sadness are vivid but the priority for the organization is to continue its mission, through this chaos, to serve its community well.”

Two women work on paintings at a long table
Jocelyne Potvin (left) and Johanne Marino work on new pieces at Les Impatients on Jan. 29, 2009. Photo by JOHN KENNEY /The Gazette

An interim location for Les Impatients administrative offices has been found, Palardy said Sunday, but the activities of the downtown section, which were held in the former monastery building, are suspended for now. That location normally serves about 130 people five days and three evenings every week through its workshops and the organization is already at work to find a new location, Palardy said.

The former monastery location is the largest and most well-established of Les Impatients’ 25 locations elsewhere in Montreal and across Quebec which, together, serve more than 900 people. The other locations will continue to function, he said.

The Parle-moi d’Amour event, the biggest fundraiser of the year for Les Impatients, is set for September. Sadly, Palardy said, some of the works that were to be included were lost in the fire.

  1. Firefighters battle a blaze at the former Monastère du Bon-Pasteur in Montreal on May 26, 2023.

    Firefighters stamp out blaze in former monastery 42 hours after it ignited

  2. Admirer takes in the artwork up for auction at the 17th annual Parle-moi d'Amour exhibition and auction being held at the Chapelle historique du Bon-Pasteur on Shebrooke St. E. until March 18.

    Art and mind connect at ‘Parle-moi d’Amour’ auction

  3. Works by Les Impatients, a collective of artists who live with mental-health issues, are on display at the Wellington Centre in Verdun until May 3.

    Les Impatients’ exhibit shows the healing power of art

sschwartz@postmedia.com

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Remembering a pioneer of local Indigenous art – Sault Ste. Marie News – SooToday

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From the archives of the Sault Ste. Marie Public Library:

John Laford was a prominent Sault Ste. Marie artist, who was born in 1955 on an Indigenous reserve in the West Bay area of Manitoulin Island.

Leaving his home at the age of 15, he eventually made his way to Sault Ste. Marie by his early 20s.

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He felt that he had been painting for as long as he could remember. He always enjoyed art, design and doodling after he finished school but with no formal training, he was largely self-taught.

Laford travelled throughout Europe, Canada and the United States, studying and learning from various artists along the way.

“I would only paint to get enough money to continue along the way,” he said.

By 1969, Laford began painting full-time. In 1977, at the age of 22, he had his work exhibited at the Centennial Room at the Sault Ste. Marie Public Library. He used his work to show his Ojibway legends and spiritual beliefs. His spiritual beliefs and Ojibway legends were central not just to his artistic career but to his personal life as well.

Laford went on to be a vocal critic of the Children’s Aid Society (CAS).

As a child, he played with a young boy who lived next to him. In a 1978 Sault Star article he explained, it was not until he was 12 that he realized that the boy was his older brother.

When he was one year old, his father died. His mother took his four sisters and two brothers and moved back to her reserve. She did not receive any financial assistance to care for her children and CAS took over.

“CAS saw my mother had too many kids and just took them away,” Laford said. “To me, it seemed they just wanted to scatter the family. I wasn’t adopted into a native family and the Children’s Aid paid for my care but no one ever bothered to tell me about my real parents and brothers and sisters.”

The foster family cared for four of them for a while which he described as very strict but fairly good people which he says helped him.

At the age of 15, he ran away from home with his older brother and travelled to Toronto in an attempt to find their mother.

“I quit school. Things weren’t too good on the reserve. I was drinking a lot,” he said.

When they arrived in Toronto it took them a week to find their mother. He spent three years with her getting to know her and the rest of his family.

“What I’m saying is my opinion, just my own ideas about the things I went through with Children’s Aid. I would have liked to have grown up with my mother, stayed with my real mother, but it didn’t happen that way. You could look at it (CAS) as destroying Indian families but they’re trying to do something good,” he said near the end of the Sault Star article.

Laford and two other Indigenous artists Cecil Youngfox and Peter Migwans formed a group called “Artists of the Northern Sun.” They hoped it would “form the nucleus of the Indian community in Sault Ste. Marie.” 

The three artists created the group around 1977 when Laford moved to Sault Ste. Marie. They planned on organizing events that would bring Indigenous and Non-Indigenous Canadians together. The three wanted to create a higher profile and take on a leadership role in the community.

By 1980 Laford had become a well-established artist in his own right whose work was included in the McMichael Canadian Art Collection. His work had been exhibited in Hamilton, Toronto, and Montreal and in 1980 his work was part of the Manitoulin Island artist’s show at the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM). In 1990 his work was once again featured in Sault Ste. Marie at the Art Gallery of Algoma.

Laford passed away in 2021 at the age of 67. He left a lasting mark and legacy in the

Indigenous community. He used his spirituality and culture’s legends to create works of art that are enjoyed and viewed by Canadians and the world alike.

Each week, the Sault Ste. Marie Public Library and its Archives provide SooToday readers with a glimpse of the city’s past.

Find out more of what the Public Library has to offer at www.ssmpl.ca and look for more “Remember This?” columns here.

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Indigenous art market comes to downtown Kitchener – CTV News Kitchener

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A celebration of Indigenous culture is in downtown Kitchener for the weekend.

The “I Am Kitchener: Indigenous Art Market” has taken over the Gaukel block, with everything from clothes, to art, to beadwork.

The two-day event is a showcase for artists across Southwestern Ontario, but also a welcoming to the wider community.

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“I think it’s really important for folks in the region to really come out and support events like this,” said co-organizers Maddie Resmer. “It’s a huge step forwards. What it means to connect with Indigenous community members in the region, in Kitchener, and for folks in the area to get to know some of the Indigenous artists that live here and are close to these territories, that’s how we celebrate ourselves, right?

“We highlight the positive and brilliant people who come from our culture.”

The Indigenous art market wraps up Sunday.

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