Friday, March 15, 2019

On location at the Desmond Tutu HIV Foundation Youth Centre

Photographer and communications consultant Jenn Warren joined our Shadowpox group recently at the Desmond Tutu HIV Foundation Youth Centre in Masiphumelele, Cape Town, and took some beautiful shots. Pictured: Sibulele Bontshi, Abongile Maputhuma, Buhle Mavi, Zanele Melapi, Lazola Nkelenjane, Asiphe Ntshongontshi and Aphiwe Zabezolo.

Bongo Mavi, with Alison pretending to be his cell phone
Zanele Melapi 
Lazola Nkelenjane
Abongile Maputhuma
Alison, Abongile, Zanele and Lazola in the "Zone Edu" computer lab
Discussing the next scene...

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Building Black Panther

For last week's Cellphone Cinema workshop at the Desmond Tutu HIV Foundation Youth Centre, I put together a collection of links and videos on the making of the film Black Panther.

Early storyboards for the ancestral plane sequence by artist Simeon Wilkins:

(click image above to enlarge)

An animatic is a video showing how the panels from a storyboard would look as a sequence of shots. Here are a few from Simeon Wilkins, starting with the ancestral plane sequence above:

(Click below for more...)

Monday, February 11, 2019

Brainstorm profiles Shadowpox

Brainstorm is a monthly newsletter published by the Office of the Vice-President Research & Innovation at York University. Megan Mueller, senior manager of research communications, wrote a wonderful profile on Shadowpox:

Interactive video game highlights the impact of vaccine decision-making

The piece also included a new video with Steven J. Hoffman, the scientific director of Shadowpox: The Antibody Politic (among his many other titles):

Saturday, December 22, 2018

Debajehmujig Catches Shadowpox

This past week I had the joy of collaborating on a pilot workshop for Shadowpox: The Cytokine Storm with Debajehmujig Storytellers on Manitoulin Island. Shout-out to the talented and fabulous Bruce Naokwegijig, Joahnna Berti, Daniel Recollet-Mejaki, Sheila Trudeau, Sheldon Mejaki, Reece Wabegijig, Samantha Brennan and Bradleigh Steven Trudeau.

The Debajehmujig Creation Centre in Manitowaning, Manitoulin Island, Ontario

Discussing a scene with Debaj artistic director Bruce Naokwegijig 

Bradleigh Steven Trudeau records in the sound studio.

In the loading dock for Sheila Trudeau's "video journal" scene 

Friday's Shadowpox workshop – Debajehmujig Storytellers, Val O'Leary, Andrea Letander-Trudeau and Adrian Rampersad of Wikwemikong High School, and Maurianne Reade of the Northern Ontario School of Medicine – having waaay too much fun. 

Shadowpox technical director LaLaine Ulit-Destajo joined us on Saturday, and got to catch the company's brain-bending Christmas clown show Gulchmuss. (Of which songs still stuck in head...)

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Inoculating at the Ideas Digital Forum

Ideas Digital Forum was two fascinating days in October of "engaging conversations between artists, curators, digital specialists, and scholars dedicated to thinking critically and collectively about the future of digital technology, digital art and public art galleries."

The symposium was supported by the Canada Council for the Arts’s Digital Strategy Fund, whose principles include:
  • "a focus on collaboration, partnership and networking; 
  • open-mindedness, and willingness to share knowledge, results, ideas and lessons learned; 
  • experimentation, risk-taking and iterative development."
The forum's organizers have just posted videos from the full lineup of speakers, including this one where I had the chance to share some of the thoughts and challenges from the creation of Shadowpox: The Antibody Politic.

I'm hugely grateful to Linda Jansma of the Robert McLaughlin Gallery, Zainub Verjee of the Ontario Association of Art Galleries, and everyone else who worked to create such an inspiring meeting of minds.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Viral art at the exhibition Public Notice

Toni Hafkenscheid took some beautiful official installation shots of the exhibition Public Notice, curated by Sonya Jones at The Robert McLaughlin Gallery, where Shadowpox: The Antibody Politic is showing until January 19, 2019. Here's the full exhibition catalogue:

And here are a few of my favourite images:

Abraham Anghik Ruben, The Right of Passage
Abraham Anghik Ruben, The Right of Passage; Ruth Cuthand, Trading

Saturday, August 4, 2018


You know that feeling when... you suddenly realize your doctoral research may have been influenced by a comic book you read when you were sixteen?

(This post is a not-yet-coherent collection of thoughts and extended quotes bouncing between a 34-year-old superhero storyline and a raw, recent theatre controversy, by way of the design of the Shadowpox virus. One day it may yield a succinct essay, but for the moment I'm ruminating out loud as an academic experiment.) 

Artist Bill Sienkiewicz's brief but legendary run collaborating with writer Chris Claremont on the X-Men spinoff comic book The New Mutants (issues #18-31) had two highlights. The second was the introduction of the character Legion, who is currently enjoying a mindbending television adaptation by Noah Hawley.

The first was the 1984 Demon Bear Saga (currently in production as a feature film). In these three issues (#18-20), according to Jay Edidin and Miles Stokes of the podcast Jay and Miles X-Plain the X-Men, "you’re watching the definition and scope of superhero comics change and stretch. We are – literally and figuratively – off the map."

It’s worth remembering, as you flip through these, that you’re watching the definition and scope of superhero comics change and stretch. We are–literally and figuratively–off the map. (New Mutants 

That's the "literal" map, up there in the left-hand corner. (New Mutants #20) 
New Mutants #20, "Badlands", brought our heroes to a climactic battle on an astral-Plains. The shadowy Demon Bear, which the team originally believed was a figment of their leader Danielle Moonstar's nightmares, had attacked her and left her in hospital fighting for life.

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Maker Culture and Youth

One of the most enjoyable essays I've ever put together was for Jennifer Jenson's Cultural Studies of Educational Technology course. From the syllabus:
This course will approach technologies both old and new through a mostly asynchronous online course. The premise of this course is that media have never been separable from what we purport to teach (i.e. curriculum “content”). 
As a way to demonstrate this, we will trace a path through the history of pedagogy via the educational “technologies” or “media” deployed at various times and for various purposes: from orality to recitation to literacy to online courses, cultural conceptions of the relative value of “knowledge” have found very different shapes in school curriculum and practices.

This course will pay particular attention to the educative possibilities for new and emergent digital media, asking whether and how “content” reshaped, re-mediated and invariably altered by these technological affordances, enacting shifts in not only how we learn and teach, but what counts as “knowledge”
The course, then, will be an exercise in the very thing it proposes to study: how a shift in media (this time to largely screen-based course delivery) will necessarily change what it is we come to know and how we know it as part of our learning together at distances. 
We will primarily focus on the design, development and practical implementation of digital technologies for education. In doing so, we will more fully explore the notion of “techne”, that is technologies as fundamentally constructive rather than receptive media for consumption.
The week's activity asked us to think about the assigned readings on "Maker Culture and Youth" through the medium of comics (arranging images in multi-panel form, with text in word balloons, using the app Comic Life). This was the result (and yes, that's me in full mullet)...

(Click on to read the rest of the comic...)

The Remedy

Lyric poetry, sez Wikipedia,
is a formal type of poetry which expresses personal emotions or feelings, typically spoken in the first person. The term derives from a form of Ancient Greek literature, the lyric, which was defined by its musical accompaniment, usually on a stringed instrument known as a lyre. The term owes its importance in literary theory to the division developed by Aristotle between three broad categories of poetry: lyrical, dramatic, and epic.
As much of a sucker as I am for the latter two, sometimes the lyre can strike a chord.

Out at my local for Sunday brunch, I heard Jason Mraz's "The Remedy" come over the Spotify. 
...We will cure this dirty old disease
Well, if you've got the poison, I've got the remedy
The remedy is the experience
This is a dangerous liaison
I say the comedy is that it's serious
This is a strange enough new play on words
I say the tragedy is how you're gonna spend
The rest of your nights with the light on
So shine the light on all of your friends
Well, it all amounts to nothing in the end
I won't worry my life away....
"The remedy is the experience" – vaccination in a nutshell.

Friday, July 20, 2018

The Story of the Great Hunger

"In the storytelling tradition of my people, stories were not told only once, but were repeated often. New details emerged with each telling, and listeners caught different insights as they met old stories as different selves." – Tererai Trent
I just finished reading a book that fulfils the printed word's ancient dream of carrying voices to ears that need to hear them.

Tererai Trent's is a warm and resounding voice for women’s empowerment and quality education. Due to colonial priorities and traditional women’s roles in rural Zimbabwe (then Rhodesia), Tererai did not have the chance to go to school as a child. Undeterred, she taught herself to read and write from her brother’s schoolbooks while herding cattle. Despite being married young and bearing four children by the time she was eighteen, her determination took her all the way to earning a PhD from the College of Public Health at Western Michigan University, on HIV prevention in Sub-Saharan Africa with a special focus on women and girls.

Dr. Trent's book The Awakened Woman—Remembering & Reigniting Our Sacred Dreams won the 2018 NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work – Instructional. She is invited all over the world to share her story (including a keynote speech at the UN Global Compact Leaders Summit), and to lead the global charge for quality education for all children and women’s rights.

Listen to her storytelling in her own voice (the printed word below begins around the two-minute mark).

"But now the sun has set, and I am warm from the food and fire with the moon rising high in the vast night sky.

Tonight there are no sounds of gunfire from those who are fighting for our independence, or from the white minority who have ruled since the late nineteenth century. And so we women and girls sit, muscles and tongues loose in the comfort of our togetherness, and, as my people have done for generations, we sing songs and tell stories, As the stories warm our hearts we momentarily forget our pain, our struggles, and the impending danger of war. We are enshrined in a circle of healing.

"On this night, my grandmother tells a story that was to become part of my psyche even then as a young girl, binding itself to me at the deepest cellular and spiritual level of my being. 'The indigenous hunter-gatherer people of Southern Africa from the Kalahari Desert,' my grandmother begins, and I nestle the weight of my hips and thighs down deeper into the earth and lean closer to her in anticipation of her tale. 'They believe that there is more to life than the material world,' she continues. 'The men and women there describe two kinds of hunger: the Little Hunger and the Great Hunger.'