Published May 13, 2015

Q+A with InterAccess Curatorial Intern Amber Christensen

Amber Christensen, this year's curatorial intern at InterAccess, is currently seeking submissions for the emerging artists exhibition. See the guidelines and submission requirements and submit your work by Monday, May 18, 2015.

In this interview with InterAccess Programming Coordinator Marissa Neave, Amber discusses her approach to curating new media work, and gives a hint of what's to come for the Emerging Artists Exhibition this fall.

MN: How did you become a curator?

AC: I think that I am still becoming a curator. But, I think I’ve always been an organizer, and over time my penchant for organizing has been interwoven with my love of research. I first studied communication and film studies during my undergrad and then went on to earn a Master's in Library and Information Studies at UBC and then worked for a number of years as a librarian. While working as a librarian in Saskatchewan I was making experimental films/videos and subsequently started to organize film screenings, which I was putting as much time into as being a librarian. So, I decided to take ‘break’ from librarianship and moved to Toronto two years ago to pursue the MA in Media Studies at York University. Since moving here, I’ve curated video screenings for Vtape, Regional Support Network and also for Neutral Ground, the Saskatchewan Filmpool Cooperative in Regina. I’ve also become a member of the Pleasure Dome Film and Video Curatorial Collective. At this point in my career, I think I am comfortable with identifying as a feminist media arts/contemporary arts researcher who also sometimes curates.

MN: What has influenced your interest in curating new media art?

AC: My interest in communication theory/technologies, media art/video art, and experimental film all mix together and form the basis for my attraction to new media art. I grew up ‘writing short stories’ on the computer at eight and playing computer games that were probably too old for me at the time (I think Leisure Suit Larry was my favourite game when I was 10). New media art and theory also offers ways of re-thinking our material existence/physical existence and identities in a way that is necessarily radical, but is also just really fun. Jennifer Chan, Faith Holland and Ann Hirsch are witty, feminist artists whose work is smart and awkwardly hilarious. They transcend boundaries of video art, post-Internet, and performance. Zach Blas and micha cárdenas, who are both scholars/artists, help us to consider ideas of queerness, gender and technology by embracing queer and gender as technologies. At the most basic level, it’s the art I like the best. I think you should work with people/ideas/things that you like, and for me that includes being challenged. This is the work that I find particularly exciting and energizing.

MN: What are some important things to keep in mind when curating new media?

AC: 'New media' itself is a contentious term, and is in a way antithetical to what it has been assigned to describe. New media art often addresses the falsity of the notions of linearity and newness, but I recognize its utility as an umbrella term. I am also attracted to the nebulous malleability of the term and I think it’s important to be open to ideas of what ‘new media’ art is supposed to look like. New media art isn’t only about the display of technology--for me it's about the entanglements of bodies, technology, the socio-cultural, the environment and so on. Meaning that ‘new media’ art doesn’t always have to look like ‘technology.’ It can, but it could be a physical, material object that does not present as ‘new media’ but rather engages with particular concepts, practices and ideas that emanate from the realities of living in a world that is embedded in a digital existence. But, there are of course usually elements of tech to consider when you are actually installing in the gallery, which means there are pragmatic issues to consider that may not be as crucial when hanging a painting.

MN: Your call for submissions seeks works by artists whose practices and approaches are informed by feminist, transfeminist, or queer philosophies. Is there a particular artist or piece that drew you to this mode of production?

AC: I identify as a feminist researcher/curator/librarian and I have always felt the deepest connection with work, ideas, scholars and artists who come from queer communities. I see this as my "OS"(operating system) and for the exhibition I am interested in seeing how a feminist/queer operating system looks and functions for artists whose work intersects with the digital/technological realms. The call is intentionally very broad so that artists are free to interpret what this means for them. The openness of the call to an extent takes into consideration that Donna Haraway’s Cyborg Manifesto, which was originally published in 1985 in the Socialist Review. We’ve been living with the legacy of cyber feminism for 30 years, and this is my indirect way to see how we have been both influenced and yet refuted by Haraway’s cyborg.

MN: I know you haven’t selected the works for the exhibition yet, but what can audiences expect to see on September 2nd?

On September 2nd you will see new media art that may or may not fit within your expectations of what new media art or queer/feminist art is supposed to look like. The response to the call has been fantastic, and I hope people continue to submit up until May 18th.

The Emerging Artists Exhibition, curated by Amber Christensen, runs from September 2 to Septemer 26, 2015 at InterAccess.

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