The Embassy Cultural House continues to give attention to the tragedy unfolding in Gaza and joins with hundreds of thousands of protesters who demand a permanent ceasefire and an end to the Israeli occupation. Attempts to silence those who support Palestinian rights are front and centre. Craig Mokhiber, the former Top U.N. Official on Human Rights in the New York office, recently resigned, denouncing Israeli bombardment of Gaza and describing it as a “text-book case of genocide". Closer to home, cultural workers are being punished for their support of Palestinians. A recently circulated letter from the Israel Museum and Arts Canada (IMAAC) addressed to Stephen Jost, Director of the AGO, concerning Anishinaabe-kwe curator, artist and organizer, Wanda Nanibush is a case in point. One of the demands in the IMAAC letter was that she engage in “anti-semitism training" as a response to her empathetic work on Palestine. News of Wanda's forced departure from the AGO has provoked cultural workers from across the country to protest this public institution's failure to protect a member of their curatorial team from external pressures. Wanda, who is known for her critical and compassionate work as the AGO's inaugural curator of Indigenous Art is respected far beyond the walls of the AGO and we will support her in whatever way she decides to move forward.
In this spirit, we are sharing Wanda's article “About Land" which was published in Canadian Art in Fall 2016, and was removed from the Canadian Art website shortly after it appeared. This article is an important example of Wanda's vital work. To download the article, please click the button below.
The Embassy Cultural House will continue to keep our focus on Gaza and the Occupied West Bank, and the severe consequences on individuals and communities who are profoundly affected by the traumatic events that are unfolding. While moving forward with our programming and publishing schedule, upcoming is ECH's participation in the next iteration of the international program Queer Cinema for Palestine (QCP), which will coincide with Human Rights Day on December 10, 2023. More information on this event can be found in this newsletter.
44 Governor General Award Winners Protest
Embassy Cultural House Editions, 96 pp., $20, September 2023, ISBN 9781777492144
ECH's newest publication, Portraits of Sam Hallick: Modern Arab Presence in Twentieth-Century North America by Salah D. Hassan will be available on September 5, 2023. This publication marks the Embassy Cultural House's seventh in-house publication, and the first publication to be written by an ECH contributor.
This book examines photographs of an Arab immigrant coming to the United States taken during the early twentieth century, a period when photography was becoming more accessible to the general public. Arabic-speaking immigrants to the US had photographers take professional portraits in their shops, on the street, in offices, or in factories. Journalists and ethnographers also took photos documenting the presence of Arabic speakers in varied locations across the United States. The main focus is on photos of Sam Hallick, the author's maternal grandfather, who arrived in the US around 1900 and lived in South Dakota before returning to his home village in the Beqa'a Valley in 1920. Hassan pieces together the story of Sam Hallick from family photos and the public record, reading the family portraits in relation to modern forms of Arab self-representation.
To order a copy of this book, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Front cover of Portraits of Sam Hallick: Modern Arab Presence in Twentieth-Century North America" by Salah D. Hassan. Cover design by Olivia Mossuto.
Celebrating 40 Years of Cultural History
July 14 - November 14
Rhino Lounge, Museum London
421 Ridout Street, London, ON
Embassy Cultural House: Celebrating 40 Years of Cultural History is an exhibition that charts the past and present programs of the Embassy Cultural House. Beginning with the Embassy Hotel in 1983, the exhibition acknowledges the efforts made by a network of artists and activists in London, Ontario and internationally, including the current, re-invigorated community collective initiated in 2020. The exhibition has been coordinated by Ron Benner, Jamelie Hassan, Wyn Geleynse and Olivia Mossuto. Artworks have been exhibited at the Satellite Project Space and with our community partners—Jill’s Table, Colour by Schubert and the Framing and Art Centre—through our Cloud to Street initiative.
Celebrating 40 Years of Cultural History at the Rhino Lounge includes works by Rebecca Baird and Kenny Baird, Stephen Andrews, Carole Condé and Karl Beveridge, Jeff Thomas, Olivia Mossuto, Judith Rodger, Jamelie Hassan, Jean Spence, Patrick Mahon, Jessie Amery, Wyn Geleynse, Fern Helfand, Ron Benner, Jade WIlliamson and Bernice Vincent (1934 - 2016).
Celebrating 40 Years of Cultural History
June 14 - June 24
Satellite Project Space
121 Dundas St, London, ON
Opening Event: Saturday, June 17, 2-5 PM
Closing Event: Saturday, June 24, 2-5 PM
Celebrating 40 Years of Cultural History: Cloud to Street
June 14 - July 17
115 King St, London, ON
Colour by Schubert
121 King St, London, ON
Framing and Art Centre
371 Horton St. E, London, ON
Embassy Cultural House: Celebrating 40 Years of Cultural History is an exhibition that charts the past and present programs of the Embassy Cultural House. Beginning with the Embassy Hotel in 1983, the exhibition acknowledges the efforts made by a network of artists and activists in London, Ontario and internationally, including the current, re-invigorated community collective initiated in 2020. The exhibition has been coordinated by Ron Benner, Jamelie Hassan, Wyn Geleynse and Olivia Mossuto. Artworks will be exhibited at the Satellite Project Space and with our community partners—Jill’s Table, Colour by Schubert and the Framing and Art Centre—through our Cloud to Street initiative. The Cloud to Street project was initiated by Tariq Hassan Gordon in 2020 and has continued to be an important exhibition format for ECH. Further programming will address this legacy, in addition to an upcoming publication expected fall 2023.
Celebrating 40 Years of Cultural History includes works by: Jessie Amery, Stephen Andrews, Rebecca Baird & Kenny Baird, Ron Benner, Tom Benner, Carole Condé & Karl Beveridge, Sheri Cowan, Susan Day, Duncan de Kergommeaux, Patricia Deadman, Stan Denniston, Reid Diamond, Holly English, Soheila Esfahani, kerry ferris, Mireya Folch-Serra, Wyn Geleynse, Oliver Girling, Anahí González, Gildo Gonzalez, Jamelie Hassan, Fern Helfand, Jared Hendricks-Polack, Spring Hurlbut, Martyn Judson, Sharmistha Kar, George Kubresli, Patrick Mahon, Doug Mitchell, Kim Moodie, Catherine Morrisey, Olivia Mossuto, Kim Neudorf, Shelley Niro, Oscar Ortiz, Troy Ouelette, Judith Rodger, Thelma Rosner, Jenna Rose Sands, Roland Schubert, Jean Spence, Diana Tamblyn, John Tamblyn, Jeff Thomas, Larry Towell, Bernice Vincent, Don Vincent, Jade Williamson
About the Embassy Cultural House (ECH)
In 1983, artists Jamelie Hassan, Ron Benner and jazz musician Eric Stach founded the Embassy Cultural House (1983-1990), which was located in the restaurant portion of the Embassy Hotel at 732 Dundas Street in East London. In 2020, at the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Embassy Cultural House was re-envisioned as an online collective and art space by Tariq Hassan Gordon. The virtual and in-person programming is a collaborative effort by contributors, editors, partners and volunteers to celebrate the art community in London, Ontario—its past and present, and its many connections across Canada and around the world. As of 2023, the revitalized Embassy Cultural House has initiated over 20 projects and six publications.
This exhibition is generously supported by the London Arts Council, the City of London and the ECH community.
The Cloud to Street initiative began on Earth Day 2021 with Stop Extinction! Restore the Earth, an Embassy Cultural House exhibition coordinated in collaboration with GardenShip & State, a project curated by Patrick Mahon and Jeff Thomas. Tariq Hassan Gordon, the ECH’s coordinating editor, came up with the idea as a way for the public to safely engage with contemporary art during the pandemic, while also enhancing our connections with our local partners and independent businesses.
In this period of remembrance, we are fortunate to share a thoughtful recollection on Michael Snow by writer and curator, Ihor Holubizky.
Ihor is the recent link between Michael Snow and the ECH, who both became involved in the community in 2021. For his curatorial project on Duchamp, a guest + a host = a ghost, Ihor ushered in Michael Snow as a contributor to the ECH. This moment, drawn on a history of partnerships and intersections, once more brought together ECH co-founders Ron Benner and Jamelie Hassan with Michael Snow - further building on a past and present of friendship.
This honorable work that Ihor has shared with the ECH is inspired writing that beautifully conveys the spirit of his friendship and curatorial history with Michael Snow. Ihor’s text highlights aspects of Snow's musical and conceptual references, and how he viewed his art as “breaking rules” and that this was the way towards the making of “radical art”.
Below is an excerpt of Ihor's text that we are happy to share with the ECH community during this time:
This is not a rewind and restatement of Snow’s extensive international career, and seemingly diverse practices – the New York Times tribute aptly described him as a polymath – the honours and well-deserved awards and accolades. These are my notes on Michael Snow, who I came to know through my gallery work and in private moments, selecting experiential facets of his work with music, sound and moving image, and performing with the free improvisation group CCMC.
While not adhering to chronology, my first encounters were with his 3D work in 1967, one at Expo’67. If that event captured a spirit of the times – a giddy optimism – the stainless steel walking women that populated the Expo island site gave a corporeal and unearthly presence to that spirit; the clean contour of women always moving forward through "Man and His World” and reflecting the flow of world visitors… always moving forward.
To read the full text "Michael Snow: notes on notes" by Ihor Holubizky, please visit the ECH website at this link.
Taking place throughout November of 2022, the festival will host over 40 writers and artists and will revolve around the theme of “Bridging Divides."
Words has an exciting lineup of readings, interviews, talks, and other interactive events with some of Canada’s most recognized thinkers, writers, and artists. While some events are either strictly online or onsite, the majority have a hybrid option for in-person or online participation! Click the appropriate registration links below to join us!
Partnership Events with Words:
Omar El Akkad is an award-winning novelist and journalist. In 2021, he received Canada’s most prestigious literary award, the Scotiabank Giller Prize, for What Strange Paradise. His first novel American War (2017), was also widely acclaimed. What Strange Paradise is the story of a Syrian boy whose family flees the war, seeking refugee first in Egypt than in Europe. The boy’s perilous journey across the Mediterranean, represents the plight of many Arab, Asian, and African refugees.
Omar will join Salah to talk about his journalism and fiction.
Register on EventBrite to Attend In-Person Free
Register to Attend Online Free: Zoom Webinars
Lorraine Klaasen is a South African born singer/performer and a 2013 Canadian JUNO Award winner. She is also a member of the ECH Advisory Circle. In 2020, The Forest City London Music Award (FCLMA) was presented to Lorraine in the category of World Music. She has been performing and recording music in Canada for over 30 years and she’s also conducted music workshops in schools all over Canada, the Caribbean and the United States. Her outreach program focuses on South African music, arts and culture with an emphasis on how immigrant cultures have enriched Canada.
Frank Ridsdale has been performing and writing songs since he was 14 years old. In 1977, along with Jack Whiteside, he formed Uranus, a rock’n’roll/rock-a-billy band that scored #3 position on some Canadian AM radio charts in 1980 with the title single from their debut album, “You’re So Square." He is the recipient of numerous Jack Richardson Music awards in various categories and was inducted into the London City Music Hall of Fame along with the other members of Uranus in 2017. He now performs regularly with the bands Stetson Brothers and Slugfest and also does solo work.
Register on EventBrite to Attend In-Person Free
Events featuring ECH Contributors and Friends:
Everyone is welcome to join us for an evening of poetry, literary trivia, food and drinks as part of the Words Festival! Over the course of the evening, our host extraordinaire, Matthew Dawkins, will open the floor to poets of all shapes, sizes, and varieties!
Please register on EventBrite to let us know you're interested in reading and attending.
Register here to reserve your spot
We hope to see you this November at Museum London!
Canadian artist Tom Benner leaves behind legacy of iconic work, including London's beloved “White Rhino"
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With great sadness, we share the news of the passing of Canadian artist Tom Benner, who died at home in London, Ontario, on September 21, 2022, at age 72.
Tom is well known in London for his iconic White Rhino, from 1985-86, a metal sculpture installed on the grounds of Museum London. His work often signaled the tension between humans, non-humans, and the environment. While using a range of materials and processes, he presciently created large-scale sculptures of endangered species that engaged with a broad public and raised awareness of the climate crisis we presently face. It is no exaggeration that Tom Benner's White Rhino is this city's most beloved public artwork.
In 1990, Tom Benner presented a solo exhibition at the ECH. The exhibition was a series of works titled “The Coves" and was organized by Doug Mitchell. Among other works in the collection of Museum London is the powerful Hanging Fin (Whale) sculpture from 1983.
In honour of Tom, Embassy Cultural House co-founder and artist Ron Benner (brother of Tom Benner) has placed a black armband on the White Rhino to commemorate Tom's passing.
ECH joins with many individuals and institutions to commemorate Tom and to celebrate his life and work and the many important connections he made within our communities in Canada and internationally.
In memory of Tom, the Embassy Cultural House has made a donation to the recently inaugurated New School of the Anthropocene based in London, UK.
For recent news on the passing of Tom, please visit these articles.
CBC: Canadian artist Tom Benner, known for eye-catching animal sculptures, dead at 72
Museum London: Tom Benner (1950-2022)
We have set up a tribute page here.
With love and solidarity,
The ECH Team
Congratulations to Tariq Hassan Gordon on receiving the Governor-General’s Operational Service Medal on July 1, 2022, for his support to the Canadian Armed Forces. He received the medal from Brigadier-General Wade Rutland, Commander of Joint Task Force – OP IMPACT, during the Canada Day celebrations at the Camp Canada base in Kuwait.
Tariq, we are all so happy that you are coming home safely. We look forward to seeing you soon.
David Tomas’ poster was inspired by the iconic painting, “The Scream” by Norwegian artist Edvard Munch, 1893.
Response from the ECH community:
Thanks for sharing this image. I remember that exhibit so well. There was a lot of political mobilization in Montréal in 1990-1991. The siege of Kanesatake happened in summer 1990. Caravans of activists traveled to Oka daily to support the Mohawk resistance. Dave had done a video piece that addressed “the Oka crisis.” Less than a year later, protests against Operation Desert Storm filled Boulevard René-Lévesque in Montréal in Spring 1991. The post-cold war era began with those acts of state violence. The conditions set in motion in those years have continued over the last 30 years, with what seems to be ever-increasing death and destruction.
Even as his work looked back to the 19th and early 20th century, Dave was very much aware of the historical moment of the late 20th century and early 21st century. He was attentive to nuance, discerning in his assessment of situations, and a great conversationalist. One of our first talks was in London at your studio [Jamelie Hassan] in the late 1980s. I don’t know if he was in London for Edward Said’s Tamblyn Lectures at Western, or if he was part of a show in London.
I also recall on a visit to London or Toronto in the late 1980s going to an opening and seeing one of his pieces on exhibit that was a labyrinth of texts, quotations from Foucault and other theorists. We had a good long discussion about the piece that in my memory was cryptic, opaque, and perplexing; I could not fully grasp what the work was doing, but sensed that Dave wanted to push the limits of signification and perception.
He was an erudite scholar as well as an artist, who like you [Jamelie Hassan] and Ron [Benner] read widely across the disciplines. His work tended toward the scientific, theoretical, technical, and in some ways so did his personality. He had a remarkable calmness, even when we disagreed. This drawing for the poster in some ways stands in contrast to how I remember his art, but is evocative of his critical relationship to art history.
He was always very generous and showed a genuine interest in my graduate studies at McGill during the late 1980s, when I think that he was just finishing his PhD. He also was encouraging when he learned that I was going to the University of Texas to do my PhD with Barbara Harlow. Before leaving Montréal for Austin in August 1992, I visited Dave a few times at his home in the Vieux Port. I never saw him again after that summer.
Salah D. Hassan
Director of Global Studies in the Arts and Humanities Program
at Michigan State University, Lansing, MI, USA
Received May 19, 2022
Editor's note: David Tomas' video on the 1990 Oka crisis is titled Rum and Coca-Cola, 1992,
17 minutes, English and French, distributed by V Tape, Toronto
On September 13, 2022, award-winning author and journalist Sarah Kendzior's third book They Knew: How a Culture of Conspiracy Keeps America Complacent is set to be released.
They Knew discusses conspiracy culture in a rapidly declining United States struggling with corruption, climate change, and other crises. As the actions of the powerful remain shrouded in mystery – like the Jeffrey Epstein operation – it is unsurprising that people turn to conspiracy theories to fill the informational void. (MacMillan Publishers)
Sarah Kendzior's second book, Hiding in Plain Sight: The Invention of Donald Trump and the Erosion of America was the primary inspiration for the Embassy Cultural House's first online group exhibition of the same name, which was programmed and launched at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. On October 30, 2020, Sarah Kendzior attended the launch and participated in celebrating this landmark Embassy Cultural House event.
This statement by Samer, and his comments on CBC are a powerful reminder of the ongoing violence and occupation occurring in Palestine. In the article, he highlights the reason for the fraught relationship between Canada and Palestine:
"It really reflects a deep settler-colonial insecurity when even mentioning Palestine is deemed a threat."
This artwork is part of a series that depicts local storefronts, signage and vintage objects. Alongside the Embassy Hotel, Sheri has painted the facades of many other London cultural landmarks, including Call the Office and Prince Albert's Diner (both closed as of 2021).
Beginning her career with 15 years as a graphic designer, Sheri Cowan has been a practicing artist for over 25 years. Thank you Sheri for this tribute to the legendary Embassy Hotel, a London east landmark and an image of a bygone but not forgotten era.
To buy greeting cards and prints from this series, please visit Museum London or shop online, here.
The event will be presented in partnership with Batuki Music Society and will take place on April 23 at 9:00 PM at the Spadina Theatre in Toronto.
For more information about the event, please visit this link: https://www.alliance-francaise.ca/en/art/2021-2022-season/events/concertsen2021/sounds-of-the-township-featuring-lorraine-klaasen-en
Do you feel like your own harshest critic? Is your artistic practice suffering, sapping you of joy or starting to feel like a friend you’ve lost touch with? Do you have any tricky, complex or simply baffling questions about life, mental health or anything?
Try writing to Ask Euan, a future mental health professional with years of community mental health experience. If your question is selected you can expect a kind and reflective response to appear in the monthly publishing of this column. To ask a question, please send an email to email@example.com. All emails and questions will remain anonymous.
Reach Out, 519-433-2023 or 1-866-933-2023, or web chat at http://reachout247.ca/ with a mental health and addictions professional who can provide information, resources and crisis support (London, Middlesex, Oxford and Elgin counties)
Good 2 Talk (1.866.925.5454)
Post-Secondary Student Helpline—free, professional and anonymous support for students in Ontario—24/7/365
For other areas in Ontario, use https://www.connexontario.ca/en-ca/
Or use https://togetherall.com/en-ca/ an Online Mental Health Peer Support Community
Larry Towell, an ECH contributor, recently reminded us in an email (received March 10, 2022) that, Florence Nightingale in 1854 travelled to Scutari Hospital in Istanbul, Turkey, the base for the British military “due to the news reports of the suffering of wounded and sick soldiers who had no clean bandages, pain killers, nor sanitation… which started the Red Cross. The Crimean War was the first war ever reported on by independent journalism."
We encourage our community to consider a contribution to the international humanitarian response by donating to Doctors Without Borders (MSF) or the Canadian Red Cross’ Ukraine Humanitarian Crisis Appeal. Canadians have already matched the Government of Canada $30 million pledge as of March 4, 2022.
Please visit the following links for more information:
Statement by CARFAC
Art Canada Institute's recent focus on Canadian artists of Ukrainian background
With Russia pressing on and Ukraine digging in, how will Putin's war actually end?
“If They Are Crushed, It Will Be Temporary”: What One War Photographer Has Learned From Documenting the Conflict in Ukraine
Holding Russia to Account for War Crimes in Ukraine
Carole Condé and Karl Beveridge named 2022 Governor General's Award Winners in Visual and Media Arts
At the core of their artistic practice is a steadfast commitment to represent and give voice to a diversity of class, race, gender, community and labour perspectives. - Nominator Dot Tuer: writer, curator and professor, OCAD University
One of the most memorable experiences of my career was a day in 1994 that I spent with Tony Urquhart. We met in his large studio overlooking a pond at his home in Wellesley, Ontario. Our goal was to choose works on paper that would be donated to Museum London. We went through his collection of thousands of drawings from every stage of his career. Urquhart’s practice included daily drawing. Some of these drawings were worked on over days or even years. They often incorporated other media such as watercolour, oil, and collage, but always began with pen and ink. When we chose the work from 1948, Stage Coach, Tony showed me a small book, Canada’s Past in Pictures, written and illustrated with ink drawings by C. W. Jefferys. This book, given to him as a child, was the source of his interest in drawing, he explained. Later works showed the influence of his extensive travels through foreign landscapes, but many of the drawings depicted imaginary places. Still others were working drawings for his inimitable box sculptures.
At the end of the day, we had selected over fifty works from 1948 to 1993. The conversation was lively, and fascinating. Tony’s passionate approach to drawing was evident as he described each work. However, unassuming as he was, he never mentioned that two of his drawings had been added to the collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 1961. Eventually, in 2006, he would see one of these drawings displayed in an exhibition along the same wall as works by Paul Cézanne, Barnet Newman, Gerhard Richter, and André Derain to name a few. I can imagine how happy he must have been to stand in front of these works. An installation photo is available here.
Some years later I remember his eyes twinkling as he recalled that when he was artist-in-residence at the McIntosh Gallery at Western University in the 1960s, he had initiated the purchase of drawings for the McIntosh collection. Though the budget was small, over the next few years, there was enough to develop a small, but choice collection of drawings by Alex Colville, L. L. Fitzgerald, A. Y. Jackson, Greg Curnoe, F. H. Varley, Bernice Vincent. Paddy Gunn O’Brien, Horatio Walker, and Christiane Pflug among others.
I first met Tony in November 1970, when he gave a tour of his retrospective exhibition, Reunion, at the London Art Gallery on Queens Avenue. I remember being captivated by his box sculptures and drawings, as I listened to his tales of the ideas behind the works. Over the years we met many times, encounters with Tony were always delightful and stimulating. I was privileged to have known him.
- Judith Rodger
Zexi Li's courage has continued with a $306 million class-action lawsuit against the organizing participants in the “Freedom Convoy" who can only be described as transnational criminals in their illegal occupation of the city of Ottawa.
Please watch this interview with Zexi Li on CBC:
Ottawa resident says locals were 'suffering' under convoy occupation
This ECH statement of support also acknowledges all of the other residents of Ottawa who organized blockades, on Cooper Street and at Bank St. and Riverside Drive, to stop more trucks and vehicles from entering the downtown area.
There is a fund-raising campaign to support the class-action lawsuit: The Ottawa Fund. The ECH urges all those who are able to support Zexi Li and the people of Centretown, Ottawa.
See articles in the Ottawa Citizen on the women organizing to “Stop the Occupation" of Ottawa and an article by Archana Rampuse on Feb. 14 on rabble.ca: From the frontlines: Ottawa community blocks trucks headed for downtown convoy. Also: ByWard Market, Sandy Hill residents join class-action suit and Meet the 21-year-old Ottawa woman behind the injunction that silenced the honking.
Important statement from Ottawa Cultural Organizations:
Updates on the London Arts Community