Maria Thereza Alves meeting with ejidatarios (community members who hold land in common) to discuss The Return of a Lake, 2009. Image courtesy of the Community Museum of the Valle of Xico. 

Dialogues on Art and Publics Speaker Series: Maria Thereza Alves

Friday, October 18, 7pm
Djavad Mowafaghian World Art Centre, 149 West Hastings Street

Presented in collaboration with the City of Vancouver Public Art Program, this speaker series invites artists whose practices critically engage the notion of "public" to present a talk in relation to their practice. Rather than generalizing and defining the terms of public art, this ongoing program seeks to explore the different ways that artists navigate the tensions of a universal public. If the official public sphere has historically been constituted by exclusion, then where does a city's or museum's so-called publicness reside? Oriented towards artistic practices whose gestures unsettle dominant spatial practices, this speaker series will consider diverse production and presentation modes, from the site-specific to the diffuse. In particular, how have artists negotiated meaningful action within the constraints of settler-colonial structures? What space can art occupy within rapacious growth and transformation?

The Brazilian artist Maria Thereza Alves, who is based in Europe, will launch the speaker series, which will take place over the 2019 – 2020 academic year. Alves's artwork focuses on how social spaces and practices are constructed, interrogating what we think we know and who we think we are. The artist's projects encourage a closer examination of where and how publics are actually formed, tending to the effects of constantly shifting contemporary contexts.

Responding to the central ideas of the Dialogues on Art and Publics series, Alves will share her strategies for working as an artist within the mandate of communities she is not necessarily a part of, especially as this relates to the machinations of international art discourses. Through reflections on her projects The Return of the Lake (2012), A Full Void (2017) and Decolonizing Brazil (2018), she will consider what happens after an artist leaves – to the relationships that were built to support the production of their works, to the publics that coalesced around their projects, and to the institutions that continue to facilitate encounters with their ideas.

Alves's recent publication, Recipes for Survival (2019) will also be available for purchase at the lecture for $60. Published by University of Texas Press, Austin, it features a foreword by Michael Taussig.

Dialogues on Art and Publics is presented in collaboration with the City of Vancouver's Public Art Program. Maria Thereza Alves's lecture is further supported by the Audain Visual Artist in Residence program at SFU and the Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery.

Since the 1980s, Maria Thereza Alves has produced a body of work that investigates the histories and circumstances of specific localities worldwide in order to give witness to silenced histories. Her research-based art develops out of interactions with the physical and social environments. Responding to local needs and proceeding through a process of dialogue facilitated by direct involvement in material, environmental and social circumstances, Alves explores spaces of agency and visibility. Alves's work has been seen in many international exhibitions and biennials, among them Manifesta (2018, 2008), the Sharjah Art Biennial 13 (2017), the 29th São Paulo Biennale (2016, 2010), the Moscow Biennale (2015), the Berlin Biennial (2014), the dOCUMENTA13 (2012). Alves's ongoing project Seeds of Change (1999 – ) has been awarded the Vera List Center Prize for Art and Politics for 2016 – 2018. The artist's recent publication, Recipes for Survival (University of Texas Press, 2018) presents a searing photo documentary of life in southern Brazil.


Documentation by Han Pham