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Traffic: Conceptualism in Canada

International Conference from November 26 to 28, 2010

Friday November 26 and Saturday November 27, 2010: Lectures, Panels, Screenings, and Events
Sunday November 28, 2010: Tour of the Exhibition

The Justina M. Barnicke Gallery at the University of Toronto presents a major conference on the history and legacy of Conceptual art in Canada. The conference is held in conjunction with the exhibition Traffic: Conceptual Art in Canada 1965-1980 which is on view at the University of Toronto Galleries until November 28, 2010.

By far one of the most important, wide-reaching, and long-lasting movements in the history of contemporary art, Conceptual art emerged within the social and political turmoil of the 1960s and 1970s – from feminism and gay liberation to anti-racism and anti-war movements – and presented a profound challenge to the institution of art. An integral part of the many recent efforts of re-examining the legacies of Conceptual art – its points of origin and diverse manifestations in local and global contexts – the conference brings together internationally renowned scholars to discuss the pan-Canadian history of Conceptual art, and provide a forum to begin to re-construct the context and manifestations of Conceptual art in Canada within a global context.

The conference will trace new research on the movement’s international intertwinings, including the diaspora of US draft-dodgers, its indebtedness to the French Situationists, the political ferment of new queer and feminist constituencies, and its interests in new forms of communication (in view of the writings and influence of Marshall McLuhan, among others). Above all, the conference will produce evidence of the unique Canadian contribution and exchanges with international Conceptualism – its particularly rich and effervescent flourishing of alternative, transnational communities, artists’ networks, collaborative ventures, and formation of collectives (such as N.E. Thing Co. and General Idea).

The conference seeks to foster new understandings of the specificity of Canadian Conceptual art within and beyond regional and national borders. Within the frame of other formats of public manifestation (the national touring exhibition and a forthcoming online and print media publication), the conference seeks to further ongoing developments in the historical and theoretical examinations of the truly global development of this critical form and its currency in contemporary international art.

Currently confirmed speakers include, among others, Dan Adler (York University), Kenneth R. Allan (University of Lethbridge), Bruce Barber (NSCAD University), Vincent Bonin (Montreal), Simon Brown (Concordia University), Mark Cheetham (University of Toronto), Heather Diack (University of British Columbia), Jamie Hilder (University of British Columbia), Andrew Kear (Winnipeg Art Gallery), Martha Langford (Concordia University), Adam Lauder (York University), Gordon Lebredt (Toronto), Craig Leonard (NSCAD University), Fiona Macdonald (Monash University), Kathleen McLean (Art Gallery of Ontario), Earl Miller (Toronto), Leah Modigliani (Toronto), Robin Simpson (Concordia University), Johanne Sloan (Concordia University), Virginia Solomon (University of Southern California), Charles Stankievech (Klondike Institute of Art and Culture), Blake Stimson (University of California, Davis), Felicity Tayler (Concordia University), David Tomas (UQAM), Reiko Tomii (New York), Dot Tuer (OCAD University), Jayne Wark (NSCAD University), Anne Whitelaw (University of Alberta), William Wood (Vancouver), and Paul Woodrow (University of Calgary).

Program Schedule


Justina M. Barnicke Gallery


The exhibition and conference are made possible through the financial support of the Canada Council for the Arts, the Ontario Arts Council, the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, and the Hal Jackman Foundation

Image: Installation view of Traffic: Conceptualism in Canada, 2010. Image credit: Toni Hafkenscheid.

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