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Nations by Artists Podcast

Nations by Artists stylized text overlaid on a red image of a fallen head of a Columbus statue

Episode 1: Monuments

Featuring artists Amy Lam (formerly of Life of a Craphead), Will Kwan, Shawna Dempsey and Lorri Millan, and Miran Mohar and Borut Vogelnik of IRWIN

Statues fall and float, burned flags fly, passport offices install trampolines, and national parks reclaim their queer kin. These artists have been turning national spaces and symbols inside out and, in the process, show us what monuments are truly made of. Co-hosts Sarah Robayo Sheridan and Mikinaak Migwans interview artists and share stories from behind the scenes of the Nations By Artists exhibition on view at the Art Museum until April 2, 2022.

Download this episode’s transcript.

About the Artists

Life of a Craphead is the collaboration of Amy Lam and Jon McCurley. Their work spans performance art, film, and curation. The name “Life of a Craphead” comes from the opening joke of the very first live comedy routine they performed together in 2006. Amy is Chinese and Jon is Vietnamese-Irish and they live and work in Toronto, Canada.

Will Kwan is a Hong Kong-born, Canadian media artist whose work examines the ways that inequality is created and perpetuated through economic systems and cultural narratives. Kwan is an Associate Professor in Studio Art at the University of Toronto Scarborough and graduate faculty in Visual Studies at the University of Toronto St. George.

Shawna Dempsey and Lorri Millan are a Canadian performance art duo who, since 1989, have collaborated on performances, films, videos, publications, and public art projects. Their performances, mostly humorous, address lesbian and feminist themes in a variety of media, including film, video, and live performance poetry.

The IRWIN group was founded in Ljubljana (Slovenia). Its members are Dusan Mandic, Miran Mohar, Andrej Savski, Roman Uranjek, and Borut Vogelnik. IRWIN has been extensively involved with the art history of Europe, in particular with the ambivalent inheritance of the historical avant-gardes and its totalitarian successors, and thus with the dialectic of avant-garde and totalitarianism. Following the creation of a specific visual language in their predominantly painterly projects of the 1980s, the group has been concentrating since the 1990s on a critical examination of the art history of “Western Modernism”, countering it with the “retro-avant-garde” of a fictive “Eastern Modernism” which, in its own obvious artificiality, points to the artificiality of Western art historical structures that continue to exclude contemporary Eastern European art to this day.

Further reading:

  • Vashist, Indu, “Eddie and Me,” Canadian Art, 7 December 2017.
  • Will Kwan, “Will Kwan – Flame Test,” 2010, in Radio Papesse, podcast, MP3 audio,
  • Dempsey, Shawna, and Lorri Millan. Lesbian National Parks and Services Field Guide to North America : Flora, Fauna & Survival Skills. Toronto, Ontario: Pedlar Press, 2002.
  • Taussig, Michael T. Defacement : Public Secrecy and the Labor of the Negative. Stanford, Calif: Stanford University Press, 1999.
  • Krečič Jela, ed. The Final Countdown: Europe, Refugees, and the Left. Ljubljana: IRWIN, 2017. 

Episode 2: Borders

Featuring artists Alan Michelson, Greg Hill, Pablo Helguera, Jason Lujan and Maria Hupfield of Native Art Department International, and the expertise of G. Peter Jemison.

A Pan-American road trip, a roving border office, a document refusing citizenship, and a whole mess of paper and plasterwork. These are some of the ways that artists are exploring the makings of national boundaries and making connections across territories. Co-hosts Sarah Robayo Sheridan and Mikinaak Migwans interview artists and share stories from behind the scenes of the Nations By Artists exhibition on view at the Art Museum until April 2, 2022.

About the Artists

Greg Hill is a multidisciplinary artist working in installation, performance, and digital imaging. His work explores Kanyen’kehaka (Mohawk) and French identity through the prisms of colonialism, nationalism, place, and community.

Alan Michelson is an internationally recognized artist, curator, writer, lecturer and Mohawk member of the Six Nations of the Grand River, based in New York. His socially engaged, site-specific art practice is grounded in local context and the retrieval of repressed histories.

Pablo Helguera is a New York-based artist who works with installation, sculpture, photography, drawing, and performance. From 2007 to 2020 he was Director of Adult and Academic Programs at  Museum of Modern Art, New York. He is an Assistant Professor at the New School College of Performing Arts.

Native Art Department International (NADI) is the collaborative practice of Toronto-based artists Jason Lujan and Maria Hupfield. Working across performance, sculpture, video and other media, they prioritize kinship and relationality to liberate artists, artworks and aesthetics from classifications ingrained in systems of power and interpretation.

G. Peter Jemison (Seneca, Heron clan) is an artist, curator, writer, treaty historian, and veteran cultural advocate. He co-founded the American Indian Community House Gallery in New York, served for many years as Historic Site Manager of Ganondagan State Historic Site, and represents the Seneca Nation in repatriation and historic preservation matters.

Further reading:

  • Alan Michelson & Jolene Rickard on Native Sovereignty,” Dec 7, 2020, Museum of Contemporary Art Denver.
  •  Joseph Heath, “The Citizenship Act of 1924” (report),, June 7, 2018.
  • Audra Simpson, Mohawk Interruptus: Political Life Across the Borders of Settler States (Duke University Press, 2014).
  • Pablo Helguero and Sarah Demeuse (editors), School of Panamerican Unrest Anthology (United States: Jorge Pinto Books, 2011).
  • Rebecca McGrew et al, It Happened at Pomona : Art at the Edge of Los Angeles 1969-1973 (Claremont, CA: Pomona College Museum of Art, 2011).
  • Ming Tiampo, “Gutai: Splendid Playground,” Guggenheim exhibition website.

Episode 3: Archive/Counter-Archive

Featuring artists Sadie Barnette, Jasmina Cibic, and Hương Ngô.

The archives of the nation are centuries deep and football fields wide. But what’s inside those vaults is still tiny compared to everything that’s been cut out. Three artists take us into their own counter-archives and show us the radical potential of those gaps in the record: unsung anthems and unflown flags, a father’s image in family photos, and the echoes of a mother’s voice. Co-hosts Sarah Robayo Sheridan and Mikinaak Migwans interview artists and share stories from behind the scenes of the Nations By Artists exhibition.

Download this episode’s transcript.

About the Artists

Sadie Barnette’s multimedia practice illuminates her own family history as it mirrors a collective history of repression and resistance in the United States. The last born of the last born, and hence the youngest of her generation, Barnette holds a long and deep fascination with the personal and political value of kin. Barnette’s adept materialization of the archive rises above a static reverence for the past; by inserting herself into the retelling, she offers a history that is alive. Her drawings, photographs, and installations collapse time and expand possibilities. Political and social structures are a jumping off point for the work, but they are not the final destination. Her use of abstraction, glitter, and the fantastical summons another dimension of human experience and imagination. Recent projects include the reclamation of a 500-page FBI surveillance file amassed on her father during his time with the Black Panther Party and her interactive reimagining of his bar — San Francisco’s first Black-owned gay bar.

Jasmina Cibic (born in Ljubljana in 1979) is a Slovenian performance, installation and film artist who lives and works in London. Her work often explores the construction of national cultures, their underlying ideologies, political goals and uses, as well as the soft power of the arts, particularly architecture.

Hương Ngô (Huong Ngo, Ngô Ngọc Hương, 吳玉香) is an interdisciplinary artist born in Hong Kong, often working between France and Vietnam, and currently based in Chicago. Having grown up as a refugee in the American South, she engages histories of colonization and migration, particularly in relationship to the production of knowledge. Ngô creates work that reframes the hybrid, the imperfect, and the non-fluent as sites of survival. Both archeological and futuristic, her work operates in layers, continuously making and unmaking an unruly archive.

Further reading:


The Nations by Artists podcast is produced by Aliya Pabani and is supported in part by funding from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council.

Graphic design by Demian DinéYazhi’.

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Episode 2: Cris Derksen: North, 21, Sorry, Dark Dance (℗©2013 Cris Derksen, represented by Latitude 45 Arts)

Episode 3: Zoon (Daniel Monkman, represented by Double Denim Management)