The Directors Project: Final Notes
April 30, 2021
Reiko Inouye (2020-21 Hatch Director)
On the Directors Project: Final Notes
The Directors Project: Final Notes is not an exhibition. Through engaging with the lineage and history of student directorial teams tasked with overseeing both the physical Hatch Art Gallery space and AMS Permanent Art Collection, this project holds space for the affective and invisible labour of institutional navigation that is expected of the student directors beyond the primary deliverables of public-facing exhibitions. This project is made up of a written statement, a “family tree” timeline made up of names of the 70+ years of committee members, art gallery commissioners, and directors/managers of the space, and a final interview between the 2020/21 Hatch Team (Reiko Inouye and James Albers).
As we reach the end of our serving term as the 2020-21 Hatch Team, James and I have been processing what has happened this year amidst the global pandemic, and dare I say the ~unprecedented times©~ of online programming for The Hatch Art Gallery. While this year proved itself challenging — with the need to adapt alongside the rest of the world to virtual and distanced programming — we are extremely proud of the responses made by all the artists we had the pleasure to work with and alongside. Each of these artists played their own roles in aiding us to reimagine dynamic and creative ways to exhibit art online to which we are sincerely grateful for. <3
Since the physical gallery space was not fully operational this year, we spent a large portion of time behind our computer screens (crying) which simultaneously produced the exhibitions you witnessed, as well as the less glamorous work that happened ‘behind-the-scenes’. This year’s unique working conditions rendered visible some of the inherited structural issues we face as an understaffed 2-person team in charge of a full exhibition schedule as well as maintaining a multimillion dollar art collection. We felt that our distanced working conditions provided us with the opportunity to focus on identifying and challenging various institutional barriers and dilemmas that previous Hatch Directors faced, but — understandably — could not address due to lack of institutional resources, support, and time (among other factors).
The mandate of the Hatch is primarily to serve the student body by providing a space for early emerging artists to trial their exhibition, curatorial, installation, and arts administrative skills. In our personal experience, this mandate is one of the most valuable and empowering traits of the student-run gallery as it provides learning opportunities for those tasked with running the space as well as those who exhibit within the space. It is also mandated that a new team of directors takes over the space on an annual basis. However, one of the greatest challenges from this approach is that it does not foster a cohesive institutional memory for the Hatch Art Gallery. It is difficult to see through longer-term projects due to the yearly turnover of leadership. This also makes it very difficult to hold the institution accountable for their lack of financial and structural support. Often, the Hatch Directors are asked to allocate more labour than they are paid — or quite frankly qualified — for.
As we worked closely with the Hatch’s archival material this year, I was interested in researching the space through the lens of the directorial teams prior to ourselves and acknowledging their lineage as a part of this project. I see these individuals’ labour as 70+ years of inherited history which constitutes our present circumstances.
With the generous help of the Alma Mater Society Archives assistant, Lauren Moberg, we screened hundreds of archival documents in search for names. Out of this, we were able to create a master timeline of Art Committee members/Directors from 1948 to 2021. I began to think of these names as our “family tree” (This timeline can be found on the second-page of the project). Although it was impossible to track down everyone from this list, I began to reach out to directorial teams from the past 10 years of the space in hopes that I could begin to piece together the scattered histories that we were engaging with (as well as lament over shared institutional trauma).
The content of these interviews will not be shared as that space was held primarily in care of ourselves (not the viewer). However, the content of these interviews were incredibly formative in the curation of this project. These intergenerational conversations functioned as a sort of therapeutic ‘happening’ for me, in which I could look at the past, present, and future simultaneously. Through this collapse of time, I could begin to unravel the ways in which history tends to repeat itself within the institution. It also became clearer to see the ways in which specific directorial teams chose to alter the path of the gallery. The interviews also provided an opportunity to gain input from “past selves” on ways to improve the institutional barriers that we felt we had collectively faced beyond our visible role of exhibition-making.
As James and I worked on various projects in the background of our public-facing tasks — some self-prescribed in hopes of improving the conditions of those who come after us, some prescribed by our employers — I made the decision to not curate yet another show which is traditionally reserved for the Director of the space each year.
The Directors Project: Final Notes, is not an exhibition but a refusal.
Admittedly, my personal refusal is due to the physical burnout I feel at the finale of a year of COVID-19 learning (we are still students after all), as well as directing a space that was not formerly equipped to move online. It is a refusal to perform additional unpaid labour, and within this refusal I am afforded the opportunity to hold space for so much labour that does not necessarily result in an exhibition, or any public output for that matter.
Most importantly, this refusal is an opportunity to celebrate and reflect, weaving together the experiences of ourselves, the artists we worked with, as well as the lineage of student directors before us, as a public statement, memory, and archive of the labour we perform that often goes unseen.
Noted below, you will find a list of projects that we worked towards this year that did not result in an exhibition. By acknowledging these projects and holding space for some of this hidden labour, we hope to provide transparency to the student-body whom we served and address a few of the institutional problems that we or previous teams had faced so that they do not continue to repeat.
Hatch Art Gallery Website (hatchartgallery.com)
This year, we built the very website that you are reading this statement on! The Hatch was in need of a revamp to host online programming, and due to delays in the AMS hiring a contractor we created our own website during the summer. Our hope is that it will continue to grow with the space and provide an archive of the amazing student-led projects to the public.
We would also like to acknowledge the labour of Micaela Hart D’Emilio and Chanel Blouin (2016-17 Hatch Team), as well as Kiel Torres and Yasmine Whaley-Kalaora (2019-20 Hatch Team) for providing us with the template from their previous Tumblr sites they maintained during their years running the Hatch<3
Re-Hatching the AMS Permanent Art Collection (link to read more and view projects!)
'Re-Hatching the AMS Permanent Art Collection' was a semester-long research project that was undertaken by the students of the UBC course, ARTH443 Seminar in Canadian Art: Art and Activism. This multidisciplinary and collaborative project was co-authored and created by Dr. Erin Silver (the instructor of the seminar), Reiko Inouye (Hatch Director 2020-21) and James Albers (Hatch Assistant Director 2020-21).
New Advisory Committee for the AMS Permanent Art Collection
This year we established a new advisory committee with the AMS, drawing from the histories of previous committees associated with the gallery. We added chairs for both student representatives as well as AHVA faculty (non-voting members) in order to establish a support team for the Hatch. Our hope is that it functions as a stepping stone towards a long-needed collections manager position, and provides future Hatch teams with additional support towards fulfilling long-term goals for the care, maintenance, and futurity of the AMS Art Collection. This will be posted on the AMS Committee website page next academic year.
Permanent Collection Digital Rights
Due to the casual/chaotic nature of acquisitions in the collection as well as how old some of the works are, the AMS does not have all the explicit digital rights to the works in our collection. We are unable to showcase them online, which limits visibility and access to the collection. This year we worked alongside one of our amazing volunteers Paige Braithwaite, to draft updated digital rights release contracts to send out to all members currently in the collection. We were unable to complete this project during our term, however, we hope that future teams will be able to digitize the collection in order to promote further programming. This would also make the collection more accessible to the students who own it, alongside the general public.
New mandate for Future Acquisitions
The artists that are represented within the Collection are undeniably noteworthy in regards to a 'Canadian' art history, but we also feel as though it provides a painfully limited view of the ways in which artists in Vancouver create, especially at this contemporary moment. We feel that this collection disproportionately represents the contributions of cis-white-male artists to the Vancouver canon, which is a symptom of a larger societal issue that we cannot continue to ignore. This is a grave simplification of issues that stem from the colonizing gaze, as well as the hetero-patriarchy that is entangled within Canada's history of colonization. With these motivations in mind, we hope to instigate a future that follows through in actionable ways on these issues, which is why we wrote a new mandate to be included in the Permanent Collection Strategic Plan. This mandate will prioritize future acquisitions that reflect the women, Indigenous, Black, queer, and POC artists that have been excluded for far too long. The new mandate will also encourage the deaccessioning of works that no longer serve the student body in which it is supposed to reflect.
Thank you to Sheldon Goldfarb and Lauren Moberg at the AMS Archives for your generous help in searching for names and policies for this project.
Thank you to all the Managers/Directors, Art Gallery Commissioners, and committee members who came before us. We would not be here without your labour — visible and invisible.
Special thanks to Maxim Greer (2018-19 Hatch Director), Micaela Hart D’Emilio and Chanel Blouin (2016-17 Hatch Director and Assistant), Simranpreet Anand (2017-18 Hatch Director), Mary Buckland (2017-18 Hatch Assistant), Gillian Anselmo (2015-16 Art Gallery Commissioner), and Joshua Bokor (2013-15 Art Gallery Commissioner) for being willing to interview with me or exchange email correspondence for this project.
My gratitude to the iconic duo Kiel Torres and Yasmine Whaley-Kalaora (2019-20 Hatch Team) for offering your support and guidance throughout this strange year, for listening to us screamcry, and for paving the way for all of the projects we took on this year. Thank you for the needed reminder that everything can wait a day...including this project lol.
Many thanks to Sylvester Mensah Jr. for offering encouragement, trust, and support in all the institutional projects we took on this year outside of programming and helping create better structures for the future of the Hatch.
I’d also like to thank both Dr. Erin Silver and Althea Thauberger for providing the space for us to safely experiment with our methodologies and growth as curators, as well as challenging what lived or embodied research looks-like.
I would like to thank the AMS for extending their policy on counselling services to $1000, as I will be needing it.
Last but surely not least, thank you to my artistic collaborator, partner-in-crime, and dear friend James Albers for going through this journey with me. I wouldn’t want to be The Fool with anyone else. We did it...now let's go take a nap<3