Erin Silver

Assistant Professor

Research Interests

Activism and visual culture
Artist or Author Social Identity
Artistic and Literary Marginality
Artistic and Literary Movements, Schools and Styles
Canadian contemporary art
Feminist art histories
Movement culture
Performance studies
Queer art
social movements

Relevant Degree Programs

 
 

Recruitment

Master's students
Doctoral students
Postdoctoral Fellows
Any time / year round
I support experiential learning experiences, such as internships and work placements, for my graduate students and Postdocs.

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Graduate Student Supervision

Master's Student Supervision (2010 - 2020)
Art crimes: queering the revolution through the work of Pussy Riot and Petr Pavlensky (2020)

With the flick of a match, Petr Pavlensky set fire to the Bank of France in Paris, scorching the façade of the Haussmann exterior while French police tackled the artist to the ground. The performance was more than merely a spectacular action, but a call-to-arms for the mass mobilization of the proletariat for global revolution. The artist group Pussy Riot’s performance at Toronto Pride in 2015 also demanded structural change, as they travelled the parade route on a military tank laden with a dildo-shaped missile demanding the removal of Vladimir Putin from Russian office. Since inception, Pavlensky’s performances are exemplary mobilizations of Pussy Riot’s manifesto entitled “Commit an Art Crime,” the main component to the group’s performative acts. Art Crime becomes art as theory, enacting tactics of queer liberation through the form of the performance itself.In my thesis “Art Crimes: Queering the Revolution through the Work of Pussy Riot and Petr Pavlensky,” I will analyze the concept of art crime as a liberational tactic through three frameworks of bodily performance: public intervention, social terrorism, and queer-femme labour. In the first section, I demonstrate the transformative properties of the art crime in Pussy Riot’s performance at Toronto Pride, as well as the situation of Pussy Riot within the trajectory of Russian art. In section two, I apply the art crime to the performances of Petr Pavlensky, Pussy Riot’s predecessor. Section three of the thesis will nuance the art crime within queer femme labour through witchcraft in The Witches of Pussy Riot clean Manezhka, molding a framework for revolutionary tactics through labour in lived experience.

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Making place in hostile space: what are limits and radical possibilities of arts-based activism utilized by queer racialized activists in Britain today? (2020)

This thesis looks at the various formulations of art-based activism being utilized by queer racialized artists and activists working in Britain today. Much of the scholarship mapping queer arts-based activism has failed thus far to position race as a key point of analysis; this thesis looks to contribute to thinking otherwise. Analyzing a historic genealogy of race-based arts activism in Britain such as the 1979 formation of the BLK Arts Group and the works of Rashead Araeen, I look at the path that was paved for the queer racialized, politicized works we have seen take rise over the past decade. Further I make global links to the historic politicized arts-activism enacted by Black women in the Americas. Confronted by the erasure from both geographic and archival space, I argue that queer people of colour in Britain are “making place” in hostile space while ensuring our rightful place in the archive being made from the history of this moment. Key questions that have guided this research include: what are the possibilities such arts-based activism is enabling? What are the limitations of the activism and how are these being mediated by the activists I look at? What spaces are they operating in and how are they utilizing art as a medium to enact social change? What various forms is the activism I analyze taking on? I find that collectivist formations are the preferred way of working similarly, building and fostering community a key factor underpinning both the process and outcomes of the arts-based activism I look at. I employ the literature of scholars working across a diverse range of fields such as art history, performance studies, critical race theory, queer and gender studies, and sociology to aid my thinking. The inherently interdisciplinary nature of arts-based activism is reflected by the inability to remain in one field when analyzing the various manifestations of the activism which, this thesis argues, is a core strength of employing the use of art in activism.

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