It is finally here—mark your calendars! On Friday, February 19th and Saturday, February 20th, the Canadian Culinary Imaginations Symposium of Literary and Visual Fare is set to take place on Kwantlen Polytechnic University’s Richmond Campus in the Melville Centre for Dialogue. This is an event that I have been co-organizing with Dr. Shelley Boyd (KPU English Department) as a two-day interdisciplinary event featuring over 25 invited speakers, ranging from local and international academics, to artists, curators, and writers, who will explore how Canadian writers and/or visual artists use food to articulate larger historical and cultural contexts.
We are pleased to feature our creative keynote speaker Vancouver Poet Laureate Rachel Rose presenting a talk on the topic of poems inspired by food. Our other featured speaker is internationally recognized Visual Artist Sylvia Grace Borda who will lead a discussion on her art projects and their relationship to sustainable food systems and economies.
The symposium will coincide with the launch of the public art exhibition we have also planned, organized, and curated— "Artful Fare: Conversations About Food"— presenting the collaborative art projects of KPU Fine Arts and English students as they engage in creative-critical dialogues about Canadian poetry. Full schedule and list of participants and all registration information can be found HERE. Spread the word and join us in the conversation!
Over the past year, I have been working with Canadian Literature specialist Dr. Shelley Boyd on fostering a collaborative research stream related to her already well-developed research and publications in the field of literary food studies. In my own capacity as an art historian, I have had an interest in the representation and discourse around food, metaphors of consumption, and the symbolic use of food in modern and contemporary art, and especially among the avant-garde. Our interests intersected while I was working on a research project looking at the work of Canadian-born artist and designer Tobias Wong and his use of food and popular culture in several projects (I went on to present a paper related to this research titled “Object Lesson—The Case of Tobias Wong” at the AAH Association of Art Historians Annual Conference at the University of Reading in 2013). Wong’s close working relationship with novelist and artist Douglas Coupland, a prominent Canadian figure that Dr. Boyd has also been researching and presenting work about—notably, her paper “Douglas Coupland's "Digital" Landmarks: Navigating the Electronic Environment” presented at a Canadian Studies conference at the University College Dublin in 2012—sparked our interest in collaborating on a project looking at the literary and art historical implications of Coupland’s output on Canadian food narratives. Our collaboration and mutual interest in Coupland hinges on how he utilizes pop art sensibilities and aesthetics, which take obsession with consumer culture and convenience food as potent subject matter, and connects them to a literary style that relishes in the creation of dystopic fictional microcosms.
Our shared research, located at the intersection of literary and art historical analysis, laid the foundation for our collaborative work co-organizing the Canadian Culinary Imagination Conference and it also helped inspire a related student project that has been taking place at KPU since last fall.
“Artful Fare: Conversations About Food Student Collaborative and Exhibition Project”—which can be viewed HERE— is an ongoing project started in fall 2015 and the brainchild of Dr. Boyd partnering KPU English students studying Canadian poetry together with Studio and Art History students working across a wide range of disciplines in the Fine Arts Department. All of the participating students were assigned Canadian poems selected by Dr. Boyd to align with the broader theme of food narratives. Students were then put in small mixed groups of English and Fine Arts students studying the same poem and encouraged to approach the themes of the poetry from their own disciplinary perspective while working collaboratively to share context and insights. The result of these student collaborations (focusing on 17 Canadian poems) can be explored on the online exhibition and will also be featured as two separate art exhibitions set to coincide with the symposium at KPU Richmond on February 19-20, and at KPU Surrey on March 3-17.