Ways of Caring

found polaroid image of three family members looing at polariois photos

Unknown photographer, [Looking at Polaroids], around 1970s. Colour instant print (Polaroid SX-70), 10.8 x 8.8 cm. Purchase, with funds donated by Martha LA McCain, 2018. © Art Gallery of Ontario 2018/1113

Free tickets available on Tuesday August 20.


@ 7:00 pm - 9:00 pm


Ways of Caring

Wednesday December 18, 2019

In 2018, the AGO acquired the Fade Resistance collection, an extraordinary group of Polaroids documenting African American family life from the 1970s to the early 2000s. Assembled by Toronto artist Zun Lee over many years, these vivid images chronicle milestones such as weddings, birthdays and graduations as well as quieter daily moments, highlighting the role snapshots have played in Black life, both as tools to challenge stereotypical portrayals, and as a means to memorialize family, culture and heritage.

In anticipation of an exhibition of these photographs in 2021, Lee will lead a round-table conversation, examining the question of what it means to hold this collection in this city today, in a museum like the AGO, and the wider place of institutions in caring for collections of personal photographs. Participants include Dr. Fred Moten and Dr. Stefano Harney, among others. The first of three events, Ways of Caring is multi-year initiative to activate the collection and to engage a range of publics in Toronto.

“I’m grateful that this collection has found a committed custodian in the AGO, preserving images that offer a testament to Black visual self-representation,” says Lee. “For years, these images have served as conversation starters for people to come together and share their personal stories. I look forward to working with the AGO to engage old and new audiences in offering their own take on what it means to be seen."

Zun Lee is an award-winning Canadian photographer, physician and educator. He was born and raised in Germany and has also lived in Atlanta, Philadelphia and Chicago.

Lee focuses his explorations on everyday Black life to highlight contemporary social justice issues at the intersection of race, sexuality, gender, and class. Intersubjectivity and trust dynamics are an important component of Zun’s work as he embeds himself in his collaborators’ lives. He is best known for his multi-year ethnographic project Father Figure, his immersive documentation of Black fatherhood that disrupts mainstream representations of Black family life and Black masculinity.

His archival project Fade Resistance examines a gap in the recent history of Black visual representation through a collection of over 3,500 found Polaroids of African American families. Produced from the 1970s to the early 2000s, these photographs illuminate how Black communities codified their own lives to generate meaning and belonging. The fact that the original families no longer own these images brings into focus a sociopolitical dynamic of Black dispossession and dislocation that looms over the archive as a whole.

Lee’s work has been exhibited in Canada, the US and Europe. It is also featured in several public and private collections in North America. He has given talks and lectures at art and academic institutions including New York University, University of Chicago, University of Toronto, Art Gallery of Ontario, Annenberg Space for Photography, International Center of Photography, Ryerson University, Columbia University, Duke University, The New School, and Portland Art Museum. His work has been featured in The New York Times, The New Yorker, The Globe and Mail, Wall Street Journal, TIME, MSNBC, The Washington Post, The Guardian and the BBC.

Selected honors and awards include: Mellon Foundation Grant (2019), Knight Foundation Grant (2018), Ontario Arts Council Grant (2018), Canada Arts Council New Chapter Grant (2017), AGO Artist-in-Residence (2017), Magnum Foundation Fellow (2015), Photo District News Photo Annual Winner (2015),Paris Photo/Aperture Photobook Awards Shortlist (2014), PDN 30 (2014).

Fred Moten is Professor in the Department of Performance Studies, Tisch School of the Arts. He holds an A.B. from Harvard and a Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley.

Moten teaches courses and conducts research in black studies, performance studies, poetics and critical theory. He is author of In the Break: The Aesthetics of the Black Radical Tradition (University of Minnesota Press, 2003); Hughson’s Tavern (Leon Works, 2009); B. Jenkins (Duke University Press, 2010); The Feel Trio (Letter Machine Editions, 2014), The Little Edges (Wesleyan University Press, 2015), The Service Porch(Letter Machine Editions, 2016) and a three-volume collection of essays whose general title is consent not to be a single being (Duke University Press, 2017, 2018). Moten is also co-author, with Stefano Harney, of The Undercommons: Fugitive Planning and Black Study (Minor Compositions/Autonomedia, 2013) and A Poetics of the Undercommons (Sputnik and Fizzle, 2016) and, with Wu Tsang, of Who touched me? (If I Can’t Dance, I Don't Want to be Part of Your Revolution, 2016). Moten has served on the editorial boards of Callaloo, Discourse, American Quarterly and Social Text; as a member of the Critical Theory Institute at the University of California, Irvine; on the board of directors of the Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies, City University of New York; and on the advisory board of Issues in Critical Investigation, Vanderbilt University.

Prior to joining the NYU faculty, Moten served on the faculties of the University of Iowa, the University of California, Santa Barbara, the University of California, Irvine and the University of Southern California. In addition, Moten was the inaugural Helen L. Bevington Professor of Modern Poetry at Duke University and Distinguished Professor of English at the University of California, Riverside. Moten has been the Whitney J. Oates Fellow in the Humanities Council and the Center for African American Studies at Princeton University, the Sherry Memorial Visiting Poet at the University of Chicago and a Visiting Artist at the Milton Avery Graduate School of the Arts, Bard College. In 2016 he was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship and the Stephen E. Henderson Award for Outstanding Achievement in Poetry by the African American Literature and Culture Society. In 2014, Moten’s The Feel Trio was a poetry finalist for the National Book Award, the Los Angeles Times Book Prize and was winner of the California Book Award; and in 2016 his The Little Edges was a finalist for the Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award.

Stefano Harney is Honorary Professor in the Institute of Gender, Race, Sexuality, and Social Justice at the University of British Columbia.  He is also a Visiting Critic at Yale University Art School, and a Professor at the European Graduate School.  He curated the show 'Shipping and the Shipped' at the Bergen Assembly triennial in 2016 as part of the freethought collective.  With Tonika Sealy Thompson he runs the reading camp and study project Ground Provisions.  He is part of the School for Study, a nomadic collective of university teachers whose exodus from the university marks the space and time to study.


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Friday September 13, 2019, 7 PM
Tuesday September 10, 2019
Wednesday September 11, 2019
Wednesday September 18, 2019
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