About Magda


Photo by WJL, 2013.

Magdalena Olszanowski is an artist currently pursuing a research-creation PhD in Communication Studies at Concordia University, under the supervision of Kim Sawchuk at the Mobile Media Lab, and is a research affiliate at the Topological Media Lab. She obtained her BA from the University of Toronto and an MA in Communication and Culture from York University. She has studied at the University of Amsterdam on full scholarship. A certificate in Creative Writing from the University of Toronto school of Continuing Education also hangs on her mom’s wall. Born in Warsaw, Poland, she is a sujet-en-proces, existing within the contours of relations.

Magdalena’s dissertation focuses on the self-imagining practices of teenage women online in the 1990s. She also has an embedded interest in protest, local politics and food sovereignty. She has performed her visual show live in the UK, NYC, Toronto, and Montreal. Her work has been exhibited internationally.

By the by, she identifies as an arts-based researcher with lax hygiene and no social graces.

Download current CV

Art & Resistance Application:

After seeing the course page for Summer 2013: Art and Resistance, I found myself among the affects and colors of the 2012 Quebec Student Strike and its tenacious embodied energy. The student strike was the first large-scale protest I participated in since fighting for solidarity as a child in 1980s Poland. As such, I wonder: If we think of resistance in the plural —as resistance already applying to an arrangement of related occurrences rather than as a dichotomy between a resistance (e.g., the student movement) and an establishment— then we move towards ways of thinking protest in its reshaping the city as a site of multiple resistances that take place through sets of occurrences that emerge iteratively. This is one of the research questions I hope to think through during the course; in particular, how artistic/ activist interventions can nuance and complicate resistance. The Chiapas region is of concern because of its temporal and spatial layers of protest and activism, and as a result I’m interested in how this region’s history has been mediated through different production practices. This isn’t to conflate the Chiapas with Quebec or suggest a catch-all reductive theorization, but to build a repertoire of how protest activates the complex cityscape and its inhabitants (human and non-human). One of the ways I tried to do this was through co-producing a special issue of the Mobile Media Lab’s (MML) wi: journal of mobile media as an intervention into the English language media during the strike.

As a feminist scholar, artist and activist, praxis is of utmost importance to me. Accordingly, I am constantly searching for language to cope with the tensions of engaging in practice-based research and the stakes of its meaning-making. During my MA at York University, Deborah Barndt’s knowledge of community art activism, feminist narratives and the Latin Americas opened me up to a series of questions that more distinctly revolved around food sovereignty, migrant labour and food access to those with various disabilities. This course would give me the opportunity to participate within some of the contexts I was only able to read about, but also to further, both, my purview in thinking through the multiplicity of community engagement, and the types of pedagogical interventions that activist strategies can make. I want to find out how new practices of activist art are transforming the intersectional experience of reality, subjectivity through a lens of an embodied identity politics. Motivating all of this is the desire to expand my methodological and artistic practice through an interrogation of knowledge production. The way these methodological concerns are foregrounded at MML is of relevance to the Hemispheric Institute, and to the larger objective of the “politics and performance” consortium. Conversely, the ethos of the Hemispheric Institute will contribute new articulations of mobility, history and embodiment that will be of use to MML’s various projects. Finally, I hope to establish connections with the other participants and faculty, as friendship is key to building community.

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