Communal Attachments: Creating in the Absence Of Each Other

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The Round Table on Black History Month and Place des Arts continue their long-standing partnership to present Communal Attachments: Creating in the Absence of Each Other, a three-artist residency curated by Joséphine Denis. The three guest artists, Émilie Régnier (photographer), Damien Ajavon (textile) and Shanna Strauss (multimedia), have co-created a work that puts each of their artistic practices in dialogue with one another. 

What gestures can specifically generate a new form of community within the artistic community? What kinds of interactions and language can be used to exchange artistic approaches and cultivate an artistic relationship? This residency, through its collaborative format, is dedicated to fostering artistic connections at a time when security measures in the face of the pandemic call for a complete halt of the physical exchanges on which we usually rely.

The artists had one week, in turn, to dedicate themselves completely to their contribution to the collective work, and to present a sufficiently pronounced direction in order to pass the baton. In Place Des Arts’ exhibition room, Régnier and Ajavon created on-site, while Strauss developed from a distance a part of the work to be projected. Their influences on each other, their inspirations, and their compromises were the markers of a collective visual language.

Communal Attachments is an opportunity for artists to continue to create an artistic network based on exchange, generosity, intellectual affinity, and critical thinking.

This exhibition is available online only. You may follow the artists’ progress, gaining insight into their work process, their thoughts, their approach to the project, and the curator’s comments on our Place des Arts... À la maison section and on our social media pages.

This Exhibition is presented thanks to the financial support of the
Fondation de la Place des Arts


Photo credit: Mallory

Based inTiohtià:ke/ Montréal, Damien Ajavon is a queer textile artist, born in France, of Senegalese and Togolese origin. His work explores the different methods in which textiles fibres can be manipulated by hand: knotted, braided, tangled, and woven. The interaction between visual and tactile experiences has always played an important role in his process; he uses his African and western influences as a vehicle for his textile storytelling and as visual markers of his creative approaches. It is through textile languages rather than oral ones that Ajavon has been unearthing and weaving connections with his ancestry.

He has accumulated substantial experience internationally that honed his expertise and technique. He learnt to weave hemp, dye cashmere in Italy and work with feathers (Bevagna, Sant’Anatolia DI Narco, Florence), felting hats and making accessories in Quebec, pattern making and knitwear in New York City.

Ajavon grounds his practice by positioning himself in the world through his heritage. In doing so, he puts into practice his mother’s teachings of African cultures and conjures artistic gestures in honor of intergenerational learning.


Photo credit: Catherine Orr

Shanna Strauss is a Tanzanian-American-Canadian mixed media artist. Her work explores oral tradition, family legacy, ancestral memory, and spirituality in African diasporic traditions, paying homage to the women in her family and communities she is connected to. Working predominantly with found wood, she creates assemblages using a variety of techniques including photo-transfer, painting, wood burning, wood carving and collage.

Shanna holds a BFA from the California College of Arts and a MSW from McGill University. She has exhibited in solo and group exhibitions in North America and Africa. Recent exhibitions include Relations: Diaspora and Painting at the Phi Centre in Montreal, Women Pathmakers at Euphrat Museum in Cupertino, Emboldened, Embodied at Thacher Gallery in San Francisco and Here We Are Here: Black Canadian Contemporary Art at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. 

Public art and community engagement are also part of her practice. Her commitment to radical social transformation has inspired the creation of collaborative projects and public murals that center the experiences and stories of BIPoC individuals and communities. Her public artworks can be seen in Montreal, Tucson, San Francisco and Sacramento.

In 2020 Shanna was awarded the Prix Powerhouse from La Centrale Galerie in Montreal and the Kala Fellowship Award from Kala Art Institute in Berkeley, California. She currently works between Tiohtià:ke/ Montreal, QC and Ohlone Territory/Oakland, CA.


Émilie Régnier is a Canadian/Haitian artist born in Canada who spent most of her childhood in Gabon, Central Africa, before moving to Dakar, Senegal, and Paris, France. She is currently pursuing her MFA in Photography at Concordia University, Montreal.

Working in series, her practice has often explored the cultural signifiers that portray the intersection of beauty, power, and identity. Régnier acknowledges that “as a person of mixed race, you portray the collision of two worlds, but you can also consolidate two distinct universes.”

 Régnier has exhibited her work internationally, including at Toronto International Airport, Contact Photography Festival (2014); East Wing Gallery, Dubai (2014); Photoquai, Biennale du Quai Branly, (2015); Lagos Photo Festival (2015); Paris Photo (2016); Bronx Documentary Centre (2017); PH Centre, Capetown (2019).

In 2019, Régnier was invited as a guest speaker at a National Geographic seminar, and in 2018, she was an artist in residence with Residency Unlimited in New York and with ELA-Espaço Luanda Arte in Angola. Her work has appeared in numerous international publications, including Le Monde, Vogue, The New York Times, Dazed, ID-Vice, The New Yorker, Foam, etc.

Since 2018 she has been working on two upcoming projects, aiming to interconnect strangers through bio-medical data such as heartbeat and DNA. Her DNA project has been awarded a National Geographic 2020 Explorer grant.




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