Art Gallery of Alberta

One Night of Progress

Thursday, March 15, 7 pm
Manning Hall, Art Gallery of Alberta
$10/Free for Members
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In this forum invited speakers will debate the question: What is progress? And is the idea of progress a good thing? During this event the idea of progress will be approached from a variety of perspectives, including: progress and the visual arts, progress and energy resources, progress and women’s rights. One Night of Progress is being hosted in conjunction with a suite of current AGA exhibitions that explores different aspects of modernism and its associated assumptions of progress and development. The panel will be moderated by Catherine Crowston, the AGA’s Acting Executive Director, and the speakers will include:

Blair Brennan (Visual Artist / Galleries and Exhibitions Manager for the Department of Art and Design,
University of Alberta)
Peter Ohm (Manager, Urban Planning and Environment Branch, Sustainable Development Department, City of Edmonton)
Tim Weis (Director, Renewable Energy and Efficiency, The Pembina Institute)
Heather Zwicker (Associate Professor and Vice-Dean, Faculty of Arts, University of Alberta)

Blair Brennan on Progress and the Visual Arts
According to visual artist Blair Brennan, ours is a society that increasingly believes in a kind of progress that is measurable, testable and linked to a world of facts and figures. Quoting Flaubert, Brennan reminds us that “no one can ever give the exact measurements of his needs, nor of his conceptions, nor of his suffering”. These, Brennan asserts, are the places where real progress takes place and the domain of the visual artist.

Peter Ohm on Progress and the City of Edmonton
Peter Ohm will address the Way Ahead and how we got here. By 2040, Edmonton will be home to more than a million people. To accommodate this growth we must change the way we do things and what we value while not losing sight of our past. If Edmonton is to evolve into a sustainable, healthy, compact city we must take a holistic approach to city building, growth management and development. We are in a finite and post modern world and it requires us to live differently. To prosper, we must change the City’s form while building a place that offers a greater range of housing, living and work place choice, greater financial sustainability, a resilient food and agricultural system, an integrated transit and land use system and maintain and revitalize our neighbourhoods.

Tim Weis on Progress and Energy
According to Weis, The Pembina Institute’s Director of Renewable Energy and Efficiency, “In recent years, renewable energy has grown from the margins to the mainstream, overtaking investment in coal and nuclear power combined. In spite of technology advances and major price declines, the coming years will present major hurdles that stand in the way of alternative energy realizing the potential of a clean future.”

Heather Zwicker on Progress and Women’s Rights
Zwicker will focus on the Occupy movement as the basis for evaluating whether “progress” for women is real. Are we “living the change we hope to see,” as the Gandhi adage would have it? Or does Occupy show us what still needs to be done?

About the Speakers

Blair Brennan combines his writing and art practice from his home in Edmonton. His sculpture, installation and drawing have been exhibited nationally in numerous group and solo exhibitions. Recent exhibitions include two three-person drawing exhibitions: Arrows and Bullets Comb My Hair with Richard Boulet and Patrick J. Reed (Gallery @ 501, Sherwood Park, January – February 2012), Hugly Mangry Killdren with Sarah Van Slotan and Andrea Williamson (TRUCK, Calgary, October – November 2010) and the Southern Alberta Art Gallery’s inaugural group exhibition in their newly renovated Gallery, On Your Marks (SAAG, Lethbridge, September – November 2010). Brennan has contributed articles to a number of national arts and cultural publications. Upcoming projects include a catalogue essay for Edmonton artist Catherine Burgess’ forthcoming AGA exhibition and a collaborative project with Edmonton artists Sean Caulfield and Royden Mills. The Brennan/Caulfield/Mills collaboration will be featured in the group exhibition The Body in Question(s) / Le Corps en Question(s) which will premier at the Galerie de l’UQAM (Université du Québec à Montréal) in May 2012 and will reunite Brennan with a former collaborative partner, Edmonton-based, nationally acclaimed dancer and choreographer Brian Webb.

Peter Ohm is the Manager responsible for the Urban Planning and Environment Branch within the Sustainable Development Department at the City of Edmonton. Peter, with his 27 years of professional planning experience, and his branch shape the appearance and function of the city in the short to long term by promoting best practice land use, environmental planning and urban design to establish a more compact, sustainable and livable city, comprised of complete, strong and vibrant neighbourhoods.

Dr. Tim Weis is a professional engineer and the director of renewable energy and efficiency policy at the Pembina Institute. Tim specializes in clean energy policy design, research and strategic decision making. He has written extensively on sustainable energy technical and policy issues at national, provincial and municipal levels, as well as opportunities specific to First Nations’ and northern communities. He has assisted more than 20 communities at various stages of development of renewable energy projects and has also worked as a renewable energy consultant examining wind energy challenges in Northern communities.

Prof. Heather Zwicker is an English professor by training, a cultural studies practitioner by preference, and a feminist by conviction. Her research seeks to understand concepts that have explanatory potential for the world we inhabit. Key areas of exploration have included nation (especially Northern Ireland), stereotype (in particular, pre-9/11 stereotypes of Irish terrorists), the local (with an emphasis on Edmonton writing), public intellectualism, gender, cities, and the digital humanities. She edited Edmonton on Location (NeWest 2005), co-edited Not Drowning but Waving: Women, Feminism and the Liberal Arts (Univ Alberta Press 2011) and is a collaborator in the Edmonton Pipelines Digital Urbanisms Collaboratory ( She also serves as Vice Dean for the Faculty of Arts at the UofA.