Publishing Against the Grain



CRITICAL DISTANCE and ICI (INDEPENDENT CURATORS INTERNATIONAL, New York) are pleased to present PUBLISHING AGAINST THE GRAIN, a traveling exhibition that highlights the current state of publishing and art criticism as it exists in small journals, experimental publications, websites, and other innovative forms. Organized around projects that connect theoretical, social, political, and aesthetic questions with a focus on community, whether understood in relation to a particular place or defined in identitarian or diasporic terms, Publishing Against the Grain reveals how their material and discursive activities respond to intersecting subjects such as contemporary aesthetics, sex and gender, gentrification, race, language, and art history.

Alongside the international network of publications sourced by ICI, Critical Distance is pleased to present a “capsule” exhibition of arts publishing projects from across Canada. Aligning with the values, modes, and methods of production embodied by ICI’s global grouping, our selection is similarly focused on grassroots/independent projects that demonstrate critical, socio-political and aesthetic engagements with topical issues and ideas, in thoughtful relation to their respective artistic communities as well as broader regional, national, and international publics. This selection is not intended to be comprehensive or conclusive at this stage of our organizational research, but just the first of an ongoing series of explorations and resulting exhibitions that will seek to evince the incredible diversity and criticality that Indigenous and Canadian arts publishers have brought, and continue to bring to bear, upon global discourses in publishing and its potentials.

The capsule exhibition includes the following Indigenous and Canadian publishers: Charcuterie / EMILIA-AMALIA / Lola Magazine / MICE Magazine / The HIV Howler: Transmitting Art and Activism / imagineNATIVE Film+Media Art Festival (in partnership with A Space) / Peripheral Review / Public Parking / Redwire Magazine / Scapegoat Journal. Visitors to the exhibition will be invited to fully engage with all of the publications on display, with the opportunity to make a case for any of the capsule selections to be nominated for inclusion in ICI’s exhibition for future stops on its international tour.

We are pleased to announce the following series of events in conjunction with Publishing Against the Grain:

SATURDAY, JULY 6th from 11am–1pm
Please join us for a celebratory reception and exhibition walkthrough with CDCC Founding Director Shani K Parsons in conversation with publishers in attendance. There will be donuts. All are welcome.

MONDAY, JULY 8th from 7–9pm
PRESSING THE ISSUE, PART ONE: A conversation with founders/co-founders of indie critical arts publishing projects in Canada
Moderated by Maxine Proctor and featuring EMILIA-AMALIA, Merray Gerges (CRIT paper), Steffanie Ling (Charcuterie, Bartleby Review, STILLS), Vanessa Runions (Carbon Paper), and Ben Donoghue (MICE Magazine).

WEDNESDAY, JULY 10th from 5:30–8:30pm
WHO ARE WE WRITING FOR? A Creative + Critical Art Writing Workshop with Amy Fung
Geared for racialized arts writers and those thinking and writing about their place in the world. Workshop is PWYC and limited to 12 participants. Please RSVP to to complete your registration. PDFs for discussion will be sent out to registered participants one week prior to the workshop.

FRIDAY, JULY 12th from 5:30–7:30pm
HAPPY HOUR with LOLA MAGAZINE: An Intergenerational Reading+Drinking Group
Join us for a free dive into Lola’s 16 issues from which we will collectively select and share readings for discussion while drinking, snacking, and even laughing. Lola was a Toronto visual arts publication that ran for seven years between 1997 and 2003. Launched by artist/writer Sally McKay, curator John Massier and arts writer and editor Catherine Osborne, its aim was to reinvigorate the city’s visual arts scene by creating an open forum for anyone to critique art events in the city. McKay and Osborne will be in attendance to provide an overview of Lola’s history and context, and highlight some of their favourite articles. Guests will also be invited to offer up passages of interest for debate and discussion. Within an atmosphere of exploration, mutual encouragement, and critical yet open-minded engagement, we we will attempt the unthinkable — a truly intergenerational unpacking of the issues and ideas that find manifestation in Lola, many of which are still being debated today.

FRIDAY, AUGUST 9th from 5:30–7pm
HAPPY HOUR with THE HIV HOWLER: Anthea Black and Jessica Whitbread in conversation with Danielle St. Amour
Join us for a presentation by Anthea Black and Jessica Whitbread of The HIV Howler: Transmitting Art and Activism in conversation with Danielle St. Amour (SBC Gallery of Contemporary Art). The HIV Howler: Transmitting Art and Activism is a limited edition art newspaper focusing on global grassroots HIV art and cultural production, and a forum for dialogue, a demand for aesthetic self-determination, a response to tokenism, and a guide to navigating the vibrational ambiguities between policy, pathology, and community.

FRIDAY, AUGUST 9th from 7–9pm
PRESSING THE ISSUE, PART TWO: The conversation on the state of independent critical arts publishing in Canada continues
Featuring Anthea Black and Jessica Lynn Whitbread from The HIV Howler, Adrienne Crossman from Off Centre, Lauren Lavery from Peripheral Review, imagineNATIVE Film+Media Arts Festival, and others to be confirmed soon.

Location and accessibility information:
All events will take place at Critical Distance or within Artscape Youngplace with exact locations TBD. Please see linked event pages for information and updates, or contact us at for more information. Critical Distance is located on the third floor of Artscape Youngplace, a wheelchair accessible building with a ramp at the 180 Shaw Street doors, an elevator servicing every floor, and an accessible washroom on every level. The TTC’s 63 Ossington bus stops nearby and is wheelchair accessible.


Critical Distance is a not-for-profit project space, publisher, and professional network devoted to the support and advancement of curatorial practice and inquiry in Toronto, Canada, and beyond. With a focus on critically engaged, collaborative, and cross-disciplinary practices, underrepresented artists and art forms, and community outreach and education in art and exhibition-making, Critical Distance is an open platform for diverse curatorial perspectives, and a forum for the exchange of ideas on curating and exhibition-making as ways to engage and inform audiences from all walks of life.

Independent Curators International (ICI) produces exhibitions, events, training opportunities, research initiatives, and publications for curators and audiences around the world. Established in 1975, ICI is headquartered in New York, but active around the world. ICI’s programs are presented and often developed in partnership with art spaces across the globe, therefore encouraging new infrastructures for art practice internationally, and inspiring fresh ways of seeing and contextualizing contemporary art.

Publishing Against the Grain is initiated by Alaina Claire Feldman, Becky Nahom, and Sanna Almajedi with contributions from partners from around the world. The exhibition was made possible with generous support from The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, ICI’s Board of Trustees and International Forum.

Critical Distance is grateful to the Ontario Arts Council for funding support to make this exhibition and related events possible.

Image: Where and When to Believe, Taslima Ahmed and Manuel Gnam, 2015. Image courtesy of Taslima Ahmed and Manuel Gnam and ICI.