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Graphic Design: Obfuscation and Renegotiation

Symposium + C Magazine Issue 141 Launch

March 28,29,30

“Because of the ways graphic design is often misrecognized (...) we attempt to sidestep some of the anxious discourses of our field, such as: What can design do (to make things “better”)? How can design solve our problems? (...) In essence, this issue is an attempt to ask quite earnestly, what does design do? How is design entangled with power and how does it manifest its impositions?”



- Chris Lee and Ali Shamas Qadeer

Guest-edited by Loosely Assembled Cycle 1 artists Chris Lee and Ali Shamas Qadeer, Issue 141 frames graphic design as a “visual practice that gives form to power and shapes ways of knowing.” To celebrate the launch of this issue, we’ve assembled a series of talks and workshops that examine the ways in which graphic design is used: to undermine and/or uphold colonial and capitalist narratives of power, to create and/or dismantle communities, to validate and/or discard knowledge and information.

Co-presented by SBC Gallery and C Magazine, Graphic Design: Obfuscation and Renegotiation intends to intensify, propel, provoke, and challenge the common themes of C Magazine Issue 141- Graphic Design, and SBC’s current curatorial program, Loosely Assembled.




18:30 - 19:30 : 

Michèle Champagne - On Design Canada


“What do we mean when we talk about modern Canada? Hockey. Multiculturalism. Natural vistas. Global cities. Humanitarians. And above all, friendly people. Greg Durrell’s documentary film, Design Canada, is about all of those things and the role graphic design played in forging them. But the film is not only that; it is also a fascinating—if unintentional—look at a world where Canada’s colonial project hides in plain sight.” Michèle Champagne presents a meander through her review of Greg Durrell's Design Canada (2018) in Issue 141. Durrell’s feature film is a documentary rife with untold stories, as well as a specimen of dominant colonial fictions—repackaged with progressive plots, modern views, and happy tunes.


Michèle Champagne is a designer who moves between visual research, creative direction, and publication design across media. After a Master of Design at Sandberg Institute in Amsterdam in 2011, she is recognized for her work with Artexte, Droog, Metahaven, Penguin Random House Canada, Strelka Institute and VPRO, a Dutch public broadcaster.




19:30 - 20:30 : 

Chris Lee and Ali Shamas Qadeer - Designing Scriptural Economies


Designers and educators Chris Lee and Ali Shamas Qadeer will discuss the world of the document: the designed, bureaucratic “form” and other such objects that exist in what theorist Lisa Gitelman refers to as the Scriptural Economy. Gitelman’s research considers the ways that printed, reproducible forms (such as medical intake sheets, applications, etc) are central to the creation of culture, the production of knowledge and the reification of information. What agency/subjectivity do designers have in the creation of the document as a design genre?


Chris Lee is a graphic designer and educator based in Buffalo, NY, and Toronto, ON. He is a graduate of OCADU (Toronto) and the Sandberg Instituut (Amsterdam), and has worked for The Walrus Magazine, Metahaven and Bruce Mau Design. Chris’ research explores graphic design’s entanglement with power, standards, and legitimacy. Chris is an Assistant Professor at the University at Buffalo SUNY, and a member of the programming committee of Gendai Gallery, and Squeaky Wheel.


Ali Shamas Qadeer is a graphic designer and educator based in Toronto. He works in web, print, as well as web and print. After completing a BA in philosophy and religious studies at McGill University, he developed an independent design practice in New York City before returning to school to complete an MFA at the Rhode Island School of Design in 2014. His work focuses on algorithmic form-making, interaction design, and the possibility of graphic design to operate as a new discipline within the humanities. After returning to Canada in 2013, Ali joined the faculty of OCADU where he is an Assistant Professor in the graphic and industrial design programs.




20:00 - 20:30 : 

Q+A led by Chris + Ali, w/ guest artists

Join Lee, Qadeer and guests for an informal Q+A, followed by a reception




18:00 - 19:00 : 

Sébastien Aubin - Everything at face value, questioning intentions


Should we see Cree Syllabics as a collaboration between colonizers/invaders, or as something taken away from us that we are taking back? How are oral traditions in indigenous cultures taken at face value, and when and by whom are they questioned?  Drawing from and expanding on Joi Arcand and Dr. Wheeler’s text for C magazine, Aubin will discuss his recent work creating a free, open-source Cree font, and speaking to his family’s own complex history with Cree syllabics.


Sébastien Aubin was recently Indigenous Designer in Residence at the School of Art, at the University of Manitoba. Through this program, he produced a body of creative work and research toward an extended understanding of design and graphic forms. Having worked for some of the most prestigious design studios in Canada, Sébastien is currently a freelance graphic artist based in Montreal. He is a founding member of the ITWÉ Collective, which is dedicated to researching, creating, and educating audiences about Indigenous digital culture. He is also part of the AM Collective, which creates works that revolve around the imagination to spark dialogue on subjects that relate to everyday life and emotion. He is a proud member of the Opaskwayak Cree Nation in Manitoba.




19:15 - 20:15 : 

Kalpana Subramanian - Entangled Visions: The Birth of a Radical Pedagogy of Design in India


Artist and filmmaker Kalpana Subramanian will revisit the entanglement of forces of the German Bauhaus and anti-colonialism in the early 20th century in India that affected the formation of India’s first design school post independence. The founding legacy of the National Institute of Design (NID), Ahmedabad, is a story of diverse modernisms that coalesced to shape a radical pedagogy of design in India. Based on the legendary India Report (1958) by Charles and Ray Eames, NID is testament to a transcultural humanist vision of design that is perhaps more relevant today than it has ever been.


Kalpana Subramanian is an artist-filmmaker and Ph.D. candidate at the Department of Media Study at SUNY Buffalo. Her research focuses on the aesthetics of experimental film and media using interdisciplinary and transcultural frameworks of inquiry. Her short films have been screened at film festivals world-wide and won various honors. She was a visiting Fulbright Fellow at the Brakhage Center at the University of Colorado Boulder in 2015-16. Subramanian has taught Film, Media and Communication to undergraduate students in India and the US since 2006. She is an alumna of the National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad.




20:15 - 20:45 : 

Q+A led by Chris + Ali, w/ guest artists

Join Lee, Qadeer and guests for an informal Q+A, followed by a reception




20:30 - 22:00 : 

Issue 141 Launch + reception

Join SBC and C Magazine and invited artists for a celebration of the launch of Issue 141. Copies of the issue will be available for purchase.

Anchor 3




13:00 - 15:00 :

WORKSHOP - Lucas Larochelle - Syllabi of/for Queer Feeling


“The problem is always that queer life is exhausting because you kind of have to make it up all the time. There are so few conventions to rest in or cruise in. At the same time, it’s also really exciting to think you could be inventing something that will work better than the forms of efficiency that we call normative.”

- Lauren Berlant, On Citizenship and Optimism 1



For this workshop, LaRochelle will draw from Qadeer and Lee’s conversations on design and power, as well as L.A. Cycle 1 artists Collective Question’s interrogation of the Tolstoy College.  LaRochelle's Queering The Map project emerged out of a desire to position queer ‘experience’ as equal to ‘Theory’ or ‘History’, giving further weight to the ways in which queer life is formed by and informs the production of space, while working to destabilize the academic, authorial/authoritative voice.


Expanding on Tolstoy College’s interest in “subjective experience, emotions, and feelings” this workshop will see participants utilizing content from Queering The Map, an expansive community-generated spatial archive of queer experience,  in order to create their own experimental “syllabi of/for queer feeling”. Through conversation and collective design, these syllabi will be published as a series of posters available for printing on and offsite following the workshop, displayed in the exhibition, and archived on the INDEX web platform, created for Loosely Assembled.


Lucas LaRochelle is a multidisciplinary designer and researcher examining queerness, technology, and architecture. Their practice spans graphic design, digital media, costume design and wearable technology. They are invested in using their work as a tool to both critique contemporary culture and explore tangible alternatives. They are the founder of Queering The Map, a community generated counter-mapping project that archives queer moments, memories, and histories in relation to physical space. They have given talks and workshops in Montreal (Echelles Magazine, A School A Park, QueerTech, The Ethnography Lab, Montreal Design Club), New York (Theorizing The Web), Los Angeles (UCLA), Amsterdam (Hackers and Designers), London (Somerset House), Lima (Scotiabank Digital Factory Peru), Puerto Rico (University of Puerto Rico School of Architecture), and Zurich (Otherwise Festival). Queering The Map received an Honorary Mention for the 2018 Prix Ars Electronica, and was longlisted for the Lumen Prize for Digital Art and the Kantar Information is Beautiful Awards.



1. Berlant, Lauren. Interview by David K Seitz. On Citizenship and Optimism, 22 Mar. 2013,

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