About RiVAL

The ReImagining Value Action Lab (RiVAL) is a workshop for the radical imagination, social justice and decolonization based in Anishinaabe Aki (Thunder Bay, Canada) and active around the world.

In addition to facilitating academic research, artistic collaboration and experimental publication on its core themes, RiVAL also hosts community-oriented and public events to build grassroots capacity for social change and also fosters creative, artistic and activist interventions that expand the imagination.

The ReImagining Value Action Lab (RiVAL) is a workshop for the radical imagination, social justice and decolonization based in Anishinaabe Aki (Thunder Bay, Canada) and active around the world.

RiVAL is co-directed by Dr. Max Haiven, Canada Research Chair in Culture, Media and Social Justice at Lakehead University and Cassie Thornton, an internationally practicing artist and community organizer. This past year scholar and curator Dr. Ezra Winton, among other things the co-founder and director of programming at Cinema Politica, has joined RiVAL as a visiting scholar.

Winter/Spring 2019 activities in review

Finance Capital and the Ghosts of Empire symposium

Following on the great success of a previous gathering at Goldsmiths in 2017 titled “Colonial debts, extractive nostalgias, imperial insolvencies – Reimagining financialization” RiVAL was pleased to help organize a sequel at the University of Sussex in March, titled “Finance Capital and the Ghosts of Empire.” This symposium brought together artists, activists and scholars for two days of illuminating presentations and conversations about colonialism, empire and racism in the birth, development and contemporary dimensions of high finance. RiVAL is currently producing a podcast based on presentations at the event.

Digital/Debt/Empire conference

Thanks to the support of a Connections grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, RiVAL co-director Max Haiven and his colleagues Enda Brophy and Benjamin Anderson of Simon Fraser University were able to convene a very special four-day gathering of activists, artists and scholars in Vancouver to discuss the intersection of four themes:

  1. the histories, legacies and actualities of empire and imperialism in racial capitalism,
  2. “debt regimes,” past and present, and
  3. emergent digital technologies and their implications for power and resistance.

The gathering included over 20 international guests, by-registration workshops, public panels and public roundtables. In the lead-up to this gathering, the organizing team published a series of blog posts from the invited guests in cooperation with Public Seminar, the online forum of the New School for Social Research.

Decolonization reading group

Starting in September, RiVAL hosted first monthly, then weekly meetings for the Thunder Bay community to come together and read (aloud) through the late Arthur Manuel’s incredibly important book The Reconciliation Manifesto, which we finished in late March. A huge thanks to RiVAL graduate assistant Lindsay Benner for taking the lead for several crucial weeks. We estimate that upwards of 75 individuals took part in the reading group over its eight months. Based on this success we intend to relaunch the reading group in the Fall with a new text.

Grassroots organizing workshop

In January, RiVAL directors Max Haiven and Cassie Thornton led a two-day intensive workshop for new and veteran activists. Themes included meeting facilitation, strategic planning, approaches to the media and models for organization. The workshop received very positive, enthusiastic and gratifying reviews from the two dozen or so individuals who attended and we plan to offer the workshop again in the near future.

Winter/Spring 2019 visitors

  • Gary Kinsman – Veteran queer, anti-capitalist and gender justice organizer, and retired sociology professor Gary Kinsman visited RiVAL in Thunder Bay in January of 2019 for two public events, a talk on “Connecting Queer and Indigenous Struggles” at Lakehead University (audio available here) on January 23 and a workshop “The Making of the Neoliberal Queer” at InCommon on January 24. Both talks
  • Judy Haiven and Larry Haiven – Retired Saint Mary’s University management professors Judy Haiven and Larry Haiven visited RiVAL in Thunder Bay in February for two public events. On February 4 they were the guests of the Thunder Bay Chamber of Commerce for a lunch-and-learn session on “Why Diversity is Good for Business.” On February 6 they spoke at RiVAL on the topic of “Making Transit Racism-Free
  • Erica Violet Lee – RiVAL was very glad to be able to invite Nēhiyaw scholar, poet and activist Erica Violet Lee to Thunder Bay for a number of public events. On March 12 Erica and Tenille Campbell spoke about Land, Language and Decolonial Love at the Brodie Street Library. In the after noon of March 13 Lee delivered a talk titled “Never Was Yr Good Little NDN: On Toxic Pleasures, Painful Kinship, and the Indigenous Sacred” at Lakehead University, co-sponsorred by RiVAL and the University’s Office of Aboriginal Services, Faculty of Social Sciences and Humanities, Department of English, Department of Women’s Studies and Department of Indigenous Learning. That evening, Tenille and Erica also spoke at the Brodie Street Public Library.
  • Dylan Miner – To cap off a very busy Spring, RiVAL was thrilled to host artist, activist and Director of American Indian and Indigenous Studies at Michigan State University Dylan AM Miner. On the evening of March 22 Dylan presented a review of some of his past work, titled “This Land is Always” at The Thunder Bay Art Gallery. On March 24 Dylan led a screen printing workshop at the Finlandia Club, which was opened by a discussion about the intersections of labour and Indigenous people’s struggles between Miner, local political theorist and historian Saku Pinta, and RiVAL co-director and activist-artist Cassie Thornton.

Podcast and audio archive

RiVAL is pleased to offer free access to audio recordings of almost all our events and also audio versions of many texts and projects by RiVAL staff. They can now be found here, and more will be uploaded in the near future.

Anti-racism poster project

This Winter, RiVAL (the ReImagining Value Action Lab) was very pleased to work with students in Kim Ducharme’s Child and Youth Care class at Confederation College on a project to help publicize the recent report “Broken Trust: Indigenous People and the Thunder Bay Police Service” published in December by the Office of the Independent Police Review Director (OIPRD).

This report painted a damning picture of the state of anti-Indigenous racism in Thunder Bay and at all levels of city and police institutions. Unfortunately though unsurprisingly, very few citizens of the city have taken the time to engage with the report.

In this poster project, students worked with RiVAL to prepare and print a series of posters framed around quotations from the report itself, which they then hung around the city to spark dialogue and consideration. While these posters were originally made on RiVAL’s unique Risograph printer, the versions here are presented in JPG and PDF format, which you are welcome to download and print at home.

Farewell to Lindsay Benner and Sharmin Ahmed

RiVAL wishes to thank two MA students who worked with us this Winter term.

Lindsay Benner has just completed her MA in English at Lakehead University. During her final term she was assigned to RiVAL as a Graduate Assistant where she helped with research projects and event outreach and also facilitated our decolonization reading group. It was a great joy to have you with us, Lindsay – best of luck in your future projects!

Sharmin Ahmed, who is about to complete her MA in English, was the recipient of RiVAL’s Winter 2019 research fellowship. She undertook research for the lab about methods to expand and extend the notion of “the book” into new media platforms including audio, video and online. Thanks Sharmin, and good luck!

Website redesign

This Spring we redesigned our website for improved navigation.

Activities coming up in Summer 2019

RiVAL camp 2019 “Radical economies of our imagination” (August 3-10)

This summer, RiVAL is introducing what we hope will become an annual tradition: a summer camp or retreat for activists, artists and scholars to come together to work through their diverse projects in a beautiful environment with generous, generative and stimulating colleagues. Registration for RiVAL-camp 2019 “Radical Economies of our Imagination” are open now for the week of August 3-10. This year’s iteration will take place near Thunder Bay, at Sleeping Giant Provincial Park.

Welcome: Dr. Tobias C. VanVeen

RiVAL is pleased to welcome media theorist and artist Dr. Tobias C. Van Veen as a visiting scholar. Dr. van Veen is well known for his academic and artistic work with afro-futurism: visions of possible tomorrows that emerge from the Black diaspora and Black radical traditions. Check out the recent issue of TOPIA: Canadian Journal of Cultural StudiesBlack Lives, Black Politics, Black Futures” he co-edited on the topic.

Welcome: Daniela Luiz Martin

Congratulations to Daniela Luiz Martin who has been awarded a much sought-after Mitacs Globalink Research Internship to work at RiVAL this summer. Dani will be traveling from her native Brazil in late June to take up the full-time position.

Recent activities of RiVAL people

Dr. Max Haiven (co-director)

  • ORGANIZING: Max organized two international symposia this Spring, Finance Capital and the Ghosts of Empire (Sussex) and Digital/Debt/Empire (Vancouver) – see above.
  • WRITING: Max published a few articles and book chapters:
  • INTERVIEWS: Max has been interviewed for podcasts several times this year: on Against the Grain about his current research on revenge; and twice (episodes 240 and 242) on The Conversation Artist Podcast about his recent book Art After Money, Money After Art: Creative Strategies Against Financialization.
  • SPEAKING: Max has had several speaking engagements this Winter/Spring.
    • In late February he was a keynote speaker at the ​Imaginación política: Encuentro Internacional in Mexico City​.
    • In April he was invited to give a presentation titled “The Revenge of Debt or the Debt of Revenge? Artists Working with Wampum and Money” at the Unpayable Still: Debt in a Global Context symposium at the Centre for Social Difference at Columbia Univetsity in New York.
    • In May he was invited to give a talk titled “Colonial Debts, Imperial Insolvencies, Extractive Nostalgias” at the Race, Indigeneity, Gender & Sexuality Studies Initiative at University of Minnesota.
    • Also in May, Max will be giving a keynote talk titled “Infinite scroll: Awakening the dead zones of the imagination in an age of digitized injustices” at the Digitizing Justice conference hosted by the University of Winnipeg’s Centre for Interdisciplinary Justice Studies.

Cassie Thornton (co-director)

  • Solo exhibition “Bad Support” at the Gallery of the Academy of Visual Arts in Prague, curated by Magdalena Jadwiga Härtelova
  • Lead artist in public project “Desperate Holdings & LandMind Spa” at Dream Farm Commons in Oakland, CA
  • “Art, Debt, Health, and Care: Interview with Cassie Thornton” published in State Machines Reader: Reflections and Actions at the Edge of Digital Citizenship, Finance, and Art

Dr. Ezra Winton (visiting scholar)

  • Ezra Winton sent his monograph for McGill-Queen’s University Press, Buying in to Doing Good: Documentary Politics and Curatorial Ethics at the Hot Docs Film Festival, off to peer reviewers, and the two-volume collection that he co-edited with Aida Vallejo, Documentary Film Festivals: Methods, History, Politics & Documentary Film Festivals: Changes, Challenges, Professional Perspectives is currently in layout stage at Palgrave Macmillan. Ezra also finished co-curating, with Jess Murwin (Mi’kmaq) and Connor McNally (Métis), the 2019 program First Peoples First Screens for Cinema Politica.
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