In the last few years, the witch has re-emerged as a powerful political symbol. Across cinemas and television, in books and podcasts, and via hashtag activism, the proliferation of the witch in media signals a critique of the existing world order.
From August 16 to 22, 2021, The Witch Institute, a virtual, week-long symposium hosted by the Department of Film and Media at Queen’s University in Katarokwi/Kingston, Ontario, Canada, will provide a collaborative meeting space for those who are interested in responding to contemporary imaginings of the witch in popular and visual culture. It is a place to share diverse understandings of witches and witchcraft, and to complicate, reframe, and remediate media representations that often continue to perpetuate colonial, misogynistic, and Eurocentric stereotypes of the archetypal figure. This expanded conversation among activists, artists, filmmakers, curators, historians, scholars, witches, feminists, healers, and more will help us better understand the meaning and impact of current media representations of the witch.
The Witch Institute will present seven packed days of events, including 18 roundtables, 14 workshops, and many exciting screenings, talks, and performances. These include: a lecture by Dr. Silvia Federici on the role of witch hunts in colonization and globalization processes; a conversation between star of the iconic 90’s witch film The Craft, Rachel True, and Dani Bethea about the representation of black femininity in witch horror movies; a screening and conversation around Anna Biller's satirical feminist film The Love Witch; and an expanded version of the short film program Spellbound with an accompanying workshop and raffled multimedia Collective Spell Package, curated by Geneviève Wallen. Other event highlights include a public discussion on “The Witch and Speculative Worlds” between four-time Hugo nominated science fiction editor and story producer Diana M. Pho and award-winning writer and trans activist and
artist Ashley Lauren Rogers, and virtual performances exploring themes of gesture, touch, and incantation by artists Erika DeFreitas and Maggie Groat, presented by Minor Hockey Curatorial.
On July 30th, the Witch Institute is partnering with the Kingston Frontenac Public Library to present an informational session led by local Kingston Wiccan priest Brendan Fox aimed at separating Hollywood drama from the Pagan worldview, entitled “What is a Witch? Exploring the Image of the Witch in Media in Contrast to the Pagan Community”.
As an opening welcome to the symposium, in partnership with the Agnes Etherington Art Centre, artists Allyson Mitchell, Dierdre Logue, Tracy Tidgwell, Syrus Marcus Ware, and FASTWÜRMS present This Circle is a Mercle, an outdoor interdisciplinary performance/event conjuring the values, practicalities and materialities of permaculture from the perspective of queer, feminist witch imaginaries. Follow @thewitchinstitute on Facebook and Instagram to witness this project unfolding in real time via live social media streams and stories on the afternoon and evening of August 14th.
During the symposium, interactive online workshops will be hosted by a variety of artists and practitioners with a diverse range of perspectives and backgrounds. "Re-Enacting Han", led by artists Kwonyin, Scarlett Kim, Kayla Tange, and Caroline Yoo of The Han Group, is “an interactive exploration of han: an untranslatable form of Korean embodiment, passed down intergenerationally”. "Brooms Behind Bars: Witches Practicing and Resisting in Canadian Prisons", led by Jamie Ross, an artist, researcher, and the first Pagan prison chaplain in federal prisons in Quebec, “foregrounds writing and oral history of Pagans living behind bars in Canada”. “Magick: Tools of Dismantling, Resisting, and Thriving”, led by Goddess Carroll of Sun Seed Community, will hold space in remembrance of the attacks on Black, Indigenous, and people of color, “to share and celebrate the magickal tools we use in our day-to-day lives that we can also resource as protection and amplification in our fight to dismantle oppressive systems”. [M] Dudeck, an artist, witchdoctor and cultural engineer who has invented a queer religion as art, will facilitate "Weaving Hypersigils: Hacking the Source Code of Reality", which maps out “the fundamentals of Hypersigils as a magical formula to produce radical new transmedial narratives imbued with psychomagickal intent”. These are just a few of the many fascinating, free workshops open to the general public during the Witch Institute.
Finally, in partnership Tone Deaf Collective, record label and publisher Séance Centre has commissioned Incantations, a collection of visual and sonic experiments centred around the idea of spellwork, conceived in dialogue with the Witch Institute. This sound and print release, available in vinyl and digital forms, features visual-sonic pairings among artists Felicia Atkinson (BELGIUM), Bill Bissett (CANADA), Adrienne Maree Brown (USA), Scott Gaily (CANADA), Beverly Glenn-Copeland (CANADA), David Horvitz (USA), Benjamin Kilchofer (SWITZERLAND), Mehrnaz Rohbakhsh (CANADA), Gavilan Rayna Russom (USA), Tomoko Sauvage (JAPAN/FRANCE), Mona Steinwidder/Museum of No Art (GERMANY), Yu Su (CHINA/CANADA), Andrew
Zukerman (CANADA), Dani Spinoza (CANADA), Idris Rahman (UK), C.R. Gillespie (CANADA).
All ticketed events will be free, open to the public, and accessible online, but reservations are required as participant numbers are limited.
Visit www.witchinstiute.com for a full schedule of events and to reserve tickets.