Join visiting Artist in Residence Jan van Esch for two talks on sustainability

Published: 17 November 2022

TUESDAY November 22. GHABH - The poison in the gift, Part I: Giving and receiving - considering commercial determinants of health.

How do the actions of not-for-profit and commercial second-hand clothing recycling determine relations within and between countries? How does the promotional imagery used by these companies and their actions reinstate cliché images of the other and have an impact the (mental) health through the psychological powerplay between the giver and receiver. 

In this talk, Jan van Esch delves into the topic of giving in a development setting and particularly on the interplay of power that is staged between 'giver' and 'receiver' by established Western networks of 'giving.' Jan uses examples of his artistic practices around second-hand or donated textiles to question the apparently 'charitable' or 'altruistic' impulses that underpin the work of international giving and aid organizations such as Humana and The Red Cross.

Hybrid: In-person at the School of Population & Global Health (2001 McGill College Ave), 11:30am-1pm, room 1203. Lunch served, or online (Zoom). 


THURSDAY November 24. GHABH - The poison in the gift, Part II: Interactive talk and performance.

The culture of giving is often presented to us as something holy. From religious texts to festive season marketing – we are subconsciously reassured that to give is the most noble of actions. In this talk Jan van Esch delves into the topic of giving in a cross-country international setting. In his work, Jan uses examples of his artistic practices around second-hand or donated textiles to question relationships with sustainability, international relations, consumer behaviour, and (un)intended effects on cities and the environment.

If you want to participate in a small intervention, please bring (a) your favourite piece of clothing and (b) a piece of clothing that you would want to give to the lecture (in a closed bag). No registration necessary; join anytime!

In-person, Thompson Hall Ballroom, 11am-1pm. Lunch served.

About Jan van Esch

Jan van Esch is an Amsterdam-based multi-media artist whose practice spans performance, drawing, curation, and social engagement. He holds Masters degrees in population health from Harvard University and Anthropology from Radboud University. Drawing on his education background in social and health sciences and over two decades of work in international development aid, Jan’s work questions processes of ‘giving’ by delving into the subliminal psychological motives involved in the power play between giver and receiver. For six years, Jan was the managing director of cultural center ‘Nafasi Art Space’ in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Through his socially engaged art, Jan has worked with several art collectives and institutions, most recently as the community program curator with ZK/U Berlin at documenta fifteen, one of world’s biggest returning exhibitions in contemporary art. His individual works have been exhibited and purchased in private collections and public institutions, including Alliance Française Dar es Salaam, Kampala Biennale, ZK/U Berlin Art Week, AIDS2018, MAN Anna Nordlandermuseum and the Urban Nation Museum for Urban Contemporary Art in Berlin.

Jan is an Artist in Residence at McGill during the month of November, where he has an open studio in the School of Population and Global Health (2001 McGill College Ave, room 1177). Feel free to stop by and say hello!

Back to top