Helene Vosters is an artist, activist, and scholar. She holds a PhD in Theatre and Performance Studies (York University), and an MFA in Queer and Activist Performance (New College of California). Helene’s work explores issues of military and state violence, the politics of its transmission into social memory, and the role of performance and aesthetic practices in mobilizing community engagement and action. Her dissertation, Good Mourning Canada? Canadian Military Commemoration and its Lost Subjects, was awarded the Mary McEwan Dissertation Prize by York University’s Centre for Feminist Research.
Embodied inquiry and relational arts practice are integral to Helene’s research praxis. She has performed and/or facilitated counter-memorial performances that include Stitch-by-Stitch, a public sewing circle series that invites participants to embroider sections of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s 94 Calls to action onto Canadian flags (Winnipeg, Toronto); Unbecoming Nationalisms/Nacionalismos Impropios, a participatory unsewing circle at the Hemispheric Institute’s 10th Encuentro—eXcéntrico: dissidence, sovereignties, performance (Santiago, Chile); participatory Flag of Tears embroidery circles (Toronto, Montreal); Impact Afghanistan War and Unravel: A meditation on the warp and weft of militarism (throughout Canada, the U.S. and Europe); Shot at Dawn, a mourning in the commons Remembrance Day ritual (Toronto).
Helene is the author of Unbecoming Nationalism: From Commemoration to Redress in Canada published by the University of Manitoba Press and lead author of the online workbook, Transforming Stories, Driving Change: Bringing new voices into public debate through performance. She is co-editor (with Roewan Crowe) of Return Atacama: Engaging Histories of Political Violence Through Performance and Durational Witnessing, an open access digital book published as part of the award winning HemiPress Gesture Series. Helene’s scholarly contributions also include articles in Canadian and international academic journals (Performance Research, Theatre Research in Canada, Canadian Journal of Practice-based Research in Theatre, Canadian Theatre Review, and FRAKCIJI), and book sections in Performance Studies in Canada (edited by Laura Levin and Marlis Schweitzer), Performing Objects and Theatrical Things (edited by Marlis Schweitzer and Joanne Zerdy), and Theatres of Affect (edited by Erin Hurley).
Helene’s counter-memorial performances Impact Afghanistan War, Unravel: A Meditation on the Warp and Weft of Militarism, and Shot at Dawn have been featured by scholars in the fields of performance, international relations, and feminist art history. Impact is featured in Performance, Diana Taylor’s book on performance and politics in the Americas, and has been taken up by Jessica Auchter in The Politics of Haunting and Memory in International Relations. Unravel and Shot at Dawn were both included in War Imagery in Women’s Textiles: An International Study of Weaving, Knitting, Sewing, Quilting, Rug Making and Other Fabric Arts, by Deborah A. Deacon and Paula E. Calvin, and Shot at Dawn is featured in Exhibiting Craft and Design: Transgressing the White Cube Paradigm—1930-Present by Alia Myselev.