Image Description: Colour photo Donna, a red-headed white woman wearing thick-frame glasses, a black top, and smiling widely into the camera.
she/her

Donna Szőke





Donna Szoke is a white settler whose single-channel videos, installations, public art, and phone app are inspired by political, social, and activist issues of embodiment. Her artworks deal with a range of “invisible” subjects: revealing our terrifying physical proximity to nuclear waste, illuminating the omnipresence of surveillance, exposing the slaughter of animal lives in warfare and scientific research, animating the unseen presence of animals, and the historic systemic erasure of birth mothers. She has received numerous research awards and grants for her work, including Canada Council for the Arts, BC Arts Council, Ontario Arts Council, SSHRC, and the Brock Faculty of Humanities Award for Excellence in Research and Creative Activity. Her work has shown in Canada, US, France, Germany, Hungary, Croatia, Cuba, Turkey, UAE, and South Korea.

Participant in the following FMS projects

More Info

   

Associate Professor of Visual Art 

Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts, Brock University
2005, MFA Interdisciplinary Arts, Simon Fraser University, School for the Contemporary Arts

donna.szoke@brocku.ca

donnaszoke.com

brocku.ca



Video Installations

Monster Game (2021) shows joyfully inventive play during pandemic shutdown and manifests her terror as a mother, watching the crowned figure, like the invisible virus, a 'corona' chasing her child. The video loop is projected within a large image of an iPhone.

Midst (2019), utilizes a fog wall for animation created with 80 computer fans, custom electronics, aeronautical honeycomb, and a fog machine. Animated bison projected onto a wall of fog creates a haunting and beautiful presence of otherworldly bison encroaching urban space. 


Drawing Installations 

36 years of unringing phones (2023) and Forgotten Portrait (2020) address the “Canadian Baby Scoop Adoption Era” that took place from 1945-1985. This project does not address the Indigenous “60’s Scoop” era. This trauma informed work investigates the cultural mechanisms of this era when 450,000 babies were adopted from their birth parents to their adoptive parents. Including the adopted children and both sets of parents, many of these 2.25 million Canadians directly affected are still alive today. These works probe the systemic erasure of birth mothers who were mostly girls 15 to 19, and largely lived in government-funded maternity group homes run by religious orders where they were enculturated into silence, compliance, and shame. 


Public Art

The Breathing Tree (2021) was commissioned by OpenText, the largest software company in Canada, to mark the impact that COVID-19 has had on its employees. The rear lit low relief sculpture resembles a tree at sunset or sunrise, or a pair of lungs. Timed LED lights subtly change colours, providing visual cues to take the viewer through a short, grounding, breathing meditation. 


Phone App

Invisible histories (2015-2023) is a geolocative phone app (Android + iOS) that uses 3D animated green glowing mice to guide the user towards the Niagara Falls Storage Site, a nuclear waste facility where 270,000 radioactive mouse bodies are interred in lead and concrete. These mice were test subjects of the Manhattan Project. Absurdly, the ghost mice act as a compass, directing the app user towards their toxic burial site.





Books

Donna Szoke. Cloud. Exhibition catalogue. St. Catharines: Small Walker Press, 2023. (Print & PDF)

Donna Szoke & Gary Barwin. The Dark Redacted. St. Catharines: Small Walker Press, 2020.

Book Chapters

Donna Szoke. “Midst.” In Industrial Niagara. Edited by Catherine Paraye and Derek Knight, 32–35. Vienna: Small Walker Press, 2022. 

Donna Szoke. “Reasonable & Senseless: A Technical Disaster.” In Tech Lab: Experiments in Media Art, 1999 – 2019, edited by Rhys Edwards, 60–61. Surrey: Surrey Art Gallery, 2022. 

Donna Szoke. “July 15.” In Mothers’ Days, edited by Lenka Clayton, 359–362. Pittsburgh: An Artist Residency in Motherhood, 2020. 

Donna Szoke & Ricarda Macdonald. “and all watched over by machines of loving grace.” In International Society of Electronic Arts 2014: Location (Exhibition Catalogue), edited by Omar Ahermouch, 58. Dubai: ISEA, 2014

Donna Szoke. “and all watched over by machines of loving grace.” In European Media Art Festival, 2013, edited by Alfred Rotert, Hermann Nöring and Ralf Sausmikat, 172. Osnabrück: European Media Art Festival, 2013.

Donna Szoke. “Maiden Name.” in Trunk Vol 2: BLOOD, edited by Meredith Jones and Suzanne Boccalatte, 158. Sydney: University of Technology, 2012.

Donna Szoke. "here: the body in contemporary art.” In Artropolis 2003: The Big Picture (Exhibition Catalogue), edited by Cameron Andrews, Jessica Bushey, Mark Neufeld and Danny Singer, 12–14. Vancouver: 8.T. Eight Artists Society, 2003. 


Interview

Vanessa Bateman. “Donna Szoke interview with Vanessa Bateman.” Digital Animalities, edited by Matthew Brower, 100–111. Toronto: PUBLIC, 2021.


Published Conference Proceedings

Donna Szoke. “Invisible Animals.” In International Society of Electronic Arts (ISEA 2019). Gwangju, South Korea, June 22–28, ISBN: 979-11-87275-06-0 (July 26) 2–35. http://www.isea-archives.org/docs/2019/ISEA2019_Proceedings.pdf

Donna Szoke. “Researchify: Artists’ Research as Disruption.” In International Society of Electronic Arts (ISEA 2015). ISSN 2452-8611. 284–287. https://www.isea-archives.org/docs/2015/proceedings/ISEA2015_proceedings.pdf