10 December 2022, 7:00pm ET

Before Law: Launch Party with Performance by Oliver Husain

Mercer Union is thrilled to host the launch of Before Law , an ambitious web-based project by artists Sharlene Bamboat and Alexis Kyle Mitchell (Bamboat | Mitchell) featuring the work of more than a dozen contemporary artists, writers, poets, and thinkers. For one night only, we’ll be transforming Mercer Union in celebration of the bugs and beasts, kicking things off with a live multimedia performance about undesirable birds by Toronto-based artist Oliver Husain and a company of collaborators. Read more about Before Law and our program for the evening below.

Bamboat | Mitchell’s expansive body of work and research around the legal trials of animals in Medieval Europe and by extension, its colonies, first culminated in the commissioned film Bugs and Beasts Before the Law (2019). Serving as an appendix to this film, Before Law is a dynamic platform for discovering the practitioners whose thoughts lay the foundation for this research and new voices that further enliven its central themes. The project premiers work from Canadian and international artists, writers, and filmmakers with incisive explorations into the complexity of human relationships with the greater natural world. Drawing connections between works, Before Law reveals the legal frameworks that implicate and control non-human subjects, and the rituals, myths, and conflicts between worldly beings and ecologies that shape our imaginaries.


Before Law is an assemblage of nodes and points relating to the interconnectedness of beings and the legal frameworks that seek to organize, discipline, and control them. Conceived by Sharlene Bamboat and Alexis Kyle Mitchell, with new works by Donika Kelly; Parastoo Anoushahpour, Faraz Anoushahpour, and Ryan Ferko; Sukaina Kubba; Shahana Rajani and Jeanne Penjan Lassus; Oliver Husain; and Zoe Todd. The project also features Renisa Mawani and Antoinette Burton; Renèe Helèna Browne; Ama Codjoe; Rupali Morazaria; ANORAK; Sarah Keenan; Emilia Beatriz; and more.

Sharlene Bamboat and Alexis Kyle Mitchell work with national archives and historical narratives to rigorously, yet playfully, disrupt systems and codes of power. In doing so they create new narratives, bound not by order and rule but by a limitlessness that allows us to imagine who we might be if we changed the script ever so slightly. Their works have been exhibited at Henry Art Gallery, Seattle (2021); Kunstverein München (2021); La Casa Encendida, Madrid (2020); and the Berlinale, Berlin (2018). Bamboat | Mitchell have held fellowships at The Darling Foundry, Montréal (2019); and MacDowell, New Hampshire (2018). The artists were long-listed for the 2020 Sobey Art Award through the National Gallery of Canada.

Oliver Husain is an artist and filmmaker. His projects often begin with fragments of history, a rumour, a personal encounter or a distant memory. He uses a wide range of cinematic languages and visual pleasures—such as dance, puppetry, costume, special effects—to animate his research and fold the viewers into complex narrative set-ups.

before-law.com is designed and developed by Other Means; co-editor and project manager Aamna Muzaffar; and digital inclusivity and accessibility consultant Josh Halstead.