@ chantalgibsonartist Vancouver BC
Between Friends, Altering Landscapes, Transforming Borders 2017-2019.
Public altered book installation.
OCAD University, Toronto 2017 & Open Space Gallery, Victoria 2019
Between Friends/Entre Amis (McClelland & Stewart, 1976) is a large, hardcover, coffee table book that was gifted to the US by Canada in 1976 to commemorate the American bicentennial. The preface is authored by Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau. The photographs are produced by the National Film Board of Canada, Still Photography Division.
It functions as an atlas, a tourist guide and a treaty. Over 250 pages document and represent the US/Canada border from coast to coast including maps from the Pacific to the Atlantic. People, places and landscapes mythologize a portrait of both countries and the friendly relationship between them—with little evidence of ethnic and cultural diversity and no signs of a colonial history of struggle, conflict and violence.
Between Friends: Altering Landscapes/Transforming Borders is a large-scale, multimedia, altered book installation that uses Between Friends (1976) as a cultural touchstone and a critical point of inquiry to engage current conversations around nationalism, decolonization, immigration and citizenship. Between Friends ALTB is an intervention—a meditation on borders, walls and boundaries—in the time of Truth & Reconciliation, Canada 150, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Twitter and Trump.
Between Friends exploits the erasure of erasure, by rewriting the past as we envision the future. During a residency in October 2017 the book was altered by OCAD students, faculty and staff who revised pages (cut, sewn, collaged, drawn) and worked with me to sculpt— knot, twist, braid—8891 yards of black thread into the empty binding and cover. The Canada/US border is 8891 kilometers or 5525 miles. We used one yard of thread for every kilometer, because irony & satire are also tightly woven in these border narratives.
In January - February 2019, Open Space Gallery visitors continued the process of physically altering the pages and sculpting the book— sharing their border stories as they metaphorically crossed, transgressed and transformed the border.
Learn more about How She Read: Confronting the Romance of Empire and my residency at Open Space Victoria in 2019.
When we see stereotypes of Black people, we are really seeing whiteness.
When we stereotype, we participate in a systemic, hegemonic practice of erasure.
Souvenir is a multi-media installation that challenges the persistent positioning of people of African descent—as displayed, displaced and disappeared—within Canadian literary, historical, and institutional narratives.
A collection of 2000 souvenir spoons from countries all over the world are displayed on giant spoon racks fixed to the museum walls, quietly hanging in rows, side by side, each spoon blackened with spray paint. National symbols, cultural markers obscured, colours, details and nuances erased, the origins of the displaced spoons are unknown.
Souvenir is proud to be part of Here We Are Here: Black Canadian Contemporary Art
ROM Toronto and Musee des Beaux Arts in Montreal 2018
You can see Souvenir in Here We Are: Black Canadian Contemporary Art at the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia from June -August 2019.
Souvenir, 2017. Here We Are Here: Black Canadian Contemporary Art, ROM 2018. 2000 blackened souvenir spoons, surveillance video, and exhibit book.
The material is the message.
TOME: Passages in Black History is a mixed-media installation. Made from coffee stained cotton, products that drove the African slave trade, this dense book complete with footnotes is a topographical landscape of memory. It is imagined from a larger historical narrative about the African Diaspora, the part that remains unknown.
Situated in libraries with other historical and fictional works, this text offers new ways of reading, experiencing and understanding a complex history of beauty, creativity and struggle.
SFU Surrey Library 2014
Vancouver Public Library 2015
McPherson Library UVIC 2019
TOME was exhibited at McPherson Library in January-February 2019 as part of How She Read: Confronting the Romance of Empire, a literary-art residency in collaboration with Open Space Victoria.
The humble bookmark serves many purposes. As a memory device it is an efficient technology. It marks the last page read, it marks the point of return. It marks a moment, a passage, a thought, a phrase, an idea, or a word to be remembered. It marks the reader’s movement through space and time, it maps the reader’s journey through the world of the work.
Book/mark is a mixed media work that binds together 3000 bookmarks to commemorate two key historical moments in 1783: the writing of the historical Book of Negroes, the largest single document about black people in North America up until the end of the eighteenth century; and the arrival of the Black Loyalists to Nova Scotia, the largest single migration of Blacks to Canada.
Made from treated fabric and jute rope, the piece was inspired by the novel The Book of Negroes, a work of historical fiction by Canadian author Lawrence Hill (2008).
From the Soul, ROM 2010
Ethnographic Terminalia, Eastern Bloc Montreal 2011
Vancouver Public Library 2015
Defiance Women's Gallery, Ohio 2015
Ross Creek Arts Centre, Canning NS 2019