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The Making of an Archive

Jacqueline Hoàng Nguyễn’s The Making of an Archive is a project that seeks to collect images of everyday life photographed by Canadian immigrants, in a direct, collective and exploratory approach.

The Making of an Archive

Book Launch and Artist Talk with Jacqueline Hoàng Nguyễn

A collaboration with grunt gallery
Thursday, June 21, 2018 at 5 PM

In collaboration with grunt gallery and in conjunction with the opening reception for Beginning with the Seventies: Radial Change, the Belkin is pleased to present a book launch and artist talk with Jacqueline Hoàng Nguyễn. The main catalyst for the initiation of Jacqueline Hoàng Nguyễn’s project The Making of an Archive was the photo albums of the artist’s father, an amateur photographer who took countless photographs of his daily life when he first immigrated to Canada in the 1970s. However, while doing research for previous works, the lack of representation of the immigrant’s daily life in state narratives seemed paradoxical for a country that is internationally known as the instigator of multiculturalism. Due to this visual deficiency and threat of photographic disintegration, Nguyễn initiated The Making of an Archive, a project that seeks to collect images of everyday life photographed by migrants, particularly of people of colour, in a direct, collective and exploratory approach. One of the salient themes of the work is how to make visible the rich histories of activism and solidarity that complicate the pervasive myth of the agreeable “model minority.” The publication The Making of an Archive serves as a critical document of Nguyễn’s research and the project’s relevance to larger conversations around Canadian vernacular photography by people of colour, the role of the artist-initiated archive, and how an expansion of the archival record relates to political and social change. As part of the book launch, the artist will ask, what is the process of building a collective archive and how do we come to understand our own pictures, together?

Jacqueline Hoàng Nguyễn is a research-based artist and uses a broad range of media, often relying on archival material to investigate issues of historicity, collectivity, Utopian politics and multiculturalism within the framework of feminist theory. Currently based in Stockholm, she completed the Whitney’s Independent Study Program, New York, in 2011, having obtained her MFA and a post-graduate diploma in Critical Studies from the Malmö Art Academy, Sweden, in 2005, and a BFA from Concordia University, Montreal, in 2003. Nguyễn’s work has been shown internationally in institutions including SAVVY, Berlin (2017); EFA Project Space, New York (2016); Mercer Union, Toronto (2015); MTL BNL at the Musée d’Art Contemporain, Montreal (2014); Kunstverein Braunschweig, Germany (2013); Apexart, New York (2013); and the Institute of Contemporary Art, Philadelphia (2011). She has also been awarded a number of grants for her research-based practice from the Canada Council for the Arts; The Banff Centre’s Brenda and Jamie Mackie Fellowship for Visual Artists; and The Swedish Arts Grants Committee’s International Program for Visual Arts. Nguyễn was the 2017 Audain Visual Artist In Residence at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver and participated in the fourth cycle of NTU Center for Contemporary Art Singapore’s Residencies Program. In 2018, Nguyễn was nominated as one of the five finalists for the third MNBAQ Contemporary Art Award by The Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec.

The Making of an Archive is edited by Jacqueline Hoàng Nguyễn, grunt gallery’s Curator Vanessa Kwan and Archives Manager Dan Pon, with contributions by Liz Park, Gabrielle Moser, Fatima Jaffer, Dan Pon and Tara Robertson, Maiko Tanaka and an introduction by Vanessa Kwan. The publication is designed by Chris Lee.

For more information go to the Belkin Gallery

The Making of an Archive book will be available in our online book store soon.

For further information please contact: Jana Tyner at,
tel: (604) 822-1389, or fax: (604) 822-6689



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Two Walls [ATA article]


Ken Gerberick, Crushed Wall (1992)

Laura Moore’s exhibition, one man’s junk, showing at grunt until March 22nd, looks at the product of consumer waste and discarded objects. In this exhibition, Moore uses limestone as a canvas to document discarded electronic objects, such as old computer monitors, that most tend to overlook. Looking through grunt’s archives, you will find that this theme of artists critiquing consumer waste features prominently in the history of the Vancouver art scene. The themes of consumption and discarded objects are particularly evident in the 1992 grunt exhibit Two Walls by Vancouver assemblage artists Ken Gerberick and Marcia Pitch. The artists’ respective pieces, Crushed Wall and Off the Wall, which filled two walls in the grunt space with found objects, expressed an overwhelming feeling that society was mired in over-consumption, consumerism and waste.

Gerberick’s industrial themed objects versus Pitch’s toy themed works created a striking juxtaposition of discarded objects, affording viewers no escape from their complicity in the issue at hand. The assemblage art aesthetic featured prominently in the grunt archives during the late 1980s and ‘90s, but this aesthetic seems to have dropped out in the mid-‘90s. Gerberick and Pitch both identify rising rent prices as one of the contributing factors to this decline, making it more difficult for artists and galleries to exhibit this type of show, and note that assemblage pieces generally are not of interest to commercial galleries.

When asked about how he responds to people questioning the validity of assemblage art, Gerberick replied that he expects it:

“I mean, it’s funny too, because anybody that figures out which end of a paintbrush to use can slop paint on canvas. Some people do it really well; an awful lot of them don’t. Assemblage art is the same way. I mean, bad assemblage makes me just want to go back to doing silverpoint illustration, which I used to do. A lot of people figure ‘ah, you find something and you glue it down and there you go.’ It’s like abstract art, and I love abstract art, and bad abstract art just sucks.”

Gerberick, coming from a punk tradition, feels that if his work does not challenge or discomfort people then it’s probably not incisive enough. He sees a connection between assemblage art, Dada (Kurt Schwitters being his hero) and punk/noise music. The central concern, of course, in these forms of media is the control over materials. It allows the artist to disassemble and reassemble things in ways the original creators did not intend.

Marcia Pitch

Marcia Pitch, Off The Wall (1992)

Pitch discussed a common interest in using sound in her practice, but expressed that “it’s not sound in an electronic kind of way and the stuff that I like is sort of low brow or low tech. I like technical but the low; you know, the transistors and the wires and the grooves and nuts and the bolts and that kind of stuff.” She draws inspiration from children’s toys, particularly the older, less mass-produced toys that allow for a total transformation of the object— “you know, the plastic and all that stuff that people really hate, I love to work with.” Pitch noted that the materials found in these older, more generic toys tend to have a warmer, more human and less technical quality to them. As an artist who gathers the majority of her materials from secondhand stores, she has noticed that the increase in demand for ‘vintage’ objects is leaving her with fewer materials to work with, but what she finds most salient is what people are discarding:

“I guess the stuff that people throw away is new – like, you know, toasters. Anything that’s broken is never fixed, because it’s more expensive to fix than to replace. But I haven’t been able to use that stuff, because there’s no human element to it for me.”

There is a unifying theme seen ion the work of Gerberick, Pitch and Moore, mainly their concern with making viewers aware of their own complicity in consumerism, consumption and waste production. The changes in the “junk” we consume and dispose of has made it more difficult for assemblage artists to remove or distort the industrial/technological stamp of the image. Moore faces a similar dilemma, and by creating these objects in limestone she is able to bring a more human element into these ubiquitous plastic machines.

Marcia Pitch’s Between Madness and Delight will be showing at the Reach Gallery Museum on September 25th, 2014.

About Audrey MacDonald:

Audrey moved moved to Vancouver after graduating from the University of Alberta with a degree in Physical Anthropology and Linguistics. She’s enrolled in the Art History Diploma program at UBC and began volunteering at grunt and the Vancouver Art Gallery shortly afterward to become more familiar with the Vancouver arts community. She is currently a docent at the VAG and continue to work on the labour of love that is the grunt archives.

This past September, Audrey started an Internship at the SFU Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology where she is working as the Curator of Archaeology, Research and Collections Care Management. She is interested in public programming and creating inclusivity within the arts.

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one man’s junk: Digital Monument [essay]

Written by Luke Siemens

In Laura Moore’s work, one man’s junk, the lifespan of consumer electronics is extended beyond the cycle of planned obsolescence into a geologic time frame. A pallet of old computers, meticulously carved out of stone, stands firm against the flow of technological advancement. A 1991 Apple PowerBook sits next to a computer monitor from the late 80s, next to the printer you threw out last week. These objects should be on the scrapheap, forgotten, but Moore has pulled their forms out of the trash and placed them back in our contemporary consciousness. This change in material and form shifts the objects beyond the confines of their original chassis into the realm of the icon. They become avatars of our technological infrastructure, that aid in the contemplation of what such an infrastructure asks of us. one man’s junk forms a point of contrast to the rapid production and consumption of the digital experience.

To have owned one of the computers depicted by Moore, hundreds of thousands of units had to be produced; economies of scale making production possible. Our memory and experience of the object is therefore contingent on reproduction. Changing the way an object is (re)produced, effects our relationship to the object. By moving production from the assembly line to the studio, Moore removes demands of time, multiplicity and functionality, isolating the computer’s existence to an individual object and an individual’s labour. The viewer cannot look at the objects as “junk” even though it calls to mind the existence of electronic waste. They are computers in name and shape only. Instead we see the work. We marvel at Moore’s careful replication. The time we spend idle in front of a screen, is matched by the amount of time Moore has spent on the screen.

Replication also serves as a function; to engage with the histories attached to the objects. Through Moore’s work, we are able to glimpse the labour of the original designers. Once we thought little of the cathode ray construction of the monitor, beyond the desk space it would take up. Carved in stone, the boxy form and ventilation slats can be appreciated as an aesthetic choice.

“Replication also serves as a function; to engage with the histories attached to the objects. Through Moore’s work, we are able to glimpse the labour of the original designers. Once we thought little of the cathode ray construction of the monitor, beyond the desk space it would take up. Carved in stone, the boxy form and ventilation slats can be appreciated as an aesthetic choice.”

Replication of the mass produced object pulls the viewer’s own history into the work. Through familiarity, we connect with the form and project our own experiences onto the artwork. Memories of the novelty of the computer’s purchase, the programs run on it, the speed at which it ran are called to mind. Through this projection we start to contemplate how we thought of technology then and how that differs now. Through this process the technology, is allowed to leave the pile of obsolescence and re-enter our memory as an abstraction, an aesthetic object.

As an aesthetic object one man’s junk functions in a space similar to the surreal reproduction found in the grass and stick airplanes made by cargo cults of the Pacific. When a cargo cult copies mechanical objects in organic form, they are engaging in a ritualistic act of cultural jujitsu. Images are taken from outside the tradition of the cargo cult members and used to form a competing ideology to the dominate cultural narrative.

In Moore’s veneration of the object, there is an assertion of power over the image of the computer. For the last thirty years, the computer has represented wealth and intelligence to the collective consciousness. It is an image worth controlling. After the Snowden leaks of last year, it is apparent how much effort goes into controlling the digital experience. However by recreating the technology with her hand, in her medium, it is Moore’s vision of the digital experience that we are ultimately engaging with. In it there is a healthy scepticism of the digital experience. These are old computer, they cannot be connected to the network, they cannot be spied upon, but they are meant to be observed.

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Raven: On the Colonial Fleet [essay]

Read an essay by Gizem Sözen on Skeena Reece’s Raven: On the Colonial Fleet (2010).

About Gizem:

Gizem Sözen began volunteering at grunt gallery in September 2013. With a master’s degree in Social and Political Thought from York University, she is currently pursuing a diploma in Art History at the University of British Columbia. She has been researching the grunt archives for political art and is interested in contemporary Indigenous art and politics.

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