An Insufficient Record: The Photo Ethics of Preserving Black Vancouver

Exhibition Title: An Insufficient Record: The Photo Ethics of Preserving Black Vancouver

Artist: Curated by Nya Lewis

Opening: Thursday May 19th, 7PM

Exhibition Dates: May 20th—June 18th, 2022

An Insufficient Record: The Photo Ethics of Preserving Black Vancouver, curated by Nya Lewis, theorizes the afterlife of the City of Vancouver photographic archive concerning the history of insufficient representation of Black Vancouverites and their lives in public space. A conduit for dialogical and collaborative collecting methodologies, the exhibit intervenes with the archive, outlining a curatorial approach that identifies, contextualizes, and makes accessible reflections of the multiplicity of Blackness in Vancouver. Re-presenting and re-positioning 17 gelatin mugshots acquired from the City of Vancouver archive, An Insufficient Record malleablizes the varying vital relationships between the image and its object of representation, assessing the photographic constructions of race, the politics of human rights, identity formations, national narratives, and cultural memory. Juxtaposed within a new and speculatively valuable resource, the mugshots are presented with 50 portraits of Black and African self-identifying people, taken with clear subject autonomy, assembled from official municipal and provincial holdings, public arts and culture organizations, as well as special collections.

Challenging the insufficient depository of knowledge contributing to the historical trajectory of restricting representations of Blackness to caricature, ethnographic object, or criminal, the exhibit takes on a kind of cultural translation, examining the possibilities and structural limitations of transforming penal spectatorship to a participatory re-shaping and reading of the carceral images. An Insufficient Record exposes the strategic erasure of nuanced Black representation which enables the City of Vancouver’s insufficient fonds to exist without question or complication, speculating the role of curation and documentation in supporting collective movements beyond the public archive, visualizing and reinforcing Black personal, political, and social presence. The curatorial space making gesture imagines a system of photographic presentation and organization that engages Black Vancouver communities in the re-representation of their histories and responds to the demand to participate in national discourses of belonging, both to Canada’s past and present, readdressing historiographical challenges and their impact on archival record.

Public Events:

  • Opening and Curator’s Talk: Thursday May 19, 6pm. Registration is required, click here to register.
  • Nya Lewis in Conversation with Photographer david george: Friday May 27, 7pm. Registration is required, click here to register.

Nya Lewis’ hybrid interdisciplinary practice is a culmination of centuries of African resistance, love, questions, actions, study and embrace rooted in the theorization of the conditions of Black cultural production. The artist sees her practice as a continuation of a long lineage of work undertaken by Black artists, curators, writers, activists and thinkers who blaze(d) a trail of critical discourse surrounding the Black experience. Lewis’ creative practice reflects upon the diversity of Black diasporic experiences and its many forms of expression. As such, she works across the disciplines of art making, curating and writing. Her work is multivalent in form and expression but is always driven by the reimagining and reclaiming of community.

Lewis is currently; an MFA candidate at OCAD University (2022 graduate), a freelance critic and lecturer published with the Polygon Gallery, Dunlop Gallery, Capture, Femme Art Review and Canadian Art. She is the Year-round Programmer at the Vancouver Queer Film Festival, Guest programmer at the Vancouver International Film Festival, Curator in residence at grunt gallery, Research Assistant at the Center for the Study of Black Canadian Diaspora, Guest curator at UBC Museum of Anthropology, a board member of BLAC, Co-director of Ref. Gallery of African Descent, and AfroQueer Vancouver.

grunt gallery gratefully acknowledges exhibition support from the Hamber Foundation and the City of Vancouver Cultural Grants Program.

Image: From B.B.U.N.O. (Building Bridges Untitled Number One), flyer for Soul-Resurreccion Performance Series, April 1994, Pitt Gallery. Collection of david george.

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