Developing Historical Negatives examines the strategies artists use to harness the affective dimensions of the colonial photographic archive. Probing histories of migration and assimilation, and stories of resistance, fugitivity, and escape, the works commissioned for this exhibition use photography’s imaginative potential to illuminate difficult histories, and to question how images can act as tools of knowledge transfer between generations.
Taking its title from the work of colonial anthropologist Ann Laura Stoler, the exhibition reorients attention away from the glossy, state-sanctioned photographs of “official” histories to the space of photographic production—the darkroom—where inverted, grainy impressions reveal the tenuous grounds of how histories are formed. In these new works incorporating collage, digital manipulation, reenactment, and translation, Canadian artists Deanna Bowen (Toronto), Morris Lum (Toronto), Jacqueline Hoàng Nguyễn (Stockholm), Krista Belle Stewart (Vancouver/Berlin), and Hajra Waheed (Montreal) interweave family narratives with state histories to picture transnational experiences of belonging and unbelonging, sovereignty and unfreedom. Importantly, these artists’ works do not seek to insert missing narratives into the historical record, but to expose the presence of racialized subjects who were always and already there, waiting to be “developed” into public sight.
Curated by Gabrielle Moser
Presented in partnership with the Scotiabank CONTACT Photography Festival, and in dialogue with An Archive, But Not An Atlas curated by Liz Ikiriko at Critical Distance Centre for Curators.
Read the exhibition essay here.
Deanna Bowen is a Toronto-based interdisciplinary artist whose practice examines race, migration, historical writing and authorship. Bowen makes use of a repertoire of artistic gestures in order to define the Black body and trace its presence and movement in place and time. In recent years, Bowen’s work has involved rigorous examination of her family lineage and their connections to the Black Prairie pioneers of Alberta and Saskatchewan, the Creek Negroes and All-Black towns of Oklahoma, the extended Kentucky/Kansas Exoduster migrations and the Ku Klux Klan. She has received several awards in support of her artistic practice including 2017 Canada Council New Chapter and Ontario Arts Council Media Arts production grants, a 2016 Guggenheim Fellowship and the 2014 William H. Johnson Prize. She has exhibited at the Royal Ontario Museum of Art, Toronto (2017); the Art Museum at the University of Toronto (2016); the Institute of Contemporary Art at the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia (2015); McMaster Museum of Art, Hamilton (2015 – 14) and the Art Gallery of York University, Toronto (2013).
Morris Lum is a Trinidadian born photographer/artist whose work explores the hybrid nature of the Chinese-Canadian community through photography, form and documentary practices. His work also examines the ways in which the Chinese history is represented in the media and archival material. Morris’ work has been exhibited and screened across Canada, the United States. He is currently working on a cross North America project that looks specifically at the transformation of Chinatown.
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 Gordon Smith Gallery of Canadian Art, Vancouver (2018); Cantor Fitzgerald Gallery, Philadelphia (2018); MAMA, Rotterdam (2018); MacKenzie Art Gallery, Regina (2017); and SAVVY, Berlin (2017). Nguyễn was the 2017 Audain Visual Artist-In-Residence at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, Canada and participated in NTU Center for Contemporary Art Singapore’s Residencies Program (2018).
Jacqueline Hoàng Nguyễn's work presented with the support of The Swedish Arts Grants Committee: Konstnärsnämnden.
Krista Belle Stewart's work engages with the complexities of archival material through processes that allow for both intimacy and coincidence, and the atemporal meeting of actors across time. Working with video, photography, design, ephemera and textiles, Stewart straddles the gaps between personal and institutional histories through transparent mediation. Her work has been exhibited at the Vancouver Art Gallery, Presentation House Gallery, Contemporary Art Gallery (all Vancouver), Mercer Union (Toronto), and the Esker Foundation (Calgary). She holds an MFA from Bard College, Annandale-on-Hudson, New York, NY. She is a member of the Upper Nicola Band of the Okanagan Nation and is currently based in Vancouver, BC.
Hajra Waheed’s multidisciplinary practice ranges from interactive installations to collage, video, sound and sculpture. Amongst other issues, she explores the nexus between security, surveillance and the covert networks of power that structure lives while also addressing the traumas and alienation of displaced subjects affected by legacies of colonial and state violence. Over the last decade, Waheed has participated in exhibitions worldwide, including the 57th International Art Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia, VIVA ARTE VIVA, Venice (2017); 11th Gwangju Biennale, South Korea (2016); The Cyphers, BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art, Gateshead, UK (2016); Still Against the Sky, KW Institute for Contemporary Art, Berlin (2015); L’avenir (Looking Forward), La Biennale de Montréal, Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal, QC (2014).
She received the 2014 Victor Martyn Lynch-Staunton Award for outstanding achievement as a Canadian mid-career visual artist and was shortlisted for the 2016 Sobey Art Award, Canada’s preeminent contemporary art prize. Waheed’s works can be found in permanent collections including MOMA, New York; British Museum, London; the National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa; the Centre Pompidou, Paris; Burger Collection, Zurich/Hong Kong; Devi Art Foundation, New Delhi; and the Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago.