I feel that contemporary artists are under constant pressure to conduct their practices in accordance with a cosmopolitan definition of art, privileging artistic languages that are legible within the art capitals – at the expense of the multitude of artistic languages spoken in the peripheries (that is, in most of the planet).
My work stems from an intuition that, as artists, the diverse places where we live and work are not incidental to the work we make. I want to explore the conscious and unconscious ways in which these places shape our self-images and our cultures.
Toronto is the place I call home. Researching the colonial relations between settlers (like me) and First Nations people allows me to grasp why life in this city is perceived to happen as if on a vacant lot. Exploring the example of local artists like Jack Chambers, Greg Curnoe, Joyce Wieland and General Idea, instructs me about their engagement with these questions of place, regionalism, nationalism and mediation. Travelling to other places exposes me to artistic languages unfamiliar to me, and to the ways in which people in different contexts engage the reality of colonization, globalization and resistance. Riding my bike around town, reading local narratives, auditing a course on the history of urban planning at the University of Toronto, attending a seminar on the history of Toronto filmmaking at the Bloor Cinema – these activities help me develop a more nuanced sense of the city I live in.
I have heard people say, “Toronto has no history.” In my work I refer to this fantasy of ‘the blank canvas’ as a perfect allegory for the chasm in Toronto between the richness of local history and the pervasive vacancy of local memory. I make work that ‘looks back’ at the viewer in an attempt to summon the spirits that haunt this place I call home.