Thursday, October 20, 2016

"On Inventing Women Artists in a Post-Truth Era"

On the flight back to Kelowna from St Catherines I thought a lot about what Lisa Robertson said to me after I delivered my paper on post-war through-lines in Vancouver art, the birth and death of a city built on real estate (speculation), the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the "conceptual poetry" of Kenneth Goldsmith and U.S. police shooting victim Michael Brown.

Lisa said I did not say enough about women artists, and though I will agree with her every time on this topic (one can never say enough about women artists), I myself could not call her on fictions that, for instance, had her declaring Jane Ellison to be a founder of the Western Front when, though Jane has been continuously active at this artist-run centre since the late-1970s, she is not considered to be amongst the group that acquired the building in 1973 (once again we have real estate determining the narrative of our cultural ecology).

Does someone have to be there at the beginning of something to qualify as a founder? What is it, then, to found something? I am grateful to Lisa (whose own paper was entitled "The Collective: a Truly False History of the Kootenay School of Writing") for inspiring me to ask these kinds of questions.

This morning I awoke to a nice article by Caoimhe Morgan-Feir on the Canadian Art website, where, in this age of operative portraiture, the Canadian Art editor gives a recent history of invented artists, not "real" ones. Among those mentioned (I was waiting to see her name when I started the article) is Carol Sawyer, who for years has shaped, modelled and performed the mysterious -- and under-recognized -- pre-war European artist Natalie Brettschnieder.

Carol is the third presenter in UBC Okanagan's Visiting Artists Series and will be reading at Room UNC 106 at noon on November 14.

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