White, Steel, Slice, Mask | Bear Claws Salad Hands
CAG Façade and offsite at Yaletown-Roundhouse Station
The Contemporary Art Gallery presents an ambitious new multi-venue commission by collaborators Dutch artist Mirjam Linschooten and Canadian artist Sameer Farooq, interrogating the ways in which cultural diversity is narrated and represented. Working together for over a decade, the duo’s interdisciplinary practice creates community-based models of participation in order to re-imagine a material record of the present. Utilizing installation, photography, design, and writing, they investigate the tactics and methods of anthropology to examine various forms of collecting, interpretation and display. The result is work that reveals how institutions speak about our lives, evoking an archeology of the present often existing beyond the framework of the gallery. Their expansive projects develop intricate, speculative archives re-purposing found objects and language to expose ruptures within cultural representation, questioning the invisibility of the archivist and interrogating the inherent value bias in collecting.
Over the past year, Farooq and Linschooten have undertaken a series of cumulative research trips via the Burrard Marina Field House Studio Residency Program toward the development of installations at CAG, Yaletown-Roundhouse Station and the Museum of Anthropology (MOA). Core to the various commissions are participatory workshops led by the artists with the Native Youth Program (NYP) at MOA, a program for Indigenous youth from Greater Vancouver where students engage in various aspects of working within a museum context, leading public tours, completing research projects and participating in presentations. Farooq and Linschooten invited NYP participants to consider their personal narratives in relation to the anthropological museum’s displays, identifying key elements for examination in the Multiversity Galleries. Throughout the histories of colonialism and capitalism innumerable cultural objects have entered museum collections around the world detached from the communities and physical bodies they belong to. Ripped from context and trapped behind glass, rearranged and discombobulated, the cultural authenticity, specificity and vitality of these objects are dismembered into taxonomies of otherness. Within the window spaces at CAG, Farooq and Linschooten consider such acts of ethnographic curation. Reflecting tensions between local communities and their representation in museums, Farooq and Linschooten focus on ongoing cultural forms that persist in contemporary culture. Replicating, yet also subverting, the supposed objective aesthetic of museum vitrines, Farooq and Linschooten have installed a collection of mass-produced cultural objects purchased from shops across the lower mainland, notionally representative of Vancouver’s largest immigrant communities. Display mechanisms such as shelves, hooks and bars are used to disrupt and unsettle the objects, disturbing the meticulous arrangement and suggestive of the uneasy relations between the conserved and custodian, artifact and everyday object, revealing the unintended violence of display.
At Yaletown-Roundhouse Station, Farooq and Linschooten repurpose found language from a local souvenir shop highlighting the active commodification of culture. During their time in Vancouver, the artists discovered Hudson House Trading Company, a typical tourist store in Gastown selling a plethora of Canadian “knick-knacks” that capitalize on perceptions of Vancouver’s identity via a collection of cultural reproductions for sale. Through the simple act of reproducing the language of the store’s inventory list and applying the names of a selection of items directly onto the station windows, the Canada Line façade operates like an advert exaggerating the wholesale co-opting of culture as currency.
The re-appropriation of found images, objects and language developed into public installations both exaggerate and subvert the ethnographic strategies of representation and implicate such practices into a larger system of commodification utilized to propagate cultural hierarchy, difference and discrimination.
Projects are generously supported by the BC Arts Council Innovations Program, the Mondriaan Fund and the Hamber Foundation. Farooq and Linschooten’s collaboration with the Native Youth Program is developed in collaboration with the Museum of Anthropology. At Yaletown- Roundhouse Station, work is presented in partnership with the Canada Line Public Art Program — IntransitBC.