For almost a decade, Toronto artist Deanna Bowen has been excavating her family’s genealogy—who they were and how generations of them have experienced anti-Blackness in 20th-century Canada.
“It’s been a long, long journey of unpacking Blackness in Canada, the problem being that it’s such a complex, ultimately violent story that I’m talking about,” Bowen says. “So how do you frame it properly?”
To understand how her family history positions her in Canada today, Bowen’s deep historical research ranges from community and institutional archives, first-person conversations and forgotten photographs to newspaper clippings and television recordings. She uses whatever medium can best tell the stories she uncovers: shot-for-shot remakes in video and performance, documentary photography, text-based reproductions, and a theatrical production for a fall 2017 solo exhibition at Mercer Union.
In this studio-visit video, Bowen shares key works that have resulted from this intensive research, including aspects of Invisible Empires—a project that reproduced and re-presented white-supremacist artifacts in a gallery setting.