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May we suggest

Agenda / January 04–April 22, 2021
Editors' Pick

Merritt Johnson: Love Song

Merritt Johnson, Love Song (translation basket), life size, 2020 (handwoven palm fibre, stethoscope). Courtesy the artist and Accola Griefen Fine Art. Merritt Johnson, Love Song (translation basket), life size, 2020. Handwoven palm fibre, stethoscope. Courtesy the artist and Accola Griefen Fine Art.
SFU Gallery - Online

8888 University Drive

Vancouver, British Columbia

Date

January 04–April 22, 2021

Curator

cheyanne turions

“Love Song” collects a selection of videos from Johnson’s ongoing “Exorcising America” series, each engaging with an aspect of how the so-called Americas manifest sickness, and exert control and violence over land and bodies.

Editors' Comment

I first became aware of Merritt Johnson’s work only recently, after seeing a picture of her remarkable Necessity Channeling Creation (2020) on Patel Brown’s Instagram during the run of the group exhibition “Talisman: Magickal Objects for Revolution” in late summer. That sculpture, made of woven black ash and reed, sweetgrass, resin, textile, taxidermied wolf’s feet and tarp, seemed to depict a woman largely made of basketry (very compelling in itself) who was giving birth (making it even more compelling, for me at least). Profound masteries of craft, myth and lived experience intersect for me in this work, and others of Johnson’s I’ve observed since on her Instagram feed. These include Corrective Lenses (2020), a pair of eyeglasses and lenses completely made out of handwoven palm fibre, and Border Breaker (2020), a sculpture made of glass wampum, deer hide and bolt cutters. And yet some of her new works also speak quite specifically to online spaces and moods—see the self-help-spinoffy Exorcises for Global Health: Breathing Exercise (2020), a single-channel video streaming now that, the artist makes clear, “will not end systems of blame, disproportionate lack of access, imbalanced expectations and standards, or shame enforcing power dynamics of patriarchy and racism.” Given that this particular exhibition, “Love Song,” draws on works from this latter series, and is happening exclusively online, it seems a suitable vessel for this more digital-critical type of Johnson creation. For those interested in learning more about the artist, my colleague Yaniya Lee, who is senior editor-at-large and who made Johnson’s work a focus of her Art Toronto highlights this year, recommends checking out an IGTV chat between Johnson and artist Rajni Perera.  —Leah Sandals, content editor