Ghostly Makers

Friday July 14, 2023 - Sunday September 24, 2023
10:00 AM - 5:00 PM

July 14–September 24, 2023
Opening Reception: Thursday, July 13, 7–9PM
Public critique with Olumoroti Soji-George: Sunday, July 23, 2–4PM

Burnaby Art Gallery
6344 Deer Lake Avenue
Burnaby BC Canada

Tuesday–Friday: 10AM–4:30PM
Saturday–Sunday: 12–5PM

Curated by Carmen Levy-Milne

For those makers whose lived experiences are haunted by diasporic, displaced—or perhaps more generally, disrupted identities—craft and textile mediums offer particularly poignant techniques of articulation. In Ghostly Makers, these experiences and enunciations of haunting that exist in relation to the artists’ distinct social positions or cultural specificities take on similar material vernaculars. Acting as vehicles for storytelling, the craft methods employed go beyond their aesthetic appearances to imbue works with culturally specific meaning by way of their materials and processes of creation.

Bringing together the artists Samar Hejazi, Jacqueline Morrisseau-Addison, Keysha Rivera, Arezu Salamzadeh, and Lan “Florence” Yee, this exhibition utilizes material vocalizations to critically examine and re-imagine contemporary constructions of visibility and their influence on various aspects of cultural identity. Hosted by the Burnaby Art Gallery, the work in this exhibition also comes into critical conversation with the history of its environment as the legacy of its previous occupants, existence as a shared domestic space, and contemporary methods of collecting provide potent contributions to discourses on the construction of memory and commemoration.

The title Ghostly Makers functions here as a play on the influential text Ghostly Matters: Haunting and the Sociological Imagination by Avery Gordon. As a critical intervention into the limitations of traditional sociological thought, Gordon recognizes haunting as a necessary mode for responding to and framing history whereby she describes haunting as a contemporary culmination of previously unspoken responses to oppressive violence. As she explains, “what’s distinctive about haunting is that it is an animated state in which repressed or unresolved social violence is making itself known, sometimes very directly, sometimes more obliquely.”[i] Haunting can therefore be understood in these artists’ work as the traces of those impacted by erasure, exclusion, and other oppressive violence, who are now given the opportunity to be seen and heard.

In a time that is increasingly defined by our widespread access to information—individuals are today, more than ever, filling in and interrogating the gaps that western art historical documentation leaves behind. In response, the artists represented in Ghostly Makers push individuals to recognize haunting as a combatant to narratives that seek to locate specific histories, people, and cultures as invisible or in the past. Instead, the language of ghosts functions as an alternative lens that imagines otherwise and returns agency to those who have suffered at the hands of erasure, forced displacement, and settler-colonialism. Through highlighting these haunting narratives that oppressive structures have sought to suppress, this exhibition does not attempt to seek resolutions to contain these discourses, but rather, looks to unravel violent and colonial legacies while weaving threads of resistance throughout narratives of absence.

Carmen Levy-Milne (she/her) is an emerging cultural worker born and raised on the unceded land of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm people. She is a Master of Arts Candidate in Critical & Curatorial Studies at the University of British Columbia and holds a Bachelor of Arts in Communication and Cultural Studies with a Minor in Religion and Cultures from Concordia University. As a diasporic Jewish settler, her practice is primarily concerned with the Jewish philosophy of tikkun olam (“the repair of the world”), where she sees her work in the arts sphere as responsible for uplifting reparative, decolonial, and critical artistic responses to broader social, political, and cultural circumstances.

With support from the Killy Foundation and the Audain Endowment for Curatorial Studies through the Department of Art History, Visual Art and Theory in collaboration with the Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery at The University of British Columbia.

[i] Avery Gordon and Janice Radway, Ghostly Matters: Haunting and the Sociological Imagination, (Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press, 2008), xvi.