By Vanessa Kwan and Liz Park
In an age when a web search promises instant knowledge, an artist file suggests a process that builds and unfolds over a period of time. The artist files in this book similarly convey a process, which began with a dual inspiration: a 2016 publication of collection of ephemera on Cornelia Wyngaarden, co-edited by Liz Park;1 and artist Jacqueline Hoàng Nguyễn’s project The Making of an Archive (2014- ongoing), a version of which was presented at grunt gallery alongside a 2018 publication co-edited by Vanessa Kwan.2 Both projects announce as their point of departure an archival impulse: in Wyngaarden’s case, an amassing of materials relevant to her exhibition history from Vancouver’s many arts organizations, and in Nguyễn’s, an ongoing national call for donations of everyday photographs of immigrants to Canada post 1967 to her now three- year-old archive. These recent projects inform our proposition that artist files are under constant assessment, and are open-ended prompts for further research. We create files not to compile exhaustive content, but to anticipate their growth.
The five artists represented here extend the research that we began with Wyngaarden and Nguyễn, and respond to the resources that were available
to us, in particular, the rich holdings of grunt gallery’s archive. It is here that Nguyễn has entrusted digital copies of donated photographs,
- Kim Nguyen and Liz Park, Artist File: Cornelia
Wyngaarden, Vancouver: Artspeak, 2016
- Vanessa Kwan, Jacqueline Hoàng Nguyễn, and Dan Pon,
Making of an Archive, Vancouver: grunt gallery, 2018
and from where we culled materials that precipitated the artist files for the late Mike MacDonald, Cindy Mochizuki, and Amanda Strong. A contemporary of Wyngaarden, MacDonald had a hand in building grunt’s archive through his video-documentation of the organization’s signature First Nations performance series. Cindy Mochizuki and Amanda Strong are among younger generations of artists who have exhibited at and otherwise participated in forming the community around grunt. We are indebted to the stewards of the materials at grunt, the artists, and sister organizations that have helped facilitate our research: Artspeak, Mercer Union, OBORO, and Vancouver Art Gallery Library.
Art libraries and archives everywhere continue to collect carefully clipped press articles, postmarked exhibition invitation cards, dog eared pamphlets and booklets even as they save emails and screen shots of social media postings. Often subjective and specific, these materials are held together as artist files, ready to be threaded together by a researcher in the future. Our modest selection for this publication is an honorary thank you to the stewards of artist files in creative communities that they serve.
- Amanda Strong
- Mike MacDonald
- Cindy Mochizuki
- Jacqueline Hoàng Nguyễn
- Cornelia Wyngaarden
Amanda Strong, Biidaaban (The Dawn Comes) (2018). Animation, 20:00 minutes. Courtesy of Spotted Fawn Productions.
Amanda Strong is an Indigenous (Michif) artist and filmmaker known for works that combine stop-motion animation and new media techniques with documentary elements. Her 2016 exhibition at grunt gallery expanded on the making of Strong’s film Four Faces of the Moon (2016), displaying the intricate, collaborative and painstakingly produced sets and characters that contributed to the final work. Through her grandmothers’ story, the film explores Strong’s personal connection to a devastating history of colonial violence: the decimation of 50 million buffalo from the Great Plains of North America in an attempt to starve Native peoples from their land. Her film Biidaaban (The Dawn Comes) (2018) continues a collaboration with Nishnaabeg writer and poet Lisa Betasamosake Simpson (which began with How to Steal a Canoe in 2016), depicting the story of a young, non-binary protagonist whose furtive, resurgent practices form the basis for imagining a radical reclamation of urban space.
Amanda Strong, Four Faces of the Moon (2016). Animation, 12:00 minutes. Courtesy of Spotted Fawn Productions.
Four faces of the Moon (2016).
Courtesy of grunt gallery.
Amanda Strong, The making of How to Steal A Canoe (2016). Animation, 4:10 minutes. Courtesy of Spotted Fawn Productions.