Available Space Art Project | UNDERGROUND IS WHERE THE HEART IS

Collaboration by Scott Benesiinaabandan and DeLaine LeBas

Poster series for From Artificial Curiosities? To Art on view at the Tom Thomson Art Gallery until September 13th, 2015

 “From Artificial Curiosities? To Art” is the first solo show in Canada and North America by Delaine Le Bas. Delaine is an English Romani Gypsy, living and working in various locations within the U.K and across Europe.

Delaine’s practice is produced across a diversity of media, including installations, drawing, performance, film, photography and sculpture. Delaine was one of the sixteen artists who were part of The First Roma Pavilion: Paradise Lost, in the Venice Biennale, 2007. She has exhibited her works widely across Europe and Scandinavia and recently presented her work in Harare, Zimbabwe at The National Gallery.

Her work deals with issues of exclusion, identity, stereotypes, untold histories, misrepresentation, gender and being the ‘other’. As a Romani Gypsy, she approaches the notion of the body as a stolen artefact and contested space. Clothing and textiles, especially in their cultural, symbolic and identifying qualities, are strands she addresses notably in terms of the stereotypical and political ideas they convey. Costumes in particular play a major role within her performative practice, while fabrics are significantly present within her large detailed installations.

A key part of Delaine’s practice is her site-specific approach: visiting, digesting, filling and occasionally inhabiting the spaces where her work will be shown, using locally salvaged materials where possible. This leads to a variety of cross-media outcomes, and frequently situation performances outside of the gallery environment. The essence of a place where a work has been created is of primary importance. Its history, contested spaces, and local materials are reflected in a “bricolage” practice across various surfaces, media, times and places.

For the exhibition “From Artificial Curiosities? To Art”, Delaine draws inspiration from an array of ‘ethnographic material’ that she has collected over many years. This collection features representations of ‘others’ by alleged scholars of authority. Part of this research material includes a book published in 1992, authored by Austrian ethnologist and ethno-historian Christian F. Feest, called Native arts of North America (pub. Thames and Hudson) and features a chapter called From ‘artificial curiosities’ to art, from where the title of this exhibition derives. Delaine challenges and refutes such representations of “others” through her work in this exhibition, with an attempt to reclaim sovereignty and she states:

I am part of the English Gypsy Romani community. I use both words here because they are mine to claim. For centuries we have been categorized, ethnogrized into a ‘stolen artefact’ where our own history and identity has been claimed as part of a ‘Gypsy Industry’ that we as Gypsies have no claim to. My own claim to my own identity is questioned because the stereotypes are so engrained that it is always sufficient for anyone else to claim that they know more about my own identity than I know myself. This exhibition is a claim back, a strike back at this.

In addition to the main exhibition of her works in the show is a conjoined project with Scott Benesiinaabandan whom she has known and co-presented with for several years. Scott Benesiinaabandan is an Anishinabe intermedia artist that works primarily in photography, printmaking and video. Scott has recently completed  international residencies at Parramatta Artist Studios in Australia (2012), Context Gallery in Derry, North of Ireland (2010) and is most recently been awarded the University Lethbridge/Royal Institute of Technology iAIR residency 2013,  along with international collaborative projects in both the U.K and Ireland. He is currently in Montreal, and recently completed a Canada Council New Media Production grant through OBx Labs/Ab-tech and Concordia.

Their collaborative work explores and reflects socio-political sameness between the Traveller, Gypsy, Roma and the Anishinabe. Their work is created in the overlaps of issues and concerns between the two artists in an effort to create conceptual bridges and understandings across distance(s).

The TOM gratefully acknowledges lead funding for ASAP from the Community Foundation Grey Bruce:

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