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Campus Life  

UBCO hosts influential Indigenous Artist in Residence

Whess Harman to talk about their artistic practice and upcoming exhibition

What: Artist Talk
Who: Whess Harman
When: Tuesday, June 8, 1 to 2 p.m.
Where: Online via Zoom

Whess Harman is UBC Okanagan Gallery’s Artist in Residence for 2021. During their residency at the Faculty of Creative and Critical Studies they will create new works, give an artist talk, publish an art publication and open an exhibition of new works.

Harman is Carrier Wit’at, a nation amalgamated by the federal government under the Lake Babine Nation. Harman’s multidisciplinary practice includes beading, illustration, text, curation and poetry. Their ongoing Potlatch Punk series explores broader themes of homage, memory, identity and more specifically celebrates Indigenous identity, resistance, visibility and interrogations of wealth.

Whess Harman’s artwork was hung outside the Vancouver Art Gallery just days before the current display of 215 pair of shoes symbolizing the death 215 Indigenous children was placed. Harman’s banner states how land acknowledgements are not enough and how they are the lowest bar in the process of truth and reconciliation for the Indigenous peoples.

Whess Harman’s artwork was hung outside the Vancouver Art Gallery just days before the current display of 215 pair of shoes symbolizing the death 215 Indigenous children was placed. Harman’s banner states how land acknowledgements are not enough and how they are the lowest bar in the process of truth and reconciliation for the Indigenous peoples.

“This residency is an opportunity to reflect upon the feelings of impermanence and disintegration following the pandemic, and the desire to refute the labour involved in a constant urgency to respond,” explains Harman. “Having the opportunity to work materially after a year of digital fatigue is a welcome exhale.”

Just as Harman arrived in Kelowna for their artist residency at UBCO, their work in the group exhibition The Vancouver Special at the Vancouver Art Gallery was presented prominently outside the building. The piece, titled the lowest bar, is text on vinyl, and expresses how land acknowledgements are the lowest bar in the process of truth and reconciliation for the Indigenous peoples and much more needs to be done.

Whess’ artwork was then accompanied by a spontaneous memorial installation of 215 children’s shoes placed on the steps of the Vancouver Art Gallery by Haida artist Tamara Bell. The shoes represent the tragedy of the 215 buried children recently discovered at Kamloops Indian Residential School. Together Whess and Bell’s poignant artworks bring the greater public’s attention to ongoing injustices towards Indigenous peoples.

Harman’s residency will finish with an exhibition in the FINA Gallery titled, Lossy: How to Save File for Future Transmission, curated by gallery curator Stacey Koosel. The work will be on display until September 10.

“Working with Stacey — especially in a way that has valued the building of a relationship over time — has been a crucial piece in practicing conscious relationality in the artist-curator relationship,” says Harman.

UBC Okanagan’s Art Gallery is a new organization formed within the Faculty of Creative and Critical Studies to manage the on-campus FINA Gallery, UBCO’s Public Art Collection and a new gallery space in downtown Kelowna anticipated to open in 2024.

“Getting to build relationships and collaborate with artists like Whess Harman is definitely the best part of my job as a curator,” says Koosel. “Giving artists the time, space and support to create new work in an artist residency is essential. I’m grateful that the residency is supported by the BC Arts Council, and to have the chance to work with Whess.”

The UBC Okanagan Gallery Artist Residency is supported by the BC Arts Council and Harman is its first-ever artist in residence. They will give a virtual artist talk about their work on June 8 at 1 p.m. Register or find out more at: events.ok.ubc.ca/event/artist-talk-whess-harman

Lossy: How to Save File for Future Transmission will be on view at the UBC Okanagan FINA Gallery from Friday, June 11 to Friday, September 10. For more information, visit: artgallery.ok.ubc.ca/whess-harman

About UBC's Okanagan campus

UBC’s Okanagan campus is an innovative hub for research and learning founded in 2005 in partnership with local Indigenous peoples, the Syilx Okanagan Nation, in whose territory the campus resides. As part of UBC—ranked among the world’s top 20 public universities—the Okanagan campus combines a globally recognized UBC education with a tight-knit and entrepreneurial community that welcomes students and faculty from around the world in British Columbia’s stunning Okanagan Valley.

To find out more, visit: ok.ubc.ca



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