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Black Diamond Dust

Nanaimo Art Gallery
Nanaimo BC – Sep 20-Dec 13, 2014

Peter Culley, Untitled

Peter Culley, Untitled (2012), colour photograph [Nanaimo Art Gallery, Nanaimo BC, Sep 20-Dec 13]

The original city of Nanaimo on Vancouver Island was built on coal. For Jesse Birch, the former Western Front Exhibitions curator who returned earlier this year to his Nanaimo hometown, it was not coal that “formed and fragmented” Nanaimo’s communities, but “the sedimentary nature of stories and histories” that their mining left behind.

For his first large-scale project as interim executive/artistic director of the NAG, Birch has created a multi-site exhibition that attempts to uncover “local contexts and the forms of cultural expression that surround global industrial practices.” Birch has gathered together works by a number of artists and presented them alongside historical artifacts from the Nanaimo Archives and the Nanaimo Museum. Some of these artists are local (like Peter Culley), others are from across the water (like Stephanie Aitken and Raymond Boisjoly), and still others are from farther afield (like Jeremy Deller and Mike Figgis).

Among the range of works and sites Birch has secured, many are unexpected, such as the artist project inserted in a regional newspaper and the “intervention” at a historical museum. Just as coal dust finds its way between the pages of our newspapers and our bed sheets at home, so too does art.


Michael Turner

 Sun, Sep 7, 2014