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Home Close-Up: Sylvia Borda and the Complexities of Place

Close-Up: Sylvia Borda and the Complexities of Place

by Meredith Areskoug
Portrait of author at Zaklan Heritage Farm, Surrey, BC, 2013

by Robin Laurence

Sylvia Grace Borda is one of those contemporary artists who may be better known abroad than in her hometown of Vancouver. Working primarily in photography and new media, she has undertaken innovative projects, commissions and community cultural initiatives in Scotland, Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland, Austria, Latvia and Finland. And, even with travelling back and forth between Europe and Canada, she has also produced numerous photo-based, community-engaged and public artworks in British Columbia.

Her award-winning career took off in 2004, after she conceived and executed a groundbreaking photographic and Web-based artwork, Every Bus Stop in Surrey, BC, for the Surrey Art Gallery. A new book, Sylvia Grace Borda: Shifting Perspectives, with generous illustrations and essays by 10 scholars and curators, chronicles her remarkable output over the past 15 years.

Borda studied with leading Vancouver School photo-artists Jeff Wall, Ian Wallace and Ken Lum, earning degrees from Emily Carr University of Art + Design and the University of British Columbia. She quickly distinguished herself by focusing on – and bringing innovative digital technologies to – often overlooked and rapidly changing aspects of suburban life, as well as agricultural production and sustainability. In a sense, Shifting Perspectives is framed by two of Borda’s Surrey-based projects, the aforementioned Every Bus Stop and the ambitious, five-part This One’s for the Farmer, which employs Google Street View technology and collaborative relationships with its subjects to produce what Borda describes as “unconventional portraits of modern-day farmers and their cultivation practices.”

Sylvia Grace Borda: Shifting Perspectives, edited by Jordan Strom & Sylvia Grace Borda, is published by the Surrey Art Gallery and Heritage House. Softcover, 218 pp., C$40. Widely available through book retailers as well as the Surrey Art Gallery. 

Borda’s 360-degree self-portrait, printed on the book’s title page, may be explored through Google Street View at https://tinyurl.com/y7ocwpry.