John Wood and Paul Harrison, installation view from ‘I DIDN’T KNOW I DIDN’T KNOW IT’, Contemporary Art Gallery, February 12 – April 24, 2016. Photography by SITE Photography

Maddie Leach Residency

Maddie Leach, 'If you find the good oil let us know', 2012 - 2014, New Plymouth, New Zealand. Photography by Shaun Waugh

From August 13 to 30, 2018, we continued the ongoing residency at the Burrard Marina Field House with New Zealand artist Maddie Leach. Her proposal is centred on the histories, meaning and locations of the Simon Fraser monument in New Westminster and has evolved over successive visits, research and meetings with various communities in this part of the province during the last two and a half years.

Having reached an impasse with the original proposal, Leach returned to reinvigorate the project and begin to unearth new approaches. The project was very much in transition but over the course of its development this proposal has also coincided with growing public concern, and strident debate, around the presence of colonial, settler and confederate monuments in North America and other parts of the world.

The visit proved very fruitful conversations, meetings and research identifying a new way to proceed with the process while retaining the conceptual rigour and nuance of the original idea. The intention is to place the original question of further lowering the Simon Fraser monument into broader circulation – for an active discussion to emerge. We see the original proposal as a kind of ‘functioning absence’ in such discussions as an unrealized yet spectral possibility. We are now set to welcome Leach back to Vancouver and for the residency to culminate in a public consultation and project to be realized from September 30 to October 4, 2019.

In reflection on her most recent visit Leach has stated: “One of the key things I had to make a decision about was where Lowering Simon Fraser positioned itself in terms of an ‘exemplary’ process for consultation, and what its relationship was to Truth and Reconciliation frameworks.  As part of this reflection process, I identified my interest in aesthetic strategies that hold objects, actions, images and texts within a complex space of non-declared intention. In doing so, I think an artwork can be ascribed a position of contingency that has the capacity to produce contestation and debate. I re-aligned my enquiry to critical ideas established by British critic and art historian Claire Bishop that continue to have relevance for artistic research and institutional support for socially engaged art practices. As a point of difference to affirmative conventions of place-making and community development in the field of public practice, I returned to thoughts on an unresolved, or partial, practice in which perceptible absence or fugitive presence becomes the productive centre of the art work.”