Decolonial Aesthetics: Editor's Foreword


June 2015

The impetus for forming Breach was the desire to facilitate dialogue around issues that warrant more collective concern by creating a space for arts writing that channels attention toward these subjects. As such, in deciding on a theme for the first issue, decolonial aesthetics seemed an appropriate place to start.

Within the realm of study known as decolonial aesthetics, various issues are being addressed in various ways, across many geographies, communities, and institutions. The challenges inherent in addressing its prominent concerns often result in the unfortunate decision to not address them at all, for a lack of answers, and for fear of getting it "wrong" and appearing politically incorrect. When attempting to not speak for someone, it is easy to slide into that old trap of not speaking at all. The fact that there are not enough conversations taking place and not enough questions being asked serves to only perpetuate the prevalent notion that certain works by certain artists (i.e., "the ‘ethnics,’ ‘postcolonials,’ ‘minorities,’ all those who have ancestry, connections, or affiliations ‘elsewhere’") belong in a different sphere altogether [1].

There were numerous directions that writers and artists could go with a theme so multifaceted. The articles featured herein represent several such divergent paths, though, of course, not all perspectives, voices, and opinions are represented, and it is clear that there are spaces which the call for submissions did not penetrate.

Asking for Canadian content was done warily. While not interested in a “Canadian art”, the intention was to address social concerns close at hand by highlighting that which is being undertaken within, near, or in relation to those lines that constitute Canada's borders. Caitlin Chaisson reviews Ruth Beer's Rivers, Fish and Oil, and poses for consideration a web of correlations composed in part of land claims, oil pipelines, and the legacies of over-fishing as they are on display at the Gulf of Georgia Cannery National Historic Site; Amy Wong pushes against stereotypes by "opening" them up through the imagery and technique of her paintings; Ellyn Walker provides an analysis of Sonny Assu’s re-working of well-known images from the canon of colonial Canada; Jaret Vadera discusses the politics of vision and the charged value of ambivalence; and Magdalena Mosz compares artists' old and new strategies of dealing with the memories of Canada’s Indian Residential Schools, focusing specifically on the ways in which Adrian StimsonLara Kramer, and Carey Newman have addressed the physicality of the schools’ material structure in their work. These five articles address different threads of decolonial aesthetics, each approaching the theme in different ways, and dealing with it in different tones. Taken together, the collection constitutes a partial snapshot of some of the work currently being done.

Acknowledging that there is more to be discussed, this is intended to be the starting point for a larger set of conversations.



[1] Oguibe, Olu. "Double Dutch and the Culture Game." In The Culture Game. University of Minnesota Press. Minneapolis: 2004.