A new collection of artwork and texts by artists across the country is hoping to inspire a different perspective on what counts as support for artists and the community at large.
Richmond-born curator and writer Joni Low has joined forces with art historian Jeff O’Brien to co-edit What Are Our Supports?, an anthology that features poems, essays and artist reflections by more than 20 contributors.
Rather than looking into physical and institutional support structures, works in What Are Our Supports? consider how artists draw attention to intangible and underrecognized structures crucial to the community’s survival, such as friendship and time shared with others.
The anthology was inspired by and expands on ideas from Low’s 2018 project with the same name, which was created in partnership with Or Gallery and Richmond Art Gallery. Works and reflections by artists who participated back in 2018 are also featured in the anthology.
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Low realized ideas from her 2018 project still resonated stronger than ever.
Back in 2018, Low was inspired to explore what supports are available to both artists and the community at large during precarious times. She drew inspiration from Vancouver artist Germaine Koh’s work on “providing platforms or opportunities for engagement and encounter,” London artist Céline Condorelli’s book on immaterial and invisible relational supports, and her personal experience.
“I’ve been a curator and writer in (Vancouver) since about 2005 or 2006. And I've observed there's definitely a spirit within this community of artists (in Metro Vancouver), who are creating space for art outside of the gallery context.,” Low explained, adding that such efforts are providing support for artists in the community.
The 2018 project, which featured five projects by artists groups, showcased the importance of “foundational relational supports” such as “communication, exchange, cooperation, trust, care, play, attunement and practice.”
Such basics, Low explained, are part of what it means to be human and something we are always learning and practicing in everyday life.
“These kinds of incremental gestures can accumulate and add up to a supportive structure in precarious times,” she said, adding that the same gestures are still important today when many are advocating for change in society.
Low hopes that readers of the anthology will recognize the importance of mutual support and interdependence, and be motivated to participate in such support networks through small gestures in their daily lives.