Between Friends is an interactive, altered book installation. It is also the name of a large, hardcover, photography book that was gifted to the United States by Canada in 1976 to commemorate the American bicentennial. The preface is written and signed by then Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau. The book functions as a map, an atlas, a tourist guide and a diplomatic agreement. Over 250 pages document and represent the US/Canada border from west to east, including maps of the regions from the Pacific to the Atlantic. Together with images of people, places and landscapes it provides a portrait of both countries and the friendly relationship between them—there is no evidence of the ethnic and cultural diversity of the countries, no signs of a history of struggle, conflict and violence.
To "commemorate" Canada 150 in the time of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and directly engage conversations with the AGO/Massey Hall and other institutions, Between Friends is an intervention, a meditation on the present relationship between Canada and the US in the time of Reconciliation and Trump. It exploits the erasure of erasure, by rewriting the past as it envisions the future. The Canada/US border is 8891 kilometers or 5525 miles. The book will be rewritten, the pages redacted—knotted, twisted, braided—with 8891 yards of black cotton yarn. One yard of thread for every kilometer, because irony and humour are also tightly woven in our border narratives.
Participants' hands will be recorded as they work with thread in collaboration with others to create a new edition that speaks to contemporary experience of the border.
Staged in the OCAD U Learning Zone, Between Friends will be “written” by the facilitating artist, as well as students, faculty and library visitors. The artist will be on site throughout the day, and participants can join in at any time.
Faculty wanting to book a class visit to the installation, please contact Stephanie Dayes, Coordinator, Writing and Learning Services (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Chantal Gibson (chantalgibson.com) is A Historical In(ter)ventionist, an artist-educator living in Vancouver. Interests in race, gender and history are evident across her altered texts that challenge the cultural production and historic consumption of knowledge. Her work explores power, exploiting colonial mechanisms of oppression—myths, tropes, metaphors—persistent across writings and representations of African/Canadian history. Her current altered book installations encourage public participation—Re(d)action as activism. Her work aims to create new spaces—to use historic silences and omissions—to include alternative voices. She teaches writing and design communication in the School of Interactive Arts & Technology at Simon Fraser University.
Image citation: Between Friends/Entre Amis. National Film Board of Canada, Still Photography Division, Ottawa, Canada, 1976. McClelland and Stewart Limited, Toronto.