Kissing Project – Sylvia Grace Borda
Exhibition dates: June 9 – July 8, 2017*
Gallery hours: Wednesday to Saturday from 1-5pm
(*Closed July 1st for Canada Day)
Exhibition opening: Thursday, June 8th from 7- 9pm
ArtWalk opening: June 23rd from 6-9pm
Throughout this Spring, Sylvia Grace Borda has been the artist in residence at the Oxygen Art Centre developing her ‘Kissing Project.’ The artist’s proposal is not what you would expect – she has aimed to create contemporary artworks, celebrating local and cultural values of love and peace, while also capturing a portrait of Nelson residents caught in an embrace for a kiss.
The idea for the project came about through her discovery of a 1950s photograph of a Doukhobor couple kissing in the archives of Touchstones Nelson. The photograph shows the moment of a kiss between a then unknown Doukhobor woman and man. This photograph won the artist’s admiration. She believes that the image of the Doukhobor kissing couple is particularly iconic and deserves national recognition as does Nelson’s own culture of openness. The resulting community based art project has been inspired by these intersections, and in the artist’s desire to bring forth in her work a similar message of affection and affinity among the people who call Nelson home.
As part of her residency, Borda gave a public talk in which she illustrated a history of the kiss in art. She suggested through her talk that artistic expressions of affection sometimes surface in times of greatest collective trauma, such as after World War II when the famous “original kissing couple” was photographed by French photographer Robert Doisneau. This iconic photograph helped to elevate Paris out its war torn state and into the romantic capitol of Europe.
Similarly, the kiss can serve as a sign of protest rather than just represent an intimate moment. This is the case when the artist was sleuthing for further information about the image of the “Doukhobor kissing couple” that inspired her art series. The artist was curious as to who the couple were, where was the photograph staged, what were circumstances around the kiss, who was the photographer and why was the photograph taken? With the help of Touchstones Nelson’s archivist, Jean-Philippe Stienne, and the Doukhobor Museum, some information around the photograph has been revealed and a rich history is unfolding. One that curiously places the photograph nicely into the artist’s hypothesis in linking moments of stress with those of affection, war with peace!
Guided by the question, “Can Nelson be the Paris of the north?”, a call for participants was sent out in late winter. The artist invited the public to nominate kissing partners, places, and to create visual narratives that could be shared with wider audiences as contemporary artworks. The task of photographing the couples happened over a three-day period at locations chosen by the couples ranging from Lakeside park to Pixie’s Candy shop. The process of photography had an additional unique layer in that the couples were photographed in a 360 degree context to be embedded in Google Street View that will bring the scenes to ‘life’ in an accessible way.
The images are both documents of place and diverse portraits of the kissing sitters themselves. There’s a Doukhobor couple celebrating their 35th wedding anniversary, a couple choosing to celebrate a kiss at a childhood haunt, and others embracing their pet or taking along their own poetry. If you ever thought a kiss was a simple act, Borda’s images show a range of emotion and ideas about love, harmony, and even dissent.
Will this be the last of the Kissing Project? The artist hopes not, she intends to extend the project, funding available to the creation of a Kissing Trail! Pucker up Nelson!
Join us at the opening and hear more about this story.
Sylvia Grace Borda is a practicing media artist with interests in the development and promotion of Canadian photographic history and visual arts. She has taught at the University of British Columbia and at Emily Carr University of Art and Design. Her practice has also brought her international opportunities, including Queen’s University Belfast and the University of Stirling in Scotland. She has been granted several awards for her exhibition work that is shaping and challenging contemporary photographic expression. More about the artist can be found at sylviagborda.com
Join us on Thursday, June 8th at the Oxygen Art Centre for an opening reception and launch of the exhibition, the Kissing Project . The opening will run from 7-9pm with the artist in attendance. The exhibition will be on display until July 8th. The gallery is open Wednesday – Saturday from 1-5pm. The exhibition will participate in the June art walk on the 23rd when the gallery will be open from 6-9pm.
Photo Credit: Sylvia Grace Borda from ‘Kissing Project’
Top photograph: John and Theresa Southam
Bottom photograph: Ameila and Suki