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Annivik by Maureen Gruben
December 31, 2021 - March 7, 2022
The Bentway Studio (55 Fort York Blvd)
Terrace: Open 24/7
Atrium: Open Wednesday – Sunday, 12:00pm – 7:00pm
Annivik presents large-scale photographs shot in the landfill of Maureen Gruben’s home community, Tuktoyaktuk; the project takes its name from a (misspelled) bilingual English/Inuvialuktun ‘Exit’ sign that the artist found there. The English word ‘exit’, according to the Oxford dictionary, denotes ‘a way out’. The Inuvialuktun word ‘annivik’ has a more nuanced meaning. It can also be translated as ‘birthing place’, suggesting endings are not disappearances but transitions; that leaving one place necessarily means entering another. These concepts have acute significance with respect to our decisions about the constant flow of materials and products we come into contact with every day. Gruben’s photographs hold inverted references to landscape and still life traditions that reach for the sublime. Her images depict mounds and vast expanses of trash that appear at geographic scales, as well as focussing in on quixotic, accidental arrangements of discarded objects, many of which—such as a handmade sealskin mitt and ookpik—clearly locate the Arctic community.
Several of Annivik’s images are overlaid or juxtaposed with texts. The source for these texts is transcriptions of Inuvialuit elders telling stories about intensely resourceful lives spent on the land, with recollections reaching back as far as the early 1900s. Gruben has rearranged the words to function as brief poems that use both Inuvialuktun and English. The interplay of image and language in this installation evokes the rapid change in lifestyle imposed on the region within just a few decades. While necessarily expressing concern for the overwhelming volume of waste generated in contemporary life, the work also looks towards reclamation and generates excitement around the possibilities for making use of ‘waste’—a potential with personal relevance to the artist, as her local landfill has long been a rich source of materials and inspiration for her practice.
About Maureen Gruben
Inuvialuk artist Maureen Gruben employs an intimate materiality as she disassembles and re-combines disparate organic and industrial elements. Polar bear fur, beluga intestines, and seal skins encounter resins, metallic tape, and bubble wrap, forging critical links between life in the Western Arctic and global environmental and cultural concerns. Gruben was born and raised in Tuktoyaktuk where her parents were traditional knowledge keepers and founders of E. Gruben’s Transport. She holds a BFA from the University of Victoria and has exhibited regularly across Canada and internationally. She was longlisted for the 2019 Aesthetica Art Prize and the 2021 Sobey Art Prize, and her work is held in national and private collections.
Annivik is presented at The Bentway Studio as part of The Bentway’s 2021/2022 Winter Season.