ghosts is a show presented by NSCAD’s Open-Air Artist Society in partnership with Parks Canada. The collaboration celebrates the intersection between the natural world and the visual arts. The exhibition showcases the works of a group of students who spent five days in August visiting and seeking inspiration from Kejimkujik National Park and National Historic Site.
Luke Mohan is a current NSCAD student from Toronto. He makes mixed media art, mainly with embroidery. He co-curated ghosts with Jordan Baraniecki. We ate cookies and he told us about the trip/the show.
On the diversity of the exhibition’s artists:
There’s definitely a wide variety of works in the show: drawing, photography, ceramic work activated by flashlight, video work, a living sculpture element, an interactive tent, collage work. It was really exciting that we got to have such a variety of artists working in different mediums and different years of study at NSCAD. We all came from interesting places in the school but I don’t know if we would have connected if it weren’t for this trip. So that’s part of what is so special about the course.
On the curatorial theme:
The term ghost really spoke to us in the way we could pull meaning from the word as a whole and the subtle italicized ‘host’ inside the word, that sort of nuance that poetic language can bring. The theme gave us leeway for navigating presence and absence, the maritime’s fascination with folklore, and elements of collective memory.
People responded to the theme in really interesting ways. Some people interacted with it in a way that responded to ghosts as a trigger of memory like cultural memory, archiving, and personal archiving. Some people took it to mean that space for presence and absence. Other people looked at it as a trigger for a fusion between the living and dead.
On the artwork he created for the exhibition:
My piece is titled “Remember?” and it’s a collage work with paper elements. I used the processes of image transfer, tracing, and painting along with archived images of Kejimkujik and quotations. I was researching what a ghost is. What really spoke to me in the term ghosts is the way memories are the shadows of ghosts and how the process of memory recall creates a fictive sense of an experience.
There was a time when I was confused about how to portray the trip — the immensity of the experience but also the history of the place and what it means for it to be different people’s land and now protected land. So what I’m trying to answer with my work is the delicacy needed in personal archiving and the futility of archiving my experience at Kejimkujik because there are so many perspectives I can’t express. Something I learned is how I can lean on my Keji family to help support a collective memory and to help me navigate space, land, and ideas.
On his ongoing engagement with the piece:
There’s a process in the work where I’ve been going back to the gallery daily and changing the piece. I’ve been rearranging the components so there are transferred fragments of archived images and elements of text that I’ve erased, rewritten, written in or transferred in. Another process is stitching components together and cutting them apart. I think that speaks to the process of memory recall and the ways memory overlap and become triggers for one another. It also speaks to how memories can be pushed back, not forgotten, but create a space for that moment before a memory is remembered.
As it changes, it gives new light to the piece. I don’t think it’s important for the viewer to see all the different incarnations because I think that propagates the way social media has changed our memory and tries to augment us into something that we’re not (but maybe something that we can be). It’s pushing us too far to recall, recall, recall in exact detail. This piece let’s me get things relaxed, not wrong.
My piece literally has a lot of layers and I’m still working through it. Once it comes down, I don’t think it ends because I’m still going to be working through the experience I had at Kejimkujik and I know the other members of our group will be too.
ghosts is on display at the Anna Leonowens Gallery until Saturday, December 6. The gallery is open from 12-4 and artists will be offering tours from 2-4.