PRESS Garrard's career has centred on the use of her talents and skills as a painter and sculptress as tools for process based performance art. Her body and intelligence is at the centre of the work as are those of the viewer-participants. The work, the art, is about human interactions. At the point of display, usually our first point of contact with works of art, Garrard's work is dormant; in hibernation, so to speak, awaiting continuation. It constitutes a record of where we have been, the roads not taken, and always, the possibilities of going on. The empty wall, exhibition cases, frames and folded clothes form a tabula rasa, evoking memory, history, the present and the future as much as the picturing, the objects and documentation do.

Rose Garrard describes this work as 'a process-based, live work of three weeks duration.' It began, as other projects have begun in other galleries such as Birmingham City Museum and Art Gallery and the New Art Gallery in Calgary, with 'a central conversation piece', a stimulus for the discussions to begin, consisting of props and artifacts. In this case, the material forming the 'conversation piece' was three, large exhibition cases, resting on the floor of the gallery, filled with a multitude of folded, white, used clothes, gathered from Vancouver's thrift shops, and small, 8 x 11 in, gilded, wooden picture frames. A few objects appeared in the first case. These were images from the previous work in Calgary and a group of archival documents from the gallery's collection - letters and photos of Emily Carr and her parents - as well as reproductions of some of Carr's works. In the centre of the room there were two sets of clothing, arranged and primed to be used as the support for painting. On the wall hung a number of these 'canvases', each containing one of the gold frames, ready for the picturing to begin.


In preparation for her visit, a number of gallery staff and volunteers were involved in 'preparing the ground' for Rose's activity. Brainstorming together, we developed a list of individuals and organizations engaged in many sectors of Canadian life. Some of them were advocates or advocacy groups, some service or research organizations; some were government agencies for elected officials, some might be perceived as disenfranchised, by choice or circumstance, from social processes. Letters were sent and telephone calls made to discuss the issues which concerned then and to invite them to visit Rose and to enter into the development of the work in the gallery. When she arrived, the banner of invitation to the public went up on the Robson Street entrance. And wherever she spoke and to whomever, on buying excursions or at public lectures, the invitation was extended to participate in the project by visiting and talking with her at the gallery.

Garrard's performance is, in her view, a transformative position, reclaiming social processes. 'It's about hearing' she says, 'not about reaching agreement'. For Garrard, the conversations are central to the work, but the activity of making creates the opportunity and the stimulus for the conversations. Visitors do not gather to witness the artist. Witnessing, on everyone's part, stimulates the creation of her work.

The month of October proved to be a monumental one for Canadians. During the time of Garrard's visit, we were engaged in the constitutional debates surrounding the Charlottetown Accord and, finally, in the referendum which resulted in rejection of the Accord by 'the people of Canada', as the politicians and the media love to call us. In the midst of the measured yet heated debates, we Canadians sought to illuminate our confusion about the many, varied issues of our lurching, emerging notion of our own nationhood. Garrard's first wall, on the subject of paternalism, reflected these discussions. It began with references to her position as a British artist in our midst, the latest in a long line of paternalistic, colonizing eyes turned on this place and its peoples.


Gazing at this part of the piece, a fractured mural, one is struck by the overwhelming images of the landscape which dominate, as ever, the new arrival to Canada's West Coast. Whatever the conversations might have been between the artist and the visitors, the work mirrors back to us a number of concerns: the relationship between European colonizers and the indigenous peoples of the First Nations; the paradoxes of economic development which produce one of the highest rates of homelessness; the place of women within the patriarchal structures of Canadian society, and the relations of political power which emerged during the constitutional debates. In and amongst these contemporary threads were laced historical references to icons of this place such as the monument of Captain George Vancouver, Emily Carr (Canada's most famous woman artist) and the gallery itself. But unlike the television coverage which we dutifully tuned into every evening, Garrard's representations provided us with a rich tapestry of images drawn from very individual personal stories through which to contemplate the complexities of our situation here. In the exhibition cases, information, documentation, newspaper articles, quotes from her visitors, and books, photos and objects contributed by them add to the richness of our contemplation.

During the final week of her residency, Garrard, began painting on the opposite wall, investigating the subject of racism in this place. Here one confronted a seascape of faces, of many different ancestries, from many moments, past and present, during which we have been involved in negotiating our social contract.

Tonight, in the dark, our experiences in this room - the conversations, the ghostly canvases of clothing once worn by people living in Vancouver and the images representing our shared time together during this month - cloud into memories. Only the work remains as a trace of history to mark the fact that we were here, then.
Judith Mastai, Vancouver Art Gallery, October 1992

Vancouver Art Gallery Canada

Twenty-four, white, male and female outfits of clothes, sixteen of them primed and acrylic painted during three weeks of live, task based activity. Forty eight A4 gold frames. Four twelve foot long museum display cases, gradually filled with objects given by visitors. The third glass case remained filled with eight neatly folded sets of white clothes each with a small gold frame labeled 'Colonialism' Artist as performer in white clothing. Artists residency of four weeks duration.

Vancouver Art Gallery Canada.