Tanya Harnett & Jeff Thomas
Urban Spaces

Date: August 18 - October 2nd, 2016
Location: Billboard Panel at 101 St North of 105 Ave, east side of the street, Facing South. Edmonton, AB.


Tanya Harnett & Jeff Thomas, 2016

Tanya Harnett & Jeff Thomas, 2016


Urban Spaces is a collaborative photographic installation between Tanya Harnett and Jeff Thomas. The project is curated by Ociciwan, in partnership with AKA Artist Run in Saskatoon. The billboard installation is meant to create dialogue with passers-by, reaching out to those who do not typically enter the traditional gallery space. Thomas’ photograph provokes questions surrounding Indigenous culture, challenging perceptions of Indigenous and non-Indigenous ideology. Harnett created a custom jacket referencing both a straitjacket and an item of traditional Indigenous clothing that engages a double reading of constriction and the idea of an Indigenous presence and ceremony through its fringes. The location of the billboard in Edmonton acts as a type of marker or gateway between class divided neighbourhoods by providing unique imagery highlighting the complexities of urban Indigenous experience.

Thomas and Harnett’s collaboration focus on life as an urban-based Indigenous person, and the constraints and beauty associated with contemporary urban existence. Building on years of a professional relationship, Harnett created the fringed straightjacket expressing her silent frustration, which she then sent to Thomas to incorporate into his photographic practice. After careful consideration, Thomas chose to photograph the Harnett’s piece in front of a graffiti wall in Ottawa, a site of personal significance to Thomas that also provided a vibrant backdrop for the image. In creating this image, Thomas and Harnett seek to make visible the invisible and accessible to dialogue and contemplation. The resulting work sits at an invisible boundary, the intersection between a civic centre and neighborhoods that are on the periphery of communities perceived as socially and economically vulnerable.


About the Artists

Tanya Harnett is a member of the Carry-The-Kettle First Nations in Saskatchewan. She is an artist and a professor at the University of Alberta in a joint appointment in the Department of Art and Design and the Faculty of Native Studies. She has previously taught at both University of Lethbridge and Grant MacEwan University. Working in various media including, photography, drawing, printmaking and fiber, Harnett’s studio practice engages in the notions and politics of identity, history, spirituality and place. She has exhibited regionally, nationally and internationally.

Jeff Thomas is an independent curator and photographer who deals, in examination of his own history and identity, with issues of aboriginality that have arisen at the intersections of Native and non-Native cultures in what is now Ontario and northern New York state. Nationally recognized for ground-breaking scholarship and innovative curatorial practice in this area, he has been involved in major projects at such prominent cultural institutions in Canada as the Canadian Museum of Civilization, the Woodlands Cultural Centre, the Art Gallery of Ontario, and Library and Archives Canada.

This project was produced with the support of the Edmonton Arts Council, Canada Council for the Arts and Pattison Outdoor.

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