Lullaby of Birdland

Sandra Brewster

In Residence: Sep 18 – Nov 13, 2023

Exhibition: Nov 9, 2023 – Jan 28, 2024

Sandra Brewster joins people and places in her Artpace exhibition, Lullaby of Birdland. Leaning along the gallery walls, you’ll find five distinct panels, four of which showcase a person Sandra encountered while walking around San Antonio. These striking images have been meticulously transferred onto wooden panels using gel transfers, leaving behind the visible borders of each paper and the intentional placement required to construct the larger image. Brewster skillfully captures these individuals in the midst of everyday activities: strolling, conversing, and simply embracing the city in an unscripted and authentic way. 

The photo-based gel transfer technique imparts an antique photographic quality to each panel, marked by sporadic splotches and subtle creases reminiscent of aged photographs. The sepia tonality throughout the exhibit references history and memory. Notably, the far panel, distinguished by its absence of a human figure, showcases the terrain in Eagle Pass, the home of the Kickapoo Traditional Tribe of Texas. The significance of this inclusion lives in the historical depth of the land, inviting contemplation about the countless individuals who once walked this very soil. It reminds us that we all contribute to the ongoing tapestry of history: the people navigating the streets of downtown San Antonio, the Kickapoo community in Eagle Pass, and all those who preceded us. In this collective memory, we are united, present, writing our unique stories into the chapters of time. 

Across from the paneled photographs sits a seawall constructed with wood, foam, and concrete. This interactive seawall serves as a tribute to one located in Guyana, the homeland of Brewster’s parents, which serves both personal and practical functions. Rich family stories revolve around this monumental structure, and the artist herself has traversed its length, a journey captured in a video projected in the gallery’s far corner. While the Guyanese sea wall is covered in advertisements from businesses (as seen in the video), symbolizing the way capitalism can infringe on people’s ability to lead free and sustainable lives, the recreated seawall in the gallery mimics images of the land through flowers and greenery. Brewster told Artpace, “The recent oil discovery seems to be turning Guyana into a very expensive space, one that is attracting tourism. There is a fear of the widening gap between the rich and poor.”   

The Guyanese-inspired seawall and the video, juxtaposed with the photographic panels portraying individuals in San Antonio, create an overlap of time and space. By allowing visitors to engage with the recreated seawall, the artist invites more people to partake in this temporal suspension, where the boundaries between places dissolves. In this way, Brewster’s installation becomes a compelling embodiment of the intersection between personal history, global dynamics, and the human experience. 

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Sandra Brewster

Toronto, Canada

Sandra Brewster is a Canadian artist based in Toronto.  Her work employs a range of media to engage concepts of movement that express an internal relationship with identity.  Her work is grounded in people of the Caribbean diaspora, who maintain a relationship with back home. Born to Guyanese parents, she is interested in a sense of being that is multilayered, made up of a collision between geographies and temporalities.  She expresses these complexities via the unfixed nature of her work’s materiality and presentation.    

Brewster’s work has been featured in exhibitions internationally.  Recent locations include Leonard & Bina Art Gallery, Montreal (2023), Musée d’art Rouyn-Noranda (2023), Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago (2022–23), The Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery, Toronto (2022), Les Rencontres d’Arles (2022), Hartnett Gallery, Rochester (2022), Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto (2018–2023), Or Gallery, Vancouver (2019) and Lagos Photo Festival (2018).  Her public sculpture A Place to Put Your Things has been on view at Harbourfront Centre in Toronto.  

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Missla Libsekal

Missla Libsekal (b. Addis Abeba, Ethiopia) is an independent curator and writer whose practice centers on alteriority and knowledge transmission. Her long-term interdisciplinary research looks at historically marginalised ways of knowing, with the current chapter considering what stories of living in the land can offer better ways of being in relation with the places that we inhabit and occupy? Her recent curatorial projects include Creating Art Archives (2021) , a 2-day digital forum featuring scholars, publishers, artists and curators and the group exhibition Beyond What We See. Once upon a time, once upon a future (2021), Les Abattoirs, Musée – Frac Occitanie Toulouse.  

In 2010 and ahead of the curve, Libsekal founded Another Africa, a much needed digital platform for writing on and about African and Afro-Diasporic experiences and imaginaries. Operating until 2016, it became a leading destination for art and culture. Her writings on existing and emerging lexicons in contemporary Pan African visual practice have been published in The Africa Report, Aperture, Art Africa, SAVVY art journal, The Guardian, and more. 

Libsekal is involved in cultural advocacy, facilitating artist residency programs, arts education and jurying. From 2013 – 2016, Libsekal collaborated with curators Hans Ulrich Obrist and Simon Castets on their long-term research project 89plus, an investigation on the impact of instant knowledge and technical know-how unfolding with the diffusion of the Internet and networked technologies. Over a four year period, she co-organized artist talks, workshops, research trips to Accra, Cape Town, Johannesburg and Addis Ababa and artist residencies. In 2020, Libsekal joined the advisory board of Black Arts Centre (BLAC), a Black youth-owned and operated gallery and community site. She is a board member at Or Gallery, Vancouver, a non-profit and artist-run contemporary art centre and bookstore. 

She is based Vancouver, Canada the unceded, ancestral territories of  the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish), and Sel̓íl̓witulh (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations. 

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