Curatorial Statement

Open Channels presents a selection of work by artists in Canada that address the central concerns of the present moment: the hybrid experience of the newcomer; the dramatic rate of biological, geological, and material transformations as we enter the Anthropocene; and the interconnected realms of experience and imagination in identity, memory, and territoriality.

As artists in residence on the 2017 Canada C3 (Coast to Coast to Coast) expedition aboard the icebreaker MV Polar Prince, these artists joined a diverse group of Indigenous and non-Indigenous voyagers: scientists, musicians, elders, historians, newcomers, youth, journalists, athletes, writers, entrepreneurs, educators, and community leaders.

Open Channels implies the flow of navigable water. Sailing along Canada’s three coasts, through actual open channels via the fabled Northwest Passage, is a phenomenon borne of warming ocean temperatures, a disturbing augur of the advancing climate change that already affects Canada’s coastal communities.

The idea of flow also pertains to fostering dialogue between strangers, currents intertwining those aboard ship and those on the land. Through exchanges of listening and speaking, individual narratives of lived experience catalyzed the acknowledgement of the shadows of history over contemporary life.

The works of art now on view in the wake of this ambitious experiment are also in themselves channels, conduits inviting the inflow of attention to the vulnerability of the environment in the face of climate change; how cultures migrate, morph and persist; the precarity and promise of reconciliation, and the challenges and opportunities facing the next generation.

Melissa Rombout, Curator

About the Curator

A former photo historian at Library and Archives Canada, Melissa Rombout is an independent curator of national and international photo-based projects. She led an innovative re-examination of Yousuf Karsh’s work produced by the (then) Portrait Gallery of Canada and Canada Science and Technology Museum: Karsh: Image Maker, recipient of the Canadian Museums Association Award of Outstanding Achievement (2010). Rombout is a member of the Amsterdam School for Cultural Analysis, where she researches contemporary photography and political agency.


Digital Originals Grant

We acknowledge the support of Canada Council for the Arts and Power Corporation of Canada.