So long ago now, I remember picking up a copy of Afterall—a journal that showcases in-depth considerations of the work of contemporary artists, as well as essays on art history and critical theory—from the University of British Columbia bookstore. I picked it up because I was someone who loved language and wanted to know more about art, and this was the one art mag that featured more words than pictures. I still have that copy kicking around, so many years later, so many different homes and different cities later.
And just this month I received the latest copy of Afterall in the post, which features an essay I have written about the practice of Rebecca Belmore. In the nerdiest way, that young women of before is thrilled today to see my writing in those pages. It has been a total honour to engage with Afterall’s editors, and the invitation to consider Belmore’s practice could not have come at a better time. The essay, entitled “Picking Up a Long Line,” charts the ways that Belmore’s practice has provided an anchor for feeling my way through all the awful shit that #MeToo and Times’ Up and Not Surprised have brought to the surface, socially and intimately. Not that any of this is new, but that it has been hard to find my way sometimes. As I say in the essay:
Belmore reminds us of our complicity in the unfolding of stories like this: what duty do we have to bear our suffering on each other’s bodies? How to carry the burden that trauma produces? These questions resonate with stark clarity today. What to do with the public accounting of how power and violence are wielded to demean others? What to do when the naming begins, both the naming of perpetrators of these violences and the naming of those whose lives have been altered by them?
In Belmore’s practice, I am reminded that this kind of social grappling and reconfiguration has been going on for a long long time, and that although the correlation isn’t perfect, that something like Not Surprised needs the long history of Belmore’s practice to be possible at all. Like so much else in life, it is the labour of BIPOC women that lead the way in making an otherwise possible. That young women of before, and this woman I am now, cannot be more thankful that there are such fierce precedents for how to be in relation to what can no longer stand to be.