Sheilah Wilson’s project engages the history of the Berry and Co. building, in which Enjoy Gallery is housed. In the 1990s while the building was undergoing renovations, a previously unknown collection of negatives dating from the early 20th Century was found in the attic. These slides are now in Te Papa’s collection and the negatives hold images of WWI era soldiers and families posing for portraits against the stylized backdrops that were popular at the time.
Taking these images as primary material, Wilson erased the sitters from the photo, leaving only the space behind the subject. These new images are placed alongside a series of cyanotypes made in the gallery over May 2013. In this manner, light is used as a unit of measurement that charts both the past and present. The two series of works, photographs and cyanotypes, sit side by side as portraits of a space at two different periods of time.
Wilson has conceived of the gallery space as a container, one that holds an ongoing experience of temporality. Light is the constant element over the course of time, as it allows for measurement and perception of space. Build Your Altar To This Moment evokes a sense of temporal ambiguity, a sliding terrain of past and present where unexpected configurations and narratives occur.
In the Presence of Presence: The embodied souvenir in Sheilah Wilson’s Build Your Altar To This Moment
By Olivia CollinsonRead online
We gratefully acknowledge the generous support of the Canada Council for the Arts and the Denison University Research Funding.