Photography is inseparable from colonialism. While the violent extraction of land, labour, and resources from Indigenous Peoples was in practice long before the invention of the camera, it is both embodied by and perpetuated through the act of “taking” pictures and of organizing them into photographic archives by European settlers. In a meditation on land, language, and architecture—and without the use of a camera as a tool—Vancouver-based Obispeño Chumash and Hispanic artist Christine Howard Sandoval reconsiders the insidious meaning-making power of the colonial archive in Archival—for Rosario Cooper and my 10 year old self. This public installation is presented by the Contemporary Art Gallery as a component of the artist’s solo exhibition A wall is a shadow on the land.
Howard Sandoval wraps the surface of the Canada Line station with a series of overlapping, scanned archival documents and images, forming a multifaceted collage. To build her composition, she draws from the notebooks of J. P. Harrington, a linguist who extensively documented Indigenous cultures and languages in California. She focuses on passages describing mission architecture and excerpts on his work with Rosario Cooper, who was the last language holder of Obispeño. Layered with these archival documents are schematic maps comparing Spanish mission and ancient Indigenous architectures as well as a drawing of Father Junípero Serra from Howard Sandoval’s fourth-grade school report on the California missions.
With Archival—for Rosario Cooper and my 10 year old self, Howard Sandoval creates a presence for Indigenous ways of thinking about space and time and unsettles the archive through the act of enlargement, annotation, and collage. The stratum of material encourages multiple entry points for interpretation, calls into question the use value of the image, and resists the archive’s power to cement colonial histories. Embedded into the institutional systems of education, imperial archives inform generations; Howard Sandoval’s act of archival dislodging is a crucial step in unlearning history and excavating deep-rooted colonial foundations of knowledge.
Presented in partnership with the Contemporary Art Gallery and the Canada Line Public Art Program—InTransit BC