The gallery is proud to welcome the collaborative duo of Camal Pirbhai and Camille Turner, whose new exhibition unearth includes recent photo-based artworks House of Bâby (2021) and Rocks (2021–2023). These works explore the passage of time and memory, in the process of excavating the hidden history of people of colour in Canada.
House of Bâby is a large lenticular image portraying eighteen Black and Indigenous people claimed as property by the prominent Bâby family of Windsor, Detroit and Toronto. This work was originally commissioned for ArtworxTO for display in the Great Hall at Union Station, the same location that appears in the image. When viewed from different angles House of Bâby reveals the ghostly presence of these historically erased individuals emerging from the past, lingering in the present amidst the blur of contemporary commuters and urban travellers passing through the nexus of Union Station.
Rocks stages an encounter between humans and primordial beings that envelop all they encounter during their long, slow transition cycles. Rocks represent deep time on a geological or cosmic scale. They contain stories that date back to a time long before humans and stretch towards infinity. Following Camal & Camille’s earlier body of work Wanted (2017), Rocks similarly developed out of Camille’s Afronautic Research Lab, in this particular case her research on slave ships constructed on Canada’s eastern seaboard. Rocks from the same coastal areas would have been used as ballast on these ships. When the ships sailed to the United Kingdom to be registered, and then on to West Africa to participate in the trade of humans, these same rocks were dumped out onto African shores so that their intended cargo, people, could be loaded into the ships’ holds. These ships, and the people held in captivity in the holds are long gone but the rocks are present day witnesses that remember and transmit the stories of these past crimes.
Working collectively, Camal & Camille bring together their wide range of experiences and skills to create artworks in a variety of media that emerge from their shared concerns such as: unsilencing histories, confronting social myths, and engaging with the mysteries of deep time. Camal & Camille are represented by Central Art Garage, Ottawa.
Photography: Scott Lee
Camal Pirbhai was raised in Switzerland and trained as a couturier in soft furnishings in the UK. Drawing from his expertise fabricating large-scale textile projects, hand-sewn curtains and intricate embellishments, Camal has evolved a multidisciplinary artistic practice exploring a wide array of materials, media and processes such as: sculpture, fibre, installation, painting, performance and media art. His conceptually glamorous works have been shown in museums including the McMichael Canadian Art Collection, Textile Museum of Canada, and the Gardiner Museum of Ceramic Art. Camal’s collaborations with Camille Turner include the artworks Wanted, Family Matters, House of Bâby, and Rocks.
Camille Turner explores home and belonging in many forms spanning a variety of media such as photography, video, performance, and social practice art. She is the founder of Outerregion, a research lab researching Black memory and creating the afro future. Camille’s most recent works respond to the erasure of 400 years of Black history from the Canadian landscape. Her sonic walks HUSH HARBOUR and The Resistance of Peggy Pompadour use digital media to reimagine sites of Black memory. Artworks such as Wanted, Family Matters, House of Bâby, and Rocks, created in collaboration with Camal Pirbhai, are embodied archives that perform Black freedom in Canada’s past.