A Harlem Nocturne | Deanna Bowen


A Harlem Nocturne, Deanna Bowen
Curated by Kimberly Phillips
September 12 to October 17, 2020
At 4001 Berri (OBORO, Ada X, and Groupe Intervention Vidéo (GIV)
Registration required here:

*Please choose a time slot from the drop-down menu. Further dates will be added later.

The three artist-run centers at 4001 Berri — OBORO, Ada X and GIV — are pleased to present Deanna Bowen’s first major exhibition in Quebec, circulated by the Contemporary Art Gallery, Vancouver, with the generous support of the Canada Council for the Arts.

Deanna Bowen’s artistic practice concerns itself with histories of Black experience in Canada and the US. Her focus is the “dark matter” in our midst: figures and events that have remained below the threshold of visibility not because they are impossible to find but because their existence reveals a systematized racism difficult for the majority culture to acknowledge. Bowen reactivates historic material sourced from overlooked archives through a process of extraction, translation and enlargement, and then reinserts this material into public consciousness in a new form.

A Harlem Nocturne presents a terrain of research that Bowen undertook in Toronto and Vancouver over the past three years, recovered from civic documents, newspaper clippings and numerous personal and organizational archives. These materials trace a series of interconnected figures—many of them part of Bowen’s own family—who formed an integral part of the Canadian entertainment community from the 1940s through the 1970s. As Black bodies living and working in a settler colony underpinned by institutionalized racism, they were at once invisible and hyper-visible, simultaneously admired, exoticized and surveilled. They enjoyed certain celebrity in their local milieu but also endured differing degrees of bigotry, segregation and racial violence.

Bowen’s aim is to posit a powerful counterpoint to common narratives that oversimplify historical narratives of Canada’s complex and vibrant Black presence. She reminds us that even seemingly insignificant documents can be rich repositories for unintended readings, and for questioning who has been charged with writing our histories and why.

Before you visit, reserve your place online. Please note that masks are mandatory.

Two video programs related to the exhibition will be presented by the Groupe Intervention Vidéo (GIV).The first will be available online, free of charge and throughout the duration of A Harlem Nocturne. The second one will be screened at the GIV’s premises, every Wednesday from September 16 to October 14 at 2:00 p.m. Two special presentations will be held at the opening of the exhibition, on Saturday, September 12, at 2:00 p.m. and 4:00 p.m. (reservation required for all on-site screenings).

Photo credit: Deanna Bowen, Theatre Under the Stars’ cast photo from Finian’s Rainbow, Circa 1953, 2019. Vue d’installation de A Harlem Nocturne, Contemporary Art Gallery, Vancouver, 5 avril – 16 juin 2019. Crédits : SITE Photography

ON TRIAL The Long Doorway was commissioned and produced through a partnership between the Contemporary Art Gallery, Vancouver, and Mercer Union, a centre for contemporary art, Toronto. Production support provided through a Media Arts residency at the Western Front, Vancouver.

French subtitles, Groupe Intervention Vidéo (GIV).