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THE GOLDEN SQUARE MILE
"William Notman Builder's Photograph of CPR Steam Locomotive No 401, 1826-1891", photography courtesy of Deanna Bowen

16 November 2022 – 28 January 2023

THE GOLDEN SQUARE MILE

A project by Deanna Bowen

Deanna Bowen’s projects are ontologically connected, site-specific and heavily dependent on the regional histories of their host gallery. Developed specifically for the Leonard & Bina Ellen Art, The Golden Square Mile follows the money and social connections revealed in her National Gallery project The Black Canadians (after Cooke) to the Anglo-Montrealer’s who reaped the benefits of Queen Victoria’s annexation and industrialization of Canada. Bank board members, railway builders, politicians, scholars, and other wealthy citizens circulated in a social network that defined and built the propogandist cultural narrative of Empire by creating the RCA, the Royal Society of Canada, the National Gallery, the Art Association of Montreal, and the Redpath and McCord Museums, among others. Montreal’s Golden Square Mile was home to many of these wealthy, influential people and evidence of their legacy is readily available.

Bowen proposes a five-chapter project of photo constellations and videos that address the embedded history of slavery and minstrelsy, the Canadian Pacific Railway, Black railway porters, introduction of Jazz, and the architecture and familial histories of the Golden Square Mile. Together they tell a bigger story about the genocidal impacts of Anglophone White supremacy, colonial extraction, the railway, slavery, servitude, ridicule, and wealth.

The Golden Square Mile is the expansive companion and Montreal specific narrative extension of Bowen’s upcoming public work The Black Canadians (after Cooke) at the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa. The Black Canadians (after Cooke) is a series of photo collages that distills the conceptual, historical and cultural findings from three interlinked exhibitions: Black Drones in the Hive, The God of Gods: Berlin, Berlin (2020) and The God of Gods: A Canadian Play (2019). As with all her work, these projects have a multi-lineage chronological framework that conforms to the genealogy of her maternal great-great grandmother Aurelia (Gregory) Mitchell (b. abt. 1840 – d.1924), her great grandmother Eugenia (Gregory) Bowen (b.1872 – d.1932, her grandmother Jean (Bowen) Risby (b.1919 – d.1993) and her mother Leora (Risby) Smalley (b. 1943 –). Beyond her family, this chronology also maps the over-culture/colonial legacy of the United Kingdom of Britain and Ireland’s abolition of slavery in 1833 through the Dominion of Canada’s evolution, capping in 1943, the year of her mother’s birth.

Biography

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Deanna Bowen was born in 1969, in Oakland, California and is a descendant of two Alabama and Kentucky born Black Prairie pioneer families from Amber Valley and Campsie, Alberta. Bowen’s family history has been the central pivot of her auto-ethnographic interdisciplinary works since the early 1990s. She makes use of a repertoire of artistic gestures in order to define the Black body and trace its presence and movement in place and time. She is a recipient of numerous grants and award including the Scotiabank Photography Award (2021), the Governors General Award (2020), the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship 2016, and the William H. Johnson Prize (2014). Her writing, interviews and art works have been published in Canadian Art, The Capilano Review, The Black Prairie Archives, and Transition Magazine. Bowen is editor of the publication Other Places: Reflections on Media Arts in Canada (2019). Deanna lives and works in Montreal, where she is an Assistant Professor of Intersectional Feminist and Decolonial 2D-4D Image Making and Co-Director of the Post Image Cluster at Concordia University.

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Deanna Bowen’s projects are ontologically connected, site-specific and heavily dependent on the regional histories of their host gallery. Developed specifically for the Leonard & Bina Ellen Art, The Golden Square Mile follows the money and social connections revealed in her National Gallery project The Black Canadians (after Cooke) to the Anglo-Montrealer’s who reaped the benefits of Queen Victoria’s annexation and industrialization of Canada. Bank board members, railway builders, politicians, scholars, and other wealthy citizens circulated in a social network that defined and built the propogandist cultural narrative of Empire by creating the RCA, the Royal Society of Canada, the National Gallery, the Art Association of Montreal, and the Redpath and McCord Museums, among others. Montreal’s Golden Square Mile was home to many of these wealthy, influential people and evidence of their legacy is readily available.

Bowen proposes a five-chapter project of photo constellations and videos that address the embedded history of slavery and minstrelsy, the Canadian Pacific Railway, Black railway porters, introduction of Jazz, and the architecture and familial histories of the Golden Square Mile. Together they tell a bigger story about the genocidal impacts of Anglophone White supremacy, colonial extraction, the railway, slavery, servitude, ridicule, and wealth.

The Golden Square Mile is the expansive companion and Montreal specific narrative extension of Bowen’s upcoming public work The Black Canadians (after Cooke) at the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa. The Black Canadians (after Cooke) is a series of photo collages that distills the conceptual, historical and cultural findings from three interlinked exhibitions: Black Drones in the Hive, The God of Gods: Berlin, Berlin (2020) and The God of Gods: A Canadian Play (2019). As with all her work, these projects have a multi-lineage chronological framework that conforms to the genealogy of her maternal great-great grandmother Aurelia (Gregory) Mitchell (b. abt. 1840 – d.1924), her great grandmother Eugenia (Gregory) Bowen (b.1872 – d.1932, her grandmother Jean (Bowen) Risby (b.1919 – d.1993) and her mother Leora (Risby) Smalley (b. 1943 –). Beyond her family, this chronology also maps the over-culture/colonial legacy of the United Kingdom of Britain and Ireland’s abolition of slavery in 1833 through the Dominion of Canada’s evolution, capping in 1943, the year of her mother’s birth.