The Writing Lesson: Seattle, 2012
Vinyl text, construction paper, acrylic glass
50.8 x 61 cm.
Courtesy the artist and Catriona Jeffries Gallery, Vancouver
In The Writing Lesson series, Vancouver artist Raymond Boisjoly makes pictograms of Indigenous place names in the Pacific Northwest using typography adapted from the logo styles of Scandinavian black-metal bands. Boisjoly appropriates the heavily stylised script, drawing parallels between the spirituality and identities of pre-Christian Nordic cultures and that of North American Indigenous people to reaffirm, as with black-metal music, pre-colonial experience.
The title refers to an anecdote of ethnologist Claude Lévi-Strauss, who documented a Nambikwara chieftain’s attempt to bolster his influence by feigning Western literacy. Text is visually distorted into a poignant emblem reminiscent of a Rorschach pattern, revealing the limitations of writing to discuss histories that have been suppressed or erased. This work reflects Boisjoly’s deliberate use of materials and concern with the production of cultural knowledge through language.
Raymond Boisjoly (b. 1981, Langley, BC) is an Indigenous artist of Haida and Québécois descent from Chilliwack. After graduating from Emily Carr University of Art and Design, he earned an MFA from the University of British Columbia (2008). He won the prestigious VIVA Award in 2016. Boisjoly has exhibited widely across North America and has been featured in important exhibitions such as Unsettled Landscapes SITELines, Santa Fe (2014) and the touring exhibition Beat Nation (2012-2014). Upcoming exhibitions this year include a solo show at Catriona Jeffries Gallery, Vancouver; La Biennale de Montreal, and a group show at the Vancouver Art Gallery. His writing has been published in several art magazines and his artwork has been the subject of many critical essays. Boisjoly is curating Screens and Thresholds, a group exhibition opening at Presentation House Gallery next month. He is an assistant professor at Emily Carr University of Art and Design, and is represented by Catriona Jeffries Gallery, Vancouver.