In Grand Theft Terra Firma, artists David Campion and Sandra Shields present a strategy guide to an imaginary video game.
The artists reframe the settlement of British Columbia as a complex heist masterminded by criminals in London and played out on the ground by a gang of greedy thieves. Central to the exhibition are large-scale, fictionalized portraits that describe the colonial players in the heist. Complex vignettes, achieved in collaboration with Stó:lō community members, mimic screen shots from “game play” to recreate key moments in local history.
The project pushes the national conversation around reconciliation by using satire and humour as entry points into difficult knowledge. Blending fictional characters with elements drawn from the historical record, the artists create an ambiguous space where audiences are asked to re-consider their relationship to colonial practices.
About the Artists
Fraser Valley artists David Campion and Sandra Shields create photo-text installations, often around the theme of power and its blind spots. Their early work combined literary nonfiction and documentary photography, resulting in three books. For the past decade, they have focused on public art, creating installations that borrow alternate ways to package words and photographs as a means of disruption. Memory in the Valley (collected by Surrey Art Gallery) mimicked tourist points of interest as a means to investigate conflicting histories. The mar poles of cə̓ snaʔəm—commissioned by MOA and the Musqueam Cultural Resource Centre—evoked the past and present city within the borrowed form of a picture book for tourists. Sandra comes to the subject of colonization as the great-granddaughter of early Alberta settlers. David approaches from the vantage of a British immigrant who grew up in southern Africa during the era that saw colonial governments fall.
This initiative is made possible by the Community Fund for Canada’s 150th, a collaboration between Abbotsford Community Foundation, the City of Abbotsford, the Government of Canada, and extraordinary leaders from coast to coast to coast.
David Campion & Sandra Shields, Royal Engineer, 2016, digital photograph