Grand Theft Terra Firma tackles settler responsibility head-on. David Campion and Sandra Shields disrupt the celebratory mythology of nation building by reframing the settlement of Canada as a complex heist masterminded by criminals in London and played out on the ground by a gang of greedy thieves.
Combining photography and installation, and developed in collaboration with many partners from Stó:lō community, Grand Theft blends popular culture with original source material to consider Canada’s colonial history within the particularities of local experiences in S’olh Temexw, now more commonly known as BC’s Fraser Valley.
The project employs an “unsettling” strategy to explore Canada’s difficult past and our inheritance of its injustices. Blending fictional characters with elements drawn from historical record, the artists create a space where audiences are asked to consider their own relationship to destructive colonial practices. The exhibition supports discussion around emergent notions of personal awareness and responsibility in the process of decolonization, underscoring the possibility for art to participate in the critical discourse on social reconciliation in divided societies.
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 deploy alternative strategies to package words and photographs as a means of disruption. 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.
St. Mary’s University Art Gallery (Halifax, NS): June 8–August 5, 2018
Diefenbaker Centre Canada (Saskatoon, SK): January 7–March 15, 2019
Art Gallery of Peterborough (Peterborough, ON): April 14–June 24, 2019
Two Rivers Gallery (Prince George, BC): October 17, 2019- January 5, 2020
Grand Forks and District Art and Heritage Centre (Grand Forks, BC): August 29-November 14, 2020
David Campion & Sandra Shields, Royal Engineer, 2016, digital photograph