Conversation Between Michèle Pearson Clarke and Deanna Bowen

Video and description by Michèle Parson Clarke

Parade of Champions: Artist Talk from Michèle Pearson Clarke.

Parade of Champions

This artist talk was a conversation between artists Michèle Pearson Clarke and Deanna Bowen, about the making of Clarke’s three-channel video installation Parade of Champions. It took place at the opening reception for the exhibition at the Ryerson Image Centre Student Gallery in Toronto, Canada on June 10th, 2015.

Parade of Champions explores the grief experiences of three black queer people, following the deaths of their mothers. Although grief is borne from loss of any kind, for an adult child, a mother’s death is incomparable. As universal and inevitable as it might be, this suffering is complicated by the restriction on mourning in our culture. Grief upsets us. It makes us uncomfortable. The bereaved are expected to mourn in private or at the very most, publicly for a short period only. For black queers, already unseen and othered, grieving a mother’s death requires a further pushing back against notions of disposability and invisibility.

Drawing on the artist’s experience after her mother’s death in 2011, Parade of Champions centres this black queer counter-narrative in creating a poetic encounter with loss. Employing still video portraits and audio interviews, this immersive three-channel installation invites viewers to bear witness to this black queer grief.

Artist Biographies

Michèle Pearson Clarke is a Trinidad-born artist who works in photography, film, video and installation. Using archival, performative and process-oriented strategies, her work explores queer and black diasporic longing and loss. Recent exhibitions and screenings include We Can’t Compete: A Feminist Art Gallery Satellite Project at the University of Lethbridge Art Gallery, Pleasure Dome New Toronto Works, International Film Festival Rotterdam and Images Festival. While at Ryerson, her research has focused on representations of grief in documentary, and she was the recipient of Ontario Graduate Scholarships in both 2013 and 2014. She holds a BA (Honours) in Psychology from Queen’s University and a Master of Social Work from the University of Toronto. Currently, Clarke is a member of the Feminist Art Gallery board collective and serves on the board of directors at Gallery 44.

Deanna Bowen is a descendant of the Alabama and Kentucky born Black Prairie pioneers of Amber Valley and Campsie, Alberta. She is an interdisciplinary artist whose work has been exhibited internationally in numerous film festivals and museums, including the Institute of Contemporary Art at the University of Pennsylvania, the Images Festival, Flux Projects, the Kassel Documentary Film and Video Festival, Oberhausen Film Festival, Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University, and the Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21. Bowen is the recipient of the 2014 William H. Johnson Prize. She teaches video art and documentary production in the Department of Arts, Culture and Media at the University of Toronto Scarborough.