We are pleased to share the recording of Deanna Bowen's keynote, "Berlin, Berlin," that took place during Archive/Counter-Archive's Online Symposium, "Black Lives and Archival Histories in Canada," which was held on December 10-11, 2020.
KEYNOTE: DEANNA BOWEN, "Berlin, Berlin."
Deanna Bowen’s presentation involves self-reflection and presentation of two interdependent exhibitions presented at the 2020 Berlin Biennale and the Kitchener Waterloo Art Gallery September 18 – February 28, 2021. Respectively, "The God of Gods: Berlin, Berlin" and "Black Drones in the Hive" extend critical interventionist research of the White nationalist ambitions that inform Canada’s cultural history and national narrative. Specifically, "The God of Gods: Berlin, Berlin" is an off-site companion work to "Black Drones in the Hive” that examines the history of Berlin, Ontario (now Kitchener) and Berlin, Germany during WWI as a means to reveal the familial, geographic, cultural, and colonial entanglements between the British Commonwealth, Germany, Canada, the United States, and Africa from the mid 1700s. “Black Drones…” is a solo exhibition that looks at the regional histories surrounding the Kitchener Waterloo Art Gallery and greater Southern Ontario. The project looks at Six Nations history and the terms of the Haldimand Proclamation of 1784, which refers to Quebec’s Governor Sir Frederick Haldimand granting a tract of land to Mohawk Chief Thayendanegea’s (Joseph Brant) and the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) for their alliance with the British during the American Revolution 1765-83. Accordingly, the American Revolution provides an opportunity to then reflect on a long, traumatic history of prolonged conflict that continues in the War of 1812-15, the US Civil War (1861-65), the Boer War (1899-1902), and World War I (1914-1918). “Black Drones...” is also an investigative process of production that works to excavate Black presence and erasure. Archival documents from the mid 1700s attest to African-American slave presence in both British and Six Nations communities. Other materials reveal a robust Black presence in the region, with a population of 60,000 in 1900. The quandary of this growth is its extraordinary decline to 18,000 by 1920 and so Deanna Bowen's research digs deeper into regional Ontario history to trace the ways that this decline is commingle with local, national and global preoccupations with Eugenics and population control.
Deanna Bowen 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 a 2020 Governor General Award for Visual and Media Arts Award, 2016 John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship, and the 2014 William H. Johnson Prize. 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 2019 publication Other Places: Reflections on Media Arts in Canada.