PAM HALL: HouseWork(s)
Jan. 17 to March 14, 2015
Kamloops Art Gallery
By Portia Priegert
"The Knowledge House"
Pam Hall, "The Knowledge House," 2014, vintage encyclopedia and atlas pages, thread, fabric and bamboo supports, installation view.
It’s hard to call Pam Hall’s artistic practice anything but encyclopedic. Visually rich, thematically varied and intellectually dense, it includes small daily rituals, collaborations with other artists and ambitious social-engagement projects that traverse myriad disciplines and locations. More than that, though, Hall is working on her own encyclopedia.
"Dressing Up Works site research in Port Rexton and Maberly"
Pam Hall, "Dressing Up Works site research in Port Rexton and Maberly," 2006, giclée print on archival paper.
Towards an Encyclopedia of Local Knowledge attempts to make visible the kind of know-how not commonly found in the Britannica, the ordinary wisdom that Hall’s fellow Newfoundlanders use in their day-to-day lives in the province’s rural outposts. Started as a doctoral project at Memorial University, Hall’s encyclopedia offers insight into such topics as butchering a moose, collecting partridgeberries and salting cod. Engagingly illustrated with photos, drawings, maps and the like, it fuses Hall’s central concerns as an artist – the production of knowledge, the practice of labour and the importance of place.
"Building a Village"
Pam Hall, "Building a Village," 2013-2014, collaborative community project with about 300 mixed-media houses on card stock, envelopes and miscellaneous contents, installation view.
“The core of my art-making impulse emerges from art-making as a research practice,” Hall says in an interview from Fogo Island, off Newfoundland’s northeast coast, where she is spending three months preparing new entries for her encyclopedia. “Art making for me is a kind of labour, a kind of knowledge practice, a kind of material thinking through which I investigate my world. It’s the way I find meaning, construct meaning and then exchange meaning.”
The show, which surveys the last decade of Hall’s production, includes several simple house-like structures suspended above the gallery floor, each focused on a different theme. The Knowledge House, for instance, features pages from vintage encyclopedias and atlases, while Towards a Newfoundland House of Prayer is fabricated from hand-wrought twine net and thin strips of cotton fabric on which people have written their wishes and prayers.
"Dressing Up the Work: The Apron Diaries"
Pam Hall, "Dressing Up the Work: The Apron Diaries," 2006, giclee prints on archival paper showing installation in Port Rexton and Maberly, Nfld.
Charo Neville, the curator of the Kamloops Art Gallery, notes the political aspect of work that considers everyday labour. “Implicit in this approach is a feminist critique that underlies actions and the outcome of the actions – the exhibition content is strongly grounded in this perspective and yet the work itself is accessible and inviting.”
Hall demonstrates that visual art and knowledge can share space with social practice, says Memorial University humanities professor Jennifer Dyer. “What I find most exciting are the conceptual and creative interconnections within and between each work,” she writes in an essay for the show’s catalogue. “Hall makes visible the invisible: habitual social situations, a renewed awareness of something, the memory of a smell, a group energy, a change of mind, a change of heart.”
Organized by Melinda Pinfold, an independent curator based in Edmonton, HouseWork(s) was first shown last year at The Rooms, a leading cultural institution in St. John’s. “It’s kind of exhausting,” Hall says of a show that pulls together so much work. “It is dense … people tend to make multiple visits – they do it in pieces and they come back.”