Material Self: Performing the Other Within

Mary Sibande, Tomoko Sawada, Dominique Rey, Meryl McMaster, Namsa Leuba, Hendrik Kerstens, Charles Fréger, David Favrod


Shaped by ancestry, society, and history, material belongings and body embellishments have always served to communicate an individual’s sense of self; clothing and possessions are the fundamental elements through which self-image is expressed. As an outward expression of one’s inner most sensibilities and subjectivities, people perform their identities and position themselves in relation to the world around them. Influencing how the self is represented and seen, photography plays a significant role in the social and cultural construction of identity.

Material Self: Performing the Other Within brings together photo-based works by eight artists from the four corners of the world, all of whom explore the potential of clothing, costume, uniform, and props to communicate character and to draw a bridge across distances. They fuse cultures, traditions, and customs, linking the past to the present through performative gestures that reveal breakdowns in cultural boundaries and the cross-pollination of identities. While many of them reflect upon their heritage, rituals, and the country in which they live, some seek to examine distant mythologies and internal experiences. Each of the artists make use of materials, props, and associated iconographies and signifiers to articulate shifting identities, while challenging stereotypes and fixed expectations. They bring light to the other within, an entity of the self that emerges from their images.

Organized with the Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art Supported by BMW Canada.

Curated by David Liss and Bonnie Rubenstein