A shocking success

Controversial exhibit arouses discussion on campus

Image by: Alex Choi

Art shocks — and Deanna Bowen knows it.

The Toronto artist’s new art exhibit, entitled Invisible Empires, has successfully given students something to talk about.

The artist’s new show at the York University Art Gallery gives an in-depth look at the KKK (Ku Klux Klan) era in Canada in the 20th century, providing an artistic avenue to discuss a taboo topic.

The exhibit brings the sensitive subject matter to life by including two mannequins dressed in KKK robes and a re-enactment of a 1965 interview with some members on the TV show This Hour has Seven Days.

It’s easy for Canadians to forget that the KKK ever existed because it doesn’t pose an immediate threat anymore, but Bowen’s aim isn’t to cause harm; rather it’s to avoid citizen apathy.

The bold exhibit forces York students to stop and take note of Bowen’s artwork as they’re slowed down by the banners which are purposefully placed on the campus.

While initially some might see the exhibit as offensive — and it very well might be — it accurately achieves the artist’s goal of starting a conversation about a taboo topic.

Every piece of art has an intention, and it’s the artist’s job to present their work in a fashion that will accurately convey the message at hand.

Rather than being criticized for offending people of her own race, Bowen needs to be strongly commended for the fearlessness she shows.

Invisible Empires does shock its audience, no matter what their background may be, but after that initial tremor, the viewer’s interest is piqued.

Bowen achieved her goal with the exhibit — people are talking. A debate has ensued regarding the KKK and their effect on Canadian history in one of the best places possible — an educational institution. What better place to have a broader discussion than at a university?

Bowen’s work is admirable as it takes a step forward with the way modern art directly engages the audience.

Taking art away from the passive medium it might be considered to be, Bowens has brought the art form to the future and showed how it can make a poignant difference.


Deanna Bowen, Opinion, York University

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