witness

October 2, 2015 - February 7, 2016
nichola feldman-kiss

childish objects (1966-) \ the camera eye (aka Witness), 1972 and 2006 – continuing (detail), proof of concept: kinetic installation – 3D printed and other CAD machine parts (plastics and metal alloys); miniature camera; ocular prosthesis; borosilicate glass; saline; rapid cast aluminium (from 3D print); ceramic; resin; wood.

Opening reception: Thursday, October 1, 6:00 pm

As a child, nichola feldman-kiss imagined that her left eye could be fitted with a camera implant for capturing covert images. This fantasy foreshadowed themes of empathetic perception now prevalent in her artistic practice.

Empathy is manifest in the camera eye (aka Witness) (1970, 2006 – ), a mechanical eye that senses the viewer’s presence and emotes tears. With this kinetic sculpture, the artist asks us to move beyond our perspective so that we might relate to and accept responsibility for another.

This powerful installation is part of childish objects (1966 – ), an ongoing body of work described by the artist as “stories drawn from memories and musings” of her formative years. These works are autobiographical meditations on family histories, racial identities and careful lessons for living. The series serves as both a precursor of and a catalyst for feldman-kiss’ quest to understand the experiences of others.

The video triptych after Africa \ “So long, Farewell” (sunset) / a yard of ashes (continuous cross) / “Oh! How I hate to get up in the morning!” (sunrise) (2012) bridges the personal and political divide by exploiting the artist’s personal narrative to comment on contemporary geopolitics. This cinematic installation stems from the artist’s observations of the warring Sudans when she was in the region under the auspices of the Canadian Forces and United Nations in 2012. It connects feldman-kiss’s own bloodlines, rooted on one side in colonial Jamaica’s Transatlantic slave trade, and flight from Nazi rule on the other, with the present state of violent global order.

between here and there (2015) presents a human osteological specimen— destined for the Western medical market—within an immersive cacophony of streaming war reports and death toll statistics. This multi-sensory installation evokes the colonial history in which the international bone trade is steeped. It questions our own complicity, offering a pointed critique of a globalized society where the powerless are discarded pawns amid international commercial interests, social upheaval, militarization and ensuing political gamesmanship.

As Tiffany Jenkins explains, for Foucault, “the body [is] the ultimate site of political and ideological control, surveillance and regulation.”* The works in witness pose the body as an offering to bridge the chasm between us and them


Catherine Sinclair, Senior Curator

nichola feldman-kiss and the Ottawa Art Gallery acknowledge the Canada Council for the Arts, the Ontario Arts Council, the Toronto Arts Council, the City of Ottawa, Gregory Somers, Glen Bloom and Deborah Duffy for generous contributions to the creation of the works in the exhibition.

*Tiffany Jenkins, Contesting Human Remains in Museum Collections: The Crisis of Cultural Authority (London: Routledge, 2011) p. 117.


ACTIVITIES INSPIRED BY witness

Meet The Artist 
Friday, October 2, 2015 at 5:30 pm 

Panel Discussion: Posthuman 
Friday, October 2, 2015 at 6:30 pm 
Club SAW 67 Nicholas St. 

No Reading After The Internet 
Friday, October 23, 2015 at 7:00 pm 

In Conversation 
Thursday, November 26, 2015, 6:30 pm 

Curator Tour 
Thursday, January 21, 2016, 5:30 pm