June 22 - August 9 Curated by Jane Walker
In the context of Port Union, a settlement established by the Fishermen’s Protective Union (FPU) in 1916, the narrative of labour has been collectivist and industrial, with a focus on production. With Labour Laws, I wanted to draw attention to the ways we work as individuals on a small scale to build our communities, considering domestic and emotional labour, activism, and our personal relationships to work, adding to the established industrial narrative of Port Union. This exhibition marks the end of over two years of planning, demolition, and renovation of the FPU duplex that is now the home of Union House Arts. The reveal of the space in its newly-polished state is a reminder that our community spaces are never “finished”, but are rather an ongoing effort to hold onto what we value.
Ethan Murphy’s photograph Positive Attitude reflects a moment of noticing community care work, a mural on an old building, a nod to the people in our communities who make extra effort to make our places feel more liveable. Taken on Bell Island, where Murphy’s late father grew up, the photograph sits at a moment between loss and moving forward.
Not unlike Murphy’s photograph, Michelle MacKinnon’s meticulous drawings document and respond to receiving a gesture of care. Knitwear is so often made selflessly as gifts for those we love, friends-of-friends, neighbours, strangers in need. MacKinnon’s drawings pay thanks to each individual stitch.
For generations Newfoundlanders have made do with what we have here. Emily Critch’s handmade papers reflect the way communities make place with what is available. Made with flowers collected in New-Wes-Valley, the paper relates the wild flowers growing through gravel on the side of the road to people in their ability to live and thrive in harsh conditions.
Enter Jiggy Wiggy: a character of The Queer Mummer by Lucas Morneau. The playful mummer dances on a figurative tight-rope between Newfoundland tradition and contemporary drag performance; practices that are in fact more alike than they are different. Morneau’s work draws attention to the ways we work as individuals to articulate our identities to our communities in local codes towards mutual compassion and respect.
A crisp white sink waits to carry the weight of water and work. Upon closer look we can see that the sink is made of paper; unequipped to support the job. High Water by Emily Hayes illustrates the delicate moments in the home, caring for relationships with our family and our physical space, a task that is sometimes bound to fail.
The opening of Union House Arts is a special moment in Port Union — a reminder that collapse can be a catalyst for new opportunity. The works in Labour Laws are images of community care, in their own ways acknowledging work, place, identity, pressure, and love.
JANE WALKER CURATOR
Lucas Morneau, The Queer Mummer: Jiggy Wiggy Performance at the Opening Reception of Labour Laws
With generous funding from the ArtNL Professional Project Grant Program