Brendan Fernandes

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Artist Statement

My unique cultural background as a Kenyan-Indian-Canadian, currently residing in New York insists that I consider the experience of hybridity and the transitional nature of identity. As such, my work explores the thesis that identity is not static, but enacted. Through this work, I am interested in challenging accepted ways of thinking about what it is to have an “authentic” self. I consider myself a multidisciplinary artist who engages in a process-based practice. Beginning with research investigations, this work has manifested into forms including: sculptural installations, neon, film, video, animation, sound, photography, endurance-based performance and dance.

Throughout my work I use “African” objects to question authenticity via comparisons between the artifact and the souvenir. In this work the notion of provenance as a history of ownership is brought into view. Many African artifacts in museum collections do not have known artists attached to them. This lack of provenance raises questions about these objects’ authenticity and their colonial pasts. These African objects share parallel histories with my own identity and the way that I function inside and outside of my place(s) of origin. Our histories are complicated in ways that continue to bring awareness to socio–political concerns about neo-colonialism and contemporary identity.

In recent work, I am returning to my past life as a dancer. As a former dancer who studied ballet and modern dance techniques, and who had to leave the dance world due to injury, I have begun to explore choreography as an experiential phenomenon. I investigate how movement techniques are recalled in the body via muscle memory and explore this phenomenon through cultural dance, ballet, and the languages that prescribe directions for dance movement. Choreography, as I understand it, is a tool for decoding the language of movement. I look at movement through the labouring body and queering as it relates to physicality and the construction of gender roles. In so, I continue to engage with the transitional nature of identity, while now exploring how this is enacted and experienced on the level of embodiment.

In more specific research, I am looking at movement through the labouring body in Classical Ballet. For me stillness in ballet brings up a political question as to how physical movement can become an allegory for social mobility. Being static or in a state of stillness could be seen as the body at rest. It can be interpreted as idle or wasted time. In these works, I suggest that this relates to the Western Capitalist mentality that the body is purposeful only when in a state of productive motion. In dance, the body is considered active only when moving. Performance theorist André Lepecki suggests that the dance stops when the body ceases to be active. Through my research I aim to question and define both “stillness” and “labor” as active spaces of performance. Projects such as the “Working Move”, “Night Shift” and “Still Move” are examples of works that use endurance to explore ideas of labour and stillness.

As well, I am interested in the liminal space between pain and pleasure that a performer navigates while dancing.  For me, this is a curious space where a form of torture is self-imposed onto the body by the dancer. With this interest, I am making comparisons to my earlier work that focused on Post-colonial forms of violence on the body through museological practices. I am also looking at how a dancer will accept and take pain when they succumb to aesthetic desires defined by the hierarchies of dance itself.

My video work “Foe” shows footage of me receiving voice lessons. For this video, I have hired an acting coach to teach me the “accents” of my cultural backgrounds. Throughout the process I am being instructed to speak in ways I am unfamiliar with and the aftereffect is pain. In “Standing Leg” I am using a foot binding device used by ballet dancers to form the arch to create a desirable foot shape for Ballet. In this performance I work to stand up but can not with the device inhibiting my ability to move. In both these works ideas of pain and pleasure are explored.

In a most recent investigation, I am combining the post-colonial voice in my earlier work with the power dynamics I am exploring in Ballet. The result is a project in which I am exploring the loss of performative gestures that African masks once embodied. French colonization removed many masks and objects from their indigenous contexts in West Africa and reframed them through an European museological lens. In museum collections, the body of the African masquerader is removed and objects rest motionless: removed from the cultural traditions that they once enacted. Through this project I research this loss, in efforts to reunite the body and the masks. I juxtapose gestures from 17th Century French Ballet with the behavioural rules choreographed by museum institutions on patrons, disrupting the audience’s tacit understanding of the gallery space. Through this work I am bringing into view and challenging the museological construction of “Africa” and “Africaness” as a primitive and exotified other.

The work “In Touch” is a site-specific dance where a performer maneuvers and interacts with the African art collection at the Seattle Art Museum. In this work I have choreographed a performance that recalls the gestures of the masquerade, while incorporating the formality, etiquette and technique of ballet. A subsequent work, “As One” uses Classically trained ballet dancers in a stage set with plinths to honour African objects through a bowing dance, reminiscent of the origins of Ballet as a bowing ritual.

I have highlighted these examples from the attached dossier, which supports this proposal and serves to illustrate the trajectory of my artistic career and practice. The first part illustrates work that questioned my sense of self through my Indian ancestry, Kenyan birth, migration and upbringing in Canada and now the USA. In these works issues with language, notions of hegemony and provenance/ownership of African objects are central. The second part shares works that have begun my investigation in the languages of dance, movement, endurance, the labouring body and ballet.  The last part serves to show a melding of these ideas, where I am looking at the colonial experience of West African masks and masquerades, and contrasting these with the movement of French court Ballet. These bodies of work collectively question notions of identity, selfhood and the dynamics of power.

These projects demonstrate my ability to work in a range of spatial contexts, innovate with new materials and processes, while achieving a high degree of clarity within the synthesis of complex ideas. I am at a key moment in my career where the support from the Rema Hort Mann Foundation would give me the ability to incorporate and experiment with the language and history of dance in conjunction with my visual art practice and its focus on post-colonial identity. My work for the most part is non-object based and in my artist trajectory I still struggle to find ways to financially support my practice. I am a dedicated artist who is still emerging and challenging my conceptual ideas and taking risks to make work that asks questions, while also engaging new and diverse audiences. Through this process of hard work and support I will have the opportunity to make a shift in my career path and move on to the next level of success.



2006 – 2007 Whitney Museum of American Art, Independent Study Program, New York, NY
2003 – 2005: The University of Western Ontario, Masters of Fine Arts in Visual Arts, London, ON
1998 – 2002: York University, Honours Bachelor of Fine Arts in Visual Arts, Toronto, ON

2015 In Position, Varley Art Gallery, Markham, ON
2015 Still Move, Southern Alberta Art Gallery, Lethbridge, AB
2015 The Footmade, KW|AG, Kitchner, ON
2014 They, Rodman Hall Art Centre, Brock University, St. Catharines, ON
2014 The Inverted Pyramid, Abrons Art Center, NY, NY
2013 Night Shift, Nuit Blanche, Toronto, ON
2012 The Devil’s Noise, Gallery Seven Art Limited, Delhi, India
2011 Encomium, Diaz Contemporary, Toronto, ON
2011 Disscontinent, Surrey Art Gallery, Surrey, BC
2011 Speaking Tongues, Neutral Ground, Regina, SK
2011 Buli, The Print Studio, Hamilton, ON
2011 On Becoming, Art Gallery of Southwestern Manitoba, Brandon, MB
2011 Dada Africa, Station Gallery, Whitby, ON
2010 From Hiz Hands, Art in General, NY, NY
2010 Until We Fearless, Art Gallery of Hamilton, Hamilton, ON
2010 Haraka Haraka, MAI (Montreal Arts Interculturels), QC
2009 Relay League, Art Gallery of York University, Toronto, ON
2009 Mutual Surrender, Truck Gallery, Calgary, AB
2008 Future (… – – – …) Perfect, Nuit Blanche, Toronto, ON
2008 New Work, Momenta Arts, Brooklyn, NY
2008 For My Culture, Alternator Gallery for Contemporary Art, Kelowna, BC
2007 Matter of Fact, Robert Langen Art Gallery, Waterloo ON
2007 Project Row House, Houston TX
2007 Decoy, Artspace, Peterborough ON
2007 Wish You Were Here, Eyelevel Gallery, Halifax NS
2006 Handle With Care, Centre Des Arts Actuels Skol, Montreal QC
2005 Poser, Forest City Gallery – Window Space, London ON
2005 Unsettle, Eldon House, Museum London, London ON

2015 Exercices de Lecture / Reading Exercises, Leonard & Bina Ellen Art Gallery, Montreal, QB
2015 Between Body and History, 8th Floor Gallery, Rubin Foundation, NY, NY
2015 Pop Up Shop, Centre 3 (Barton Street), Hamilton, ON
2015 Disguise, Seattle Art Museum, Seattle, WA
Traveled to: Brooklyn Museum, BK; and Fowler Museum of Cultural History, LA
2015 Looking Back at You: Masks by Artists , Confederation Centre Art Gallery, Charlottetown, PE
2015 You Speak / I Dance, Doris McCarthy Gallery, University of Toronto, Toronto, ON
2015 No Such Place: Contemporary African Artists in America, Nahem Gallery , NY
2015 40 Years/40 Artists University Museum of Contemporary Art, Amherst, MA
2015 Biding Time, Art Gallery of York University, Toronto, ON
2015 TEMPERAMENTAL, Doris McCarthy Gallery, University of Toronto, Toronto, ON
2015 Performing Blackness, The Allegheny College Art Galleries, Meadville, PA
2014 In Other Words (collaboration with Nanna Debois Buhl), MacLaren Art Centre, Barrie, ON
2014 Speculations. Risquer l’interprétation, Galerie Leonard & Bina Ellen, Montreal, QC
2014 Crossing Brooklyn, Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn, NY
2014 Nocturne, Halifax, NS
2014 What is this Heart, Berliner Festspiele, Berlin
2014 Restless Precinct, The Guild in Scarborough, ON
2014 Art for a Century: 100 for the 100th, Art Gallery of Hamilton, Hamilton, ON
2014 Stage It! (Part 3) – SCRIPTED, Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam
2014 HARD TIMES: Selected Works by Three Years of FIAR, Leslie Lohman Museum, NY
2014 Still Acts, La MaMa Galleria, NY
2014 In Practice: Chance Motives, Sculpture Center, Long Island City. NY
2013 Queer Objectivity!, The Stamp Gallery, The University of Maryland, College Park, MD
2013 Pack Move, Hamilton Artists’ Inc, Hamilton, ON
2013 Du Bois in Our Time, University Museum of Contemporary Art, Amherst, MA
2013 R + G + B ≠ W”, Blackwood Gallery, University of Toronto, Mississauga, ON
2013 Ghar Ghar Ki Baat / Tales from Two Homes, Margaret Lawrence Gallery: The University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Australia
2013 Land marks, Thames Art Gallery, Chatham, ON, Traveled to: Art Gallery of Windsor, 2014, Art Gallery of Peterborough, 2015
2013 Stock Pile, Luminato Festival, Toronto, ON
2013 We Are What We Hide, ICA Maine College of Art, Portland, MA
2013 Road Sins, Centre 3, Hamilton, ON
2013 Empire, FiveMyles, Brooklyn, NY
2013 The Artist Poster Show, Burnaby Art Gallery, Burnaby, BC
2012, Builders, National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, ON
2012 Oh Canada, MASS MoCA, North Adams, MA, Traveled to: Confederation Centre Art Gallery, 2012, Esker Foundation, 2015
2012 (Da Bao)(Takeout), Varley Art Gallery, Markham, ON, Traveled to: Art Gallery of Mississauga, 2012, Plug In Institute of Contemporary Art, 2013, Surrey Art Gallery, 2014
2011 DisFluency, Aronson Galleries, Parsons The New School for Design, NY, NY
2011 Brendan Fernandes: New Video Works, Art Gallery of Hamilton, Hamilton, ON
2011 No Sense of Place, Bergen Kunsthall, Bergen, Norway
2011 Never Odd or Even, Grimmuseum, Berlin, Germany
2011 Telefone Sem Fio: The Word-Things of Augusto de Campos Revisited, The Elizabeth Foundation for the Arts, NY, NY
2011 Barroco Nova, Macintosh Gallery, London, ON
2011 Location/Dislocation, Justina M. Barnicke Gallery, Toronto, ON
2011 The Global Contemporary: Art Worlds After 1989, ZKM Museum of Contemporary Art, Karlsruhe, DE
2011 Sense and Sensibility, Salzburger Kunstverein, Salzburger, Austria
2011 Buli, Harvest Work / Govenor’s Island, New York, NY
2011 Every Line / Every Other Line, Platform: Centre for Photographic and Digital Arts, Winnipeg, MB
2011 Are you a Hybrid?, Museum of Art and Design, NY, NY
2011 In Other Words ( collaboration with Nanna Debois Buhl), Karen Blixen Museum, Copenhagen, Denmark
2011 Where Do We Migrate To? , Center for Art, Design and Visual Culture, Baltimore, MD
2011 NY / Prague 6, The Czech Center New York, NY
2011 Serious Play, Space Studio, London, UK
2011 Towards Middle Ground at Stiftelsen 3,14, Bergen, Norway
2010 Sobey Art Award, Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal, Montreal, QC
2010 NY / Prague 6, Futura Gallery, Prague, Czech Republic
2010 The Traveling Show, Botkyrka Konsthall, Stockholm, Sweden
2010 Wordless, The Elizabeth Foundation, NY, NY
2010 Field Work, Access Gallery, Vancouver, BC
2010 Manif D’Art, The Quebec City Biennial, Quebec City, QC
2010 Harlem Postcards, The Studio Museum in Harlem, Harlem, NY
2010 The Arbitrariness of Signs, Momenta Arts, Brooklyn, NY
2010 Bunny Redux: Contemporary Artists Rethink the Iconic Playboy Bunny, The Andy Warhol Museum Pittsburg, PA
2010 Alternorthern, The Lab, San Francisco, CA
2010 Accented, BRIC Rotunda Gallery, Brooklyn, NY
2009 Invisible Homes, SOMArts Center, San Francisco, CA
2009 Mobile Archive, Art in General, NY, NY
2009 DIASPORArt, Ambassadors Room, Rideau Hall, Ottawa, ON
2009 Air Conditioned Jungle, Diaz Contemporary, Toronto, ON
2009 Everywhere, Nowhere, Somewhere, Power House, Memphis, TN
2009 One Size Fits All, On Stellar Rays, New York, NY
2009 Fallow, Flux Factory – Anonymous Gallery, NY, NY
2009 Emerge 10, Aljira Center for Contemporary Art, Newark, NJ
2009 Living and Dreaming, AIM Program, Bronx Museum, Bronx, NY
2009 South-South: Interruptions and Encounters, Justina M. Barnicke Gallery, Toronto, ON
2009 Shifting Shapes—Unstable Signs, Yale Art Gallery, New Haven, CT
2009 Longitude/Latitude, Rush Arts Gallery & Resource Center, New York, NY
2008 The Third Guangzhou Triennial, Guangdong Museum of Art, Guangzhou, China
2008 The Gatekeeper, Horland Art Centre, Bergen, Norway / Momenta Arts, Brooklyn, NY
2008 Red Badge of Courage Revisited, Newark Art Council, Newark, NJ
2008 Near Sighted, Far Out, Harvestworks Digital Media Arts Center, New York, NY
2008 Toronto International Art Fair, Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art, Toronto, ON
2008 Dyed roots: the new emergence of culture, Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art, Toronto, ON
2008 LOLA Festival, London, ON
2007 Big Stories, Little India, Harbourfront Centre, Toronto, ON
2007 On Migration, ASpace Gallery, Toronto, ON
2007 Beyond/In Western New York Biennial, Albright Knox and the U of B Anderson Art Galleries Buffalo NY
2007 Big Stories, Little India (Gerrard Street East project), SAVAC and [murmur], Toronto ON
2007 Whitney I.S.P. Group Show, Artists Space, NY
2007 Foire comme si tout allait bien!, Centre Des Arts Actuels Skol, Montreal QC
2007 Unpaked and Reheated, Artspace, Victoria, BC
2006 The Life and Death of I.D, McMaster Museum of Art, Hamilton ON
2006 Big, Durham Art Gallery, Durham, ON

2015 Sobey Art Award, Longlist
2013 Sobey Art Award, Longlist
2010 Sobey Art Award, Ontario Finalist
2007 Artist of the Year, South Asian Visual Arts Collective, Toronto ON

2016 Dance Studies and Alice Kaplan Institute for the Humanities, Northwestern University, Evanston, IL
2015 The Allegheny College Art Galleries, Meadville, PA
2014 Critical Practices Inc., New York, NY
2014 Lower Manhattan Cultural Council Process Space Residency, New York, NY
2014 Robert Rauschenberg Foundation Residency, Captiva, FL
2014 Field House Residency, Contemporary Art Gallery, Vancouver, BC
2013 Blackwood Gallery, University of Toronto, Mississauga, ON
2013 Margaret Lawrence Gallery: The University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Australia
2012 Western Front Society, Vancouver, BC
2012 Centre3 for Print and Media Arts, Hamilton, ON
2012 Fire Island Artist Residency, Cherry Grove, NY
2011 ZKM | Center for Art and Media, Karlsruhe, Germany
2010 NY / Prague Six, Chateau Třebešice, Čáslav, Czech Republic
2010 Art Gallery of Hamilton, Hamilton, ON
2010 DIVA Artist Residency, Copenhagen, Denmark
2009 Gyeonggi Creation Center, Gyeonggi Museum of Modern Art, Korea
2009 New Work Residency, Harvestworks, New York, NY
2009 AIM, Bronx Museum, Bronx, NY
2008 Lower Manhattan Cultural Council Swing Space Residency, New York, NY
2008 Emerge 10, Aljira: A Center for Contemporary Art, Newark, NJ
2007 Lower Manhattan Cultural Council Work Space Residency, New York, NY
2006 Caribbean Contemporary Arts, Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago

2015 McClusky Pamela, Disguise: Masks and Global African Art, Seattle Art Museum and Yale press
2015 “Brendan Fernandes”, Art Metropole Blog
2015 Frank, Priscilla. “Global African Artists Explore The Meaning of Disguise In The 21st Century”. The Huffington Post. June 24, 2015.
2015 Mahon, Patrick, “Brendan Fernandes Balances Politics and Optimism”, Canadian Art Magazine
2015 Hanna, Maeve, “Three: Brendan Fernandes’ They at Rodman Hall Art Centre”, Esse Magazine
2014 Wilcox, Jessica and Wendy Wogel. BOMB Artist in Conversation: Brendan Fernandes. BOMB MAGAZINE
2013 Portis, Ben, “New Day Rising: Brendan Fernandes Returns to Dance”, Dance Current, Fall 2013. Pgs. 20 – 24
2013 Bourland, W. Ian, “Breaking the Codex”, NKA Journal of Contemporary African Art, # 31, Fall 2012. Pgs. 22 – 35
2012 Belting, Hans, Andrea Buddensieg and Peter Weibel, The Global Contemporary and the Rise of New Art Worlds, MIT
2012 Markonish, Denise. “Oh Canada” (Catalogue) MASS MoCA, North Adams, MA
2012 “Builders” (Catalogue) National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, ON
2011 Parmer, Amanda. “In Your Words; Review” Art in America. November 2011. Pg. 41
2011 Howe, David, Everitt. Elocution Lessons: Q+A With Brendan Fernandes. Art in America Online
2011 Bourland, Ian. Critic’s Pick: Found in Translation.
2011 Syperek, Pandora. “The Nature of Culture”. Canadian Art Magazine. Spring 2011. Pg. 66 – 69
2011 Yusuf, Farah. “Brendan Fernandes: until we fearless”. C International Magazine. Spring 2011. Pg 41 – 42
2010 “until we fearless” (Catalogue) Art Gallery of Hamilton, Hamilton, ON, Essays written by Melissa Bennett, and Eric C. Shiner
2010 Whyte, Murray. “Art World Likes Where he’s Coming From”. The Toronto Star. July 31st. E1 – E9
2010 Sandals, Leah. “Behind the Mask”. The National Post. July 6th. Pg. AL8
2010 Kennedy, Jen. Undoing Identities: Brendan Fernandes’ Haraka Haraka. Fuse Magazine. Vol. 33. No. 03. Pg. 38 -40
2010 Snukal, Alex. “Brendan Fernandes”. Bad Day. Issue 7. Pg. 58 – 65
2009 Giovannotti, Micaela. AIM 29 Catalogue, Bronx Museum
2009 Johnson, Ken. “Young Artists Arrive, Either Rough or Ready”. New York Times. July 8, 2009
2009 South- South Encounters, Justina M. Barnicke Gallery, Toronto, ON: 09.
2009 Cotter, Holland. “Why University Museums Matter”. New York Times. February 20th.
2009 Landry, Mike. “Mutual Surrender”
2008 Gerrity, Jeanne. “Brenendan Fernandes, Momenta Art Brooklyn, NY” Art Papers: Nov / Dec 2008, 32-06. Pg 58-59.
2008 Priegert, Portia. “For My Culture”. Border Crossings, Summer 2008, Vol. 27 Number 2, Issue 106. Pg 100 – 102
2007 Beyond / In Western New York Catalogue
2006 Frater, Sally. “The Life and Death of I.D.” McMaster Museum of Art, Hamilton ON.