Chantal Gibson is a Vancouver-based artist and educator whose work plunges into the fraught territory of school texts and history books with a sewing needle and re-works historical Canadian texts with black thread in order to revise our ideas of history, nationhood, and how we read. Through altered book sculptures that ensnare the texts with braids and thread, redacted texts, and reprints of old children’s readers, Gibson’s work asks us to consider the voices, stories, and bodies that have been erased or excluded from historical narratives and proposes material ways in which we can resist those historical erasures.
Knowing what I know about Chantal’s work, reading the above description of her exhibit, How She Read: Confronting the Romance of Empire, only solidified my desire to see it for myself. So you can imagine my excitement when I was invited to join her in Victoria to host and participate in the launch. When I first saw the layout, I was speechless. The contrast of the white walls with the black woven and braided threads spoke to me in terms of how much space each occupied and the significance of that.