Time Traced by the Sugar on My Lips and Salt on My Skin
by Vanessa Godden
12 October 2023 – 13 January 2024
Time Traced by the Sugar on My Lips and Salt on My Skin is a multi-channel video installation that examines the disturbances in racialized temporalities. The work considers how a person’s complexion is often used in North America to delineate cultural origins as a reductive attempt to categorize and understand who they are. It examines the ways in which I, despite understanding these profiles applied to me are racist, get caught in cycles of searching for a singular cultural origin point that does not exist and/or providing proof that I belong. As an extension, the project investigates the ways my multi-ethnic and multi-diasporic body experiences memory through slippages in linear time-scales.
Each screen journeys through the spaces between Trinidad–where my mother is from–and Texas–where I am from. The screens featuring sites in Texas depict my immediate family’s bodies performing absurd rituals in relation to food and drink. Each screen that features sites in Trinidad display b-roll reels from an archive of footage I have been building since 2013. The screens where my parents and I perform lineages of passage–sugary tea overflowing from tea cups, flour and spice staining table cloths, and feeding one another pholourie–reflect the ways diasporic bodies expected to perform their culture in the West are often reduced to tropes and stereotypes in relation to food. Unfortunately, the b-roll footage of my matrilineal homeland is not free of this visual essentializing rhetoric. It attempts to delve into the ways beautiful images of distant lands are not clarifying but used to further other subjects through exotification.
The time-lines of each screen are uncertain. They jump between one another or are occasionally interrupted to speak to the ways these narratives are not fixed. Much like my family’s journeys across oceans of time and space, these videos explore movement between space to confuse the viewers’ understanding of time, space, and narrative.
Vanessa Godden (they, them) is a queer Indo-Caribbean and Euro-Canadian artist, educator, and curator. They are based in Tsí Tkarón:to/Toronto, the traditional territory of the Anishinaabe, including Mississaugas of the Credit, Chippewa, Haudenosaunee, and Wendat peoples. Godden’s transdisciplinary practice explores how personal histories and the body in relation to geographic space can be conveyed through oral and somatic storytelling in art. They draw from their multi-ethnic diasporic experiences to build multi-sensory performances, videos, sound installations, book art pieces, and net-art that unfurl the impacts of trauma on the body, connections to community, and tethers to culture.
Godden is a sessional lecturer at universities across the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area. They are also the cofounder of the curatorial collective Diasporic Futurisms. They hold a PhD from the Victorian College of the Arts (Melbourne, Australia; 2020), an MFA from the Rhode Island School of Design (Providence, USA; 2014), and a BFA from the University of Houston (Houston, USA; 2012). Their work has been exhibited in group and solo exhibitions at organisations such as Articule in Montreal, The Fiona and Sidney Myer Gallery (formerly known as Margaret Lawrence Gallery) in Melbourne, Youkobo Artspace in Tokyo, ClampArt in New York City, and Aurora Picture Show in Houston.