Vancouver artist Jayce Salloum is one of eight Canadians to win a Governor General’s Award in Visual and Media Arts.
The Kelowna-born and raised child of Lebanese-immigrants has made a career of presenting mulit-media and installation pieces that often give voice to populations in turmoil or conflict. His works have been censored at times, such as when the Museum of Civilization refused to mount his piece Everything and Nothing and Other Works Form the Ongoing Videotape, Untitled, 1999-Ongoing following the 9/11 attacks in the United States. At the behest of then Prime Minister John Chretien, the museum changed its decision.
On the phone from Toronto, Salloum says that for an artist involved in his kind of non-commercial pursuits, the recognition is a great honour.
“The ramifications of it are largely supportive, finding that some of my peers consider my work to be of significant value,” says Salloum. “It’s a great surprise as well, because my work is not in the commercial millieu and meant to be provocative and challenge people’s perceptions.”
He has travelled to such places as Afghanistan, Lebanon, Palestine and even Kamloops to do research. His texts/works have been mounted in the Vancouver Art Gallery and more underground facilities across the world. Salloum says that his frequent moves to different places is all part of a journey of self-discovery begun in his parent’s property.
“I started making art in the back of my parent’s garage when I was about 12 and knew from right then that this was my path,” he says. “My work I do is part-personal journey/part-engagement in the world around me. You need to be on the ground for a time and then to step back to digest and analyze what you’ve been immersed in. So a lot of my work takes years to put together.”
One of the reasons he has come back to Canada is to be close to the network of artist-run studios in the country as well as to be nearer to First Nations whose experiences are an increasing area of focus for his critical eye. He is also busy mentoring budding artists in the Downtown Eastside at the Carnegie Centre.