January 14, 2011
In 1983, BC artist and activist Toni Onley threatened to burn his own collection of prints if Canada Revenue Agency didn’t stop treating artists as “manufacturers” with taxable inventory. The government changed its policy as a result. That same year, artist Tom Dean produced a video titled Burning Staircase in which he documented the torching of a massive wooden staircase in Toronto Harbour. Last year, I brought a roll of large-scale drawings camping. One by one, I hung them on a make-shift clothes-line and set each one aflame.
The intersection of artistic production with fire has a long history. For me, mixing the two was a cathartic experience born out of financial realities. Apart from having emotional resonance, this action had an economic impetus. It was the summer of the Great Recession. My studio production had reached a critical mass. My output was at capacity. Nobody was buying. I had no place to store the stuff and I could no longer afford to be sentimental. All that remains is a video document of the burning drawings. If you happen to be in the Windsor area early next month, the video will be included in a group exhibition called Make it Work: Art + Economy showing at the University.