Northern Ireland’s Sandra Johnston’s practice is site-reactive, exploring ideas of active intervention in both the history of and the present physicality of a selected environment and the people who habitually use the space. Most of the working process occurs privately, concealed from public awareness, with only the latter stages of an action framed as performance. Improvising with whatever materials and architectural features are immediately available, in this way, Sandra Johnston’s work often retains the fragility of weighing out new thoughts, remaining unapologetically inclusive of all the doubts and disjunction which invade the human capacity to respond honestly to any given moment.
Using the backspace at Toronto Free Gallery, Sandra Johnston will be working in the locality of the gallery for 5 days, sourcing ideas through a number of walking actions and periods of sited stillness. From these observation activities a public performance will be presented in the gallery, a collage of fragments of received behaviour.
Between 2002–2005, Sandra Johnston was awarded an Arts Humanities and Research Council Research Fellowship. During this research the work she was creating were focused around core issues of trauma, in particular the concept of “Trauma of Place” – exploring how artists can make creative interventions within spaces associated in public memory with violent events. This research was instigated initially in response to the post Cease-Fire situation within Northern Ireland, and subsequently evolving outwards into many different international contexts to develop the core concept of investigating relationships between processes of art, and issues of territory, trauma and commemoration. Johnston also produces video/audio installations and durational drawing installations which are made directly onto architectural features. She has produced work at an international level since the early nineties and recently represented Northern Ireland at the Venice Biennale in 2005.
Sandra Johnston’s Ephemeral Monuments
Essay by Emma Doran on Johnston’s 2009 performance at Toronto Free Gallery:
“[Her] performances become like ephemeral monuments; the memory of the performance persists as both a way to recall the trauma and as a new conceptualization of the site, altering the individual and collective memory of it.”