Wendy Coburn (October 5, 1963 – June 15, 2015) was a Toronto-based artist and art educator whose studio practice included photography, sculpture, installation and video. Her multi-disciplinary work engages a range of concerns such as human relations to land and ecologies, power relations and the construction of differences, popular culture, mental health, gender, whiteness, nationhood and the role of images in mediating cultural difference.
Her work has been exhibited and screened in galleries and festivals including Anatomy of a Protest (Justina M. Barnicke Gallery), Photophobia (Art Gallery of Hamilton), the Living Effect (Ottawa Art Gallery), MIX (New York Gay & Lesbian Experimental Film/Video Festival), Transmediale International Media Art Festival (Berlin, Germany), Beaver Tales and Uneasy Pieces (Oakville Galleries), Kassel Documentary Film & Video Festival (Kassel, Germany), and the Dublin Lesbian & Gay Film and Video Festival (Dublin, Ireland).
Coburn received her MFA from Concordia University and AOCA from Ontario College of Art. She worked for 18 years at OCAD University including as Assistant Dean and Associate Dean in the Faculty of Art, and as a faculty member with the Sculpture Installation and the Art & Social Change programs. As the founder of OCAD U’s Art and Social Change minor, Wendy developed the groundbreaking course: “Making Gender: LBGTQ Studio” which seeks to foster a greater awareness and understanding of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer cultures and subcultures.
October 14–November 12, 1994
Curated by Andrea Fatona and Erin O’Brien
In Toronto, some time in 1990, I garbage picked a box containing subpoenas, indictments, testimonies, and evidence from a series of court hearings dated 1920. These official documents were all connected to the case of the alleged rape of an 18 year-old white woman from Duluth, Minnesota and the ensuing riot and brutal lynching of three African-American men at the hands of a white mob. Seventy years after the fact I had become witness to the murderous rallying power of the white mob in the name of protecting white womanhood. The graphic evidence from these trials, that blatant racism and common complicity of white men, women, and children, threw me into the vortex of all I had taken for granted, my whiteness. This was at a time when I was struggling to understand oppressive social constructions of my own identity as a woman and a lesbian. But what privileges and protections had I been afforded, raised in a white middle-class, Protestant family in a colony of Britain and what were the conditions and the costs of those privileges?
This multi-channel video installation is a presentation of my working process towards an interrogation of whiteness and provides a glimpse of some of the unedited source material, issues, and physical elements I am attempting to condense into a single channel video with the same title.
The television reports on the Business Bar raid and the MUC police shooting of Marcellus Francois are from Montreal, 1991-1992. Far from a phenomenon of the past, lynching is practiced today through disciplinary measures for crimes more often imagined than real, or through extreme punishments that far outweigh the reality of the crimes themselves.