Supercrawl celebrates the arrival of a bold new large-scale work of visual art in downtown Hamilton. On Friday, October 23, installation teams mounted Shellie Zhang’s striking work To What Do We Owe This Honour? on the south facade of 118 James Street North.
The artwork is curated by McMaster Museum of Art and sponsored by both the McMaster Museum of Art and the Downtown Hamilton BIA.
Presented by TD Bank Group (TD) as part of the TD Ready Commitment to amplify diverse voices, Supercrawl is Hamilton’s premier multi-arts festival, fusing new and independent music with art installations, fashion, performance, literature, theatre, and artisanal craft. Supercrawl’s diverse multi-disciplinary program of sound, performance, visual and media arts is staged along a pedestrian-only creative corridor in the heart of downtown.
Zhang’s artwork is the sixth long-term installation that the festival has showcased at this site, where it will live as a prominent visual presence over James Street North for an entire year. It succeeds Supercrawl’s 2019 installation, Hiba Abdallah’s text-based work In Retrospect, whose declarative message (EVERYTHING IS MUCH MORE CONNECTED THAN WE THINK) anticipated our current moment, a time when links between global and local concerns are undeniable.
Shellie Zhang’s To What Do We Owe This Honour? enlarges a collection of miniature totemic objects against a backdrop of a sky to create a connection between the intimate setting of one’s home with the shared realm of public space. The project prompts reflection for the objects we surround ourselves with and the monuments we adorn our cities with, questioning, what symbols reflect our current collective values, whose legacies are granted permanence, and which histories are given a pedestal.
Zhang (born 1991 in Beijing, China) is a multidisciplinary artist based in Tkaronto/Toronto, Ontario. By uniting both past and present iconography with the techniques of mass communication, language and sign, Zhang’s work deconstructs notions of tradition, gender, the diaspora, and popular culture while calling attention to these subjects in the context and construction of a multicultural society. She is interested in exploring how integration, diversity and assimilation is implemented and negotiated, how this relates to lived experiences, how culture is learned, relearned and sustained, and how things are remembered and preserved.
Zhang has exhibited at venues including WORKJAM (Beijing, CN), Asian Art Initiative (Philadelphia, PA) and Gallery 44 (Toronto, ON). She is a recipient of grants such as the Toronto Arts Council’s Visual Projects grant, the Ontario Arts Council’s Visual Artists Creation Grant and the Canada Council’s Project Grant to Visual Artists. In 2017, she was Artist-in-Residence at the Art Gallery of Ontario. Her work has been published in Canadian Art, the Toronto Star, Blackflash Magazine, CBC Arts, and C Magazine, and she is a member of EMILIA-AMALIA, a feminist reading and writing group. The artist’s recent and upcoming projects include exhibitions at Artspace (Peterborough, ON), Patel Gallery (Toronto, ON), AKA Artist-Run (Saskatoon, SK) and the Anchorage Museum (Anchorage, AK).
A not-for-profit arts organization situated within the traditional territories of the Erie, Neutral, Huron-Wendat, Mississauga and Haudenosaunee nations, Supercrawl is committed to honouring, showcasing and celebrating all varieties of creative work. Positioning local and emerging artists alongside significant provincial, national and international peers, the festival fosters and promotes arts and culture as well as the myriad benefits they provide.
Since 2010, Supercrawl’s Visual Arts programming has showcased upwards of 100 artists and featured visual art installations in a variety of media. Supercrawl provides opportunities to local, regional and national artists and performers at both early and established stages of their practices. An annual call for submissions is issued to invite proposals from artists working in a variety of media, and art-lovers will also find around two dozen gallery spaces and artists’ studios in and around Supercrawl’s neighbourhood.
Supercrawl was shortlisted for a 2019 Ontario Tourism Award of Excellence for Tourism Event of the Year and 2017 Canadian Tourism Award for Event of the Year. The festival received the 2015 Ontario Tourism Award of Excellence for Tourism Event of the Year, and has been recognized as one of Festival and Events Ontario’s Top 100 Festivals/Events for six consecutive years (2015-2020). Supercrawl is a member organization of the Major International Festivals and Events Network of Ontario, the Canadian Music Live Association, and Festivals and Events Ontario.
In June, Supercrawl festival organizers announced that they would be re-scoping event programming in response to pandemic-related public health considerations. The massive free event, which drew more than 250,000 fans in 2019, has since undertaken a range of special events, including the ticketed Skytop Concert Series staged atop the York Boulevard Parkade in September and announced a free live performance series at Bridgeworks (200 Caroline St. N., Hamilton) that will showcase various artistic disciplines through the end of 2020.