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Artist Mike Bourscheid grew up in a “blue-collar family” that he said didn’t have time for museums and art.
As his artistic interest grew, the Luxembourg native searched out art and museums on his own.
Now Bourscheid is an international artist who is thrilled to have his first solo institutional show displayed at the Richmond Art Gallery (RAG) which sits in the well-frequented, transit friendly Richmond Cultural Centre hub that also includes the Richmond Public Library, Richmond Museum, The City of Richmond Archives and the Richmond Art Centre.
“I had to seek art out. It wasn’t easy. Here it is right in front of you. It’s incredible,” said Bourscheid about RAG’s central location by Zoom from Luxembourg recently. “It’s in a community space. It’s pretty cool.”
Bourscheid’s Sunny Side Up and other sorrowful stories along with the video Agnes will be on display Jan. 28 to April 2 at the gallery. Running simultaneously at the gallery is the new Codes of Silence, curated by the RAG’s Zoë Chan.
“I think when it becomes about the art market often it can become something very elite and something that is hard to understand,” said Bourscheid, who splits his time between Luxembourg and Vancouver as his wife, fellow artist Vanessa Brown, is from Vancouver. “I think art is for everybody. That’s the main thing.
“It’s nice that here people can just walk by and walk in.”
Bourscheid’s new show offers up his signature approach of using handmade costumes, props and crafts to look at and challenge deep-rooted cultural values and relationships.
“I usually say I work in different media,” said Bourscheid. “I work in photography, video, performance, sculpture, drawing and that often it starts with a costume and with my own body then it turns, while doing it, into something. The costume or prop itself decides where it is going.”
For the exhibition here, Bourscheid is premiering a new 45-minute, two channel video titled Agnes, which he says is a homage to the hard work of his seamstress single mother. Agnes is her middle name.
“It’s a lot about labour and housework,” said Bourscheid about the 45-minute video accompanied by a recreation of the video’s set complete with the costumes and props from the shoot.
RAG director Shaun Dacey programmed the Bourscheid show and says that for the past few years he has been watching Bourscheid develop, specifically through work with the VAG and Western Front, and was drawn to the “theatricality of his practice.”
“When speaking to Mike I was surprised to find out he had never had a solo exhibition in Vancouver and we wanted to give him the opportunity to play in our space,” said Dacey by email. “With this new project Mike engages familial memory through costume, set-building and video. I am interested in this body of work through his performance of a sort of masculine drag, exaggerating and interrogating this gender performance, as a clown and a cowboy, among other characters.”
The Chan-curated show Codes of Silence features the video artists Haitian/American Shirley Bruno, Aleesa Cohene, a Canadian based in Los Angeles, Caroline Monnet, an Indigenous artist based in Montreal, and American Cauleen Smith.
“I think we are accustomed to the voice being a mode of expression. A way of communicating identity. Who we are. But I also wanted to think of ways of communicating that was not so public-facing but kind of delving inward,” said Chan during a phone call. “For example, in Cauleen Smith’s video we see the artist making bouquets. Paying homage basically to someone who has died. So, there is this really ritualistic moment where they are just silently making flowers and we know that this is an act of mourning, but there are no words spoken.
“So maybe it is also kind of saying too that words are not necessarily enough. And inviting the public to consider and focus in on these quieter moments that are more internal and inner-facing and asking the visitors to really listen.”
Chan, who joined the RAG last spring, added that the video presentations will be complimented by art work from the gallery’s own collection.
Chan, like Bourscheid, appreciates the accessibility of the gallery and the deep community roots that have been nurtured with the help of location.
“We’re not just getting art aficionados coming to the gallery,” said Chan. “People are stopping by out of curiosity. We are very interested first and foremost in engaging our local communities, but we also hope we are presenting exciting programming that will interest a wide range of people … Any kind of engaged citizen.”
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