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AKA/PAVED Billboard Project
July to August 2021

When an image is fixed by the shutter of a camera it becomes multiple, diffusible, and somewhat immaterial. It becomes consumable, transferable, and exchangeable. Part of this technology of consumption is a colonial attitude that sees things and people in terms of commodity and another part is a tendency towards isolation. The seamless backdrop is a technology of product photography that isolates the subject of a photograph floating in a non-place—divorced from the land on which it was made, its constituent parts, and the bodies that produced it. 

Long before the advent of modern product photography, during the height of the Dutch Golden Age (a pivotal moment in the rise of global capitalism), the still life genre boomed and a new merchant class began to collect images of trade goods that were themselves highly valued commodities. Many critics have written about still life images as records of existential drama and human mortality but they are also records of movement. In many images from the 1600s squash from Turtle Island, pomegranates from Iran, and porcelain from China are brought together and represent the results of imperial expansions, trade, colonization, and subjugation, enslavement, and genocide. 

These images are made to reflect on the centuries of movement which collide daily on tables and in cupboards; that sit unnoticed or actively ignored. They think about the compression of geography and the transformation of the material world into an infinity of products under the settler gaze. “A Floating Ruin” is an ongoing series of images that engages the history of still life painting and high-gloss advertising that is never quite capable of shedding a legacy of vast destruction. 

This billboard project is accompanied by a series of postcards and texts which address the dense histories drawn from each image.

Nic Wilson (he/they) is an artist and writer who was born in the Wolastoqiyik territory now known as Fredericton, NB in 1988. He graduated with a BFA from Mount Allison University, Mi’kmaq territory, in 2012, and an MFA from the University of Regina, Treaty Four Territory, in 2019 where he was a SSHRC graduate fellow. In 2021, they were one of the long-listed nominees from the Prairies and the North for the Sobey Art Award. Their work often engages time, queer lineage, and the distance between art practice and literature. Their writing has appeared in publications such as BlackFlash Magazine, Headlights Anthology, and PUBLIC. He is also the founder and editor of the new publication project Gravitron, a very small press focusing on writing that happens around, about, instead of, or as visual art.