Rebecca Belmore: Hacer Memoria

Hacer Memoria is an outdoor sculpture that extends along the top of The Polygon Gallery’s east-facing façade. This public artwork consists of nine oversized blue and orange shirts sewn from tarpaulins The long-sleeved shirts, which hang in a row with the backs facing out, are each emblazoned with a single letter. Together the letters spell “hereafter.”

The title of the work is taken from the Pope’s penitential speech in which he recognized the importance of remembering the devastating impacts of the residential school system. Belmore co-opts his phrase “hacer memoria,” or “try to remember,” by highlighting the challenges of not forgetting. In colours that carry significance – blue for the uniforms that students wore and orange to mark the resilience of survivors – the provocative artwork offers an opportunity to acknowledge Indigenous people. Invoking the word “hereafter,” the artist places emphasis on the troubled present and unknown futures.

Hacer Memoria is accompanied by another installation in The Polygon Gallery’s stairwell, Severance. The sculpture, made of plastic mesh tarpaulin, is suggestive of black hair in a reminder of the dark history of Indian Residential Schools, in which the hair of Indigenous children was regularly shorn.

About Rebecca Belmore

A member of Lac Seul First Nation (Anishinaabe), Rebecca Belmore is an internationally recognized multidisciplinary artist. Rooted in the political and social realities of Indigenous communities, Belmore’s works make evocative connections between bodies, land, and language. Recent solo exhibitions include Turbulent Water at Griffith University in Brisbane, Australia (2021), Reservoir at the Audain Art Museum in Whistler (2019), and Facing the Monumental at Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto (2018). She has participated in international group exhibitions, including the Whitney Biennial (2022), Istanbul Biennial (2019), and documenta 14 (2017).

For over 30 years, Belmore’s remarkable performance art has been widely presented. Her sculpture Ayum-ee-aawach Oomama-mowan: Speaking to Their Mother (1991), continues to be performed, most recently in the fall of 2022, she produced a performance at Vicki Myhren Gallery at the University of Denver in response to its history. Earlier this year she took part in aabaakwad – an annual Indigenous-led gathering that examines Indigenous art practices – which was part of the programming for the 59th Venice Biennale in partnership with The Sámi Pavilion.

The Hacer Memoria opening celebration takes place on Saturday, January 14 at 3pm, and will be followed by a conversation between Rebecca Belmore and curator, writer, and researcher Candice Hopkins.

Hacer Memoria is the fifth in a 10-year commissioning program of new public artworks installed at The Polygon Gallery, in collaboration with the Burrard Arts Foundation.

Banner Image: Akeem Nermo.

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In-progress view of Rebecca Belmore’s Hacer Memoria, 2022. Photo by Henri Robideau.
hacer memoria - Rebecca Belmore
In-progress view of Rebecca Belmore’s Hacer Memoria, 2022. Photo by Henri Robideau.
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Installation view of Rebecca Belmore’s Severance, 2022. Photo by Akeem Nermo.
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Detail view of Rebecca Belmore’s Severance, 2022. Photo by Akeem Nermo.