Anti-monument

The searing vision of Rebecca Belmore

When you enter the Art Gallery of Ontario’s current exhibition Rebecca Belmore: Facing the Monumental, you’ll become aware of a disturbing background soundtrack to your looking. It’s the voice of the artist, but this is no gentle murmuring. Rather it’s the raw, torn-from-the-gut screaming incantation of  women’s names—Angela, Catherine, Elaine, and 57 others—all of them drawn from the 2010 Vancouver Police task force report into missing and murdered women on Vancouver’s notorious Downtown Eastside.

Moving deeper into the exhibition, you will confront the source of the commotion: Belmore’s 2002 video installation titled The Named and the Unnamed, an artefact of her 2002 street performance Vigil. Displaying the artist’s typical intensity, economy, and urgency, the video shows Belmore scouring the sidewalk of a Vancouver back alley on her hands and knees, a bucket of soapy water at her side...