November, November, 2017

For Dorothy Josey 

Digital print on polyester, cotton duck, rope & hardware. 

November, November is a project for my grandmother, Dorothy Josey. The project began as a digital restoration of fabrics she used to make a quilt for me as a child. Over many years, this quilt became a touchstone for my connection to my family, despite and through the process of coming to terms with my sexuality. Sun-damaged and fading, I restored the quilt's fabrics through a combination of digital and analogue techniques, and had the restorations reprinted on marine-grade polyester.

With assistance from the Michele Steven's Sail Loft in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, the restored fabrics were "quilted" into a 3 x 9 meter flag intended to be flown over Dartmouth, Nova Scotia.

The pattern of the flag references the nautical flag "November" a flag used for signalling "No" or "Negative." However the flag's pattern is greatly extended, opening up the possible interpretation as a repeated or an emphatic, "No!"

In this way the making of the flag was an act of love, but its display would be an act of protest.

I wanted the project to reflect the complicated relationship between family and nationalism. I was considering the question, "could a flag ever represent non-violence, or is the form itself inherently colonial?" I developed this work in response.

In the process of creating the work and attempting to have the flag flown in my hometown (Dartmouth, Nova Scotia) new questions came to light. The scale of the flag requires the permission of local government to temporarily replace a Canadian flag in order to be flown. This permission continues to be sought, however, as of yet, has been repeatedly denied. The object seems to put my connection to family and Canadian nationalism at odds. Perhaps it demonstrates a post-colonial problem. One of not being able to celebrate our country and look closely at our own histories at the same time. To do so might mean to have to reconcile between our attachments, and the possibility that these lines may link us directly to colonial violence. The responsibility for which we seem to go to great lengths to uninherit. 

It seems queer to me, that an object which has brought me so much comfort, could so easily be transformed into an object of discomfort for those in power.  

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The research and development of November, November has been generously supported by Nocturne: Art at Night; the Khyber Centre for the Arts; Arts Nova Scotia; and the Michele Steven's Sail Loft.

Images courtesy the Khyber Centre for the Arts. Photographer: Katherine Nakaska. 

Julia McMillian writes generously on November, November in "Tender Resistance..."  in Visual Arts News, Spring 2018.