Deanna Bowen

God of Gods: A Canadian Play

Adam Lauder
Art Museum at the University of Toronto, Toronto, September 4 — November 30, 2019
Art Museum at the University of Toronto, Toronto, September 4 — November 30, 2019
University of Toronto Archives, Hart House Theatre Fonds
God of Gods, production still, Hart House Theatre, Toronto, 1922.
Photo : University of Toronto Archives
Deanna Bowen’s God of Gods leads viewers on a daring path of research-creation that excavates Canada’s fraught histories of nation-building, race, and representation. We begin with Bowen’s chance discovery of artist and former University of Toronto faculty member Barker Fairley’s signature on a 1911 petition protesting the arrival of Afro-Creek migrants in Edmonton fleeing persecution in Oklahoma (an exodus that intersects with Bowen’s own family history). An influential early champion of the Group of Seven whose canvases still decorate the University of Toronto’s storied halls, Fairley’s troubled legacy leads Bowen down an archival rabbit hole tunnelling through the stratified histories of U of T’s Hart House, which is currently marking its centenary year.

Bowen’s project is a bold commission by curator Barbara Fischer, whose approach to centennial projects associated with the building that houses one half of the Art Museum for which she serves as Executive Director has been provocatively counter-monumental. In a moment characterized by resurgent nationalisms, it is reassuring that the University of Toronto has chosen enlightened self-scrutiny over naïve celebration to memorialize this loaded anniversary.

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