sum of the parts: what can be named, Deanna Bowen

sum of the parts: what can be named, Deanna Bowen

Join us at Pollyanna 圖書館 Library on Saturday, June 23 for a screening of Deanna Bowen’s sum of the parts: what can be named, followed by a conversation with the artist. This event is organized by 221A Fellow Jenn Jackson, as part of her curatorial project sum of the parts.

Deanna Bowen’s 20 minute colour video work sum of the parts: what can be named (2010), is a recorded oral performance that recounts the journey of the Bowen family from its earliest documented history in Clinton, Jones County, Georgia in 1815, as told by Bowen herself.

As the central figure in a black room Bowen begins her monologue with the First Known generation: her great, great, great, grandparents. She starts,

Details are few, I barely have dates…
I don’t know their names.
I don’t know their parents names.
I don’t know if they had siblings.
I don’t know when they died.

I do know that my great, great, great, grandfather was born somewhere in Africa and my great, great, great, grandmother was born in the state of Georgia.

As she says the words “Africa” and “Georgia” they appear on the screen in white cursive script mirroring her speech. She continues to speak the names of each known generation. Africa and Georgia are the only place names that appear on the screen, family members names appear intermittently as she moves through time. The script is populated in relation to historic markers, such as Eli Whitney’s patent of the cotton gin; the number of slaves and free blacks registered in the United States of America in 1850; the year that British Columbia joined the confederation; when Martin Luther King was shot; Apollo 11 landing on the moon; among others. As the work chronicles the lives of Bowen’s family members by retracing, reclaiming and reactivating a record of their history, it assembles multiple dimensions of the archive, where reading and looking become a political act. In the absence of official record sum of the parts: what can be named resourcefully occupies narrative strategies both within and beyond the archive. Expanding what is historically unique about Bowen’s family history and as an artwork itself coming dangerously close to occupying the status of the document.

Throughout the spring season, 221A hosts sum of the parts, a curatorial research project by Jenn Jackson which brings together a selection of films, performances and installations by artists who activate personal histories which are drawn from familial and public record. Artists, Deanna Bowen, Felix Kalmenson, Divya Mehra, Krista Belle Stewart, and Casey Wei, present compelling excavations of the past, by drawing from familial, historic, and archival sources; visualizing narratives of race and class, and their recognition within official records. Each film and performance provides a framework for a larger narrative of archival complexities—offering a visual key to examine discourses on the commodification and construction of historic record in relation to the business of archival storage, preservation, and dissemination within the public realm. In mining the potential of the private and public archive, these artists interrogate the visual and material nature of historical reference and activate immaterial records. Events and research associated with sum of the parts will be hosted at 221A’s Pollyanna 圖書館 Library (221 Georgia St. E.), among other venues. Further details for this series are listed at

Following the screening of sum of the parts: what can be named, (2010), artist Deanna Bowen will present an artist’s talk. The Capilano Review’s Winter 2018 issue The Work of Words features a conversation between the Artist, Cecily Nicholson, and guest-editors Emmanuelle Andrews and Katrina Sellinger, will be available for purchase at the event.

Project Support

British Columbia Arts CouncilCanada Council for the ArtsCity of VancouverProvince of British Columbia