About the Project
I’m Thinking of Ending Things is a two-channel video installation project that seeks to commemorate and memorialize the city of Oshawa’s 150-year history of manufacturing through documenting personal sites of emotional resonance. Though the manufacturing sector has been essential to the city, industrial decline and economic turmoil have meant that job loss has been an ongoing collective experience endured by many Oshawans in recent years. As the city continues to emphasize the tremendous growth in the technology, health care and education sectors, little consideration has been given to the emotional and psychological costs paid by those who are losing their employment in this transformation. As this relationship with the manufacturing and auto industries continues to shift and change, the installation seeks to acknowledge and encourage reflection on the personal experiences of grief and loss that are present in Oshawa’s history and landscapes.
The content of the installation will be generated by submissions from the public, and I am inviting all Oshawans to participate.
In 2017, The Robert McLaughlin Gallery will be marking its 50th anniversary, and as part of those celebrations, the RMG has invited five artists from outside of Oshawa to produce work for an exhibition, thus offering new ways of seeing this dynamic, post-industrial city as it experiences the complex aesthetic, social, cultural and political changes now underway in the city and region.
As one of the invited artists, while researching Oshawa in the summer of 2016, I couldn’t help but be compelled by the city’s long-time relationship with General Motors, and all of the emotions that were being expressed when it looked like that relationship might be coming to an end. Just like when someone else is ending any relationship that we might have, I found myself thinking about the sadness and distress that were most likely being experienced all over the city. Because I am interested in the connections between emotions and place (what’s called emotional geography), I decided that my project would explore the personal feelings of Oshawans affected by job loss, both in the past and the present.
Informed by my background in psychology and social work, my artwork tends to focus on the personal and political possibilities afforded by sharing experiences of negative emotions such as disappointment, loneliness and grief. As such, in learning about Oshawa, I found myself thinking about the emotional impact of GM’s business decisions on Oshawa when so many people were possibly struggling with the same difficult emotions, all at the same time.
Since my mother’s death in 2011, I have been exploring grief and loss more thoroughly in my work, as I have found that even though we all go through it, talking about these feelings makes most people uncomfortable, and so we often keep them hidden. Even though Oshawa’s relationship with the manufacturing sector has been positive in so many ways and it has been instrumental to supporting families and developing the city, over the past few decades, plant closings and other changes have meant that many jobs have been lost, undoubtedly producing grief, anger and frustration in many of the people affected.
Whenever job loss is discussed, the emphasis is almost always placed on the economic impact for a community, and with this project, my aim instead is to tell the story of the emotional impact for Oshawans at a personal, familial and community level.