236 Pender St East,
07 Mar–06 Jul 2024
07 March, 2024
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Cedric and Nathan Bomford
07 September–13 October 2007
Curated by: Michèle Faguet (Guest Curator), Jonathan Middleton (Director Curator)
Cedric and Nathan Bomford, For Fools and Traitors – Nothing, exhibition at Or Gallery, 2007.
For Fools and Traitors – Nothing
Artists’ talk: Friday September 7. 2pm
In 1927 self-styled prophet and notorious cult leader Brother XII founded the Aquarian Foundation, a theosophical society based in Cedar by the Sea just south of Nanaimo (Vancouver Island). He charged the society with preparing a ‘place of refuge’ where the chosen few would ride out the apocalypse and prepare the way for a new age of mankind. He quickly gathered a group of followers, convincing many of them to hand over their savings to the colony. However, the utopian dreams of the settlement began to dissipate as Brother XII took sole command of the colony from its board of directors, and started acting more and more erratically. Shortly after, the society dissolved amidst allegations by settlers of black magic, violence, cruelty and slave-like conditions. Threatened by multiple lawsuits brought against him by one of the members of the community as well as the government, Brother XII and his mistress fled the country, destroying the colony’s buildings and taking the entire fortune he had amassed from his followers. The last trace of Brother XII was a scrap of paper, left in a hidden cellar, on which he’d written the words: “for fools and traitors-nothing!”
Some 80s years later Cedric and Nathan Bomford have revisited this history by building a series of wooden structures inside the gallery that very loosely reference the original compound. Their interest in this specific history is based on a familial connection: their great, great uncle Bruce McKelvie was a writer and journalist who recorded this history and even directly intervened in the court case, helping to determine its outcome. The narrative is fragmented and spread out across McKelvie’s published account, a few black and white photographs of Brother XII and his followers as well as some of the buildings, and stories that have casually come up in conversation over the years within the Bomford household.
Both artists are more typically associated with the medium of photography. Cedric’s recent photographic and video work, produced while living between Berlin and Malmö over the last two years, examines historically charged architectural subjects in documentary style images that—set alongside a group of staged self-portraits—betray more about the artifice of their construction than the actual subjects depicted. Similarly, Nathan’s previous work consists of photographs of empty theatrical scenes devoid of specific narratives. The mediation of the lens as it represents architecture and urban space and those structures of power to which they bear testimony, has been substituted by the more explicitly gestural mediation involved in physically building an architectural construction from scratch while preserving a photographic sensibility.
The brothers say that this new collaborative project represents a logical progression of their previous bodies of work and shared interests. And in fact, its collaborative nature has extended to their entire family as a massive amount of construction materials were gathered together from relatives’ yards on Vancouver and Bowen Islands and brought over by ferry in a series of trajectories probably similar to those undertaken by Brother XII and his followers. The irony is that all of this is set against the backdrop of a tragically failed utopian experiment based on ‘altruistic aspirations and doctrines of brotherly love.’