Sujir began to wonder what a billboard would look like instead, if it would project images from here of stories that are never told publicly and of people who are never seen in the media. She wants to form those images, to build a kind of billboard that would allow those who are invisible to many to be seen by many and more importantly, that would allow those who are invisible to see a reflection of themselves. The illuminated 6' by 8' screens in the video installation, Working Portraits, act as such billboards...
Working Portraits is a composite portrait based on conversations with over forty people who work as caretakers at The University of Calgary... She looks at how identity is often defined externally by employment, race, class, culture, gender and age, but how those cannot be treated as fixed limitations. Homi Bhabha, a cultural critic of current interest to Sujir, wrote: "The stereotype is not a simplification because it is a false representation of a given reality. It is a simplification because it is an arrested, fixated form of representation... "1Homi Bhabha, "The Other Question: Difference, Discrimination and the Discourse of Colonialism," in Literature, Politics and Theory, ed. F. Baker, et al., Methuen, London, 1986, p. 163.
... "It is hard to construct an identity if you are not mirrored in a larger cultural context," Sujir says. Her alternative to other forms of representation is to use the production process itself like a mirror, so that people see themselves reflected in the video and then respond to those reflections. With their choice of images, she builds portraits that are representative of them. Then she serves to make those portraits public.
From an except of Katherine Ylitalo's essay in Screens: Amantea, Aziz, Stone, Sujir at The Nickle Arts Museum (Calgary: University of Calgary, 1992) 28-35.
stories to pass on
working to change
the larger story
the myths the dreams
and now, you and I
are dreaming of cleaning the nightmares,
that collective history which is haunting and hurting and killing
dreaming a new story, a story which puts the world back together again,
a new order perhaps, call it
the shortest night of the year, this summer solstice I want to work on
night cleaning, so that while those others are sleeping, we'll
story, place it in the Canon copier,
duplicate it, and
make it plural — stories — make it include all of us (even if we now wonder, "who are the we?").
So maybe that Canon copier story, like Salman Rushdie's pickled chutney,
their dreams, so that waking, will be different.
And then the waking
dreams will alter slightly, ever so slight, and eventually,
we'll curve it,
put the world back together, i
n the story, at least, and hope the story
seeps. Leaks quietly
into the dreams.
From Leila Sujir, "My Mother's Eggplant Story — Her Summer Nighttime Reassurances, A Tale Which Helps Us Breathe More Easily"
- Homi Bhabha, "The Other Question: Difference, Discrimination and the Discourse of Colonialism," in Literature, Politics and Theory, ed. F. Baker, et al., Methuen, London, 1986, p. 163.