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Vancouver artist Faune Ybarra creates Iceberg Stranded in My Bed to comfort the diaspora

Faune Ybarra
Artist Faune Ybarra says that at the end of the way, we're all bodies of water. Photo by Olivia Valenza.

Vancouver artist Faune Ybarra sometimes compares temporary residents to dandelions.

In a Zoom call with Pancouver, the Mexican-born photographer, filmmaker, and writer explains that diasporic people, like dandelions, move from one location to another.

“They are the root and they are the seed at the same time, but they never quite stay in the same place,” Ybarra says.

She adds that with her artwork, she tries to bring this feeling of ephemerality to the forefront. It’s on display at Aberdeen Station, where her collection of photographs, Iceberg Stranded in My Bed, will be exhibited until February 29, 2024.

Curated by Maria Filipina Palad of the Richmond Art Gallery, it’s part of the Canada Line Art Program in partnership with the Capture Photography Festival.

Ybarra says that this project emerged during the pandemic when she was unable to visit Newfoundland to videotape images of icebergs. So instead, she projected an image of one of these giant blocks of ice above her bed. Then she covered herself in a sheet and became a second iceberg, finding ways to interact with the water on video.

Ybarra points out that human beings are, in reality, all bodies of water. And when she saw Iceberg Stranded in My Bed exhibited at the Canada Line station, it had a profound impact on her.

”I’ve never cried seeing something that I’ve done before,” Ybarra says. “But  this time—and I don’t know why—on my way back home, I was just crying. It meant so much to me to have a public art piece where people will see it on their way to work—like, on their way somewhere else.”

Iceberg Stranded in My Bed by Faune Ybarra.
Iceberg Stranded in My Bed by Faune Ybarra.

Ybarra loves connecting with transit users

To her, this art helps show that diasporic people are on the move.

“It resonates a lot with what my practice tries to accomplish.”

After videotaping in 2020, she’s since gone back to Newfoundland to perform the piece. She also re-recorded it as video and reshot it as photographs, which are now at Aberdeen Station.

The current work is a departure of sorts.

“All of the things that I’ve done so far in Canada have been within an academic context,” Ybarra states.

That includes performances, exhibitions, and speaking engagements at galleries, artist-run centres, and conferences. She’s highly conscious of the hierarchies that exist within the art world.

Therefore, Ybarra is thrilled to connect her art with people who don’t necessarily have the education, time, patience, or interest in visiting gallery.

Growing up in Oaxaca, she knew from a very young age that she was going to do art. As a high school student, she attended a government-run fine arts academy, CEDART. She and her peers learned dance, theatre, music and musical notation, and visual arts. Ybarra also attended a one-year intensive program in documentary filmmaking.

In fact, Oaxaca is a centre not only for the arts, but also for political demonstrations. It’s near Chiapas, which was at the heart of the Zapatista uprising against the North American Free Trade Agreement in 1994. And for Ybarra, making art in Oaxaca always had a sense of urgency.

For her, art wasn’t about experimenting with pretty colours. Rather, she created art, in part, to bring about changes in society, which continued after she moved to Mexico City.

Faune Ybarra enjoys creating videos of the natural landscape.

Newfoundland landscape inspires archive

Thus, it came as a bit of a culture shock when she arrived in Newfoundland in 2015 to study at Memorial University for her bachelor’s degree in visual arts. There was far less of the revolutionary spirit that imbues artistic practices in Mexico.

In Newfoundland, Ybarra created Archive of Embodied Displacement. She describes it as a work in progress of archival material and time-based media.

Ybarra was particularly taken with interrogating the book Through Newfoundland with the Camera, by Robert Edwards Holloway, which was published in 1905. She says that it comes across as a tourist guide, revealing places to go and people to watch, including Indigenous people.

“They were labelled as ‘Eskimos” at that  time,” Ybarra says.

She is also interested in Holloway’s descriptions attached to the photographs.

“With this sort of language and the way the land is portrayed, you can see who is behind the camera more so than who is in front of the camera,” she says. “For me, that was interesting.”

In 2019, Ybarra moved to Vancouver to attend Simon Fraser University. There, she later graduated with a master’s degree in fine arts in interdisciplinary studies. This program incorporates a wide range of subjects, including music composition, theatre, dance, architecture, design, visual arts, painting, and performance.

Bicecci leaves lasting impression

Meanwhile, one of her great inspirations is Mexico City-based visual artist and author Veronica Gerber Bicecci. Prior to Bicecci’s birth, her parents fled Argentina in 1976. That’s when the ruthless regime in Buenos Aires launched its Dirty War, resulting in the disappearance of 30,000 people in the ensuing years.

According to Ybarra, Bicecci recognizes that her history in Mexico is not necessarily hers to explore, nor is her history in Argentina. Nevertheless, Bicecci connects these histories and interrogates them in her artistic practice.

“She writes about the arts, she writes about performance, but her books are an opportunity to bring together those two elements,” Ybarra says. “And she talks about silence.”

Even though Ybarra has been in Canada for eight years, she still sees herself as a diasporic artist. She describes Metro Vancouver as having a “beautiful ecology…with people coming from everywhere in the world”. And she hopes that her art at Aberdeen Station welcomes people from different walks of life.

“They can see themselves in stories that might portray them directly,” Ybarra says. “At the very least, it will do it to the fact that we are all bodies of water.”

The Capture Photography Festival is presenting Faune Ybarra’s Iceberg Stranded in My Bed at Aberdeen Station until February 29, 2024. This is in partnership with the Richmond Art Gallery, Richmond Public Art and Canada Line Public Art Project – InTransit BC. Follow Pancouver on Twitter @PancouverMedia. To learn more about Faune Ybarra, visit her website.

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Charlie Smith

Charlie Smith

Pancouver editor Charlie Smith has worked as a Vancouver journalist in print, radio, and television for more than three decades.

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We would like to acknowledge that we are gathered on the traditional and unceded territories of the Coast Salish peoples of the xʷməθkwəy̓əm (Musqueam), Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish), and Səl̓ílwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations. With this acknowledgement, we thank the Indigenous peoples who still live on and care for this land.