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Vancouver artist Germaine Koh and filmmakers Shannon Walsh and Nettie Wild win GG Awards in Visual and Media Arts

Germaine Koh
A lot of GG media arts award winner Germaine Koh's work exists outside of gallery spaces.

Three B.C. creators who push the boundaries have been honoured with a prestigious distinction. Artist Germaine Koh and filmmakers Shannon Walsh and Nettie Wild are among the eight winners of the Governor General’s Awards in Visual and Media Arts.

Koh’s three nominators were independent curators Sarah Cook and Joni Low, and Laura U. Marks of Simon Fraser University. They noted that her art “demonstrates enduring interest in human systems and interactions”.

“Over the last 30 years, Germaine has changed the terms of Canadian contemporary art, expanding our consciousness of what art can be, and making perceptible the invisible systems that connect us in everyday experience,” the trio declared.

Earlier this year, Low and art historian Jeff O’Brien co-edited an anthology, What Are Our Supports?, which emerged from a 2018 public art project of the same name rooted in a platform created by Koh.

The artist created a telephone-booth-sized installation, which was transformed into a variety of uses in different public spaces. In fact, a great deal of Koh’s work is outside of traditional gallery spaces so that she can focus on behaviours in the world and the systems that underlie them.

She will be the Shadbolt Fellow at Simon Fraser University in the upcoming 2023-24 academic year.

“My work as an artist is about putting ideas out into the world,” Koh says in the video below.

Kyle Armstrong (Dropper Productions) created this video about Germaine Koh.

Filmmakers address critical issues in media

The two other Vancouver winners, Shannon Walsh and Nettie Wild, have each directed feature-length documentaries focusing on central issues of concern.

Walsh has addressed labour rights, grief, and the climate crisis, bringing forth the voices of the marginalized. For instance, her 2021 film, The Gig Is Up, zeroed in on how workers in the platform economy don’t have the same rights as many other workers.

She’s an associate professor in UBC’s department of theatre and film. In addition, Walsh was a Guggenheim Fellow in 2020-2021.

“Her work shows exceptional reach around some of the most urgent and pressing issues of our time, engaging the public in robust debate and bringing together artists, academics, practitioners, activists and community members,” wrote nominator Stephen Heatley, who’s her department head at UBC.

Rami Katz directed this video about Shannon Walsh.

Meanwhile, Nettie Wild is one of Canada’s best-known documentary filmmakers. Among her works are FIX: The Story of an Addicted City, A Place Called Chiapas, KONELĪNE: our land beautiful, and A Rustling of Leaves: Inside the Philippine Revolution.

Nominator Alexandra Phillips, associate professor of culture and community at Emily Carr University of Art + Design, describes Wild as “an icon of media arts for her courage in addressing difficult, intransigent issues in a way that illuminates their complexity”.

Hân Phạm and Dave Rodden-Shortt directed this film about Nettie Wild.

Follow Pancouver editor Charlie Smith on Twitter @charliesmithvcr. Follow Pancouver on Twitter @PancouverMedia.

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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.