Brian Jungen is well known for his use of Air Jordan sneakers to create masks akin to those by First Nations of the Pacific Northwest Coast. In 2020, Brian produced the first Plague Mask, a series of works that now includes three distinct sculptures that are part of the 2022 Biennial. Produced from dissected and reconfigured Nike Air Jordan sneakers, these sculptures take the form of a mask worn by so-called plague doctors in the seventeenth century. The mask was part of an entire ensemble intended to protect the doctor from miasma, or “bad air,” thought to be the carrier of infectious disease. The beak of the mask was stuffed with sweet-smelling herbs believed to purify the air. Ultimately, the plague doctors’ outfits and methods provided little protection or effective treatment as the bubonic plague swept across Europe from the time of the Black Death in the fourteenth century and for hundreds of years onward.
While Brian has worked with Air Jordans and other iconic everyday consumer products, the sneakers in this work recall Nike’s recent viral ad campaign called “You Can’t Stop Us” that focuses on themes of collectivism, racial justice, and the pandemic. In combining these iconic forms, Brian offers viewers the opportunity to consider two moments of cultural response to pandemics.
Detailed Audio Description of Brian’s work “Plague Mask”:
Brian Jungen (Dane-Zaa, born in 1970, Fort St. John, Canada; lives and works in the North Okanagan, Canada) transforms everyday products into museological objects to address the issues of dispossession and appropriation latent in the aesthetics of contemporary global economic, political and cultural conflict. Brian’s work has been included in exhibitions at the Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto (2019); the Liverpool Biennial (2018); the Museum of Contemporary Native Arts, Santa Fe (2017); the National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa (2017, 2013); the 9th Shanghai Biennale (2012); dOCUMENTA (13) (2012); Tate Modern, London, UK (2006); and the New Museum, New York (2005).
5 Lower Jarvis
Wheelchair Access: The accessible path to the main entrance runs along the east side of the building between Queens Quay & Lakeshore Blvd East.
Washrooms: A single user/all-gender washroom is located on the main level.
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5 Lower Jarvis
Parking: Limited paid parking
TTC: Near 72 Pape bus; 75 Sherbourne bus