Water: Untitled - 04 by Wayne Dunkley
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From the series "Water"
Archival pigment print
Signed, titled, dated, and editioned, in pencil, au verso
Edition of 12 + 2 AP
Wayne Dunkley’s practice asks, “is it possible to truly know another?”. Using photography, digital media and community engaged actions, this inquiry provokes alternative conversations on how we relate to place and each other. Rooted in ontology, Dunkley’s practice moves beyond society’s default narratives to create a revolutionized way of being in the world.
For over 20 years Dunkley has used a photographic portrait of himself to subvert society’s default tropes on otherness, blackness and being male. He has used this portrait to disrupt the spaces where these stereotypes are found; online, within social media and on public-facing billboards and hoardings. From his earliest project, the award-winning web artwork "the degradation and removal of the/a black male" to his most recent #whatdoyoufeelwhen, Dunkley’s images are an entry point for viewers to relate their own existential experience of feeling like the other.
#whatdoyoufeelwhen is a nation-wide campaign that saw one thousand 24”x 36” posters of Dunkley’s portrait posted in Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto, and Montreal. Images from this project are then used to subvert, reconfigure and infuse new meaning to digital media spaces. The poster uses Dunkley’s own face that has been altered to resemble pen and ink drawings published in the 17th century Montreal Gazette. Slave owners would buy space and place these drawings in papers in order to hunt for escaped slaves. By recontextualizing the escaped slave poster, Dunkley references the history of slavery in Canada and the United States as well his own contemporary feelings of being studied, dehumanized, and pursued.
Our attention economy does not foster or reward content that allows for reflection. Dunkley’s interventions in this space compel a second look - additional considerations that evoke curiosity and stimulate reflection. His images are a visual representation of our invisible interconnectedness; a deep examination of what is going on below the surface when we encounter the world outside ourselves.
There is a different kind of empathy at work in Dunkley’s practice, one that understands our connection with the earth is as important and elemental as our relationships with each other. Dunkley’s aesthetic and contemporary approach brings new thinking to old problems and emphasizes personal transformation as a strategy to address the pressing issues of our day such as racism, sexism, ageism, and environmental apathy.
As a graduate of Ryerson University and the University of Toronto, Dunkley has worked in both commercial and art photography. He was awarded the Paul D. Fleck award for Innovation in the Arts from the Banff Centre for Arts & Creativity and a commission from the Banff New Media Institute. He has worked as a consultant on interactive storytelling and digital strategy with the National Film Board and served as a panelist and advisor for the Canadian Race Relations Foundation, Royal Ontario Museum and the Dak’Art Biennale of Contemporary African Art. Dunkley’s practice includes photography, digital media & storytelling, cultural mediation, lectures and workshop facilitation. He is also a trained voice actor. Wayne has lived and worked in Montreal, Edmonton and San Francisco, and currently resides in Toronto.
Wayne Dunkley: Hashtags, Prejudice & Reclaiming Space, ByBlacks.com