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Prairie Invasions: A Lullaby is a solo exhibition of photographs and sculptures culminating from Emily Neufeld’s exploration of abandoned farmhouse dotting the Canadian Prairies. Settler migrant farmers who came in waves during the 1800s built the homes and form part of the complex history of colonization in Canada.
Emily Neufeld’s practice focuses on place, specifically examining human traces within the domestic environment. Growing up on the Canadian prairies, a descendant of Mennonites, her interest lies in the relationships between the environment and the people who inhabit it and the influence each has on the other. Over the last two years Neufeld has visited and photographed a dozen of these empty houses, where the work takes on a performative aspect. Once in the structures, she considers the history of the inhabitants, the building with its contents, and performs interventions — creating sculptures from the various materials found within the homes and yards. These are photographed and left with the house when she leaves, to follow the same fate as the house. Neufeld likens the interventions to ‘funerary rites’, a final acknowledgement of the synthesis between people and the place they occupied.
Emily Neufeld was born in Alberta, on Treaty 6 and 7 lands, and now lives and works on the unceded territory of the Squamish, Tsleil-Waututh and Musqueam in North Vancouver. Her practice investigates place, and how humans change and are changed by the surrounding environment, and the layers of memory and psychic history that accumulate in a material world. In addition to collaborative projects with other artists, recent solo exhibitions include Before Demolition (2017: Burrard Arts Foundation), and Picture Window (2016: Vancouver Heritage Foundation), a large-scale billboard on the CBC Wall in downtown Vancouver. Neufeld has created and participates in community sharing gardens, and sees land as fundamental to her research process. She received her BFA from Emily Carr University of Art and Design in 2013.
Above: Emily Neufeld, "Nokomis ", 2020, panorama detail, photograph, wood, lights, 1.3 m by 1.3 m by 2.0 m. Courtesy of the Artist.