Baco Ohama


MFA in Studio Arts, Concordia University
BFA in Art, University of Calgary

Personal Statement

Over and over again I’ve been led to the water’s edge. To thinking about the relationships between history, language and location. To what lies in the space between what is articulated by tongue and mind and that which is felt in the gut. I have been thinking about how history, even events prior to one’s own birth, has an impact upon our lives and affect who we are. How we live and breathe. Speak or not. Whisper or sing. Self consciously blurt or ceaselessly ramble. How history affects one’s relationship to language. One’s understanding and relationship to others and to oneself … and how all this, affects not only the work one produces but ‘how’ one builds.

Although I grew up on a potato farm in South Eastern Alberta (in Canada), my adult life has been spent back and forth across the country living in Montreal, then Calgary, back to Montreal, and eventually to Vancouver, near where my grandparents lived prior to the Second World War (the fishing village of Steveston, B.C.). This is where Ojiichan (my grandfather) fished and built fishing boats, Obaachan (my grandmother) worked in the cannery and tended her chirashi perennial garden, and where they raised their family before their forced removal from their home and community; before they were sent as laborers to a sugar beet farm near a French speaking town in Manitoba. It was there on the west coast that I really began reconsidering my own relationship to water, having first learned about mizu out there on the prairies. I have been trying to understand this complex space where water meets land meets water meets land meets water … I am interested in spaces between and in discovering what might be experienced and understood in these relational spaces.

If you asked me to describe myself, I might say I’m a visual artist and writer whose practice involves installations, page and bookworks, performance, video and sound pieces, collaborations, and ongoing projects of gathering and dispersal. Or I might respond by saying that I was a taiko drummer when I lived in Montreal; that I used to dream of being a pool shark or a country singer; that I love the color red; that I often feel the significance of the seemingly insignificant; that I am learning to self heal, remembering how to self heal; and that I deeply believe that learning and healing are ongoing, life long processes. I might tell you that I taught at the Emily Carr Institute of Art and Design in Vancouver, at Concordia University in Montreal, and at the University of Calgary in Calgary. Then again, I might respond by simply saying I love the Rockies; that I still feel a close connection to Montreal; that I eventually grew to feel at home in Vancouver; that I currently live in Washington, D.C.; or that I still consider myself a prairie farm kid. Then again, I might tell you about the time when …