Panya Clark Espinal

The Salvage Paradigm

This curatorial introduction by Janice Gurney appears in the catalogue The Salvage Paradigm, published by YYZ Gallery and Wynick Tuck Gallery.

The artists included in this exhibition work in very different ways from each other, but all make work with references to cultures other than the dominant western culture.

“The salvage paradigm” is an early 20th century anthropological term that describes the belief that it is necessary to preserve so-called “weaker” cultures from destruction by the dominant culture. It was felt that by coming into contact with the modern world, the authenticity of non-western cultures would be corrupted.

This belief has recently been criticized as another form of western ethno-centrism in that it does not recognize the strength of other cultures and their ability to change and grow in response to new situations.

But if the salvage paradigm is totally rejected, there is a risk of denying any responsibility for the destructive impact western culture has on other cultures.

The question addressed to the artists in this exhibition is: how do you see your own work in relationship to the idea of the salvage paradigm?

Janice Gurney