Laura Magnusson: I was Wearing Golden Clamshell Earrings

University of Waterloo Art Gallery
January 12-March 4, 2023
Opening Reception: Thursday January 12, 5-8 pm

I was Wearing Golden Clamshell Earrings is the impact statement I was not permitted to give before the law. In 2013, I was sexually assaulted. The perpetrator was tried in the Court of Queen’s Bench and was acquitted of all charges. Throughout the legal process—from issuing a police statement, to undergoing a forensic examination, to testifying before the law—I was required to compartmentalize my experiences, my very self, over and over and over to provide particular information on and in particular terms. The pursuit of factual truth actively excluded my felt, embodied knowledge. The crime scene was my very body, yet I was viewed as a witness, one among many, and according to the presiding judge, “not credible.”

Collectively, the works in this exhibition—video, installation, sculpture, drawing, and archival materials—testify to my lived experiences and their felt reverberations over time. A series of drawings produced in court, one for every minute of the perpetrator’s testimony, records my embodied response at a time when I was not permitted to speak. A silent video shot underwater, 70-feet beneath the surface, sees me wander an endless ocean bottom as I bear witness to the complex nature of trauma and the ongoing process of healing. Clam imagery recurs throughout the show—from shells and growth rings to implications of dredges and dissections—forging connections between gender-based and ecological violences as I explore the limits of forensic, evidentiary pursuits of knowledge.

Material language can communicate on multiple registers and in ways that are not possible through spoken and written language alone. Making across artistic media has enabled me to speak from and through my body, reclaiming agency over the representation of my own story, working toward a more integrated, whole account.

The artist acknowledges the support of the Canada Council for the Arts.

Laura Magnusson is a Canadian interdisciplinary artist and filmmaker based in Montreal, Quebec (Tiohtià:ke/). Magnusson’s current research-creation explores and elucidates felt experiences of trauma through installation, sculpture, drawing, performance, and video. She is a trained scuba diver who has filmed underwater in Iceland and Mexico, using the medium water as a site for healing and reconnecting to the body. Magnusson holds an MFA in Interdisciplinary Art from the University of Michigan (2019), and is currently pursuing a PhD in Interdisciplinary Humanities at Concordia University, funded by a Doctoral Scholarship from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.

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Image Credit: Laura Magnusson, Blue, single-channel video, 12 min, 2019. Cinematography by Liquid Motion Film. Image courtesy of the artist. Image Description: A woman wearing a hooded parka with an oxygen tank and breathing apparatus lays partially buried in sand under the water.