Tara Bursey: Cuts and Lock Ups

Installation view, Cuts and Lock Ups at Centre[3], February 2024. Photo courtesy of the artist.

Cuts and Lock Ups
Tara Bursey

February 23 – April 6, 2024
Centre[3] for Artistic + Social Practice

About the Exhibition:
For Cuts and Lock Ups, Tara Bursey collects printed and photo-based work created as an Artist-in-Residence at both Mount Allison University (Sackville, NB) and Centre[3], generated through the process of teaching herself to hand-set type on a Vandercook press.

Through typesetting, Bursey investigates her own familial history of work, class identity, and the trajectory of print industries over time, including the deep history of unionized labour and resistance in the printing trades. In the 19th century, typesetting was the domain of a skilled, powerful workforce organized under one of the oldest unions in history, the International Typographical Union. Over the second half of the 20th century, this union navigated and ultimately succumbed to the complexities of technological change—from the adoption of Linotype technology, to desktop publishing.

Harnessing the vestiges of wood type and letterpress, Bursey reclaims the radical history of the printing press to highlight the struggles of workers in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic during the so-called “Great Resignation.” Diverse printed works draw from the material culture of the labour movement, archival materials, and messaging about contemporary work collected from friends and colleagues obscured through layering, cutting, and abstraction. Included in the exhibition is the photo series Lock Ups, highlighting typesetting processes of “locking up” and “makeready” (in other words, the work of preparing to print) as subject matter. These photos privilege abstraction, preparation, and process over product while symbolizing an absence of productivity and withholding one’s labour— long an assertion of worker power, past and present.

Cuts and Lock Ups highlights a years-long process-based print practice that highlights the physical evidence of individual labour, honours the hidden histories of the labour movement, and the thoughts and fears of working people today.

Installation view, Lock Ups, 2024. Digital photos on transparent film in lightboxes, 18” x 24”. Photo courtesy of the artist.

About the Artist:
Tara Bursey is an interdisciplinary artist, self publisher and arts worker. She has worked in a curatorial capacity for Hamilton Supercrawl, Craft Ontario, the Art Gallery of Hamilton, the Art Gallery of Burlington, and the Wychwood Barns Community Association. Her artwork has been exhibited across Canada as well as in Copenhagen, Berlin and Eye, Suffolk, UK, and she has presented her artistic research in the areas of textiles and contemporary art at Symposia in Los Angeles, Sackville and Savannah. Tara is perhaps best known in Hamilton for her rigorous work in the areas of programming and education, which includes the production of unique exhibitions about zines, people’s history, rug hooking, and professional wrestling.

Born in Scarborough, Ontario, Tara serves as Executive Director of the Workers Arts & Heritage Centre, Canada’s only labour history museum and multidisciplinary art centre. Tara was appointed the 2022 Lassonde Artist-In-Residence at Mount Allison University in Sackville, New Brunswick, and Centre[3]’s Hamilton-based Artist Resident in 2023. She publishes her zines and artists books under the moniker Partizanka Press.


The artist wishes to acknowledge the support of the Lassonde School of Fine Arts, Mount Allison University, and the Ontario Arts Council.

Centre[3] for Artistic + Social Practice
173 James Street North
Hamilton, ON L8R 2K9

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