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Nanaimo Art Gallery: Charles Campbell: An Ocean to Livity



Nanaimo Art Gallery: Charles Campbell: An Ocean to Livity

Experience sculptural and audio installations that connect the Black diaspora’s past and future through breath.

Opening Reception: Friday, October 13th, 2023 | 7:00 pm


Curated by Jesse Birch and Jordan Strom

Presented in partnership with Surrey Art Gallery

From the intimacy of a quiet inhalation to the distance between continents, Charles Campbell: An Ocean to Livity brings together metal and mixed media sculptures along with immersive and participatory multichannel audio installations. Tapping into the fecundity of the Black diasporic imagination, Campbell reconstructs and reinvents lost connections, lamenting the violent disruptions of the past while constructing a home for Black communities’ strength of being.

Central to the exhibition is Black Breath Archive, an installation of breath recordings from Nanaimo, Vancouver Island, and Lower Mainland residents. Campbell strips away racial hierarchies and holds up Black breath as its own force—a carrier of ancestry and experience, a creator of community and something that, even in its most subtle presentation, changes the way we think, feel, and live.

Other artworks that address breath and breathing are Breath Cycle and Finding Accompong Reprise. Breath Cycle gestures towards a deeper past, connecting the oxygen we breathe to its production in symbiotic, multispecies communities of ancient lichen. Finding Accompong Reprise derives its shape from the bronchial structure of a human lung as well as the forked shapes of slave yokes (forked wooden sticks used to tie captives together in a line). Both these works nod to fractal geometry and binary counting systems that originated in Africa.

“Livity” is a Rastafarian word that can either mean way of life or the life force present in every living thing. The artworks in Charles Campbell: An Ocean to Livity evoke a sense of journey, worldly interconnectedness, and communal struggle against the injustices of times past and present, geographies far and near.

Charles Campbell: An Ocean to Livity is the seventh exhibition through which Nanaimo Art Gallery asks the question, what stories do we tell? Exhibition tours are available to the public every Friday at noon.


Charles Campbell is a multidisciplinary artist, writer, and curator who lives and works on lək̓ʷəŋən territory, Victoria, BC. His artworks, which include sculptures, paintings, sonic installations, and performances, have been exhibited widely in the Americas and Europe. Campbell is the recipient of the 2022 VIVA Award from the Jack and Doris Shadbolt Foundation and the 2020 City of Victoria Creative Builder Award. He holds an MA in Fine Art from Goldsmith College and a BFA from Concordia University.

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