Roy K. Kiyooka’s “Conceptual Art Trips”

Serial Positionings: Roy K. Kiyooka’s “Conceptual Art Trips” Journal of Canadian Art History, Vol. XXXVI:1 (2016), 128-153.

A copy of Roy Kiyooka’s Transcanada Letters (Talonbooks, 1975) sits in a beam of sunlight upon my desk. Canada Post delivered the book from Vancouver to Montreal after I ordered it from an online bookseller. My desire to own a copy of Transcanada Letters arose after a first visit “out West” to the Contemporary Literature Collection at Simon Fraser University, where Kiyooka’s papers are housed. My trajectory, moving east to west, echoed the coast-to-coast narrative of Canadian nationhood. In this narrative, Vancouver currently plays the role of a thriving twenty-first century metropolis, which evolved from its earlier image as a “fantasy dream” at the edge of British Dominion and American Western expansion. Since the 1970s, when Transcanada Letters was published, Vancouver has increasingly adopted the identity of a Pacific Rim city. In this alternate narrative, the city plays the role of an essential node in global trade routes reaching out to Asia, just as its artists are tangled up in the complex cultural, political, and economic factors folded into the term “globalization.” The imaginary space mapped throughout the pages of Transcanada Letters, however, troubles the attempt to link the locality of its narrative, or the identity of its author, to a defined territory.

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