VAM 35 Artist Profile | Susan Campbell

Meet the artists in VAM 35! Visual Arts Mississauga 35th Annual Juried Show of Fine Arts, in the Art Gallery of Mississauga from January 17 – March 2, received 248 entries from across Ontario. Jurors selected 48 artists to be in the show.

Until the end of February, the AGM blog will feature VAM 35 artists every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Learn about the thinking behind the works in the exhibit, and see the works in person at the AGM!

Name: Susan Campbell
Title of work: Open House Interventions
Website / Blog:

1.      Tell us about your work in VAM 35. Give us an idea of the conceptual framework you used in creating this piece. What inspired it? Why did you choose to use that particular medium? Why that particular perspective, set of colours, subject matter, etc.

Originally, the project set out to appropriate the realtor “open house” concept by using A-Frame signs to mark out an inconspicuous route, or a set of directions to discarded pieces of furniture (commonly found languishing outside recently renovated open houses). The signs were later dropped in favour of just considering whether the outdoor context could be re-interpreted from an indoor context; “in the open” so to speak. I regularly come across various pieces of furniture on my travels throughout the city. The sidewalk where the furniture is left waiting also plays a determining factor in what sites get documented. Whether it is a busy street corner or a main arterial route, the sidewalk serves as a site where I draw out the hypothetical outline of a room around the furniture. For example, I position the floor-plan of a bedroom according to where a mattress is left waiting at the intersection of Dundas Street and Ontario Street. Nothing about the site is changed or re-positioned. In some cases the floor-plan drifts out onto the street, so traffic ends up driving into the space.

2.      How would you describe your creative process? How has your style changed since you started, and what do you think is the reason behind the change?

My interventions deploy the visual language found mostly in city planning departments in order to set up temporary zones or conditions. The passer-by is accidentally brought into the work in terms of his/her right to public access when using the city’s streets and sidewalks. My obsession with tailoring and charting the latencies within public space matches that of municipal authorities and developers who are equally obsessive about futurity and projecting space. The work itself is a statement about anti-planning. These interventions do not negotiate with place as if it were an inanimate setting, ready to be adjusted like an AutoCAD plan displayed on a digital screen. Rather, they activate chance encounters that are found on the sidewalks and then assemble them into an “Open House” collection of Toronto’s neighbourhoods. Lately, the focus of my work has shifted more towards the institutional apparatus, and its role in dictating the shape and pace of urban intensification.

3.      If time and money were no object, what artistic project would you like to undertake? What about this project fascinates you, and how do you think it will engage the viewer?

If time and money were no object, I would like to extend the scope of my previous projects and start-up a short-term design lab, which facilitates a mock public consultation process, and supports exchange between designers, members of the public, city planners, and business interests. In an effort to develop a best-practices public consultation model, the design lab would invite members of the public to participate in a variety of design tasks and research activities. Public consultations are sometimes facilitated by city planners wishing to initiate public input prior to decisions about major urban infrastructural projects. This design lab would operate independently of the top-down delivery mechanisms and time constraints imposed on city planners. This project is fascinating to me because the lab would explore and evaluate a whole new set of methodologies (e.g. Kevin Lynch’s memory maps), in order to bring about a “new and improved” version of the public consultation process. The viewer is initially brought into the work by way of their personal link to the community, and then as an observer/participant within the design process itself.


Visit the Visual Arts Mississauga 35th Annual Juried Show of Fine Arts at the Art Gallery of Mississauga (AGM) from January 17 – March 2!

For more information, visit the AGM website:

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