On August 1, longtime faculty member Kyla Mallett became the Dean of the Audain Faculty of Art. Below, she shares her history with Emily Carr, her creative practice, and what she's looking forward to in her new role.
How long have you been at Emily Carr?
Since 1994, when I started as a student. I studied Photography. I wanted to be an artist and study Painting as well, but at that time we had strict majors, so I could only pick one.
It took me six years to finish my degree, because in my third year I decided to volunteer at the Catriona Jeffries Gallery. At the time, she’d recently taken on an estate with boxes full of Roy Kiyooka’s work. We didn’t have a co-op program then, but Ian Wallace was still teaching at Emily Carr, and he gave me course credit for my work there. So it was like a co-op before we had co-ops. I would say, as most students who take co-ops do, that I learned more there than I did in class.
After working there for five years I did my MFA at UBC, where I worked with Ken Lum and Marina Roy. I finished my degree there in 2004, and then I started teaching as a sessional at UBC and SFU as well as Emily Carr.
After being at a larger, more traditional university like UBC, I really started to appreciate the small, intimate nature of Emily Carr, and how progressive this institution is. Compared to UBC, Emily Carr was so open and in tune with the politics of the day, and I always got the sense that things were so flexible here that you could do something that related to your practice.
What’s your art practice?
I’ve always been a non-photographer who studied photography. I’m an artist who works with photo-based imagery, and I’ve worked with text for a long time. I helped to start the Art + Text Minor here at Emily Carr.
At UBC, I did my MFA thesis on “Language and Communication in Adolescent Girl Culture.” I collected and photographed schoolgirls’ notes, did a sound work about gossip, and then I moved more into looking at libraries and books and alternative modes of knowledge production. Often I’ll do some kind of information culling and then figuring out how to make images out of it.
I did a project on margin notes in books. Then I started working with self-help and New Age healing materials, which are both marginalized bodies of knowledge somewhat associated with women. I scanned diagrams from self-help books and removed all the text, and then made a series of prints that sort of looks like a constellation. If you’re familiar with the self-help books, you can identify the elements in the diagrams. It’s sort of playing with how we collectively buy into these modes of understanding, as in art, where you need a certain level of knowledge to access it, or translate the meaning.
What are you most excited about in your role as Dean?
There’s a lot of change happening. This feels like a moment where people are actually open to some kind of shift. So even though I’ve been here a long time, I feel like right now we can rethink what we’re doing.
I think the people in my faculty are amazing, and I really want to forefront what we do well. I want to advocate for art and ensure we’re putting critically engaged work front and centre. I think that’s critical to attracting students to our faculty.
What would you be doing if you weren’t at Emily Carr?
If I didn’t need to work? I’d be in the studio all the time, and out walking our dog. But I’d probably still want to be here anyway. I’m definitely drawn to working in an art school.
How can people connect with you?
The Emily Carr Student Union organizes feedback sessions for students with all the Deans, so I would encourage students to come to those. But students can also make an appointment with me anytime, or stop me in the hallway to talk to me. I want our students to know that I truly want to hear what they have to say!
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