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01 Jan. 2004

Brian Jungen: Brian Jungen

Brian Jungen

An exhibition catalogue produced for the artist’s show at the Vienna Secession in 2003, and conceived by the artist largely as a compendium of images. Brian Jungen’s sculptural process renders culturally significant icons from products and materials native only to the wilds of suburban shopping malls. His serious commitment to technique is accompanied by a healthy sense of humour and intellect. Features many full-page colour installation shots of his Native Canadian ceremonial masks produced from Nike trainers, and a massive whale skeleton fashioned out of white plastic lawn chairs. Includes an introduction by Secession President Matthias Herrmann and an interview with the artist by Matthew Higgs. Biography and bibliography also included. Full German and English translations.

Brian Jungen was born in 1970 in Fort St. John, British Columbia, and lives and works in Vancouver.

He has exhibited internationally, most recently with solo shows at the Vienna Secession, the Henry Art Gallery (Seattle), and Triple Candie (New York).

Brian Jungen is represented by the Catriona Jeffries Gallery, Vancouver.

Matthew Higgs is an artist, wrfiter and curator based in Oakland, California, USA. He is currently the Curator at the CCA Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts, San Francisco.

Brian Jungen was born in 1970 on a family farm north of Fort St. John, British Columbia. His father was Swiss born and immigrated to British Columbia with his family when he was three years old. Jungen’s mother was Aboriginal, a member of the Dane-zaa Nation. Jungen was seven years old when both his parents perished in a fire. After which he was raised by his fathers’ sister and her husband. Jungen recalls his mother’s ability to adapt objects to new uses, something he now famously does within his artistic practice. He recalls “She was constantly trying to extend the life of things, packages, utensils. Once we had to use the back end of a pickup truck as an extension for our hog pen.”

In 1988 he moved to Vancouver to attend the Emily Carr Institute of Art and Design. He graduated four years later with a Diploma of Visual Art. After which he moved to Montreal and New York City prior to returning to Vancouver.

In 1998 he took part in a self-directed residency at The Banff Centre for the Arts, Banff, Alberta. This residency would become the tipping point in his career. As it was there that he began to work on his now famous Prototypes for New Understanding (1998-2005); a series of sculptures he created by disassembling and reassembling Nike Air Jordan sneakers to resemble Northwest Coast Aboriginal masks. He would go on to explore his interest in using sports paraphernalia creating sculptures out of catchers mitts, baseball bats, and basket ball jerseys. Jungen has stated that it is a deliberate choice to create works out of materials produced by the sports industry; an industry that appropriates Aboriginal terminology, such as the team names The Chiefs, Indians, Redskins and Braves. However Jungen’s work is not exclusively tied to his heritage. He has stated “My involvement with my family and traditions is personal – it’s not where my art comes from.”

His interest in architecture and in particular Buckminster Fuller is also evident in his practice with his creation of multiple shelters for humans, animals and birds. Overriding the majority of his work is Jungen’s ability to disassemble and reassemble objects maintaining the integrity and meaning of his source material and yet creating new possibilities for meaning Shapeshifter (2000) / Transmutation (2000).

Brian Jungen was the winner of the inaugural Sobey Art Award in 2002 and the 2010 Gershon Iskowitz Prize.


Secession, Vienna, Austria/ Art Metropole, Toronto, Canada, 2004 32 pp., 29.5 x 21 cm., softcover $28.00.

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