Photo : Welcome to Africville, Dana Inkster, 1999, collection VTAPE. With the permission of Yaniya Lee, 2020.

Yaniya Lee @ Artexte

Wayside Archive

Spring 2021

The artefacts and narratives of black queer women rarely surface in archives and art historical canons. Yet, as Katherine McKittrick notes in “Mathematics Black Life,” the genealogies of the black folks—of black life—are to be found in archives. At Artexte, researcher in residence, Yaniya Lee, seeks to reconcile this absence and presence as she follows the trace of blackness and black cultural production in the collection. To respect the fugitive tendency of blackness means this cannot be a project of capture—at best Lee hopes to find the movement and temporary resting places of a black archival presence, and to map a trajectory of dislocations.

This sited research begins with several questions: How does the Artexte collection hold black cultural production? What is contained that the labels do not name? What are the ways in which black arts practices remain outside capture? What does archival work mean black folks?


Yaniya Lee is a Toronto-based writer and editor interested in the ethics of aesthetics. Her interdisciplinary research questions critical-reading practices and reconsiders Canadian art histories. Lee was previously on the editorial advisory committees for Fuse and C Magazine and she currently works as features editor at Canadian Art magazine. From 2012-2015 she hosted the Art Talks MTL podcast, a series of long-form interviews with art workers in Montreal. Her writing has appeared in Flash, FADER, Vulture, Canadian Art, VICE Motherboard and C Magazine. She was a founding collective member of MICE Magazine and is a member of the EMILIA-AMALIA working group, the latter of which was artist-in-residence at the Art Gallery of Ontario in the summer in 2017. She participated in residencies at Banff (2017), the Blackwood Gallery (2018), Gallery 44 (2018) and Vtape (2019), and she will be the 2020 researcher in residence at Artexte. Last fall, with curator Denise Ryner, Lee co-convened the Bodies, Borders, Fields Symposium. The 3-day series of workshops, performances and talks revisited a 1967 roundtable conversation from artscanada magazine on the theme of “black.” As an outcome of the symposium, Ryner and Lee will be guest editors for the summer 2020 issue of Canadian Art magazine.