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

Yaniya Lee @ Artexte

Wayside Archive

Summer 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 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 for black folks?


Yaniya Lee is a writer and critic interested in the potential of collective organizing and collaboration for making visible–and undoing–institutional power. Her interdisciplinary research questions critical-reading practices and reexamines Canadian art histories. She has written about art for Art in America, Vogue, Flash, FADER, Vulture, VICE Motherboard, Canadian Art, C Magazine and Chatelaine. In November 2019, Lee and curator Denise Ryner co-convened the Bodies, Borders, Fields Symposium in Toronto. The 3-day series of workshops, performances and talks revisited a 1967 roundtable conversation on the theme of “black.” In the fall of 2020, Lee and Ryner guest-edited Chroma, a special issue of Canadian Art magazine dedicated to black artists and black art histories. 

Lee has participated in residencies and fellowships at the AGO (2017, with Emilia-Amalia), Banff (2017), Blackwood Gallery (2018), and Gallery 44 (2018). As the 2019-2020 Researcher-in-Residence at Vtape, Lee organized the Fractured Horizon video program and wrote the essay “Glitch and Figure: representation and refusal in the videos of Buseje Bailey and ariella tai.” Lee was on the editorial advisory committees for Fuse Magazine and C Magazine, and she now sits on the board of directors of Mercer Union gallery. She was Features Editor at Canadian Art magazine from 2017-2021, and she joined Archive Books’ editorial team this past spring. Lee is a Ph.D. student in Gender Studies at Queen’s University and she teaches Art Criticism at the University of Toronto.