COMPLICITY Exhibit Thought-Provokingly Addresses Canada’s History of Colonialism

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COMPLICITY art exhibit at the button factory
Photo by Bronte Behling

On July 8, 2023, Mark Walton’s show “COMPLICITY” opened to the public at Button Factory Arts in Uptown Waterloo. 

The show, inspired by Walton’s own personal experience knowing those impacted by colonialism and cultural genocide, takes viewers on a thought-provoking journey through hard-hitting topics untouched by many.

In an Instagram post about the showing, Walton describes how COMPLICITY is a “very personal project” about his experience as a “white Canadian boy growing up in 1970s Winnipeg.” 

Now the father of two “non-identifying First Nations sons”, it is clear that the message of COMPLICITY hits close to home for Walton. 

After all, as Walton states in his post, “WE ARE ALL CULPABLE.”

Key to my experience of the show was a nighttime photo of the Empire Theatres location that once held a spot at The Boardwalk outdoor shopping mall in Waterloo (the location is now part of the Landmark Cinemas chain). Bathed in a soft glow from surrounding streetlights, the looming title “EMPIRE” bathed in red LED’s feels particularly ominous – residing on stolen land, the cinema serves as a reminder of our modern-day “empire” due to colonialism. 

When asked about what he wishes viewers to take away from COMPLICITY, Walton states that while his role is more direct than most, “every “Canadian” wears the stripes in some way.”

In addition, Walton elaborates on how “We all bear some responsibility for the inequity faced by indigenous peoples, and we all have a responsibility to question our roles moving forward through the Truth and Reconciliation process… I hope COMPLICITY at least starts the conversation for those who see it.”

Regarding the shocking nature of some of the photographs, Walton asks for viewers to look beyond the images: “Some won’t look beyond the images of the models… but if they dig deeper they will realize those photos are an indictment of the garbage that was fed to my 8 year old brain…”

While stating that the exhibition is “imperfect”, Walton elaborates on how “There is neither the space nor the means to impart the context necessary to fully understand the message. Did you lift the photo of me as a 1 year old to get to the image below it? That shouldn’t be hidden. But it is.”

Highlighting our culpability as Canadians to wrongdoings of the past, COMPLICITY is a must-see exhibit. Open until Aug. 12, guests can visit the exhibit at Button Factory Arts from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturdays or Tuesday through Thursday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.


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