Armed and armoured
The ObjecT: arming by clara
Clara Ford was known to wear men’s clothes. She was also known to carry a revolver. In 1895, she stood trial for the murder of a wealthy Parkdale man, whom she said assaulted her. On the advice of her lawyer, Ford appeared in court in a Victorian dress and acted demure. The jury acquitted her, unconvinced that a woman — especially a Black woman — could commit such a crime. In a newly commissioned work at the Art Gallery of York University, Toronto artist Anique Jordan explores the figure of Clara Ford. The installation, titled “arming by clara,” is part of the group exhibition Migrating the Margins, a show about multiculturalism, mixing and the future of Toronto art.
Arranged into a V formation, nine corrugated zinc silhouettes of Clara Ford (or Anique Jordan dressed as Ford), each exactly twice the size of the artist, hover above the floor. Here, the bodily and the personal become roomsized, the scale of the institution.
“I think of it as a monument,” Jordan says. “It’s an army of armed women that helps me to think about how we can protect ourselves with family and friends and community surrounding us.”
“I’ve always done work about haunting,” she says. “Slavery, colonialism and the day-to-day experience of racism. My work has always asked, ‘How is it possible that Black people can survive?’”
Arming by clara causes her to consider the types of armour she has developed to survive. Her
Corrugated zinc, each 33” x 141.5”. Commissioned by the Art Gallery of York University. Installation view from Migrating the Margins curated by Emelie Chhangur + Philip Monk. specific haunting, she says, is the constant fear of incarceration, “as if freedom is something that’s been given to me and therefore can be taken away.”
The helm of the V formation has been left open, inviting viewers there.
“The front position is the heaviest; it is the lead,” she says. “Some people will feel a sense of protection. And some will feel confrontation.”
Regardless which, you’ll stand in the shadow of Ford and pay her reverence.
Anique jordan, arming by clara, 2017.