Statistics as Portraiture – Sam Kinsley and Mass


Mass, a large scale drawing intervention, is an attempt at methodologically and symbolically lessening the burden of debt and the weight of the numbers we use to identify ourselves on a daily basis: social insurance numbers, credit card balances, student loan debt, identification cards, student numbers, etc. For Sam Kinsley, these numeric representations add up to more than the sum of their parts. Accumulated, the numbers represent a struggle to overcome anonymity and to erase the burden of the socially accepted accruement of debt.


While Kinsley's practice is rooted in drawing, the actual product is in fact negative space. Her work results in the absence of a product, an act of visual sabotage to the accepted system in regards to debt. Created on a large roll of paper, the negative numerical space recalls early computers – machines that represent the activity of clocking in, of making marks and of calculation. The balance between adding marks and 'bringing down her numbers' belays Kinsley's fascination, or perhaps, hesitation, around her personal relationship to statistical portraiture. These numbers, each check and balance methodically removed from the paper, are steeped in meaning, yet completely meaningless out of context. They are nothing, except completely arbitrary, without Kinsley to bring them to life.


Begun in her last year at NSCAD, as she started thinking about the symbolic weight of her education and the literal cost of it, Mass has taken on extra meaning in the context of the exhibition at articule. While I write this in late June, there are still nightly demos, despite dwindling numbers and fewer and fewer mentions in mainstream media, by members of the public fed up with conservative austerity measures that benefit the rich and which further act to impoverish those whom have the most at stake, including students. While Mass was not intended as a direct intervention in reaction to the Québec student strikes, it is impossible to read it in our current climate as anything but a reminder of the actual cost of our current system and the debt we are burdened with.


Mass is an intimate portrait of Sam Kinsley's relationship to arbitrary numerical signifiers. At the same time, the project is a rallying call for us all to examine the physical weight of our lifestyles. Kinsley inspires us to dream of an alternative to debt. After all, Mass is nothing but emptiness, negative space in an ephemeral project. Perhaps, as we dream up new ways to change our society, our collective debt will be viewed as just as easy to erase.


Sam Kinsley is a installation artist currently based out of Halifax.  She received her Fine Arts Degree  from Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, in 2010, and has participated in exhibitions on both the East and West coast of Canada. Sam Kinsley is presently collaborating with fellow Halifax artist Daina Tavenier on the General - a roaming installation creating public places in private spaces.



Amber Berson is passionate about art and its potential for social change. Her current research focuses on art and mourning, artist-run culture, narrative theory, and vernacular collections. She works at Eastern Bloc and has co-curated various projects and exhibitions in Montréal.

Participating artists: 
Amber Berson

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