Helping passion find audience: Jordan Abel and the importance of art and publication

Jordan Abel

Jordan Abel

When it comes to ideas and art, the canvas has an important role. This is why Vancouver’s Project Space was created to give artists the opportunity to broadcast and display their work to the community. Since 2012, Project Space has hosted their annual Vancouver Art/Book Fair, inviting artists to showcase their work and the audience to interact with them. This year’s exhibition includes the work and attendance of Jordan Abel, among others.

His most recent book, Un/inhabited, was published through Project Space. In an increasingly digital world that seems to be focusing less on print, Abel insists art and publication are still fundamental.

“Publication has always been important, if only as documentation. The ongoing circulation of the print object is often what gives a project lasting appeals. Working with Project Space has been exceptional!”

At 29 and currently a PhD student at Simon Fraser University, Abel has found his voice through literature and poetry, already having published two books and numerous periodicals. When prompted for the reason and motivation behind his success, particularly at such a young age, his reasoning was simple.

“[I] write to solidify my own understanding on the subject, and write to share that process with others,” says Abel.

Solidifying identities

The intent to share and communicate perhaps takes root in his experiences of growing up in Canada. Abel is from the Nisga’a Nation and has had difficulties identifying as Canadian in the face of their tenuous history. Struggling with committing to a heritage that once denied his own, he faces the question, “If I identify as a Canadian, is this a denial of my Nisga’a heritage?”

This tension and cultural confusion is apparent in his published work. In his first book, The Place of Scraps, he calls on the issue of cultural erasure of Aboriginal cultures and how attempts to catalogue and memorialize them may be only advancing their extinction. While he is concerned about the effect of colonialism on his heritage, Abel touches upon a chord of hope as well.

“In a lot of ways, The Place of Scraps is about how colonialism has attempted to erase Aboriginal cultures. But it’s also about how, in revisiting these moments of colonization, we’re able to decolonize them.”

When asked whether or not there is hope for prevention or preservation, he answered,

“I would say that the best prevention is dialogue.”

Mixing it up to find new meanings

He has taken to dialogue by not only writing and publishing his work, but taking it on stage as well. In capitalizing both mediums, while unsure of the audience’s reaction, he hopes for a deeper connection or at least a reference point to enhance the textual element of his work. He feels this approach can be useful in a multi-cultural community. He doesn’t look for specific feedback, finding it challenging to gauge successful responses.

“People seem to like my work. Which is probably the most I could have hoped for,” says Abel.

That’s not to say he doesn’t find significance in connection. He emphasizes that the qualities of effective communication can have endless possibilities.

“Good art always created connections for either the artist or the reader. Or both. Those connections are probably essential for how we understand and interact with each other,” says Abel.

“Not only does an understanding of arts facilitate empathy toward others, but it also opens up social and cultural understandings that may not have been there otherwise,” he says.


Visit Jordan Abel’s website at

Project Space will present the Art/Book Fair on Oct. 4 and 5 at the Vancouver Art Gallery. Learn more at and