at arm’s length


2020 – 2021

Media: 6 month letter writing exchange, Risograph artist book.

This project was supported by the Mitchell Art Gallery, MacEwan University

at arm’s length is a letter writing project between Joni Cheung and Jasmine Piper, curated by Sanaa Humayun. Jasmine, Joni & Sanaa are three racialized artists in so-called Canada. Their friendships are built in intentional defiance of the White art world. They are honest, they keep each other’s secrets, and they look out for one another. Sanaa introduced Joni & Jasmine in 2020, and for 6 months, they wrote each other letters. At the end of this period, they got their letters back and redacted anything that was for their eyes only. Racialized artists often trade in secrets as a form of protection. They warn each other of those who have caused them harm and they trade information to keep one another safe. Out of necessity, they hold much of the world at arm’s length. The relationship between identity and art is intensely complicated for racialized artists, and keeping secrets in their work is a necessity when trauma is fetishized. This project keeps secrets, and it makes sure that you know it. It brings into the forefront the conversations that happen within the whisper network, without giving their content away. Keeping secrets keeps each other safe.