AGOinsider has transitioned to Foyer, the AGO’s new digital magazine.
Visit for our latest stories about art and culture.

Presented by Signature Partner

Documenting a landmark

We spoke with Toronto-based, multidisciplinary media artist Roya DelSol about her work documenting the AGO landmark exhibition Fragments of Epic Memory.

Roya DelSol Fragments video

Image courtesy of AGO

The AGO landmark exhibition Fragments of Epic Memory showcased the vibrant patchwork of Caribbean arts and culture, both from a historical and contemporary perspective. Although it closed  February 21, the legacy of the Montgomery Collection of Caribbean Photographs and the many other modern and contemporary artworks in the show will live on forever – partially due to the way they have been documented. 

In late 2021, multidisciplinary media artist Roya DelSol was commissioned by the exhibition's curator, Dr. Julie Crooks, Curator of Arts of Global Africa and the Diaspora, to create a short film that would artfully document the visitor experience of the exhibition. With Exploring Fragments of Epic Memory she did exactly that, inviting viewers on a surreal, first-person tour through each part of the show, stopping to observe key artworks along the way. Take a look below. 

Roya DelSol recently shared with us her approach to making the film, the unique way it looks and sounds, as well as her thoughts about Fragments of Epic Memory.

AGOinsider: Can you walk us through your artistic approach for documenting the exhibition? What were some of your goals and intentions going into this project? 

DelSol: My goal overall with this video was to create something that fully reflected the tone and expansive feel of the exhibition. Art documentation is challenging in the sense that you want to be able to represent the work (and the artist’s intentions when making it) as accurately as possible; without simply presenting on screen in a way that feels flat. Viewing a photo or video representation of a work is a fundamentally different experience than experiencing that artwork firsthand, and I wanted to lean into that difference by doing things that were specifically suited to the medium of film. 

I really wanted to visually play into this idea of fragmentation and memory. When shooting footage of the artwork, I would occlude or reflect some of the frame using a prism to emulate the feeling of grasping at a memory or having memories meld together over time. I also shot some portions of the film through a kaleidoscope filter to play into this idea of fragmentation, and also carried the fragmentation motif into the way I edited the piece − whether that was showing different sections of the same piece on screen multiple times, or glitching the playback of a video work in a way that only highlighted small slices of the full video.

I also played with ideas of documentation and memory by intentionally including footage that speaks to the ways we document our memories in a contemporary context, like taking photos or video of work on our cellphones when we visit an exhibition such as Fragments.

It was important for me to include a bodily representation of a person to experience the exhibition through, because I didn’t want the artwork in this film to exist in a separate, clinical environment away from real people. This exhibition was about (and for) Caribbean communities, so it was important for me to visually ground the piece in that. Considering the Caribbean's legacy of slavery, I wanted to ensure that Afro-descended Caribbean people were represented not just in the historical images, but in the contemporary context of this film as well. I’m very grateful to my friend Tiana Smith (who is a Black woman of Caribbean descent) for agreeing to take part in the filming of this project.

AGOinsider: Throughout the video, you toggle back and forth between high resolution footage and a more rustic film look. Can you explain why you made this stylistic choice, and what you wanted to convey with it? 

DelSol:  Continuing to play upon motifs of memory, I wanted to integrate visual cues that would trigger the viewer to think about the ways in which we document and re-experience memories—switching formats in a way that was very obvious to the viewer (digital to film) felt like a clear way to highlight the medium and its purpose to viewers. 

I chose to shoot some of the project on Super 8 in addition to the HD camera footage to echo the dynamic of an older, analogue medium (specifically, the archival images from the Montgomery Collection—many of which were created using older photographic mediums such as silver gelatin prints or daguerreotype) in conversation with contemporary works. While I was hoping it would look good (and I'm happy it turned out well!), more than anything it was a decision that was made from a very process-based place. It also felt like both a very fun and appropriate experiment to capture and translate some of the contemporary works back into an analogue format to create an aesthetic throughline in the film.

AGOinsider: The sound design in the video is so dynamic – ambient music, nature sounds, bits of calypso from the exhibition. What did you consider when selecting this soundscape?     

DelSol: Initially I tried to just add ambient music and nature sounds with the intention of creating a soundscape that evoked the geography of the Caribbean, but on its own it didn't feel dynamic enough. Julie Crooks and I discussed it and came up with the idea of mixing the ambient music with field recordings from the actual exhibition to enhance the immersive feel of the film. There were some audio elements that felt necessary to include to preserve the integrity of the work being shown, such as Charles Campbell's Maroonscape 2: Yet Every Child (which accompanies the physical sculpture Maroonscape 1); or too joyous to exclude, such as Arrow's Menu. In other cases, there were audio works that felt quite dense and in need of additional space to be experienced again in full, such as Edward Kamau Brathwaite's reading of Calypso, which plays over the ending credits. It was really fun to go back into the exhibition and experience it primarily auditorily − I really fell in love with the way the many layers of sound in the exhibition blend into each other to create its own symphony, and I'm glad we were able to include a little bit of that chaos in the film.

AGOinsider: After documenting and experiencing Fragments in such an intimate way, what would you say is your favourite piece of artwork from the show and why?  

DelSol: There is so much fantastic work in this exhibition that this feels like an impossible question to answer, but it's probably Nadia Huggins' Circa No Future. It was a piece I was immediately drawn to and spent a significant amount of time with over my multiple visits to the exhibition. There is so much magic in those beautifully composed moments − light refracting through the ocean's surface, the silhouettes of children diving at sunset. It ignited a longing for a time and place where one is completely free to be vulnerable and immerse themselves in new worlds and reminded me to take the time to nurture that tenderness and curiosity within myself as an adult.

Sign up for the AGOinsider for more of the latest art news from the AGO and beyond. 

Be the first to find out about AGO exhibitions and events, get the behind-the-scenes scoop and book tickets before it’s too late.
You can unsubscribe at any time.