Evan Lee, Fugazi. Installation documentation, Teck Gallery, 2019. Photo: Blaine Campbell.

Essay: Fugazi Economy by Evan Lee

May 2020
SFU Galleries Blog

Evan Lee will reflect on Fugazi, his year-long photo-based installation at Teck Gallery. This essay is presented as part of the Capture Photography Festival.

Lee will consider the project in the context of his image-based practice that undertakes interdisciplinary considerations of vision and constructions of value through photography, painting and sculpture. Fugazi specifically considers methods of image capture as they effect ways of seeing and how value is socially constructed.

Fugazi begins from photographic scans of cubic zirconia, an inexpensive crystalline form of synthesized material that often stands in for diamonds. The images are captured in detail and enlarged to a scale that transforms the gemstones' appearance to one that magnifies the distortion and fracture of light. Lee's image capture opens up space for the questioning of optic purity, of the cubic zirconia and of the image itself.

Because of low cost, durability, purity, and visual likeness, cubic zirconia is a key competitor for diamonds. Cubic zirconia has been seen as a potential solution to the controversy surrounding the rarity and valuation of diamonds. However, the diamond monopoly persists in perpetuating and fabricating worth through other cultural measures. "Fugazi" is a fictionalized slang term for a counterfeit gemstone. Lee's talk will unpack how we understand value in the image and its referents.

Evan Lee is a Vancouver based artist. He received his MFA from the University of British Columbia. Exhibitions include Libby Leshgold Gallery; Winnipeg Art Gallery; Richmond Art Gallery; Kamloops Art Gallery; Vancouver Art Gallery; Contemporary Art Gallery; Presentation House Gallery; Contact Photography Festival; Le Mois de la Photo à Montreal; Liu Hai Su Museum; and Confederation Centre. He was shortlisted for the Sobey Art Prize in 2014 and his work is represented by Monte Clark Gallery.