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Janet Cardiff

Photograph of Janet Cardiff

(1957- )
Audio Installation Artist

Janet Cardiff

Installation, THE DARK POOL,  by Janet Cardiff

The Dark Pool

The Dark Pool, by Janet Cardiff

Janet Cardiff was born in Brussels, Ontario in 1957. She began her formal art studies at Queen's University, where she earned her bachelor's degree in 1980. In 1983, she earned a master's degree in Visual Arts from the University of Alberta.

During the early days of Cardiff's career, she produced works using conventional media such as printmaking, silkscreen and photography, though she gradually began to branch out to more experimental techniques and multimedia works.

Janet married fellow artist George Bures Miller in 1982. Bures Miller was studying at the Ontario College of Art, and it was at the school's audio-editing suite where Cardiff was first able to experiment with sound production.

In 1991, she stumbled upon the concept that would eventually become the foundation of her trademark art form. While walking through a cemetery in Banff, Cardiff used a portable tape recorder to log the names engraved on headstones. She hit the rewind button by accident, and found herself listening to the ambient sounds produced by her walking and her voice. This recording formed the basis of Cardiff's first "audio walk," entitled Forest Walk, which has now become her signature.

During the audio walk, the viewer (or perhaps the participant, to be more precise) is guided through a sonic "virtual" journey, using recorded voices and sounds delivered via headset. As the art form has progressed, Cardiff has incorporated visual elements into these works, including sculpture, still images and film, adding further dimension to the pieces. The majority of these works are collaborative projects with her husband, George Bures Miller.

Following the success of Forest Walk at the Banff Centre, Cardiff has had audio walks commissioned by a variety of museums and galleries around the world, including London, Munich, New York and Vienna. In 2001, she was awarded the Millennium Prize from the National Gallery of Canada for her piece Forty-Part Motet. The installation, which was mounted in the National Gallery's Rideau Chapel, incorporated both sculpture and sound, and consisted of forty separately recorded choir voices played back through a multitude of speakers. The piece was so well received by the public that the Gallery extended its display by several months.

The same year, Cardiff and Bures Miller became the first Canadians to win an award at the prestigious Venice Biennale for their installation piece, The Paradise Institute. The event, considered to be the most significant event showcasing contemporary art, has had participants from Canada since 1952. Cardiff and Bures Miller's success at such an event has given them a level of exposure and recognition unprecedented by any other contemporary Canadian artist. The couple has spent the past few years living and working in Berlin, though they still maintain a home in Lethbridge, Alberta.


Borins, Sara. — "Four nights in the funhouse : the Venice Biennale is as famous for its parties as for its prestigious art prizes". — Saturday night. — Vol. 116, no.  6 (July 14, 2001). — P. 21-28

Dreidger, Sharon Doyle. — "George Bures Miller and Janet Cardiff : 'we've always been close artistically. Part of our dating process was collaboration on a film'". — Maclean's (Toronto edition). — Vol. 114, no. 52 (December 24, 2001). — P. 38

The Canadian Encyclopedia. "Cardiff, Janet", Historica Foundation of Canada. (Accessed October 7, 2005)
(available in English only)

"Janet Cardiff : multimedia artist". — Contemporary Canadian biographies [online]. — (August 2000). — In CPI.Q. — Toronto : Gale Canada, c2000

Milroy, Sarah. — "Janet Cardiff : the former printmaker hit her stride with electronic art, winning acclaim this year at the National Gallery and the Venice Biennale". — The Globe and mail. — (December 29, 2001). — P. R4

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