Disfiguring Identity: Art, Migration and Exile symposium

Disfiguring Identity: Art, Migration and Exile symposium
Surrey Art Gallery, On Main Gallery, and Kwantlen Polytechnic University’s Fine Arts Dept.
May 10 and 11, 2014
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To mark the 100th anniversary of the Komagata Maru episode Surrey Art Gallery, On Main Gallery, and Kwantlen Polytechnic University’s Fine Arts Department are collaborating to present a two-day symposium Disfiguring Identity: Art, Migration and Exile. These institutions are turning to visual artists to guide a conversation on the power of art to critically address cultural stereotypes and experiences of migration. The symposium takes place on May 10 at Centre Stage at Surrey City Centre (City Hall) from 7:30pm to 9:30pm, and on May 11 at Surrey Art Gallery from 12pm to 5:45pm. This event is free – donations are gratefully received.

Day one is an evening of short films created by emerging and established Asian and South Asian Canadian artists who engage with popular media and new media to negotiate the differences and similarities between past and present. Films by artists such as Richard Fung, John Greyson, Ali Kazimi (Rex vs. Singh), Karin Lee (Shattered), and Vivek Shraya (Seeking Single White Male) will be featured followed by a Q&A with filmmakers and curators.

Convened by Naveen Girn, day two is an afternoon of panels and conversations with artists investigating the use of performance, history, and memory to address art and activism related to racism. Among those featured will be artists who have made work directly related to the history of the Komagata Maru and those addressing parallel and more recent incidences of racism and xenophobia arising from conflicts in arrival. Others will consider the impact of media representations, personal experiences, and art histories that engage with narratives of identity.

Visual artist and educator Dana Claxton will present a keynote talk on the legacies of empire on identity on day two. Panelists will include artists Avantika Bawa, Sammy Chien, Neelamjit Dhillon, Evan Lee, Farrah Miranda, and Cindy Mochizuki as well as directors/curators Heather Keung (Reel Asian Film Festival, Toronto), Tyler Russell (Centre A, Vancouver), and Indu Vashist (South Asian Visual Arts Centre, Toronto). Panel moderators include filmmaker Summer Pervez, artist Kira Wu, curators Jordan Strom and Steven Tong as well as Paul Wong who in 1990 curated the landmark exhibition Yellow Peril Reconsidered that used contemporary art to examine what it meant to be a Canadian of Asian descent. The symposium respondent is Ali Kazimi. Light refreshments will be available at noon.

Surrey Art Gallery gratefully acknowledges the financial assistance of City of Surrey, BC Arts Council, Canada Council for the Arts, Government of Canada through the Department of Canadian Heritage, and Vancouver Foundation. On Main Gallery gratefully acknowledges the financial assistance of Canada Council Equity Office, BC Gaming Multiculturalism, and BC Arts Council Co-op Placement. Symposium organizers thank Surrey Civic Theatres and Kwantlen Polytechnic University Faculty of Arts for their contributions.

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This symposium is presented in conjunction with Surrey Art Gallery’s exhibition Ruptures in Arrival: Art in the Wake of the Komagata Maru.

About the exhibition

Surrey Art Gallery’s group exhibition Ruptures in Arrival: Art in the Wake of the Komagata Marumarks the 100th anniversary of the Komagata Maru episode. Ten artists from Canada and India – Roy Arden, Avantika Bawa, Ali Kazimi, Evan Lee, Ken Lum, Mass Arrival (Farrah Miranda, Graciela Flores, Tings Chak, Vino Shanmuganathan, Nadia Saad), Raghavendra Rao, Haris Sheikh, Jarnail Singh, Paul Wong – have contributed work in a wide range of media including painting, photography, and 3D film. Ruptures in Arrival: Art in the Wake of the Komagata Maru is on exhibit until June 15. Admission is by donation.

Image credit: Mass Arrival, Mass Arrival, Queen Street, 2013; photo courtesy of Ben Roffelsen