(dis)connected | Centre A

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(dis)location (dis)connect (dis)appearance

Last week I found myself wandering into the opening reception of Center A’s latest exhibit: (dis)location (dis)connect (dis)appearance.

 

Curated by Diane Hau Yu Wong, the exhibition sought to explore the widespread inter-generational loss of language and cultural knowledge. 

Featuring the works of 5 newly minted alumnus, this was Centre A’s 6th Annual Recent Graduates Exhibition. In the intimate second floor space of the Sun Wah Centre, a recent graduate herself, Wong nervously shared her recent inspiration to unravel this topic further after spending time with her grandmother. Caring for the elder after her injury, she realized the oceans that span between them formed by a disconnect in traditions, culture, and simply experiences unique to each generation. Like for many children of diaspora, Wong spoke of the hybrid identity one inhabits - working, socializing, schooling in one world and returning home to another - two identities that bleed into one another but remain distinct. 

Wong hopes to encourage visitors to consider the conversations they have with the generations before them, how their own family traditions are passed on or maintained. Sweetly sentimental, the descriptions accompanying each work was written by the artist with the help of a family member or an elder to translate and record in their mother tongue(s). Wong’s desires to provide opportunities for the artists and the community to continue authentic conversations and actions towards rediscovering, and reconnecting with our roots.

 

Buried deep in the bowels of Vancouver’s historic Chinatown, Center A is embedded in the Sun Wah center, a transitional place with the hustle and bustle of BBQ duck, Chinese flea market style vendors and the makings of a vintage Batman Villain’s (circa 1995) crumbling industrial lair. Thanks to the efforts of BC Artscapes, there is over 71 rental spaces in the building dedicated to collaborators and artists. There is a kind of magic in the air that makes it feel like nothing is as it seems, and everything resonates with potential energy.

 

The relationship between two of the presented works particularly stood out to me, Cheyenne Rain LeGrande’s  Nehiyaw Isko ᑭᒥᐊᐧᐣ (2019) and Listening Vessels (2019) by Aaniya Asrani.

In the reverbing concrete lined 3,300-square-foot space it was impossible not to be drawn to the dark corner with flickering lights that housed Nehiyaw Isko ᑭᒥᐊᐧᐣ , it’s voice and layered ambience filling the gallery. The installation encloses viewers within four projections, the media of which capture the artist’s performance at ECUAD, in the ocean along the Vancouver Seawall, and twice in her hometown of Wabasca, Alberta. The central composition for each iteration framed LeGrande rubbing the “redness” off her body while moving, to the sound of her mother singing. In a feature on Discorder, Cheyenne Rain LeGrande explained she chose “Red as race, red as history, red as pain, red as blood, red as protection”, not to simply spotlight colonial violence inflicted upon Indigenous women currently and in the past, But to actively reclaim her agency as an Indigenous women and “addressing [her] own Indigenous body within these institutional spaces”.

 
 

The iterations I found most intense were the two produced in Wabasca, one showed LeGrande on the edge of a frozen lake, “in the snow, in [her] bare feet for five minutes”, the other within a ring of fire, built by her uncle. There was a sense of bearing witness to something tinted red by destruction and violence and being transformed in return, as our faces and expressions too were bathed in the winter fire. Each of the performances were projected onto sheer sheets of fabric used in the choreography creating a mesmerizing and haunting effect. Overall it was an immersive experience watching the slow, flickering movement dance across the sheet, while the sheet moved in the media itself. Seeing the projection pass through the sheer sheet to form a double exposure, created a solemn level of “ghosting”, as if the viewer was peering between the curtains of an ethereal world or a memory - something that is not quite there anymore. 

 

It was really interesting experiencing Nehiyaw Isko ᑭᒥᐊᐧᐣ in conjunction with Listening Vessels (2019) by multidisciplinary maker from Bangalore, India, Aaniya Asrani. I had previously seen Listening Vessels a few months prior at Emily Carr University’s annual exhibition graduate work The Show. Laid out on a burlap material, guest of The Show were invited to interact with earthenware, and listen to the altered acoustics produced by the various hand-built parabolic shapes.  Flooded with natural light, I curiously moved from shape to shape. Using the audio of the sexy video and people deciding on where to have lunch, next door as a touchstone, the amplification felt more voyeuristic and surveillant. Where as in the darkness of (dis)location (dis)connect (dis)appearance, their texture and their connection to the earth came forward. The amplification changed to the faint voices in our community, perhaps those outside my everyday exposure.  The action of getting into position to listen reminded me of the titanic power of the arts to create training grounds broadening our minds and to cultivate empathetic concern. 

 
 

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