Trauma, Memory, and the Story of Canada
September 30th – December 3rd, 2017
Punjabi Market | UBC Asian Centre | SFU Woodward’s
Curator: Raghavendra Rao K.V.
Production Manager: Dr. Anne Murphy
This art exhibition was part of a larger program of activities, organized by the South Asian Canadian Histories Association (SACHA), that explored experiences of trauma as neglected and yet foundational parts of the story of Canada. The project emerged out of recent commemorative events and reconciliation processes related to residential schools, the Komagata Maru incident, Japanese internment, and the Chinese Head-Tax, all of which emphasize the need to explore how the past shapes our present. Through them, the project called attention to the traumas inside and outside of Canada that must be recognized and understood as part of the Canadian story at 150+.
Curated by SACHA Founding Member and Artistic Director Raghavendra Rao K.V. and production managed by Dr. Anne Murphy, this art exhibition was on view at multiple sites in the "Punjabi Market" area of Vancouver, SFU Woodward's Atrium, and at UBC's Asian Centre. It featured works by five prominent Canadian artists Vikky Alexander, Sonny Assu, Jason Baerg, Sameer Farooq and Hyung-Min Yoon from across the country, and one internationally known artist, Umesh M.S., from India, all of whom engaged with experiences of traumas that are a part, directly or indirectly, of the Canadian experience and the Canada 150+ story.
The theme for Trauma, Memory and the Stories of Canada emerged out of my own project on the theme of trauma based on my own experience of being in an earthquake and finding ways to ‘heal’ in the face of disability. The show was part of a series of public art events that explore experiences of trauma as neglected and yet foundational parts of the story of Canada and supported by a generous grant from the Canada 150 Fund, came together as a result of many meetings and brainstorming sessions with members of the South Asian Canadian Histories Association that I am part of.
While this was my first time acting as a “curator,” I have co-curated (without being called one) in the past; in 1995, for a group installation show with eight artists including a sound artist and performance artist; as a member of the core team that organized Khoj 2003 – one of the biggest International art workshops in India at the time; and coordinated a student show at Lille as part of Bombaysers De Lille. It seems to me that the word ‘curate’ has been overused in the last few years; I feel ‘facilitate’ is a better term. At the same time if ‘curate’ could be used loosely, I feel that I am curating my own work; in choosing, arranging and contextualizing work that relates fundamentally to my own work (which, most recently, was exhibited at UBC’s Asian Centre and at the Venkatappa Art Gallery in Bangalore).
The context for this show; Canada 150+ as a commemorative moment made SACHA members feel that it is the right opportunity to bring together art from Canadian artists (and one Indian artist) who have explored difficult pasts and presents. My task as “curator” was to facilitate the resulting conversation. I was aware of Sonny Assu and Jason Baerg’s work while exploring art in relation to trauma as part my project ‘Mending Cracks’ on trauma, memory and recovery. I had heard of Vikky Alexander’s photography work and had seen her work at exhibitions in Vancouver. I was fascinated by the way she uses photography as a way of representing realities that mirror themselves, and also oppose. Sameer Farooq’s eclectic use of material and conceptual approach struck me as an artist who could provide a new dimension to the show. Hyung-Min Yoon’s work is striking for its strong use of text not only as word, but also as image. Umesh M.S. has vast international experience, as do all the other artists in the show, and his work has dealt with issues that are local as well as global. I found the versatility of his work appropriate for this exhibition.
These artists created art that were site- and context-specific. Vikky Alexander, Sonny Assu, Hyung-Min Yoon and Umesh Maddanahalli Shivanna created work on locations in the Punjabi Market. Sameer Farooq showcased his work in a space at the Asian Centre at UBC and Jason Baerg’s work was be displayed on digital screens at SFU Woodword's Atrium in Downtown Vancouver.
– Raghavendra Rao K.V.