|THE OPENING is all about delving into the fascinating, quirky and wonderful visual arts in Vancouver. Each week we’ll feature an artist, cover an exhibition, discuss a lecture and everything else in-between to delve deep into who and what makes art happen! This week’s feature is brought to you by Agnes Wisden.
What brought the exhibition of contemporary First Nation’s art to the Morris and Helen Belkin Gallery like Witnessess: Art and Canada’s Indian Residential Schools? The idea was formed while at UBC’s First Nations House of Learning concerning the topic , Dialogue on the History and Legacy of the Indian Residential School. The exhibition developed from this meeting to address the long conflicted history that all people who live in Canada share. It’s goal was to present a broad range of ideas and experiences in relation to the Canada wide Residential School System.
Recognition and listening are fundamental parts to any form of dialogue, and in this simple act is what can lead to understanding. Throughout the exhibition I was effected by the emotions present, and the raw reality conveyed in the well laid out pieces throughout the gallery. I was struck at how Canada’s recent history had a relationship like this with indigenous people for over 130 years. With the first residential school opening in 1870′s and the last closing in 1996. The exhibition made visible the multi generational and cross cultural history that has caused such divides within Canadian society.
Upon entering the architecturally open wall style of the gallery space, I chose the first room which contained a series of silhouetted school girls on small cards stacked and in rows on the wall . A work by Fay HeavyShield, titled Numerous, had me looking closer at the multiple rows of the exact same silhouette. What became revealed was the presence of black numbers embossed onto them. HeavyShield remembers being assigned numbers and recounts being able to remember the number of the children and yet not their faces. Reflecting well in what it means to lose identity in such formative memories as the numbers disappear into the silhouettes so subtly.
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