Canadian Artists – Spotlights

Rajni Perrera:

RAJNI PERERA b. 1985
Lives and works in Toronto, Canada

“The canon, during my school years, started to fail me as an immigrant,” says Perera. “It’s really Eurocentric, it’s very white-centric, and I stopped seeing myself in what I was being taught.” So during her time at OCAD University, Perera began to delve on her own into art history outside of Western constraints, where miniaturist painting caught her eye. She subversively blends elements of this tradition with her love of sci-fi and fashion to create meticulously painted, carefully detailed patterned works, which are often empowering portraits of women of colour.

 Rajni Perera was born in Sri Lanka in 1985 and lives and works in Toronto. She explores issues of hybridity, sacrilege, irreverence, the indexical sciences, ethnography, gender, sexuality, popular culture, deities, monsters and dream worlds. All of these themes marry in a newly objectified realm of mythical symbioses. They are flattened on the medium and made to act as a personal record of impossible discoveries. In her work she seeks to open and reveal the dynamism of these icons, both scripturally existent, self-invented and externally defined. She creates a subversive aesthetic that counteracts antiquated, oppressive discourse, and acts as a restorative force through which people can move outdated, repressive modes of being towards reclaiming their power.

18-10-09_Rajni_Perera_9979.jpg

RAJNI PERERA & NEP SIDHU, “BANNERS FOR NEW EMPIRES” |

“Artists Rajni Perera and Nep Sidhu combine languages of ancestral technology and science fiction to create a parallel visual universe. Through their sympathetic and vivid visuals, the artists emphasize an unapologetically immigrant and Indigenous forward futurism. Together they advance a victorious campaign for new empires that subvert and resist the dominance and violent effects of colonialism and modernist notions of utopia.

KEY WORDS:

Colonialism occurs when a country or a nation takes control of other lands, regions, or territories outside of its borders (boundaries of the country) by turning those other lands, regions, or territories into a colony. Usually, it is a more powerful, richer country that takes control of a smaller, less powerful region or territory. Sometimes the words “colonialism” and “imperialism” are used to mean the same thing.

In the 1700s and 1800s, many of the richer, more powerful European countries (such as BritainFranceSpain, and the Netherlands) established colonies in the continents of AfricaSouth AmericaAsia, and the Caribbean.

Some countries use colonialism to get more land for their people to live in. They helped settlers move to the new area. The local people living in the land or territories were usually moved away by using force and violence from armies. To protect these settlers from the local residents who were pushed aside, colonial nations often set up a military fort or colonial police system.

Other countries use colonialism to get more land so that they can use the land for farming or to extract (take out) resources such as trees (wood), coal, or metals, or to create a local government or military fort. (https://simple.wikipedia.org/wiki/Colonialism) Other countries use local, colonized people as cheap labourers and slaves.”

The effects of colonizing, exploiting, policing, moving, murdering and enslaving people reverberates in the ideas, identities cultures, health, wealth and well being of colonized peoples for generations.

Diaspora: “A diaspora (/daɪˈæspərə/)[1] is a scattered population whose origin lies in a separate geographic locale.” (Often involuntary dispersion – as slaves from Africa moved involuntarily make up an “African diaspora”.)

See the series: http://www.rajniperera.com/traveller

Utopia: “A utopia (/juːˈtoʊpiə/yoo-TOH-pee-ə) is an imagined community or society that possesses highly desirable or nearly perfect qualities for its citizens.[1] The opposite of a utopia is a dystopia.” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Utopia)

Utopia may be impossible, or only an idea – because what is utopian for one group may be dystopian for others.

Neo-Exoticism: “perceptions of ethnic female sexuality prevalent in Western culture – a set of  (mostly manufactured) ideas used to market products to wealthy Anglosaxon consumers, as well as perpetuate an exoticized, idealized image of ethnic female sexuality” http://www.rajniperera.com/embellished-photography

http://www.rajniperera.com/the-new-enthnography

No Pigs In Space
2015

Futurism: “Ideals of Futurism remain as significant components of modern Western culture; the emphasis on youth, speed, power and technology finding expression in much of modern commercial cinema and culture.” tps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Futurism

OTW
2016

“Aftro-Futurism is defined as: “

“Afrofuturism is many things, but the short definition is: an aesthetic movement with an Afrocentric, science fiction-inspired vision of the future.

This dazzling movement spans many media – from literature to film to music and, of course, the visual arts. Beautiful cyborg queens, spaceships that put Star Wars to shame and the most wicked sunglasses you can imagine are just a few of its signature features.

Born in the early 1990s, Afrofuturism is as much a critique of today as it is a vision of tomorrow. By painting a picture of a future populated with people of colour who have technologically enhanced bodies and superhuman strength, who drive opulent spacecrafts and live in worlds where power is not a struggle, Afrofuturism artists imagine a future that has left a problematic world of Euro-centrism, oppression and injustice in the past. “” https://www2.ocadu.ca/feature/what-is-afrofuturism-and-why-do-you-need-to-know-about-it

See the series: http://www.rajniperera.com/afrika-galaktika-1

http://www.rajniperera.com/

Walter Scott:

Walter Scott: “Wendy is a post-art school 20-something girl who has dreams of art stardom. She lives in a city similar to Montreal. Despite her intelligence and ambitions to become a super famous artist, she makes a lot of dumb decisions, is wasted all the time, makes out with dumb guys in dumb bands, and is generally an emotional wreck. She is also trendy and has nice hair.”

https://gem.cbc.ca/media/in-the-making/season-2/episode-2/38e815a-0119c2d0a84

Ken Lum:

https://gem.cbc.ca/media/in-the-making/season-2/episode-5/38e815a-0119d4d25b2

International Dumpling Festival, 2018 for Toronto Nuit Blanche

“For this occasion, Vancouver-born, Philadelphia-based artist Ken Lum created a new work titled International Dumpling Festival (2018), a participatory installation disguised as a functioning night market, featuring seven food vendors that sold a selection of dumplings including Chinese wontons, Jamaican patties, Tibetan momos, Colombian empanadas, and Polish pierogis.

The work was integral to “The Things They Carried,” a main exhibition zone curated by Tairone Bastien that “reflects on the immigrant stories of Toronto.” Dumpling is a popular, globalized dish with myriad cultural variants, many of which have become iconic menu items in ethnic enclaves around the world. As Lum put it, dumpling is “an allegory of Toronto, with its working-class roots. It’s a peasant food, with immigration built right in.” Fittingly, the installation was situated on James Street, which was part of the Ward, formerly home to Toronto’s first diasporic Chinese, Italian, Jewish, Irish, and Black communities during the late 1890s and early 1900s. These communities were later relocated and the Ward, considered as a slum by many, was eradicated in order to make space for the construction of the Toronto City Hall and its surrounding facilities.” 

“Despite the work’s celebration of Toronto’s immigrant history, it ironically reflected a continued tendency not to see migrants and their cultures as distinct and worthy of appreciation beyond their superficial, consumable contributions. In between the trends of cultural consumption and recognition, where do the peoples to whom the commodified minority cultures belong position themselves in the larger socio-political structure? ” http://artasiapacific.com/Blog/RecapOfKenLumSInternationalDumplingFestival

Field Trip to Toronto


The Power Plant

www.thepowerplant.org

The Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery a Canadian non-collecting public gallery devoted to contemporary art, located in Toronto, Ontario at Harbourfront Centre.

Hajra Waheed: Hold Everything Dear

Hold Everything Dear” takes a single form — the spiral — as a starting point to reflect on processes of upheaval in human experience. Partly inspired by a collection of essays on survival and resistance by art critic and novelist John Berger, the works act as a meditation on undefeated despair and the possibilities for radical hope.

thepowerplant.org

Naeem Mohaiemen: What we found after you left

Tripoli Cancelled” was shot on location at Ellinikon Airport, Athens’ former international airport which closed in 2001 when a new airport was built for the 2004 Olympic Games. After making the film, Mohaimen ran workshops in which the photographers, most too young to have ever flown from Ellinikon Airport while it was in operation, visited the airport, many for the first time, and produced their own documents of left-overs, milestones, and glimmers of a future.

thepoweplant.org

Vincent Meessen: Blues Klair

It is an alternative way to read history through colour, ultramarine referring all at once to a pigment, overseas territories, trade, colonial and slave routes.

thepowerplant.org

Rashid Johnson: Anxious Audience

Johnson’s work harnesses the rich symbolism and histories of varied materials that have personal meaning and at times are signifiers of greater African-American cultural identity.

thepowerplant.org

“Impulse” at Harbourfront Centre

As you soar through the air, you’ll activate the light and sound sequences of Impulse; thus becoming the musician and artist of your own artistic creation.

winterstationspresents.com

MOCA (Museum of Contemporary Art) Toronto

www.museumofcontemporaryart.ca

MOCA Toronto is a museum and art gallery with a mission to “exhibit, research, collect and nurture innovative contemporary art and cultural practices that engage with and address issues and themes relevant to our times.”

Andreas Angelidakis: DEMOS – A Reconstruction

While soft and lightweight, the modules explore powerful ideas around both architectural and colonial legacies as well as our relationship with computer coding and future technologies.

moca.ca

Age of You: An exhibition curated by Shumon Basar, Douglas Coupland and Hans Ulrich Obrist

Age of You” is a timely exhibition about how the self has become more extreme, and what it means to be an individual today.

moca.ca

Shezad Dawood: Leviathan

Project Website: leviathan-cycle.com

Leviathan” brings together marine biologists, oceanographers, political scientists, neurologists and trauma specialists to envision a future, which is unnervingly very much like our present, to consider possible links between borders, mental health and marine welfare.

moca.ca

Rosette Rago

https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2019/09/27/movies/american-movies-asian-stars.html

When I was a teenager in the Philippines, living outside Manila, I entertained myself by tending to my various blogs about Western pop culture, which I consumed vigorously online. The internet gave me access to movies that weren’t being shown in local theaters or sold in local video stores.
It introduced me to worlds I longed for and envied, as depicted by Sofia Coppola, Spike Jonze and Richard Linklater, among many others. I was attending a Catholic university and stayed home most nights — but really, I wished I were Julie Delpy on a European train flirting with the cute but morose guy sitting across from me.
These characters moved so freely in their worlds, while mine suffocated me. I wondered if I was even allowed to behave that way, since I wasn’t blonde and white. I wondered if the stories would be the same if I were in these characters’ shoes, looking the way I do. I wanted to be the main character, not the nerdy best friend. When I watched Diablo Cody’s “Juno,” I imagined myself as the main character Juno and not Su-Chin, the Asian protester outside the abortion clinic yelling in imperfect English.
That scene embarrassed me when I saw it for the first time. Was this how the rest of the world saw people who look like me?
Three years ago, the screenwriter and digital strategist William Yu started#StarringJohnCho, in which he and others photoshopped Cho’s face onto several movie posters, sharing them online as a way to push for more Asian-American leads. What would it look like if Captain America and James Bond were Asian-American? Projects like his come from the same desire that I have to see myself represented on the big screen, and not just as a sidekick. We want to see ourselves as the heroes, too.

Now living in Los Angeles, I’m caught between honoring the culture I grew up with and adjusting to the freedom that my new home affords me. I am constantly modifying my behavior, afraid to completely lose my values and disappoint my family. At the same time, my life here in America sometimes feels like a chance to explore my boundaries as a woman of color.
When I began this project, I reached out to my friends first. Once people had signed up, we worked together to decide what characters they would play; I felt the images should hold some meaning for them, too.
By composing my own photographs, I’ve been able to revisit the movies that made an impact on me growing up. Through these characters I love, I’m examining my place in the world, one frame at a time.

Images and text by Rozette Rago

Rozette Rago is a visual journalist based in Los Angeles.

Produced by Raillan Brooks, Alicia DeSantis, Gabriel Gianordoli, Jolie Ruben and Josephine Sedgwick.

Surfacing is a weekly column that explores the intersection of art and life.

Actors: Ann Pastor as Leslie Hayman as Therese Lisbon, Ericke Tan as Kirsten Dunst as Lux Lisbon, Jessica Wu as A.J. Cook as Mary Lisbon and Lhiyanne Reyes as Chelse Swain as Bonnie Lisbon in “The Virgin Suicides”; Brandon Tan as Steve Zahn as Sammy Gray, Rozette Rago as Winona Ryder as Lelaina Pierce, Tracy Nguyen as Janeane Garofalo as Vickie Miner and Myrrh Raguro as Ethan Hawke as Troy Dyer in “Reality Bites”; Neil Reyes as Joaquin Phoenix as Theodore Twombly and Ericke Tan as Amy Adams as Amy in “Her”; Angela Guo as Mickey Sumner as Sophie Levee and Sabrina Imbler as Greta Gerwig as Frances Halladay in “Frances Ha”; Tracy Nguyen as Kate Winslet as Clementine Kruczynski in “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”; Howin Wong as Armie Hammer as Oliver and Abe Kim as Timothée Chalamet as Elio Perlman in “Call Me by Your Name”; Heather Sten as Julie Delpy as Céline and Daniel Varghese as Ethan Hawke as Jesse in “Before Sunrise”; Jonny Sun as Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Tom Hansen and Saera Hur as Zooey Deschanel as Summer Finn in “500 Days of Summer”; Ria Misra as Ellen Page as Juno MacGuff in “Juno.”

Film still credits: Paramount Classics (“The Virgin Suicides”); Universal Pictures (“Reality Bites”); Warner Bros. (“Her”); IFC Films (“Frances Ha”); Focus Features (“Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”); Sony Pictures Classics (“Call Me by Your Name”); Castle Rock Entertainment (“Before Sunrise”); Fox Searchlight Pictures (“500 Days of Summer”); Fox Searchlight Pictures (“Juno”).