Excitement was buzzing at the Art Gallery of Mississauga with the opening reception of three new exhibitions: Border Crossings, Souvenir Shop, and walking across, talking through.
Created by Sharada Eswar and Sonja Rainey, Border Crossings is an interactive community engagement lab. Guests share experiences of crossing borders of a geographical, ideological, or personal sense.
The exhibition was made up of several interactive workstations. In one area, guests wrote down their experience of border crossing on a sheet of paper and shared it with others. Other stations included video recordings, map-making, and designing a piece of artwork that represents personal border crossing journeys.
I enjoyed creating my own piece of work. It was not only therapeutic, but it forces one to confront personal struggles of border crossing such as immigration, aging, or class mobility. The underlying message is that borders are social constructs, and that we all have the capability to cross them if we are determined to.
However, I would have liked to see a station where groups of people speak about their experiences with one another while being recorded. I think audio can be useful with crossing borders, since it can build a sense of community as people find unity in their sympathy with the same stories.
The exhibit walking across, talking through by Dana Claxton, Lisa Meyers, Malani Nalani, and Sumaira Tazeen detailed the migration experience of the artists’ families. The works of art portray how narratives for migration are created and how the migration stories shift and change with time—similar to the physical borders migrants cross. Viewers of the exhibit walk away with an understanding of migrant stories stemming from differing perspectives.
My favourite piece of work in walking across, talking through was Sumaira Tanzeen’s “Sabz Bagh III.” It is an installation of vintage suitcases with audio recordings of women from South Asia telling their immigration stories to Canada in their native languages of Gujarati, Punjabi, and Bengali.
This installation brings the reality of the immigration story to light. It shows how a person can step away from everything familiar and trek into foreign territory in search for a better life. However, as heard with the sad and wistful tone of the women’s voices, the fulfillment of these hopes is uncertain, suggesting that the title of the installation, “The grass is always green on the other side,” is not always the case.
Finally, there was Hiba Abdallah’s Souvenir Shop, which simulates a souvenir shop of t-shirts, hats, and mugs which has the word “remember” printed in the languages of Chinese, Punjabi, Arabic, Polish, and Anishinaabemowin in the place of official logos. The idea of wearing a certain product has the potential to create a network of people through their understanding of the same language.
These three exhibitions challenge the observer with unique and thought-provoking art pieces to redefine what borders mean and how borders change. These pieces of art establish communities by sharing relatable stories.
The exhibitions will continue to be on display until October 22.