‘Bits and Pieces: Edge City as Space of Exile and Refuge’ by Fauzia Rafique

Sound Thinking 2015 Symposium
Sponsored by Geist magazine and Surrey Libraries
Presented by Surrey Art Gallery, SFU English, South of Fraser Inter-Arts Collective (SOFIA/c)

Most of ‘Bits and Pieces’ was presented on the second day of Sound Thinking 2015 Symposium ‘Voicing the City In/verse: Reading Surrey and the Super Suburb’. The event was organized by a team of amazing volunteers and staff, and it was beautifully convened by Phinder Dulai (SOFIA/c) and Jordan Strom (Surrey Art Gallery). The first panel ‘Edge City as Space of Exile and Refuge’ had myself, Cecily Nicholson, Joseph A. Dandurand and Heidi Greco. The second panel ‘Kinetic City /City in Motion’ had Sadhu Binning, Taryn Hubbard, Kevin Spenst and Tom Konyves.

The second day began with the Traditional Kwantlen Welcome and Drum Song offered by Kwantlen Nation Elder Kevin Kelly with Michael Gabriel and Joseph A. Dundrand. After, M.G. Vassanji gave an insightful keynote on the marginalization of spaces, artists and art. It was great to have Vassanji and Noorjehan visit from Toronto where the two have been working for the last thirty or so years to develop literary communities through organizing, writing, editing (Toronto South Asian Review) and publishing (TSAR Publications). At the symposium, Vassanji provided us with a larger framework for the subject, and with the depth that had been created, it was easy for me to bring it right back to Surrey.

Bits and Pieces

Writing and reading Surrey is challenging because Surrey in Vancouver Lower Mainland is somewhat like Muslims in North America, we have to begin by saying what we aren’t and what it isn’t. So, yes, Surrey is not boonies, not rife with violent Punjabi gangs, not a hotbed of crime, no, it’s not in the third world. It’s right here on the south bank of Fraser River, the city of parks, of future, of the desis; the city of prosperity and abundance, of poverty and violence; it’s an edge city of exile and refuge. Sounds like any of all cities to me, and yet so unique. In the next twelve minutes, i’ll present a few bits and pieces that i have carefully collected to contribute to this discussion.

The first item is a paragraph from the fourth and the last section of my novel Skeena that takes place in Surrey where Skeena, a 37-year old Pakistani Punjabi Canadian woman, arrives after having lived the last thirty years in Toronto, Lahore, and a Punjabi village.

‘This building is sitting on a ravine on one side, and Scott Road on the other. Brenda came for a visit last year, and she asked me why I bought a condo here when better residential areas were also available in Surrey. I could not find an answer for her then. Now, as I look at the ravine, it appears to be a cluster of trees in my village, and away from my view, there also is the continuous hum of a busy Ferozepur Road in Lahore.’

Skeena, Libros Libertad 2011
novelskeens.wordpress.com

Next we have excerpts from a blog post on hijab, titled ‘Purdah Manifestations’, a contemplation on different forms of purdah and how it’s implemented in different places by different social segments of Pakistani Muslims, it touches my experiences in about six different cities in Pakistan before getting to Surrey.

‘In 2004, i saw a bearded male lead a burqa-clad and hijab-thrown woman at 72nd and 124th in Surrey British Columbia. For some reason, i got transfixed on the couple, and stood watching them till they walked out of my sight. First i tried to be the man to figure out why he would want his wife to be in hijab in a country where most women were showing their faces. What does he think is unique about the face and body of his wife that they must be so hidden. Then i tried to be the woman to see why i would accept an existence where when walking i can barely see the two-and-a-half-feet long road that culminates at the heels of my husband. My imagination was injured by imagining both roles…’

‘In 2009, burqa/hijab/purdah hit the Western news stands with intensity because of the controversy generated by the legislated ‘ab-use’ of it by the French government.’

‘Most recently, and as late as this last winter, i was confronted by a black member of the Muslim brotherhood at Scott Road Station in line for a bus to Newton Exchange. In love with his own voice, the Preacher went on and on about the absolute necessity for women to observe purdah and the unforgiveability of not observing it. As an illustration of his preferences, and of an exemplary state of a Muslim woman, he pointed out to me a burqa-wearing woman who was also in the same line. The ‘discussion’ became an argument; the woman in burqa did not participate…’

‘Last month, i spotted a woman in burqa at Broadway skytrain station who later chose to sit beside me while coming to Surrey. She caught my eye because though in burqa, she was standing straight without covering her face. From the fair color of her skin, i assumed she was Iranian or Lebanese. On the skytrain, she made patronizing attempts to converse with me that made me feel suspicious of her intentions. It seemed, she was hoping to convert a chadar-wearing brown woman to stricter disciplines. And then, it came out that she was an Anglo Saxon convert to Islam. I offered her my poetry chapbook that had just come out. She skimmed through it, stopping at ‘My Shariah-Compliant Bra’ and ‘My Drone-Dead Lover’, and then she shut it close producing a sharp noise; ‘I don’t read poetry’, she thrust it back at me. This is one of the rare instances when i was happy to be rejected as a poet. I consider it a compliment to be rejected by an Anglo-Saxon-woman-convert-to-Islam who was using the burqa to gain high moral ground so that she can preach purdah to wayward and ignorant brown Muslim women.’

A blog post on purdah:
Purdah Manifestations

The next item is a song by Mariam Zohra, a founding member and the Creative Director of Surrey Muse. The song is about East Vancouver’s Tent City that came up a few years back as a protest against urban poverty and homelessness. Tent City had activists camp out in a park during the summer. This is an excerpt, and the link to the song is at the end of it.

get your ensemble
oh teacher
wanna talk about
tent city
so,
what are people
doin in Oppenheimer Park?
Teacher
what are people doing
parking tents, tents at the park,

teacher
get up get up
oh
I don’t know you gotta find out for yourself
we can talk about
tent city

Lyrics/Vocals: Mariam Zohra D. Music: Michael Louw. Song Composition: Michael Louw & Mariam Zohra D. 
Tent-City Song

Next is a spoken word item that has become written text now, so i’ll just read it to you.

‘It was a beautiful, warm and golden summer day. I was visiting a home in East Vancouver, and while the host made tea, I stood by the window and enjoyed being part of a quite residential street lined with thick old trees. Narrower than most streets in Surrey, it had a small park on one side and prosperous and old single family homes on the other. As I took in the view, a man appeared from one end of my vision of the road, in the way he walked he seemed to be a part of the street, the trees, of leaves, and the breeze rustling through them. It was as if he was gliding, smiling for sure. Then he passed right in front of me, dancing on tiptoes, twirling something in his other hand. Just watching him was a privilege. Seeing his back, I noticed that he was wearing a white sleeveless tank top, arms full of black, blue and red tattoos, with white cotton shorts over tattooed legs. It was a tall white guy with brown hair. And just then, I heard sirens, shattering the peace on the street with shocking accuracy. A police car came out of nowhere, zoomed past me, and hit hard breaks inches from the guy. By the time, the police car stopped and a cop jumped out, two other police cars were already there blocking the road on the other side, and a couple of cops were making their way toward him from the park.
The next moment, the guy was pinned to the road, and cops were holding him down while another stood ready with a tazer aimed at him. They mauled him, searched him, and then came away. They had ‘recovered’ a long white feather.
‘Sorry, Sir, we received a call from a property owner on the street who thought you were wielding a dangerous weapon, like a long knife ‘with glittering white blade’, they said.’
And then after deliberating among each other, they returned the feather to the guy, and left while the guy stood bewildered amidst shattered shards of a peaceful sunny afternoon.
The white guy was on a rare summer vacation from Newfoundland.’

Unpublished item.
It was presented in readings at Surrey and New Westminster.

Now, we have Jamie Reid’s poem PRAYER that I first heard from Vancouver’s wonderful slam poet RC Weslowski at the September gathering of Surrey Muse, just after Reid moved on. Last night, Heidi Greco was kind enough to lend me the anthology with the poem in it. I’ll just present what occurs most often in the poem, the refrain. As well, not just the refrain but the whole poem is in capitals- a form of protest, shouting or both, i guess.

PRAYER
By Jamie Reid

LET THE SKY ESCAPE
LET THE SKY ESCAPE
LET THE SKY ESCAPE
LET THE SKY ESCAPE AT LEAST
AT LEAST LET THE SKY ESCAPE PLEASE AT LEAST
LET THE SKY ESCAPE

Pages 74-76.
‘Revolving City’, eds. Compton & Saklikar, Anvil Press 2015

So far:
In the first item, the migrant character Skeena sees the new place as a continuity instead of a break, an important distinction. Purdah Manifestations shows how specific issues are faced by each of us in all our different social locations, ‘us’ includes everyone, colored/white migrants and indigenous peoples. The Tent City song points to poverty as integral to the cityscape, an issue that seeks resolutions. In the so-called spoken word item, the white man with a white feather brings out class as an entrenched form of othering, and Jamie Reid’s poem touches the heartache where the city destroys the land and the landscape. And this brings us to our last two items: an image and a slogan.

The image is of a new city park in Seattle.

fromthehungsrsiteFrom the Hungersite.

Seattle’s new city park reminds us of Havana where in the decade after the sanctions were placed on Cuba the average Cuban adult lost 20 lbs. But by the end of that same decade…

The average Cuban was getting ‘2600 calories and more than 68 grams of protein, an amount considered “sufficient” by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization. By 2006 average caloric intake was up to 3356 calories. A lot of this food was produced not in the countryside (requiring transport to the cities) but in urban gardens, where food was grown and consumed in the same neighborhood. By 2002, 35,000 acres of urban gardens produced 3.4 million tons of food. In Havana, 90% of the city’s fresh produce came from local urban farms and gardens, all organic. In 2003, more than 200,000 Cubans were employed in urban agriculture. In 2003, Cuba had reduced its use of Diesel fuel by more than 50%, synthetic fertilizers by 90%, and chemical insecticides by 83%.’

Surrey, the City of Parks and of Future, is best-placed to turn some of its manicured parkland to nutritious food forests in anticipation of a delightful urban future.
the-worlds-most-sustainable-country-what-cuba

And now, the slogan. We have about three renditions of it, and i think we’ll be able to choose one easily.
The first:
A Tree For A Tree
The second:
A Tree For Every Tree
And the third:
A Tree For Every Profit-Damned Earth-Loving Brown Ass Tree

All in favor of the third one, raise hands.
On second thoughts, in the interest of brevity and simplicity, we better choose the first.

To view the context of slogans, check this poem presented the previous night at the Literary Cabaret.
‘Good news…’

Thank you, it was a great pleasure to be with you today and to participate in this 2-day event.
Fauzia
frafique@gmail.com
gandholi.wordpress.com
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Ruptures in Arrival: Art in the Wake of Komagata Maru

KomagataMaruSurrounded

Written by Randeep Singh

Surrey Art Gallery is hosting “Ruptures in Arrival,” an exhibition marking the Komagata Maru centenary.

What’s refreshing about this exhibition becomes apparent from its introduction. The Komagata Maru is not just the story of one religious or cultural group. It is the story of all peoples who have migrated to Canada, only to be deemed illegal, or unfit for entry and sent away.

The exhibition contextualizes the Komagata Maru in time through Ali Kazimi’s short-film presenting vignettes on the lives of South Asians in B.C. in 1914. The journey of the Komagata Maru is also represented in space by Avantika Bawa who traces the routes taken by the ship on a cascading fabric.

There is a video presentation of “Mass Arrival,” a live enactment by five Toronto artists of the expulsion of a cargo ship of Tamil refugees featuring (white) residents of Toronto. The video presentation is surrounded by walls of tabloid print-outs; headlines illustrate Canada’s phobia towards refugees and migrants, including acrid political cartoons on the never-ending Yellow Peril. The introduction to the exhibit reminds us not only of the Chinese refugees from Fujian who were turned away in 1999 but of the MS St. Louis, a ship carrying 937 Jews fleeing Nazi Germany whom Canada turned away in 1939.

I end with “Four Boats Stranded,” a model exhibition of Ken Lam’s work. In 2001, Lam constructed and had positioned four ships facing four directions atop the Vancouver Art Gallery of which one was the Komagata Maru. Looking at those ships, with all the exhibits in the gallery, one remembers the journeys that made Canada and the continuous journey of defining oneself in an ever migrating world.

http://komagatamaru100.com/event/rupture-in-arrival-art-in-the-wake-of-the-komagata-maru/

Group exhibition Scenes of Selves – Occasions for Ruses: Surrey Sept 15/12


Pushpamala N and Clare Arni, Cracking the Whip (after 1970s Tamil film still)
C-print 2000-2004, Courtesy of the Royal Ontario Museum

A Surrey Art Gallery Exhibition and Artist’s Talk
Curated by Jordan Strom

Artist’s Talk – Carol Sawyer: September 15, 6:30pm
Opening Reception – Formal Remarks: 7:45pm, Live music mix by Scott Morgan: September 15, 7:30-9:30pm
Exhibition -Scenes of Selves, Occasions for Ruses: September 15 to December 16, 2012
Artists: Jim Andrews, Eryne Donahue, David Horvitz, Roselina Hung, Suzy Lake, Elizabeth Milton, Pushpamala N and Clare Arni, Carol Sawyer, and Carrie Walker.

Surrey Art Gallery’s new group exhibition Scenes of Selves, Occasions for Ruses features artworks by 10 artists in a wide variety of media – including drawing, painting, photography, and video – that explore the nature of identity, particularly self identity, at the beginning of the 21st century.

In the era of status updates, photo sharing websites, and profile pictures, one’s image and therefore one’s identity presented to the world is more important, changeable, and multi-dimensional than ever before.

Portrayals of oneself have come a long way since Dürer and Rembrandt developed self-portraiture as an artistic genre in the 16th and 17th centuries. Contemporary artists have made self-portraiture – and representation of themselves as stand-ins for ‘the other’ – a vibrant centre of art making today. As new communication tools have led to identity becoming increasingly connected to complex and overlapping social networks, today’s artists are re-examining self-representation at the limits of self-portraiture. How artists see and represent themselves reveals much about how we perceive ourselves and others.

Scenes of Selves, Occasions for Ruses includes Eryne Donahue’s translation of Facebook portraits into astronomical star charts using new biometric facial recognition technologies; Carrie Walker’s graphite drawing of every person named Carrie Walker she could find on the Internet; and Pushpamala N and Clare Arni’s photo-performances of female types from South Asian cinema, 19th century Indian painting, and the photography of westerners who have travelled to the Indian subcontinent.

Surrey Art Gallery is presenting two other exhibitions on the theme of self-representation. Echoes of the Artist: Works from the Permanent Collection explores images in which artists creatively incorporate representations of themselves or aspects of their lives. The artists are Alberta Browne, Diana Burgoyne, Barbara Cole, Janieta Eyre, Marianne Forsythe, George Littlechild, Al McWilliams, David Neel, Al Neil, Joseph Plaskett, Drew Shaffer, Henry Tsang, and Jin-me Yoon. Mirror Mirror is a juried exhibition organized by the Arts Council of Surrey of 30 self-portraits by emerging and established British Columbia-based artists.

Scenes of Selves, Occasions for Ruses exhibiting artist Carol Sawyer will be talking about her project titled Some Documents From the Life of Natalie Brettschneider, an ongoing series of photographs, texts, and music recitals that reconstructs the life and work of a fictional, genre-blurring historical performance artist. Brettschneider is a construction, but her story is laced with references to real people and places. The archive starts with her childhood in British Columbia, continues through her participation in the Parisian avant-garde between the wars, and includes evidence of her eccentric music and art-making practice in rural BC after she returns to Canada in the late 1930’s. Surrey Art Gallery will feature newly discovered photographs of Brettschneider’s time in Surrey, BC. The project forms a feminist critique of art historical narrative conventions: it aims to illuminate what gets left out of these stories, and the ways in which photographs are used to support cultural assumptions about gender, age, authorship, and art-making.

Carol Sawyer is a Vancouver-based visual artist and singer who works with photography, installation, video, and improvised music. Over the past 20 years, Sawyer’s work has investigated the connections between photography and fiction, performance, memory, and history.

Opening Reception
Saturday, September 15, 7:30-9:30pm

Free event; donations gratefully received

Surrey Art Gallery
13750 – 88 Avenue,
Surrey, British Columbia
Canada. 604-501-5566 |www.surrey.ca/arts

Hours
TO SEPT 15: Mon & Fri 9am-5pm | Tues-Thur 9am-9pm | Sat 10am-5pm | Closed Sundays & holidays; FROM SEPT 16: Tues-Thurs 9am-9pm | Fri 9am-5pm | Sat 10am-5pm | Sun 12-5pm | Closed Mondays & holidays
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Emergent: Exhibition by Cruz, Dhillon, Tuepah at Surrey Art Gallery – June 23/12

OPENING RECEPTION
Saturday, June 23, 2 – 4pm
Formal Remarks and Presentation of ARTS 2012 Awards, 2:15pm
Free

Emergent: Patrick Cruz, A.S. Dhillon, Debbie Tuepah

Emergent showcases the work of three artists from an emerging wave of Surrey-based artists who are engaging in Metro Vancouver’s dynamic contemporary visual art scene from its fringes. Patrick Cruz, A.S. Dhillon, and Debbie Tuepah’s artworks span a variety of influences including advertising, early computer graphics, optical art, and landscape painting.

As adept experimenters with diverse materials, Patrick Cruz, A.S. Dhillon, and Debbie Tuepah make artwork that falls somewhere in the liminal gap between painting and sculpture. Tuepah’s large-scale installations of suspended paint-dipped fibre strands present pulsing environments inspired by information graphics. Dhillon’s signboard sculptures temporarily installed in public locations become subject matter for his exacting paintings that raise questions about Canada’s record on human rights and the uses of public space. Long ago-abandoned computer graphics and digital animation programs inspire Cruz’s folk-electronic investigations on the limits of painting.

Patrick Cruz (b. Manila, 1987) attended University of the Philippines College of Fine Arts, and graduated from Emily Carr University of Art + Design. Over the past few years, Cruz’s art has investigated the aesthetics and potentialities of image making through contemporary social networking culture. Recent solo showings include birth of a seagull eschewed by a crow in good standing (2012), Small Gallery; Yin Yang Temple (2011), Unit/Pitt; and Made in the Philippines (2010), W00 Gallery. Upcoming exhibitions include a two person project with his brother Francis at the Dynamo Gallery, Vancouver, and an artist residency at Light & Space Contemporary in Quezon City, Philippines.

A.S. Dhillon (b. Cranbrook, 1975) has curated and presented his art in many exhibitions including Vancouver’s OR Gallery, Counterpublic, Dadabase, and Gallery 69, along with Holy Home, Munich and White Trash, Berlin. His text installations have been installed in Vancouver, London, Berlin and Munich. A.S. Dhillon has a Diploma of Fine Arts from the Kootenay School of Art and Design in Nelson, and a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Emily Carr University of Art + Design in Vancouver.

Debbie Tuepah (b. Vancouver, 1960) has studied at the Berlin University of the Arts, and Emily Carr University of Art + Design where in 2011 she received a BFA degree, and the John C. Kerr Chancellor’s Award for academic excellence and outstanding work in the graduation exhibition. Tuepah’s work is driven by process and material exploration, and she is influenced by an awareness of social, economic, and political concerns, as well as her previous background in marketing. Her art has been presented at Port Moody’s 3D Gallery, Surrey Art Gallery, and Vancouver’s Helen Pitt Gallery.

Emergent continues to August 18.

ARTS 2012
Arts Council of Surrey presents the 28th juried exhibition celebrating the diverse artistic talents of established and emerging visual artists. ARTS 2012 features more than fifty works by artists from Surrey and the surrounding region. Traditional imagery is juxtaposed with contemporary and experimental works. Media include painting, glasswork, sculpture, photography, and fibre arts. With a broad range of styles and themes included, this annual exhibition is popular with local visitors, who are invited to vote for the People’s Choice Award that will be announced at the close of the exhibition.

This annual juried exhibition generates awareness of local artists’ work, and plays an important role in emerging artists’ professional development. The exhibition’s jury was charged with nominating artworks to receive first, second, third, and honourable mention awards in the categories of Painting: Works on Canvas; Painting: Works on Paper; Drawing, 2-D Mixed Media & Printmaking; 3-D Works & Fibre Arts; and Photography & New Media. Works were selected for their technical skill, and innovative artistic thinking. ARTS 2012 is presented with the assistance of the Surrey Art Gallery.

ARTS 2012 continues to August 18.

These exhibitions are presented concurrently with the outdoor sound art installation Audio Migration (2012) by artist Alex Grunenfelder, which is part of Open Sound 2012: On Air, Underground – Making the Inaudible Audible, guest curated by Ross Birdwise.

The Surrey Art Gallery would like to thank the Canada Council for the Arts, BC Arts Council for their continued support of our programs.

Surrey Art Gallery

604-501-5566 | www.surrey.ca/arts
13750 – 88 Avenue, 1 block east of King George Blvd, in Bear Creek Park

Admission to exhibitions is by donation.
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