A program of art, sounds and gestures bookending the winter solstice of 2020, Fear and Care for the Fate of the World emphasizes the urgency of building kinships that extend beyond human relations to include land, water, and ancestors. This holistic foundation is a means to address a year marked by a global pandemic, uprisings against anti-Black violence and police brutality, as well as powerful actions affirming Indigenous sovereignty. Working with the current need to distance due to COVID-19 safety precautions, the exhibition utilizes unique presentation methods such as podcasts, site-specific actions, as well as broadcasts on Instagram Live and Zoom to offer generative reflections on the precarious interconnectedness of living in fear and care.
Co-curator and gachet board member Bruce Ray furthers our understanding of the exhibition title through a reading of his curatorial text The Dilemma. Perceptions of neurodivergence as presented through the lens of the medical industrial complex stand in stark contrast with Ray’s experiences of mental illness as connected to wider social injustices and concern for the planet. To experience fear, care, anger, and sadness in relation with the world should not be pathologized as paranoia, mania, depression, or neurosis. Rather it is a reflection of empathy and allyship with a community that includes animals and plants as well as people.
Responding to the white cubes and white walls of exhibitions at the Vancouver Art Gallery, a reading by Afuwa imagines a black sky populated with bright constellations that counter hegemonic art narratives with the work of Camille Turner, Joi T. Arcand, and Lawrence Paul Yuxweluptun. In contrast to the performative black squares that populated social media following the murder of George Floyd, Afuwa lays out complex narratives that weave white linens washed by enslaved Haitian labour with Salish wool dogs slaughtered by European settlers. The bloody histories of cotton, rice, and sugar are interspersed with cowrie shells and hominy. Instead of sensationalized representations of violence and death laid out for consumption, she calls for a futurity grounded in historical awareness, narrative complexity, and radical change.
In a gatheration Hari Alluri, Junie Désil, Mercedes Eng, and Cecily Nicholson visit places where they previously planted wildflower seeds as a starting point for writing. The resulting multi-vocal poem stems from a workshop led by Anne Riley and T’uy’t’tanat Cease Wyss where participants encased seeds in mud from the riverbank of the Capilano and compost from Harmony Garden on Capilano Reserve, dispersing the capsules wherever they saw fit. Their recorded reading touches on themes of urbanity, intimacy, plants, and place. Repeated words enunciate a refrain of tender rhizome reach portion encased held furrow tactic furl. These syllables echo across each poet’s distinctive response, hinting at growth and becoming.
Attention to interconnected relationships with land are also emphasized in a set of instructions framed as a Zoom meeting presented by BUSH Gallery. Poking fun at the pervasiveness of online meetings in shaping experience during COVID-19, the “solstice agenda” of Lands Meeting asks Zoom attendees to turn their computer cameras to face an element that constitutes the land. Placing seemingly disparate sites in conversation with each other, meeting participants are asked to consider and acknowledge the bonds between physical and virtual space and how such connections with land are carried physically and psychically across distances.
Looking for rituals to mourn and grieve in a culture that either ignores or sensationalizes death, aly de la cruz yip creates an intuitive and humble temporary installation in a downtown plaza that quietly challenges the imposing violence of a cathedral situated across the street. Drawing on the Ilokano tradition of laying offerings on the bed of a loved one who has passed, a pillow is adorned with chrysanthemum, charcoal made from blackberry bramble, and beeswax salvaged from a nearby apiary to evoke patterns in Ilokano tattoo ceremony and weaving. A long black ribbon stretching across a pool of water scattered with gingko leaves conjures the armbands worn at Chinese funerals. The accumulated materials form an offering that slowly and mindfully engages with objects in a search for ancestral forms of healing.
Chandra Melting Tallow, who composes music as Mourning Coup, offers Quiet Sun an immersive headphones experience where tones and voices meld, echo and layer to create a meditative soundscape evoking the faint persistent light that emanates over the land after the darkest day of the year. Ethereal sounds grow in intensity, sometimes nearly veering toward a rattle, scratch or hiss until a gentle harmony gradually emerges, leaving the listener with a lingering sense of radiance.