Building the World We Want: Kootenay Traditions, Kootenay Visions
September 23 – November 5
Opening September 23 at 7:00 pm (everyone welcome)
Various Kootenay/Columbia artists
The West Kootenay has long been a haven for immigrants with a vision for social change, such as the Doukhobors, Quakers and war resisters. At the same time, since the arrival of European settlers our Ktunaxa, Sinixt and other First Nations neighbours throughout the region have faced resettlement, residential schools and the desecration of sacred sites. During the Second World War, Japanese Canadians were interred in the Slocan Valley and in Kaslo.
With this background of varied history, the Mir Centre at Selkirk College hosted an international Peace & Justice Studies conference in September entitled “Obstructing the Old or Constructing the New? Embracing the Tension to Build the World We Want.” In response to the conference theme, the Kootenay Gallery of Art has created an exhibition, “Building the World We Want: Kootenay Traditions, Kootenay Visions,” that will run at the gallery until November 5.
So why create an art exhibition about building the world we want? What role or capacity does art have to play in this context? Political artists and art critics have long struggled with questions such as, “Can art change the world?” The Dadaist movement rose up in response to the horrors of the First World War. It irrevocably changed art, but did it change society? Even with today’s social and political art movements, there are disagreements about the answers to these questions.
While visual art may not have the same scope of influence or impact on society as other phenomenon such as pop culture, it does have a place in our collective consciousness. Artists are often our observers and commentators on both history and contemporary culture. Art can inspire questions, ideas and discussion. How do we begin to build the world we want? With collective questions, ideas and discussion.
A topic as broad as building the world we want offers a wide range of possibilities from which to construct an exhibition, but also creates challenges in choosing who and what work to include or exclude. The artists we chose for the Kootenay Gallery exhibition present a variety of perspectives on this expansive topic. Some, such as Ian Johnston (ceramic installation), Judy Wapp (collage) and Julie Castonguay (sculpture), offer social and environmental critiques. Both Amy Bohigian (animated film) and Tanya Pixie Johnson (illuminated paper cuts) reach back through time to connect to the present and the future in their work. Kari Burk (digital collage), J.P. Gilhuly (charcoal and painting) and Tsuneko Kokubo (painting) contribute intimate portraits that document narratives of lives lived. George Koochin (sculpture) and Genevieve Gagnon (socially-engaged art) speak to hopes and ideas for the future. Collectively, the artists create a collage of insights into our history and our current lives, both joyful and painful. They offer questions, ideas and ways forward to building a better world.