by Jamila Pomeroy
VANCOUVER – Only a few steps through an archway of found objects — spanning from burlap to organic matter that looks like seaweed — you are surrounded by rattles, drums beats, and the voices of artists and ancestors alike.
“Don’t worry about the ancestors, they know what to do. And, remember, you never know when a stranger will change your life forever,” says Peter Morin while smiling at Ayumi Goto at the opening of their shared exhibition, how do you carry the land?. The two multidisciplinary artists are long-time collaborators and friends, creating performance art informed by their perspectives as a Japanese diasporic woman and Tahltan First Nations man. The collaborative exhibit merges Japanese and Indigenous ancestry, examining the experience of “place” through innovative performance art. Bridging the experiences of artists with diverse ancestries in dialogue, the exhibition creates space and invites both the ancestors that previously walked on the gallery grounds, as well as the city’s new inhabitants. This is an exhibition celebrating the importance of multi-facet cultural practices and the process of understanding and preserving culture and language.
“When we approached the installation, we thought about how to re-activate the documentation of performances that had taken place in the past, through new context,” says exhibition curator, Tarah Hogue.
Goto is a performance artist based in Toronto who has explored her Japanese heritage through the confrontation and questioning of nation-building notions, cultural belonging, and structural racism. These expressions are made in the exhibition, through her visual art and cinematic displays of her performance art. Goto takes inspiration from the Japanese/Taoist notion of inyo that conceptualizes the universe as a circle, further transcending our western beliefs of linear time.
Sobey Award-nominated Peter Morin is a visual, conceptual, and performance artist, in addition to being a writer and curator. Morin brings forth his Tahltan First Nations roots through thematic channels that create dialogue surrounding his ongoing process of understanding his culture and language.
“Because Ayumi and Peter are best friends and their collaborative work is grounded in their best friendship, which is really a long-term everyday relationship, that spills into the space of their performance,” Hogue explains. “They have developed a shared consideration in how they approach working with each other and I think both of them are very driven to open space for other voices.”
Collectively, the two aim to merge their personal historical stories, while telling the joint story of Western colonialism and the impact it has had on culture — all facets created with the intention of making inclusive spaces welcoming of their mothers, ancestors, and a multiplicity of voices, particularly of the marginalized.
“The exhibition includes a collection of [Goto and Morin’s] significant pieces together as well as some of their individual projects, but the exhibition as a whole is really dialogue between their practices, their ways of approaching cultural knowledge, ancestral knowledge, and relationships with land,” adds Hogue. Gallery attendees can expect to see cinematic performance work and visual art from the duo, as well as carvings, ceramics, masks, and traditional regalia of a wide-range of other artists.
“A few of these pieces will be activated with performances happening throughout the duration of the exhibition, and some will be responding to the performances that will be happening. It will be a very active space full of life,” says Hogue.
Ayumi Goto and Peter Morin: how do you carry the land? runs at the Vancouver Art Gallery from July 14 to October 28.