Artwork homogenizes humanity at the VAG Offsite project

Kota Ewaza, self portrait, 2006 – Artwork by Kota Ewaza

Kota Ewaza, self portrait, 2006 – Artwork by Kota Ewaza


People at the corner of Thurlow and Georgia are up in arms, and they’re not going anywhere for a while.

They’re not angry at the establishment or furious with the state of the global economy. In fact, they’re not even real – they’re painted and made out of wood in an art installation titled Hand Vote.

Hand Vote is the latest Offsite project by the Vancouver Art Gallery. This large-scale wooden tableau by artist Kota Ezawa shows a group of people raising their hands in a vote at a town hall meeting, parliament or even the United Nations. Ezawa describes his work as “a visual representation of democracy by one of its most prevalent signifiers: the vote.”

Although his work is big, colourful and stands out amongst the crowd of tall grey buildings, what isn’t so prominent is the race of any of the figures. Not being able to tell what cultural background they’re from is just what Ezawa intended.

Ezawa says that by “eliminating details, the image refers less to a specific group of individuals, and more to a general sign of a collective body united in a common purpose.”

Kristina Molloy is a consultant in the areas of group facilitation and training. She delivers sessions on diversity training which include topics such as racism, stereotypes, how to combat these issues and what we can do to make our space a much more inclusive one. She recently had a chance to view Ezawa’s work and was impressed by what she saw.

“It [Hand Vote] made me think of the importance of recognizing that people of diverse backgrounds have a voice,” says Molloy, “particularly within the Canadian context.”

Hand Vote - Photo courtesy of Vancouver Art Gallery

Hand Vote - Photo courtesy of Vancouver Art Gallery


“The gesture made me think of the importance of recognition, and particularly of who is being recognized and who is representing their opinion when going through the process of voting.”

In a recent training session for an after school program run by the YWCA Metro Vancouver, Molloy used a snap shot of Hand Vote to elicit answers from her eager crowd.

“I incorporated the image into my training, and the impression the piece made on me, as a reflection on diversity – and found it useful in terms of the comments and perspectives that participants had when viewing the image,” says Molloy

A lot of the impressions she herself found while looking at Ezawa’s piece were confirmed and brought up by the trainees in her group.

“For instance, [the trainees noticed] that there are few females, and that the actual nationalities or cultural background of the figures are unclear.”

Although Molloy used Ezawa’s image in her training, she doesn’t agree that it fully represents or adds to the diversity work that she does.

“To me the action of raising hands and being counted was reflective of different perspectives, but at the same time the fact that the group of individuals is more homogeneous is not very representative of a diverse population.”

Regardless, Molloy welcomes artwork that motivates discussion amongst people, and Ezawa’s work did just that this past weekend.

“Artwork in general is helpful when facilitating a discussion or speaking about diversity…it evokes so many different points of view. Reflecting on the fact that individuals are different and bring different perspectives to any experience is exciting, and hearing people’s take on a piece of art is a great representation of those differences.”