Artists re-examine historical objects in new exhibition

The Richmond Art Gallery will be presenting the Eternal Return exhibition, which centres on artifacts from the Richmond Museum’s Migration Collection.

Curated by Sunshine Frère, the exhibit will examine historical objects from a new perspective. The exhibition runs Sept. 10–Nov. 19.

The cyclical nature of objects

Artist Anchi Lin plays with a can sealer.| Photo by A Sealer, 2017, Anchi Lin, multi-media installation (still from video)

According to Frère, the Migration Collection has over 2000 objects ranging from fossils to household items and collector’s items. The collection reflects the history of the City of Richmond and the people who live there. Her idea for the exhibit was based on the idea of objects being reincarnated to develop a new life cycle.

“Objects can be rediscovered and looked at 100 years from now from a different perspective as time passes,” says Frère. “The idea of the eternal return is something I visit a lot in my practice, this notion of how we repeat things in history.”

Armed with this idea, Frère sought out five artists to contribute to the exhibit. As an artist, writer and curator, Frère’s practice is based around media, sound and performance art so she gravitated towards other artists who also practiced in these areas for the exhibit. The selected artists, Barb Choit, Kevin Day, Lucien Durey, Alanna Ho and Anchi Lin, were able to view the items from the Migration Collection online and choose one or more objects as the focal point for their work.

“They’re not necessarily choosing a specific medium to express their ideas but using ideas and then finding a medium to express [these ideas] with,” says Frère.

Play and exploration

Alanna Ho is one of the artists featured in the exhibition. After receiving her BFA in Music Composition and Theory at the University of Victoria, she furthered her studies at the Simon Fraser University School of Art. In recent years she has incorporated social and community engagement in her practice.

“I was really interested in things that were not taught in school so I would research a bunch of artists online and self studied that way,” says Ho, a Vancouver native.

For her installation, Ho was drawn to three objects in the collection: a set of German lithographs depicting some girls in a floral garden, an ancient Chinese cicada toy and some music scrolls for the toy piano. Ho will be incorporating these objects into a bright red playroom for visitors to explore. Her work titled After My Garden Grows, allows visitors to experience the room in visual, aural and tactile ways.

“When I’m making the parts that go into the installation, I’m thinking of how I would make something that I would like to play with,” she says. “What would I want to interact with if I were to enter a playroom?”

Ho says that some objects in the room may make visitors feel quite small.

“There’s a lot of subtle sounds and movements to experience so if too many people experience it at the same time it may take away from the subtlety,” she says.

Artist Alanna Ho in a video still from Play Pattern No. 1.| Photo by Matthew Ariaratnam.

Hidden meaning

Despite how whimsical the playroom may sound, the red playroom also has another connotation. According to Ho, the term “red room” is used on the dark web to reference a live chat room where users pay money to bid or give instructions to torture someone. Her work strives to balance the innocent inner child of the visitor with this darker concept.

In addition to the installation, Ho will also be doing a live performance titled Play Pattern No. 2. The performance is one of a series of 14 that are intended to raise awareness and protest on behalf of the 14 million girls who will be forced into child-bride marriages every year. After My Garden Grows references a film documenting an initiative to give girls a plot of land to grow and sell their own food to gain financial freedom. Many of these girls do not get married until they are 18 or after their garden grows.


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