MemoryGami: unfolding barriers

MemoryGami, 1968. | Photo courtesy of Keiko Honda

Keiko Honda’s Vancouver Arts Colloquium Society (VACS), a non-profit organization with a passion to connect people through the means of art, invites all to enjoy the unique stories of six women through storytelling and paper-folding with MemoryGami, a short documentary series.

“I strongly believe in art as a means of change. Art evokes empathy, and empathy leads to action. We recognize art as not just an abstract way to pursue aesthetic pleasure, but as a way to see oneself and the world differently,” Honda says.

Hosted by the Roundhouse Community Arts & Recreation Centre, the event will run from Oct. 1 to Nov. 12, 2021 in the Great Hall Gallery, where spectators will be able to watch the series and see the artwork in person with no fee required. Audiences are invited to witness a beautifully crafted, unlike-any-other documentary series showcasing autobiographical tales through a hybrid digital-paper medium, highlighting a range of pieces from visual art to traditional Japanese origami, the art of folding.

Paper for memory

Each speaker and artist taking part in MemoryGami has created a folded paper book featuring a personal story they would like to present, and within the pages lay pictures, text, drawings and, of course, origami pieces. In addition, digital representations based on each artwork have been made with the help of VACS’s summer interns, and both copies will be displayed in the Great Hall Gallery during opening hours. The artists were filmed walking through their artwork, offering further insight on their ideas, inspiration and artistic vision. This footage has come together as a half-hour documentary series available on multiple social media platforms, which will be displayed at the gallery in addition to the physical and digital models.

As alluded to in the title of the event, origami is the artistic medium predominantly integrated into MemoryGami. This medium allows the artists to express their ideas and stories in a more sensory-based way, which would allow them to unlock and process memories they might have believed lost through their sensory memory. Using paper folding also helps the seniors, whether they be anglophone or not, fully express themselves without the barrier of language in their way; fluency in the English language is not required for effective communication. Ultimately, Honda’s objective with this project is revealed in one of her statements.

“We hope that the project can enhance the process of identity development, redefinition and self-transcendence,” she says.

Fostering connections

Keiko Honda (second left), founder and president of VACS, with the MemoryGami artists | Photo courtesy of Keiko Honda

VACS is determined to connect diverse people through art, and strongly believes in the importance of perspective. MemoryGami, along with their other programs, aims to tear down cultural, disciplinary and generational boundaries within the community, and in doing so, tear down the barriers between people. This program not only lets seniors and non-anglophone immigrants share personal experiences unique only to them, but also allows audiences and creators alike to learn from and appreciate perspectives different from their own. This in turn equips people with the ability to interpret the world and each other in different ways, which is something Honda feels is desperately needed now more than ever.

“If the twin challenges of a pandemic and a climate emergency have brought our species anything good, it is perhaps the realization that we are all in this together,” Honda reflects.

VACS has accomplished much in the past and holds many ambitions for the future. Along with their goal of reaching across barriers of all natures that separate the community, they also wish to grow public support for arts of all types and inspire the next generation of artists and leaders around Vancouver with programs such as MemoryGami.

“At VACS, we visualize a future where the city’s inhabitants can discover and create ways to transform themselves and their city to grow new connections between people,” says Honda.

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