Make Your Mark

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Who doesn’t remember making something with paper and scissors and getting glue all over your hands and then peeling off the dried glue?

This childhood memory is the inspiration behind the art project Make Your Mark. I had the opportunity to speak with Meghan Ross over coffee last week at the Annex Common.  She’s the artist behind the project and while we talked Meghan spread a thin film of glue on my middle finder then pulled a hair dryer out of her purse which she carries everywhere so that she can dry the glue. During this process, she asks “What’s your story” and and begins recording though we didn’t do this in the coffee shop since there was too much ambient noise.  Once the glue is dry she covers it with scotch tape and then peels it off. There, on this piece of tape is my unique imprint. It’s the opposite of a criminal finger print, Meghan explains.  “It’s fragile, ethereal. It has no gender, race or class.”

Meghan’s idea, which is scheduled to be a Nuit Blanche installation at Union Station, is to gather the imprints and the stories of people from all over Toronto and to hang them together.  The stories will be presented in audio form. Meghan, along with Gabby Bevilacqua and Joey Jacobson make up the BXLS Collective that created the Make Your Mark proposal and submitted it to the Nuit team. Check out this video made by Gabby.

“With the gentle and widely playful gesture of drying glue on your finger and peeling it off each person can experience the imprint of their unique pattern revealed in front of them,” explains Megan.

“It’s the simplest expression of humanity. It’s taking place in Toronto during Canada 150 but it could also be placed anywhere in the world. It’s about humans having a mark.”

Meghan is a 20-something recent graduate of the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design but she speaks with a wisdom beyond her years. Another emerging voice with insight into the issue of identity.

The idea for Make Your Mark came out of Meghan’s graduate thesis titled Elmer’s Guide to Nostalgia.  The Elmer’s of course refers to the ubiquitous Elmer’s glue. It’s a childish habit turned in to a piece of contemporary art.

I took this one last quote from her web site.

“This process, when repeated tens of thousands of times, will collectively compose a representation of the essence of Toronto. Make Your Mark is the embodiment of individual identity in our great city and country. It is a pavilion that can occupy any place, where people will be surrounded by the absolute uniqueness of each citizen. Like the strokes of a brush in a masterful painting, each translucent fingerprint, initialled by the person who made it, will contribute to the creation of an inclusive space filled with light, movement, personal stories, and inspiration.

Looking forward to seeing it. Nuit Blanch is September 30, 2017.

Mapping the Territory: A Youth Perspective on Identity

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Identity, individuality, belonging: These are some of the universal themes of art. And youth bring a particular perspective to these themes that we should always be listening to … like the canary in the coal mine. Their perspectives are harbingers of things to come.

This post is a  bit of a change from my usual heritage-and-public-space posts.  But I want to highlight two projects that interest me because they fuse together traditional ideas of heritage and space creating a unique perspective on the concept of identity.  And they are both projects coming from very young people. So I’ll use the next two posts to highlight each of the projects.

Last weekend I spoke to Ashley Watson, Curator, and Farah Yusuf, Curator-in-Residence for Humber Galleries. We were at North Space, the gallery at Humber College North Campus which was featuring Mapping the Territory.  This is an exhibition developed by Grade 9 Rexdale students from the Pathways to Education programme and mentored by the Department of Unusual Certainties.  The idea was to explore how the virtual space we inhabit relates to the physical, social and economic reality of a community.

Farah and Ashley said they were inspired to create the project by the Myseum Intersections program which invites small galleries and museums to explore the story of Toronto in unique ways.

Students responded to the challenge by creating unique personas based on a variety of themes such as sports, politics, and religion food.

A graphic wheel was developed mapping the attributes of the identities and this wheel is projected onto the wall as part of the exhibit.   The students invented life stories complete with imagined lives, places, fashion, relationships, language and style. The students then brought these fictional identities to life via Facebook posts. One student developed a slang style of speaking to match the persona.

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Ashley and Yusuf are effusive about the process and the student insights. None of the students had ever been to a gallery before. They had imagined that an art show would contain paintings on a wall. Instead their own invented identities and storylines were projected on to the gallery’s blank walls. The stories reflect both the students’ aspirations and their personal experience.

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The students located their personas globally rather than locally. They visit and live in countries that many Grade 9 students have probably never heard of. One story starts with a character who lives in a poor area of Kenya, is adopted by Somalian pirates, and then meets his half-brother who teaches him to play soccer.

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The exhibit is both a documentary and a reflection. The process of developing the identities and their final stories was documented and the footage is shown as part of the exhibit in a pixelated format.

The project is a graphic view of the world these young people carry around in their minds. I felt privileged to get a glimpse of it.