Mariana Bolaños, Fei Ji & Dana Prieto
Instructional Centre Vitrines, University of Toronto Scarborough
Curated by Esmond Lee
Presented by the Doris McCarthy Gallery in partnership with Neighbourhood Arts Network
April 19 – September 30, 2023
Online Panel Discussion
Tuesday, June 13, 4 – 5 pm
In this virtual conversation, Persisting Multiplicities curator Esmond Lee and artists Mariana Bolaños, Fei Ji, and Dana Prieto will share insights into their artistic practices and discuss the ways in which their works address migration, diasporic realities, and the complexities of the newcomer experience. Free, all are welcome.
The newcomer label is often used in good-faith to identify a beginner in the process of orienting and learning. It refers to the development of new skills and the navigation of new experiences, from riding a bicycle to the first day at a new job. In this optimistic reading, the term newcomer is a signal for patience and guidance ‒ suggestive of an apprentice who will eventually become a master. However, within the context of global migration and settlement, the newcomer is a not-so-innocent categorization composed of many more dimensions and processes.
Migrant newcomer is a category that privileges a host nation. Newcomer is a particular social-political construct that normalizes binary relationships: inside and outside, domestic and foreign, belonging and unbelonging. Situated within colonial and capitalist systems, this master-apprentice dynamic intentionally emphasizes inadequacy and incompleteness, felt even before arrival. Peoples’ histories become flattened as caricatured backgrounds. What appears to be a self-determined journey is in fact mediated by processes of status, class, race and gender through the socio-economic system. How and when is someone no longer a newcomer? Can integration be measured? Newcomer is a term that can reduce multiplicities-of-being into static units that serve preconceived categories of social and political hierarchy.
Through their work, the artists in Persisting Multiplicities negotiate complex social, cultural and political identities. Viewers are invited to reflect on these artworks beyond binary framing. Why and how art is made ‒ including art not made ‒ are important considerations. The creation of this artwork is the very site where identities and relationships are negotiated. The artists’ processes and outcomes reveal and resist the hidden and ongoing forces imposed by colonialist, capitalist, and nationalist systems.
The artists in Persisting Multiplicities are all past recipients of the Newcomer Arts Award, presented by Toronto Arts Foundation’s Neighbourhood Arts Network.
The Instructional Centre Vitrines are located in the atrium of the Instructional Centre at U of T Scarborough, 1095 Military Trail. The building is open Monday – Saturday, and is wheelchair accessible.
1) Painting of a large bowl of noodles being shared by three people, each in various stages of grabbing and eating the food using chopsticks. The three figures are seated next to each other, in front of what appears to be a window, with grass and sky in the background. The painting is colourful, with broad and gestural brushstrokes, there is a sense of movement and texture.
2) Photograph of two ceramic sculptures against a white background. Both are comprised of a head with a cob of corn for a body. In both, the bald head is turned upward, facing above, with an open mouth. The left sculpture is predominantly blue, with some corn kernals of yellow, pink, and gold. The right sculpture is predominantly yellow, with some kernals of blue, pink, and gold. The sculptures are facing each other.
3) A black line drawing of a square cloth, on a white background. The cloth is mostly flat, but the top right corner is folded it on itself. A heavy black line defines the edge of the cloth, and texture and shadows are created through other mark-making.