‘Unseen’ stories of Japanese Canadians on display at Surrey Art Gallery this summer – Surrey Now-Leader

The Surrey Art Gallery’s summer exhibitions aim to “make invisible Japanese Canadian stories visible again”.

Cindy Mochizuki’s solo exhibition “Autumn Strawberry” opens Saturday, June 26, as does Henry Tsang’s “Hastings Park,” both through August 28.

Pre-booking is required to visit the gallery over the next few months, minimum, with entry limited to Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. For details, call 604-501-5566.

Mochizuki’s multimedia installation takes visitors back in time to Japanese-Canadian farms in the years before World War II, with a focus on the Strawberry Hill area of ​​Surrey.

“My grandparents had berry farms in the Walnut Grove, Langley area, so the whole angle of ‘Japanese Canadians in Agriculture and Berry Farming’ has a personal connection to my own story” , Mochizuki told the Now-Leader.

Two summers ago, the Vancouver artist took up residence at the gallery’s TechLab to collect stories of berry culture and accounts from Japanese Canadians in Surrey and the Fraser Valley.

From there, she chained a series of short vignettes imagined through a 60-minute animation (hand-painted and digital), projected on the walls and screens of the gallery. She combined real and imagined characters and scenarios, in keeping with an artistic practice of historical recreation.

“In 2019, I met dozens of nisei and sansei (second- and third-generation Japanese Canadians), many of whom are now in their 80s and 90s, so few of them are still alive to remember those times,” Mochizuki explained.

“They would have been little children on the farms their parents and grandparents had owned, and I started collecting memories and conversations about their time. Here we work with time and memory, so that’s what they remember as elders, around 1930 to 1942 – their childhood period.

When people heard about the project and started contacting Mochizuki, the project started to take off.

“If they couldn’t come to Surrey, I would communicate with them in other ways,” she recalls. “I was getting these emails saying, ‘I have a story for you, I remember so-and-so had a farm on this street in Surrey, and I remember a man with a Leghorn chicken and I could find for you. This whole flurry of activity started happening.

If not for the pandemic, the show would invite people to “absorb everything for a long time,” the artist explained. But now the number of admissions is limited.

“Originally, the idea was to bring back some people, the storytellers, to play,” Mochizuki added. “A second part of the project leads me to work with a choreographer (with 605 Collective). As an audience member, you would get that kind of intimate tour of those worlds.

Animation is probably the perfect medium for “Autumn Strawberry,” Mochizuki said, “because there are things that a camera has never documented, and so we had to kind of bend and morph things. With the pandemic, we can’t do that element live, but we’re bringing back some of the descendants, grandchildren, those who were berry growers, and they’ll do a performance for the camera that will end up being a dance to film. It is multifaceted, with many collaborators involved.

On Saturday, July 17 starting at 7 p.m., Mochizuki and Tsang will talk about their work in a one-hour event on Facebook Live and Youtube. Look for details at surrey.ca/artgallery.

With “Hastings Park,” Tsang picks up where Mochizuki left off, in a multimedia installation of photographs and projections of four buildings in Vancouver’s Hastings Park. There, in 1942, approximately 8,000 Japanese Canadians were rounded up and detained before being sent to internment and labor camps in the interior of British Columbia, Alberta, Manitoba and Ontario. . Among the four structures is the Livestock Building, a location associated today with the popular hog races and the Pacific National Exposition petting zoo.

“Tsang used a thermal camera to create his images based in part on the compositions and staging of Leonard Frank’s documentary photographs of the internment of Japanese Canadians in this temporary incarceration site,” a notice reads. of event. “A thermal camera is typically used in the construction industry to display temperature differences by detecting light rays invisible to the human eye. Such photographs can reveal leaks or cracks in a building.

Using the camera, Tsang says, “I ask the buildings to remember when they housed 8,000 people. This camera not only exposes the current state of buildings, but also the past and hidden stories written within. He can see things that we cannot.

Also on view this summer at the Surrey Art Gallery is ‘Arts 2021’, an annual juried art exhibition organized by the Arts Council of Surrey. This year’s exhibition features more than 50 paintings, drawings, sculptures, textile arts and digital art, in and on the halls and walls of the gallery.

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