I am land that speaks

I am land that speaks is an exhibition of contemporary artwork by local and international artists curated by Maya Wilson-Sanchez, as part of ArtworxTO: Toronto’s year of public art (2021-2022) ending October 2, 2022.

The artworks in this exhibition explore how artists take on the role of being a chronicler. This exhibition proposes changes in order to coexist with the environment, criticizing societies’ history with land ownership, and predicting the future of civilization.

Installation view of I am land that speaks

During the opening reception of I am land that speaks, which took place in Union Station on June 14th, curator Maya Wilson-Sanchez explained the concept behind this third and final installment of the three-part series. “In I am land that speaks, we are particularly looking at history making, history production from the land. We are thinking about the stories we tell about each other, and our identities.” Each chapter in the exhibition explores the curatorial idea of exploring home in its own way. 

Lisa Myers Overture is a visually striking commissioned piece that addresses ongoing colonialism and consumerism. Using blueberry pigment, the words OVER ASKING and OVER TAKING are written in block letters, on a yellow background confronting wealth and land ownership, and the ramifications of inflation in real estate practices. This work has a large presence as it can’t be missed by those walking by. It makes us aware of the uncomfortable truths of land practices.

Lisa Myers, Overture, 2022

Eric Gallardo’s piece, The future is shrouded in mist, was also commissioned for this exhibition. It explores how we experience art where we live, and in places we are familiar with. Gallardo has included photographs and images of lichen, as well as a showcase of lichen found in Toronto. Wilson-Sanchez explains, “Lichen is the only organism on the planet that can decompose matter to create energy, as well as photosynthesis. The interest in lichen is that it both exists as an entity in itself but is also part of a symbiotic relationship.” It is the belief of Wilson-Sanchez and Gallardo that humans can learn a lot from lichen about adapting to changing environments. For example, this lichen in Union Station is also an experiment: if this piece of lichen dies or changes colour during its time in Union Station, it will give us insight into our own environment, such as the high level of air pollution.

Eric Gallardo, The future is shrouded in mist, 2022

A unique aspect of I am land that speaks are the artists who speculated and presented a supposed future, like Alvin Luong with his Ration Market Special. It presents a fictional scene from the future where mass displacement has begun in order to avoid rising sea levels in Southeast Asia. This inevitable migration will affect Luong’s family in Vietnam as well as many others. Presented is a food cart, it has commodities within it that anticipate the needs of those in transit — and in crisis. The cart includes meals, currency exchange and support services for visa applications. This may in fact become a reality, and therefore makes viewers question what future they may imagine for themselves, and what version of the world they may soon be living in. The artist leaves room for viewers to reflect with regard to its location, as Union Station is also a hub for transportation. I think it also questions the viewers: how do they categorize themselves and their identities as people in transit?

Alvin Luong, Ration Market Special, 2022

Each artwork from the nine artists in I am land that speaks portrays a unique perspective about the human condition, and the fact that how we treat land and its people has an everlasting impact. This exhibition focuses on the autonomy of the land and voices the urgency of our accountability. The land remembers and it speaks thoughtfully.

Cannupa Hanaka Luger, Future Ancestral Technologies. (Entry log, 2m, 55 sec, 2019)

Georgia Gardner

Images are courtesy of ArtworkxTO

*Exhibition information: I am land that speaks, at Union Station, 61 Front St W., June 6 – October 2, 2022, curated by Maya Wilson-Sanchez / Group exhibition including works by Eric Gallardo, Cannupa Hanska Lugar, Ishtar’s Network of Feral Gardens, Alvin Luong, MADEYOULOOK, Chris Mendoza, Lisa Myers, Waard Ward, Tania Willard.

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