Visitors can catch aiya哎呀 in the upcoming exhibition, borderLINE: 2020 Biennial of Contemporary Art at your AGA from September 26, 2020 to January 3, 2021.
Featuring 38 artists and collectives across two provinces and five treaty territories, borderLINE calls attention to how borders are defined, who can enforce them, and what is confined by their limits.
borderLINE: 2020 Biennial of Contemporary Art is organized by the Art Gallery of Alberta and Remai Modern, and curated by Sandra Fraser, Felicia Gay, Franchesca Hebert-Spence and Lindsey Sharman. Presented by ATB Financial at the Art Gallery of Alberta.
aiya哎呀 - Grace Law, Lan Chan-Marples, Wai-Ling Lennon & Shawn Tse of aiya哎呀. Photo: 謝兆龍.
What are the borders you are confronting with your work?
Beginning with the 2017 removal of the Harbin Gate, we have been compelled to respond to the shifting borders of our Chinatown. The dismantle of the gate is symbolic of the ongoing displacement of Edmonton’s Chinatown and is an outcome of our city’s deeply rooted capitalist and colonial values. Our work is about the geographic and emotional borders of our city: the hard and soft borders; the officially marked borders and the unspoken invisible social-economic borders. Our city’s landscape is imprinted by our inherited systemic values that we perpetuate. Our work remembers what is lost due to the reality of the system we live in. With this loss we imagine what a city and what Chinatown will look like with values of equity, diversity, inclusion, kindness, and trust.
Image: Harbin Gate Remembrance (2018) by aiya哎呀 Photo Credit: 謝兆龍⠀
From where do you make your work? How does that inform your work/process?
Our work is rooted in our community - Chinatown, the politics of public space, and is grounded in research and the emotional social ties to the communal spaces we are graciously invited into. We come alongside and are held accountable by our community. There is a diversity of voices and perspectives in Chinatown and as artists we amplify our community’s voice and we also offer another perspective, which adds complexity, richness, and another kind of depth. Sometimes there is tension with conflicting priorities, so we come back to our values to inform the direction and process of our work.
If visitors want to know more about your work or the issues you are raising where should they go to learn more?
Aiya’s Facebook and Instagram and our website.
Has the pandemic affected your studio practice? Has it changed how you are thinking about your work, considering that the theme of the exhibition is borders?
What has changed in the way we work is the way we define public space, which now includes digital platforms. The pandemic has impacted our community more than it has affected the way we work. Chinatown was already struggling, but now there is a high threat of disaster gentrification. We’re wrestling with how to respond to this situation. There are interesting ways we can impact public space from the safety of our private homes.
Image courtesy of the Collective
What are you hoping that visitors to the biennial will take away from your work?
The future of Chinatown is not just a Chinese person issue. The landscape of our city is a reflection of the systems we inherit and perpetuate. Chinatown is part of Edmonton’s story, so collectively what we choose to honour, keep, and care for is reflective of what is important to everyone who lives in this city.
What do you think visitors should know about you and your work before they come visit the exhibition?
Be curious and open to what art means and what the role of the artist calls for.