Sunday, June 13, 2010

Workshop with the Wynford Seniors (Aleks)

This post is a little late; delayed by the chaos surrounding my opening the day following the workshop. June 2 Siya and I went up to the JCC to conduct a workshop with the Wynford seniors who meet there on a regular basis. In between their scheduled activities we gave a little talk about the theme of our exhibition, the collective etc. Then we went out and spoke with the seniors about what "home" means to them. Is it a fixed place or something they carry with them; is it somewhere they can go back to or is it where they live?
The first issue that came up was that many of these people, despite being born in Canada had been through the internment camps in the second world war.

A man named Frank generously spent some time telling us stories about growing up in Vancouver but being forcibly re-settled to Ontario in his late teens. To him, Vancouver is a city he knew like the back of his hand, yet he would never go back to live there because it is too painful. Home to him is now Toronto. He tells of people being shipped east and their property sold by the Canadian government. At least the Japanese in the United States could go back to their homes after the war ended; Japanese in Canada were not so lucky: boats, cars, houses were taken away. Later, they were compensated for a small fraction of their value. Frank is lucky in that most of his siblings are in Ontario as well; he has made a home here with his family.
The stories went on but the common theme which seemed to emerge was that home is where your loved ones are; or for many of these seniors home is a place you keep warm hoping your loved ones will visit.

Also had a nice chat with Ray Charles White's mom Vicky. For her, home is a place she creates now in a condo with her personal antique and art collection.
Many of the seniors now live in condos; they talk about home as a place in the past, a house in which they no longer live. Few of them thought of Japan as home.

Siya's favorite response came from the son of one of the seniors: "Home is where work opportunity presents..." which is something that had never occurred to her. It is a reality for many, making a place a home because work is there.

Just for fun we joined in on a game of bingo.

How cool are these retro bingo cards?!

Pics with me in them taken by Siya. For more:
Pic+ Video:
Watch the videos of Frank talking, many issues about being Japanese living in Canada during the war and of being in the Canadian army fighting against his own people; fascinating. Thanks Siya for recording this and for joining me that day.

This workshop brought many issues to light for me and when I returned to my paintings afterward I found myself thinking about the personal stories; mine and theirs, and how that could enter my work. My paintings for this exhibition had up to this point been concerned with very abstract pseudo scientific concepts I think now they will reflect a more personal experience of home.

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