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To mark the 100th anniversary of the Komagata Maru episode Surrey Art Gallery, On Main Gallery, and Kwantlen Polytechnic University’s Fine Arts Department collaborated to present a two-day symposium Disfiguring Identity: Art, Migration and Exile. These institutions turned to visual artists to guide a conversation on the power of art to critically address cultural stereotypes and experiences of migration.

Organized in conjunction with Surrey Art Gallery’s exhibition Ruptures in Arrival: Art in the Wake of the Komagata Maru.

Day One

Saturday, May 10, 7:30–9:30pm

Day one was an evening of short films created by emerging and established artists who engage with popular media and new media to negotiate the differences and similarities between past and present. Introduced by Paul Wong & Kira Wu, films by artists such as Ayesha Hameed Fire, Fences and Flight, Richard Fung, John Greyson, Ali Kazimi Rex vs. Singh, Karin Lee Shattered: The Anti-Asian Riots of 1907, Divya Mehra The Importance of Being Earnest and Vivek Shraya Seeking Single White Male were featured followed by a Q&A with the filmmakers and curators moderated by Paul Wong. Continued with an after party with light refreshments at the Nahm Thai Bistro with DJs A-Slam and Don Chow.

Day Two

Sunday, May 11, 12–5:45pm

Convened by Naveen Girn with a keynote presentation by Dana Claxton, day two was an afternoon of panels and conversations with artists investigating the use of performance, history, and memory to address art and activism related to racism. Among those featured were artists who have made work directly related to the history of the Komagata Maru and those addressing parallel and more recent incidences of racism and xenophobia arising from conflicts in arrival. Others considered the impact of media representations, personal experiences, and art histories that engage with narratives of identity.

Keynote Presentation

Dana Claxton

Panel 1: Performativity & Expanded Media

Moderator: Summer Pervez
Panelists: Sammy Chien, Neelamjit Dhillon, Farrah-Marie Miranda

Panel 2: New Departures: Organizations and Arrival Histories

Moderator: Steven Tong
Panelists: Heather Keung, Tyler Russell, Indu Vashist

Panel 3: Drawn from History/Memory

Moderator: Jordan Strom
Panelists: Avantika Bawa, Evan Lee, Cindy Mochizuki

Respondent & Closing Remarks

Ali Kazimi & Naveen Girn

All images courtesy of Surrey Art Gallery and Kwantlen Polytechnic University

Image 1 Dana Claxton; 2 Summer Pervez; 3 Farrah-Marie Miranda; 4 Naveen Girn; 5 Heather Keung, Karin Lee, Ali Kazimi, Paul Wong; 6 Cindy Mochizuki, Evan Lee, Jordan Strom; 7 panel audience members