It is my pleasure to kick off the symposium that is happening this weekend. Disfiguring Identity: Art, Migration, and Exile, this symposium is presented in conjunction with the Surrey Art Gallery’s current exhibition, Ruptures In Arrival: Art in the Wake of the Komagata Maru. This exhibition, curated by Jordan Strom, brings together for the first time a cross section of visual art and variety of media related to the history of Komagata Maru episode. It presents these works along side contemporary art that addresses most recent history of mass migration from Asia to Canada’s West Coast. If you have not have the chance to see this exhibition, I hope you will do so tomorrow during tomorrow’s symposium session, which will take place at the Surrey Art Gallery.

We are proud to be part of the collaboration that brought together such a dynamic group of presenters and presentations for this symposium. This symposium explores troubling subject, the legacy of racism, discrimination and xenophobia that are part of the history of Canada.  It asks us to consider the questions: “What it is to be Canadian?” “Who is Canadian?” and “When are we Canadian?” The Canadian identity is constructed by history, beliefs, values and attitudes, all of which are reflected in the art of our time. Art has always play a role in helping us understand our history, art shows ourselves and help us understand and empathize with others and artwork can ask difficult questions as well as answer them. As author, filmmaker and educator, Ali Kazimi responded to a question from an audience member about what we might learn from his work, “perhaps what an artwork asks us to do is to know ourselves.”

In this symposium, we are invited to explore through art and artist, stories, ideas, visions, and perspectives on how our identities are formed and including the struggle to be equal, to be respected, and to be understood. This symposium is part of the Surrey Art Gallery’s ongoing Transpacific Transect series of events and series of public art talks that explore the relationship between Asia and Canada through contemporary art. The past speakers have included Ranveer Kalika, Alice Ming Wai Jim, and Sarindar Dhaliwal. This weekend’s Disfiguring Identity symposium is produce in partnership with On Main Gallery and Kwantlen Polytechnic University’s Fine Arts Department. I would like to thank the very important contributions from Paul Wong, his team at On Main Gallery, Kira Wu, and her Kwantlen Fine Arts students for this weekend’s symposium and helping make this happen. We would also like to thank the funders, we gratefully acknowledge the financial assistant of the City of Surrey, Surrey Art Gallery Association, BC Arts Council, Canada Council for the Arts, the Government of Canada through the department of Canadian Heritage, and the Vancouver foundation. We also acknowledge the financial assistance of the Canadian Council’s Equity Office, BC Gaming Multiculturalism, BC Arts Council’s Co-op Placement Program, and I would like to recognize on behalf of the partners the contribution of the Surrey Civic Theater, which manages this fabulous new space, and Kwantlen Polytechnic University’s Faculty of Arts.

Now it gives me great pleasure to introduce this symposium’s convener, Naveen Girn. Let me tell you a little about him, Naveen is a Vancouver based cultural organizer and curator. He was the curator of the exhibition Bhangra Me, at the Museum of Vancouver in 2011. He also co-curated with Jordan Strom the exhibition Spectacular Sangeet (2013), an exhibition about artistic responses to Indian music, song and dance at the Surrey Art Gallery. Naveen has been the project coordinator of the Metro Vancouver wide set of exhibitions and events titled Komagata Maru 1914 – 2014: Generations Geographies and Echoes that is currently on going across the lower mainland. Naveen has curated two exhibitions as part of this lower mainland set of projects, the projects are, Echoes of the Komagata Maru at the Surrey Museum and Unmoored: Vancouver’s Voyage of the Komagata Maru at the Museum of Vancouver. Please join me in welcoming Naveen Girn.

Liane Davison
Director, Surrey Art Gallery