A collaborative public art project called Defining Moments will be opening at The ACT Art Gallery in Maple Ridge on Saturday.
Whonnock artists Wan-Yi Lin and Roger Chen, collectively known at Mizzonk, have spent the past 10 months collecting anonymous responses to the question, “What moments have shaped you?”
By the deadline at the end of March they had recieved 250 submissions with personal stories from all over the Lower Mainland and beyond.
Locally submission stations for the project were located in the lobby of The ACT Arts Centre, the Maple Ridge Leisure Centre, the Maple Ridge Public Library and at last year’s Maple Ridge Pitt Meadows Country Fest.
Submissions also came in online and from a booth the artists secured at the Circle Craft Christmas Market, held at the Vancouver Convention Centre in November.
During the five-day Circle Craft event the artists received 65 to 70 submissions alone.
“I felt a lot of sincerety and authenticity in (the project). A lot of people were sharing very personal stories,” said Lin.
One story in the art installation reads:
“When I was 21 I loved a girl and I think she loved me. I pursued her for two years before she finally agreed to be mine. I had her for one week of bliss before we were in a back seat of a car that drove off Burnaby Mountain. She died in my arms and I forgot who I was for two years. Today I am running for MLA,” went the response.
Another reflects on how their live was changed by a moment of racism.
“I witnessed an education assistant become frustrated with a Chinese child’s name. She told the child that she could pick some other name that the rest of us can pronounce. The five-year-old said nothing in response. This was in 2012. I decided to send her the people in my life who are affected by racism. I chose to believe their narratives and I examined how I am influenced by white supremacy. This has been continuous work and I expect no cookies for being a decent person,” that response read.
Lin believes that because the project was anonymous it provided a platform for people to share stories that have happened to them in an honest and authentic way.
All submissions in the installation have been mounted and installed on individual parchment panels.
Those have been suspended within eight archival units designed and built by the artists.
The stories are unedited and remain in the format in which they were returned to the artists, whether hand-written or typed out.
The project was jointly funded by the Maple Ridge Public Art Steering Committee and the ACT Arts Council.
Initially the project was conceived of by a fascination by the artists of growth rings in trees.
Lin said in an interview in July last year that no matter what the growth rings look like, they are all very beautiful.
“They are an honest documentation of life. How the tree grows, it actually reflects its environment,” she said at the time.
Now she hopes the exhibition is able to encourage social empathy.
“I feel that when we meet people we shouldn’t judge too much because we don’t know what happened to them,” explained the artist.
“It’s important that we start to realize that everybody’s unique in different ways and it doesn’t mean that it’s bad or good. I want that kind of no judgement and I think it came through (in the exhibition),” she added.
Lin and Chen continued to receive responses after the deadline that they were unable to use.
“It was just too late to put them in,” said Lin, although they did include a few of them because they artists want the project to feel like it is still ongoing.
“I want to project the feeling that this process is perpetual. I doesn’t mean our project finishes now,” said Lin who explained that there might be another project that derives from this one in the future.
“This kind of introspection isn’t really like, okay, that’s it. It’s an ongoing process anyways and I feel we don’t want the exhibiton to feel like this is the conclusion,” she said.
Lin also wants all of the participants to know that because of them the whole process has been extra meaningful for the artists.