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Massy Interviews / Kaila Bhullar + Sena Cleave + Debbie C

May 10 – July 07, Massy Arts will host Digital Interventions, a two-part group exhibition featuring the work of seven emerging interdisciplinary artists: Kaila Bhullar, Debbie C, Sena Cleave, kathy feng, Vitória Monteiro, Hân Phạm, and Paige Smith.

Working in conversation with contemporary digital mediations, the artists each contemplate the nature of our current reality, while questioning the expanding presence of technologies and the complexity within digital spaces.

The Massy Arts Gallery is located at 23 East Pender Street in Chinatown, Vancouver.
The gallery is open Tuesday to Saturday, 12pm to 5pm.
Entrance is free, and masks are mandatory.

Click here to register for the opening reception

Click here to know more about Digital Interventions – Part I

Click here to know more about Digital Interventions – Part II

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To celebrate Digital Interventions, Massy Arts presents a conversation between artists Kaila Bhullar, Sena Cleave, and Debbie C, exploring the expanding presence of technologies and the complexity within digital spaces.

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Kaila Bhullar + Sena Cleave + Debbie C / The materiality of the digital

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Kaila Bhullar: Digital interventions concern anything that is filtered, mediated, and/or influenced by the presence of digital mediums and outputs. They have a number of effects and can manifest in various ways. Can you explain what a digital intervention is to you, and how your work/practice is in conversation with these ideas?

Sena Cleave: My work, Contact Image, intervenes in an old essay by Pierre Loti. Loti’s writing is very racist and sexist, so I’ve taken his words out of context and re-written them with my fingers on a scanner bed. Using a scanner seemed like a good way to incorporate my thinking around punctum, or the way that things unintentionally captured in a photo can reach out and prick us.

I reverse this relationship and wonder how I can use touch to make photographic images. Scanners make photos based on touch (anything further than a few millimeters from the sensor will become blurry), so it’s a technique to control the way my body can be represented in the final image, and it’s a way of regaining agency over Loti’s words.

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Kaila: All the participating artists are working with a wide range of varying materials for this show (i.e. printmaking, paper-making/sculpture, lightbox, video, and mixed media). How do you feel that the materiality of your work expresses and connects to topics concerning the digital world?

Sena: I think a lot about how marginalized people are represented through language and photographic images, and my work with the scanner tries to twist those tropes.

In this case, I’m bringing the medium of language into a scanner because I think of scanners as extremely faulty machines. Unlike, say, a drone or Hân’s bluetooth beacons, scanners are really bad at sensing anything at a distance, so they don’t pose much of a threat.

As a racialized and feminine person, I witness (and experience first hand) the harm that photographic technology can impart by the way it includes, excludes, and otherwise (mis)represents people.

So I’m trying to regain agency, and I’m doing it by contextualizing myself within that history of harm.

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Questions on Part 1 – Heterotopias

Kaila: Heterotopias can be understood as the conceptual and contemplative spaces that exist between and among existing frameworks – a mirror-like, discursive space that reflects the “other” (other meaning inverted, disturbing, intense, reconstructive, or contradictory). They act as worlds within worlds, replicating what is outside while also upsetting it, and acting as a facilitator in our fundamental basis of reality. How do(es) you/your work relate to the theme of “heterotopias”? What does it mean to you?

Debbie C: I was in Singapore when I filmed my work, Some of All Things. I was in between places at the time having been forced to leave Vancouver suddenly because of the pandemic while still taking online classes to finish up the rest of my school term in a place with a 15 hour difference.

Some of All Things, was made in an attempt to have a semblance of order and relation to my surroundings. Reacquaint myself with the items around me and the home, by pretending I was about to embark on a journey and be able to pack what I thought I would need(want) for it.

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Kaila: A common thread among the three works in part 1 is in their relationship and expression of internal states – for example, dematerialization and permanence in relation to the self and identity, memory (and its decay), instability, and dissociation. Can you expand on this?

Debbie: I [found] my process for this work [to be] kind of neurotic. I filmed myself packing, unpacking, and repacking again. Later breaking the video down into individual frames, and reorganizing those frames into a grid. Repeating the laborious process of laying out my items, organizing them, folding, unfolding and reorganizing over and over again.

Packing is also an action that is forward-looking. Packing a bag full of personal items in preparation for future activities, activities that you will be doing in a different place, so it’s about imagining what that future will be like, and preparing for it.

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