We are wary, we are weary: reflecting on collective experiences during times of crisis

Responding to the pandemic and the current political climate through imagery and text

A part of the Prix Powerhouse 2020, We are wary, we are weary is a window exhibition presented by La Centrale on St-Laurent Boulevard.

We are wary, we are weary exhibits the works of Jenny Lin and Shanna Strauss, Prix Powerhouse 2020 winners.

La Centrale galerie Powerhouse is an artist-run centre dedicated to supporting multidisciplinary feminist practices. Their programming specializes in various dialogues with feminism, supporting social justice and intersectionality. Prix Powerhouse is a two-year award of $10,000 shared between two Montreal artists to celebrate their artistic career and practice.

The works of Lin and Strauss are a response to the pandemic, the current political climate, and the movement for racial justice and equity.

Each artist expresses their own perspective on these current social issues in their respective works, through a compilation of images and texts. This also speaks from the experiences of the artists as Black and Asian people.

Strauss is a Tanzanian-American mixed-media visual artist based in Montreal. She has exhibited in solo and group shows in Tanzania, Canada, the U.S. and Senegal. Her works are very personal and reflective.

By looking at Strauss’s artwork featured in the exhibit, one can see a right hand holding a heart while the left hand holds a needle and thread. The image is printed on a transparent film, leaving the back of the artwork visible. The background depicts newspaper headlines where one can read lines such as “Pandemic Within a Pandemic: Coronavirus and Police Brutality Roil Black Communities,” from The New York Times or “Legault supports protesters, but says there’s no systemic racism in Quebec,” from the Montreal Gazette. Strauss has made this work as a form of offering of healing to the Black community.

In her work’s description, Strauss explains the way she reflected on the collective despair and heartbreak that Black people experience. That despite the pain felt, they have to gather themselves every time they are oppressed and find the strength within themselves to keep fighting the oppression they experience.

“The piece became a meditation on repair,” said Strauss. “I thought about how the wounds that have been inflicted on us by white supremacy for centuries have to be continuously mended by our own hands, and how with every dehumanizing and oppressive act, with every life taken, new wounds are inflicted and old wounds are torn open once again.”

Lin is a visual artist who works with experimental narratives through print-based installations. Storytelling is an important aspect of her work.

Lin’s work Pencil teeth consists of a collection of various drawings made by the artist. The piece consists of hands pointing at drawings, one holding the corner of a sheet can be seen on the artwork. This accumulation of drawings demonstrates the many emotions felt by the artist during the pandemic.

The public can clearly see various hands, which point, react and interact with the drawings, while some hands are holding the corner of a sheet, as the person was observing the image.  This depicts an interaction with both artists when Strauss would show images to Lin. It reflects the way Strauss was processing what she was seeing and Lin was picking parts of the images as she describes, a kind of “interactivity.”

Lin’s statement mentions that her artwork reflects on her feelings and the weariness she has felt during the pandemic, including the way she has been worrying for loved ones and the protectiveness she feels towards the communities she is a part of.

“It is also a response to being for months in a state of overdrive and high-alert — over-functioning for my job to keep things ‘going’, being on edge due to higher incidents of racially-motivated violence, protecting against the virus, and observing the pandemic’s multi-faceted and detrimental effects on the most vulnerable in our communities,” stated Lin.

Strauss and Lin’s works are a representation of the many feelings, thoughts, and worries felt by the artists. Each one expresses the way they have been processing the current unstable political climate and the pandemic, which seems to have shed a light on the realities faced by many communities.

We are wary, we are weary is presented at La Centrale, at 4296  St-Laurent Blvd., until Dec. 12.

Related Posts