Exploring space and place with SCA MFA’s work-in-progress exhibit

within & outside seeks to confront how to adapt and create art in a virtual landscape

An image of Ybarra from her exhibit Archive of Embodied Displacement. Photo courtesy of Faune Ybarra

By: Devana Petrovic, Staff Writer

For their fall exhibition this year, the SFU School for the Contemporary Arts’ (SCA) second-year Master of Fine Arts (MFA) cohort is presenting their works-in-progress show online. The exhibition, within & outside, is based on how creating art during the COVID-19 pandemic has led to a renegotiation of how art is communicated, particularly through individual screens. As the description states, “In within & outside, we share the ongoing adaptation of what could become our graduation projects understanding that they might be experienced by a ‘new audience’ moving forward.” 

The exhibit highlights the multimedia projects of Rahul Bader, Jean Brazeau, Charlie Cooper, Karla Desentis Rodríguez, Aakansha Ghosh, Somayeh Khakshoor, Giselle Liu, Mansi Patel, C. Olivia Valenza, and Faune Ybarra. Many of the pieces explore in their own way movement through spaces or time. They renegotiate how to interact with an audience that can no longer experience their art other than through a screen. So this being said, the entirety of the exhibition is made up of works that explore art through sound, videography, photography, or any other creative forms. 

One of the works by Ybarra’s, Archive of Embodied Displacement, looks at the diasporic experience and the movement across spaces through migration. The projects are primarily photos and videos that explore time and places, and the role that history plays in immigration and displacement. I found it particularly fascinating how these works include a collection of archived pictures of the Canadian East and West Coast, that are contrasted with the artists’ personal artistic modernity. Ybarra describes it as “actions to ground oneself to the currently inhabited land [ . . . ] a conversation with the book Through Newfoundland with the Camera, published over 100 years ago, responding from the new land I’m trying to adapt to, Vancouver.” There are several other fascinating works that explore concepts like the one Ybarra has tackled in a contemporary form, all of which are worth exploring. 

Another work, by Cooper, uses sound as a means of communicating art. The Neighborhood is an installation of sounds picked up by microphones and natural radio receivers, which Cooper had set up in his community park. In the audio clips, sounds like that of insects, small animals, and rustling of plants can be identified, while there are also other mysterious noises that are less auditorily identifiable. As described on his website, “Charlie’s work encourages listening as a means of understanding and appreciating the world we live in.”

As we find ourselves engaging online more than ever and using social media to connect in innovative ways, this exhibition and its medium come at the exact right time. The online medium communicates the changing times and the ways we’ve had to renegotiate engagement and connection. 

Many of the installations in this exhibit explore the concepts of place and space. These are concepts we have had to navigate in the last few months as many of the spaces we once moved in became virtual. We have had to ask what this means for our education, for connections and interactions, and for how we move through the world. This exhibition also asks how we can experience art through a screen and what this means for art and for the experience of visual arts. 

within & outside is running from September 1 to 30 and is taking place online and on Instagram. For a fuller and more gallery-like experience, I recommend checking out the exhibit on the SCA’s website as the instagram page is also used for alternative posts.