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What is Left, What is Right

Saturday, November 25, 2017


Image credit: Stephanie Comilang – Lumapit Sa Akin, Paraiso (Come to Me, Paradise), 2016

7 - 10pm

Join us on November 25th for the launch of Forest City Gallery's annual publication Digest: What is Left? What is Right? edition, presentations by two contributors to the publication and a video screening. 

This publication features texts and artist projects by: Sâkihitowin Awâsis, Christina Battle, Christie Dreise, Marina Fathalla, Serena Lee, Dainesha Nugent-Palache, Jenna Faye Powell, Karalyn Reuben, and Ruth Skinner. The video screening features works by: Stephanie Comilang, Taylor Doyle, Helena Martin Franco, Katie Kotler, Karilynn Ming Ho, Caroline Monnet, Zinnia Naqvi, and Dainesha Nugent-Palache.

The night begins with presentations by two contributors to the What is Left? What is Right? Publication:

Doing the dishes:  All the ways in which this is proving difficult

Presentation and Conversation - Serena Lee and Kirsty Robertson

Serena Lee presents an overview to the project Doing the dishes, attempting to ‘describe an impossible scenario,’ one that imagines that we are all together in the same room -- the mothers and daughters that she has visited as part of the project -- and by mapping it as a 'family tree.' This is followed by a conversation with Kirsty Robertson, one of the participants of Doing the dishes, as they work to bring shape to the project; how it was as an experience and how it might exist for an audience after the fact.

A Blanket for Anishinaabe Kwe Presentation - Sâkihitowin Awâsis

Merging song and spoken word poetry to honour Indigenous women and Two-Spirits, Awâsis will lead reflection on the embodiment of land-based knowledge in biskaabiiyang, the process of decolonization. Drawing on the Native Women’s Barn Quilt Trail that runs through Chippewas of the Thames territory, we will explore how rural graffiti can help transform the very notion of what it means to be present on Indigenous lands.

For more information on the Native Women’s Barn Quilt Trail:

The video screening presents works by eight contemporary Canadian artists:

With similar concerns of representation and identity raised in the gallery exhibition, artists in the What is Left? What is Right? video program exact these concerns in differing ways. Exploring and challenging the elements of narrative and performance, artists in the screening are able to utilize the structures of storytelling and performance to add layers and complexity to these multifaceted issues. A snapshot of ways in which Canadian artists visualize these issues, the works in What is Left? What is Right? challenge us to consider the complexities of time, space, histories, and land as we make sense of how matters of identity are not only formed but also how they continually shift.


Stephanie Comilang – Lumapit Sa Akin, Paraiso (Come to Me, Paradise)

2016 – 25:46 minutes

Your eyes will rest a few minutes

Each one amidst the many, all one

It’s merely the beginning

A dream in future time

These poems on the side

Like boys we’ve left like punchlines

While all our desires and fears

Amass here offline

So far from the tower lights

–‘Drone Poem’ from Lumapit Sa Akin, Paraiso

Lumapit Sa Akin, Paraiso (Come to Me, Paradise) is a science fiction documentary by Stephanie Comilang that uses the backdrop of Hong Kong and the various ways in which the Filipina migrant worker occupies Central on Sundays. The film is narrated from the perspective of Paraiso, a ghost played by a drone who speaks of the isolation from being uprooted and thrown into a new place. Paraiso’s reprieve comes when she is finally able to interact with the women and feel her purpose, which is to transmit their vlogs, photos, and messages back home. During the week, she is forced back into isolation and is left in an existential rut.

On Sundays, Central becomes a pivotal place for Paraiso and the three protagonists as thousands congregate to create a space of female caregiving, away from their employers’ homes where they live and work full time. From early morning to night, the women occupy these spaces normally used for finance and banking into spaces where they relax over food, drinks, manicures, prayer, and dance. Only when the women gather en masse is the signal strong enough to summon Paraiso to them for download.

Lumapit Sa Akin, Paraiso uses Hong Kong’s dystopian, maze-like structures, which the Filipina migrants re-imagine, and focuses on the beauty of caregiving while also exploring how technology is used as a pivotal way for the women to connect—to each other, but also to loved ones. Raising questions around modern isolation, economic migration, and the role of public space in both urban and digital forms, the film transcends its various component parts to offer a startling commentary on the present from the point of view of the future.

Music: Why Be, Sky H1, Elysia Crampton.

Cinematographer: Iris Ng. 

Pariaiso Voiced by: Emily Comilang. With Irish May F. Salinas, Lyra Ancheta Torbela,Romelyn Presto Sampaga.

Karilynn Ming Ho - Object # 3 Fence

2012/2013 – 1:13 minutes

Object Series is an ongoing investigation into the performative interactions / relations with objects.

Caroline Monnet – IKWÉ

2009 – 4:45 minutes

IKWÉ is an experimental film that weaves the narrative of one woman's (IKWÉ) intimate thoughts with the teachings of her grandmother, the Moon, creating a surreal narrative experience that communicates the power of thoughts and personal reflection.

Dainesha Nugent-Palache – Out of Many One Story

2015 – 6:24 minutes

Out of Many One Story is the sound and video component which both accompanies and inspired the photographic series Come Brown Come Brown, Come Black Come Black. The video work highlights similarities between various women of differing ages who are part of the Afro-Caribbean diaspora, with regards to their experiences surrounding their own perception of beauty, against those imposed onto them—often via the matriarch and always containing evidence of colonial conditioning. Employing the use of storytelling, Out of Many One Story contributes to the long-held tradition of preserving and disseminating oral histories within diasporic communities.

Katie Kotler – Meat Lovers

2012 – 1:35 minutes

Two mass terms are merged as one—individual animals into hamburgers, an individual woman into an object, “woman.” Through this doubling of objectification, what we have before us is the butchering of women’s subject status.

–Carol J. Adams, The Pornography of Meat, p. 25

Meat Lovers is an audiovisual exploration of porn and consumption through the lens of Carol J. Adams’ The Sexual Politics of Meat and The Pornography of Meat. Using humour and the grotesque, the piece subverts the stereotype that women’s porn requires a narrative. By reappropriating the film She Prefers the Skin Flute (1991) through collage and animation, Meat Lovers re-imagines the potentially most erotic moments of anticipation as painful and ominous; man prepares to consume woman. Interjecting butcher advertisements that resemble those of sexy women, Meat Lovers addresses the links between sex, consumerism, women, and meat.

Since my introduction to feminism through Naomi Wolf’s The Beauty Myth in 2001, I have actively been trying to understand woman’s place in the media. Earning an honours degree in Women’s Studies from Concordia University, I have written papers examining Carol J. Adams’ book through a post-structuralist lens and comparing the variant forms of feminism being played out in the publications of the Suicide Girls website versus Sweet Action magazine. For Snap! Magazine, I conducted a survey examining the sex lives of young Montrealers and published an article discussing the effects of internet porn on everyday sex, comparing the theories of Andrea Dworkin and Naomi Wolf. Meat Lovers is the visual representation which culminates my research.

Asking how do we become objectified pieces of meat is like asking why nobody should see how sausage is made (Adams, 1990).

In Meat Lovers, the heroine recounts to another woman a threesome she had with two men while stroking her friend’s shoulder. Women and animals’ different body parts are objectified and interchangeable; both can be isolated and played with. The narrator is Caucasian; her friend is black and sporting a wig identical to the narrator’s hair, suggesting fluidity between the women and pointing to Carol J. Adam’s idea of the absent referent. We do not see the process of the animal being brutally killed so that they can be palatable; similarly, we do not see the process of woman’s objectification. The black woman is expected to look exactly like the white protagonist, no matter how artificial. Under consumerism, the individual becomes mass, and further away from being anything but “special.” Through repetition, surrealism, slow-motion, and neon filters, Meat Lovers demonstrates the complicated and often messy politics of the desire that is simulated onscreen. Flashing images of poultry demonstrate the true nature of the subconscious when initiating a partner. Physical parts, whether they be lips, breasts, or legs are both delicious and disgusting. Meat Lovers is a video inviting the viewer to participate in deciding who gets to be objectified and who can really derive pleasure from sex, either simulated or “real.” Furthermore, it asks us to question why anyone is eating meat.


Adams, Carol J., The Sexual Politics of Meat: A Feminist Vegetarian Critical Theory, Continuum, 1990.

Adams, Carol J., The Pornography of Meat, Continuum, 2004.

Taylor Doyle – Home Fitness

2016 – 5:00 minutes

Home Fitness considers the power, the hilarity, the intimate awkwardness, and the profound loneliness that can be found in the interior space of home self-improvement pursuits. The body is placed at the centre of domestic space, using homely, everyday settings to inspire athleticism. Shot in the childhood home of the artist's own mother, one of three sisters, Home Fitness investigates familial interior dwellings where the ultra-feminine takes residence, regenerating, strengthening, and performing labour and self-care.

Helena Martin Franco – Masquerade

2014 – 1:49 minutes

Masquerade reveals the fragility of the freedom of speech in our present era, and the feeling of powerlessness when facing the forces of repression, either official or illicit. It speaks about the silence caused by the constant state of fear.

This video performance is part of the series faux dire. It is a project that is born out of concerns related to the use of misinformation by contemporary political actors. It is about the rejection of the manipulation of public opinion to justify the reductions of basic services to the most vulnerable population: the unemployed/underemployed, students, immigrants, indigenous people, the poor, women, children... It is a repudiation of distractive tactics (fear mongering) that gain the support of local and international organizations by polarizing public opinion to make it easier to promote extreme postures, social/political conflicts, and blood-stained confrontations.

Masquerade explores the involvement of the citizen in public protests, a kind of action that empowers civilians through solidarity and collective reassertion while at the same time weakening them when they experience repression by official forces. Fear is then used as a weapon, and fragility becomes an imposed identity.

Zinnia Naqvi – Heart-Shaped Box

2016 – 4:10 minutes

Heart-Shaped Box (2016) features home video footage of the artist, taken in 1995 at the age of 3, just four years after her family had immigrated to Canada. As they settled into their daily lives in their new home, grunge music was at the height of its popularity. Naqvi’s sisters were particularly taken by bands such as Nirvana, Live, and Hole, and in this home movie, Naqvi’s sisters teach their youngest sister to sing the lyrics to some of the era’s biggest hits.

Grunge music emerged in the American-northwest in the post-punk era of the mid-1980s. It was primarily popularized by lower-middle class white Americans who felt that they were on the margins of society. The lyrics in grunge music were typically angst-filled, and often addressed themes such as social alienation, apathy, confinement and a desire for freedom.1

Despite the anti-establishment sentiment of the artists who were making the music, grunge began to see mainstream recognition in the ’90s. Many of the genre’s artists were uncomfortable with their success and the resulting attention it brought.2 The musicians struggled with the idea that in order to continue to produce music, they needed to succeed commercially—this produced a tension between the felt sense of alienation in the audience and the broad cultural appeal of the artists’ messages. As the popularity of grunge increased, the fanbase expanded to the very people that artists such as Kurt Cobain were criticizing in their lyrics.

Naqvi’s Heart-Shaped Box provides a different take on this narrative. Here, the music resonates with newly immigrated Pakistani teenage girls. Naqvi’s sisters were on the outside of a new society, aiming to fit in. This video is an example of American popular culture influencing a generation of people for whom their product was unintended yet with whom it resonated honestly.

1. “Grunge.” Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia, accessed 12 December 2016, 2. Michael Azerrad, Come as You Are: The Story of Nirvana (Doubleday, 1994), 254.


Sâkihitowin Awâsis is a Michif Anishinaabe two-spirit land defender, writer, and spoken word artist from the pine marten clan. Currently living along Deshkan Ziibiing (Antler River) in London, Ontario, she is a Phd student at Western University who has been active in local anti-colonial resistance and community organizing against the Line 9 tar sands pipeline. As a writer, she has contributed to the book A Line in The Tar Sands and Forever Loved: Exposing the Hidden Crisis of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls in Canada. Rooted in ancestral story-telling traditions and inspirited by hip hop, her poetry has been awarded by the Ontario Native Women’s Association and featured in kimiwan ‘zine. Centering Anishinaabe ways of knowing, her work as a geographer and community organizer draws connections between self-determination in energy decision making and the health and well-being of Indigenous Nations. She talks to plants and animals, and is continually inspired by acts of decolonization, resurgence, and community healing.

For over 15 years, media artist, curator, arts administrator and educator Christina Battle (Edmonton, AB) has been an active member of a number of communities including Toronto, San Francisco, and Denver and is currently based in London (ON). With a practice founded in a DIY ethos she sees culture as being entirely dependent on it if it hopes to remain current and progressive. With organizing an active and critical part her practice, Christina has organized events and curated screenings that have traveled across North America. She is a contributing editor to INCITE Journal of Experimental Media, and current collective projects include: re:assemblage with Scott Miller Berry; and MICE Magazine.

Stephanie Comilang is an artist living and working in Toronto and Berlin. She received her BFA from Ontario College of Art & Design. Her documentary based works create narratives that look at how our understandings of mobility, capital and labour on a global scale are shaped through various cultural and social factors. Her most recent films ‘Lumapit Sa Akin, Paraiso’ (2016) is a science fiction documentary about Filipina migrant workers in Hong Kong. It has been screened at Asia Art Archive in America, New York; S.A.L.T.S., Basel; UCLA, Los Angeles; Images Festival, Toronto; and Art Athina in Athens. 

Taylor Doyle is a video and performance artist and body exertion enthusiast. Taylor makes work about the relationship between (and obsession with) modern fitness regimes and public sexuality–and how the two narrate one another. Taylor is interested in the history of the institutionalization of exercise and the sweaty little spaces in which we practice communally and individually. Her work involves the insertion of physical feats of strength and endurance into public spaces, using architecture to inspire athleticism. Through video, Taylor examines the perceived strength of femme-identifying individuals and inter-gendered competitiveness. Taylor is currently studying at the Slade School of Fine Art in London, UK, working towards an MFA in Fine Art Media.

Christie Dreise recently completed her MA in Art History at Western University (2017). She is a graduate of the Art and Art History joint program at Sheridan College and the University of Toronto Mississauga (2015). She is interested in the complicated connections between identity, lived experience, and place. She grew up on a dairy farm and just moved into a town, which is different and a little exciting. In her writing, painting, and printmaking she enjoys finding unique relationships between real spaces and those who might occupy them. For example, her short story, “Calf Bully,” In Showing The Story: Creative Nonfiction by New Writers, for Life Rattle Press (2014), shares the struggle of a teenager as she attempts to feed milk to a stubborn calf. Christie believes in the power of images to ask questions and represent unique perspectives. She reflects upon how place, identity, and the proximities within our lived relationships impact how we see and be in the world. 

Marina Fathalla is a multidisciplinary artist and writer currently based in Toronto. Her projects are fueled by a particular sensitivity to site, at the intersection of its poetics and its politics. She explores modes of preserving land history, and strategies for preservation in conversation with museology. She has published writing in Kapsula Magazine, CMagazine and is a collective member of MICE Magazine. She is also currently a board member at SAVAC.

Helena Martin Franco, born in Cartagena, Colombia, has been living and working in Montreal since 1998. She holds a master's degree in visual and media arts from the Université du Québec à Montréal and is actively involved in the network of French-artists in Montreal. She is part of several visual arts broadcasting collectives, one of which is in Quebec: L'Araignée, a collective for the dissemination of contemporary art. From a gendered perspective, it establishes links between collectives and cultural organizations in order to promote meeting and exchange of artistic practices, particularly between Canada and Colombia.

Her interdisciplinary practice explores the mixing of different artistic processes and the hybridization between traditional techniques and new technologies. Starting from autofictions, her work reveals the permeability of the borders of cultural, national, gender identities through the dialogue of action, image, and text. Franco’s work has been presented in the Dominican Republic, Lithuania, Spain, New Zealand, Colombia, the United States, Argentina, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Iran, Cuba and Canada.

Karilynn Ming Ho is a Vancouver-based interdisciplinary artist working with video, performance, multi-media installation, theatre, sculpture and collage. Her work draws on existential themes as a means to examine formal and conceptual ideas around performativity as it relates to screen culture and technology. Ming Ho has exhibited in solo shows across Canada: at Optica Centre d’art Contemporain in Montreal, Kyhber ICA in Halifax and Stride Gallery in Calgary. Her work has been screened widely in film and performance festivals in Canada, the US, and France. Ming Ho also works as a professional editor for a number of reality television, film and documentary series produced in Canada.

Katie Kotler is a Toronto-based artist working in animation and installation. Kotler is presently participating in a residency with the Drake Hotel and curating "Installation as a Subversive Art," an exhibition that examines the links between film set design and installation art. She has most recently shown work at the Art Gallery of Ontario and curated "Diamonds + Thunderbolts" in partnership with the Toronto Animated Image Society and Trinity Square Video. Kotler completed her Master of Fine Arts at OCAD University in 2016 and is the Programming Coordinator at Xpace Cultural Centre.

Layering forms and media, Serena Lee maps power, perception, and belonging through models of polyphony. Serena practises and presents close to home and internationally, recently with Cow House Studios in Wexford County, Ireland; Academy of Fine Arts Vienna at the Research Pavilion, Venice; the Images Festival, Toronto; and Mountain Standard Time, Calgary. Serena also collaborates as member of Read-in (NL/DE/ID/CA) on performative, textual, and discursive projects, shifting modes and disciplines. Serena holds an MFA from the Piet Zwart Institute, Rotterdam; and an Associate Diploma in Piano Performance from the Royal Conservatory of Music in Canada.  

Caroline Monnet is a self-taught multidisciplinary artist of Algonquin ancestry from Outaouais, Québec. Using film, video, painting, photography and installation, her work demonstrates a keen interest in communicating complex ideas around Indigenous identity and bicultural living through the examination of cultural histories. Monnet has exhibited in Canada and internationally. Monnet lives in Montréal and is also a founding member of the Aboriginal digital arts collective ITWÉ. – description: VUCAVU

Zinnia Naqvi is a visual artist based in Toronto and Montreal. Her work uses a combination of photography, video, writings, archival footage and installation. Naqvi’s practice often questions the relationship between authenticity and narrative, while dealing with larger themes of post-colonialism, cultural translation, language, and gender.

Naqvi received a BFA in Photography from Ryerson University, and is currently an MFA Candidate in Studio Arts from Concordia University. Her work has shown in Canada at the Ryerson Image Centre, Gallery 44, the Koffler Gallery, Articule and the Leonard & Bina Ellen Gallery. Her work has been shown internationally at Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Buenos Aires, Oberhausen International Short Film Festival, Uppsala International Short Film Festival and the International Institute of Contemporary Art and Theory in Mangalia, Romania.

Dainesha Nugent-Palache is a Toronto based artist, writer, curator, and recent graduate of OCAD University—working primarily in photography, and video, often employing the use of perfomativity—Her practice is centred around themes of otherness, identity and representation, in relation to both femininity and the Afro-Caribbean diaspora. Through the use of satire, pastiche and colour, Dainesha’s work is aesthetically tantalizing enough to pull viewers in, so that they may then consider the deeper layered complexities which exist within her work. All in all, it is Dainesha’s intent to provide documentation and commentary on twenty-first-century realities through visual narratives, for the sake of posterity.

Jenna Faye Powell is an emerging artist and arts administrator. Powell has attained a MFA degree from the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design University, as well as a BFA degree from the University of Western Ontario. Powell has participated in shows nationally including Brave New Worlds at Museum London, the Windsor- Essex Triennial at the Art Gallery of Windsor, a solo exhibition at the Robert McLaughlin Gallery, and the 2012 RBC Painting Competition at the Power Plant Gallery. Powell served as the Executive Director of Forest City Gallery from 2012-2017 and now lives and practices in Toronto, Ontario. Powell currently works as the Gallery Coordinator for Division Gallery and Arsenal Contemporary Toronto. 

Karalyn Reuben is an Urban Cree-Ojibwa German-British Artist, born in London Ontario. She currently lives in Toronto, Ontario and is studying at the Ontario College of Art and Design University studying Indigenous Visual Culture. She previously attended the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design University in Halifax, Nova Scotia where she specialized in printmaking and graduated with a BFA Interdisciplinary in 2013. 

Through her work she seeks to connect with the viewer on an emotional level. Her works are investigations of existence and self-awareness, and are a hybridization of historic and contemporary imagery, integrated with symbols of religion and technology in backgrounds of worldly landscapes. Within her studio practice she explores different possibilities of explanations of life and different ways of being human. She is drawn to responsibility to share how she thinks and feels in hopes in connecting with others in her search of herself. 

After growing up white-identified, Reuben is regaining her Indigenous identity as well as knowledge of Indigenous Art, Material Culture, Histories and Issues along with conversations with her father of their culture and way of life. It is through this uncovering of knowledge that Reuben is reevaluating her existence and what is means to be a human on Turtle Island (North America).  

Kirsty Robertson is an Associate Professor of Contemporary Art and Museum Studies at Western University, Canada (London, Ontario). Her research focuses on activism, visual culture, and changing economies. Robertson has published widely on these topics and is currently finishing her book Tear Gas Epiphanies: Protest, Museums, and Culture in Canada. Since 2008, she has been very interested in textiles, the textile industry and textile-based arts and has written on textiles and technology, on craftivism and is currently looking closely at petrotextiles (that is, textiles that are made from oil and that disintegrate into plastic microfilaments). Finally, Robertson has an ongoing interest in critical museum studies, and is starting a large-scale project focused on small-scale collections that work against traditional museum formats.

Ruth Skinner is an artist and academic pursuing a PhD in Art and Visual Culture at Western University. Her practice engages the everyday liminal through nostalgic, romantic, and similarly heavy-handed means. Ruth researches contemporary photography, archives and artist books, specifically the challenges and opportunities they pose for art history and theory. She co-founded Good Sport project space in London and manages DNA Gallery’s bookshop. She is the current President of the Board of Directors of Forest City Gallery.

Image credit: Stephanie Comilang – Lumapit Sa Akin, Paraiso (Come to Me, Paradise), 2016


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