Between Us

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February 12 - April 26, 2015

Divya Mehra and Talk is Cheap: Unincorporated Language Laboratories

Walter Phillips Gallery image of work in exhibition "Between Us"

Divya Mehra, Modernity at Large (othering the Other), 2015. Sugar, corn syrup, dextrose, glycerine, artificial and natural flavors, gelatin, vegetable gums, artificial colors, infinite edition, 1/2". Photo: Meghan Krauss

Between Us considers the concept of transnational identity in relation to Banff; an international-tourist destination with a high rate of immigration. 'Between us' is an idiom that means to share a secret or a joke, but can also indicate a lack of understanding. Rooted in culture, the idiom is an expression or phrase that can be figurative or literal, negating the possibility for direct translation.

The large-scale installation by Queens-based collective Talk is Cheap: Unincorporated Language Laboratories featured screen-printed idioms in English, Spanish and Tagalog - the official language of the Philippines and the second most common mother-tongue in Banff. The idioms are cross-translated into each language, producing nonsensical and humorous phrases. In attempting to cross-translate the idiom - by very definition, a phrase which resists direct translation - the work foregrounds the humour and everyday poetics inherent in this movement between languages.

Winnipeg-based artist Divya Mehra's two new works in the exhibition are a part of her ongoing series Enjoy Diversity. Using humour as an entry-point, the work also plays on the timing of the opening, taking place within days of Valentine's Day. I appreciate your intentions. (a desire to participate in the construction of its meaning), (2015) takes the form of a painting on the gallery's window - a box of chocolates which bears the idiom, 'Be Mine.' Modernity at Large (othering the Other), (2015) is comprised of candies stamped with the series' title that are displayed in a small heart-shaped bowl. Both works destabilize singular understandings of the term diversity - the unquestioned use of which can disguise differences in politics and policies.

In concert with Between Us, Talk is Cheap: Unincorporated Language Laboratories hosted workshops prior to the exhibition opening with local students from the Banff Community High School. The workshops explored themes of language and migration, and established the exhibition as a literal space for redefining the notion of us.

Curated by Jacqueline Bell.

Walter Phillips Gallery gratefully acknowledges the support of the Canada Council for the Arts, and Alberta Foundation for the Arts. Talk is Cheap: Unincorporated Language Laboratories would like to thank Paolo Javier, Omar I. Mendez, Gia Venzon Quimbao, and Patrick Rowe for their collaboration and support during the production of this work.

Divya Mehra

Divya Mehra (MFA Columbia University, New York, U.S.A.) Mehra's research-fueled practice often explores marginalization, otherness and the construct of diversity. Through appropriating, editing and reassembling a variety of literary, comedic and musical sources, she creates an acerbic dialogue on the commandeering, consumption and construction of race and identity politics. Often foregrounding the ongoing struggle with her personal diasporic identity and cultural expectations, she calls into question our unexamined beliefs. Mehra's work has been included in a number of exhibitions and screenings across North America and overseas, most notably with Creative Time, MoMA PS1, MTV, and The Queens Museum of Art (New York), MASS MoCA (North Adams), Artspeak (Vancouver), Georgia Scherman Projects, and The Images Festival (Toronto), The Beijing 798 Biennale (Beijing), Bielefelder Kunstverein (Bielefeld), and Latitude 28 (Delhi). In 2014, Mehra was long listed for the Sobey Art Award, and received the Manitoba Arts Council Major Arts Grant, Canada Council for the Arts Project Grant and the Manitoba Arts Council New York residency at the International Studio and Curatorial Program in Brooklyn, New York. Mehra is represented in Toronto by Georgia Scherman Projects and currently divides her time between Winnipeg, Delhi, and New York.

Talk Is Cheap: Unincorporated Language Laboratories

Talk Is Cheap: Unincorporated Language Laboratories is a transdisciplinary collective. To advance community narratives, TIC uses the rich yet affordable medium of dialogue, and pairs it with action in public spaces. TIC investigates modes of communication that remain still unincorporated in mainstream contexts by prioritizing embodied knowledges and vernacular practices.

The collective is currently comprised of Silvia Juliana Mantilla Ortiz, Bill Jannen, Cata MariaElena Elisabeth, Christian Guiñanzaca, and Dana Yessenia Mendoza. Silvia Juliana Mantilla Ortiz is a social practice transnational artist whose work is located at the intersection of oral histories, feminism, and migration. Bill Jannen is a computer scientist who believes in accessibility, collaboration, and the open source ethos. Cata MariaElena Elisabeth is a queer two-spirit xican@ educator who is always inspired by the creative potential of youth; she writes, sews, dances and dreams. Christian Guiñanzaca is an emerging filmmaker, dance educator and passionate advocate for immigrant rights. Dana Yessenia Mendoza, is a house and vogue inspired dancer, who is a committed immigrant youth leader interested in vernacular aesthetic practices such as customization and fashion.