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An artistic journey that began in Saskatchewan more than three years ago has returned to the province for its swan song.
Human Capital, a travelling multi-artist exhibit focused on Canada’s immigration policies and history, opened at Regina’s MacKenzie Art Gallery at the end of 2020.
“‘Human Capital’ is actually from the official language of our current immigration policies,” said curator Tak Pham. “They look at ‘human capital’ to describe incoming immigrants — the ideal immigrants, who are expected to bring their knowledge and their labour to the country to help boost the Canadian economy.”
Pham, who created the exhibit at the MacKenzie and has since taken it to galleries and communities all across Canada, has remounted it one last time at the University of Saskatchewan’s College Art Gallery.
“This is definitely a bittersweet feeling,” he said. “I am sad that the tour is going to come to an end, but I’m so happy that I’m able to show it again to the community here. When I first presented it in 2020, not enough people got to see it, because we were open at reduced capacity and people were still trying to figure out how to navigate COVID. So it’s nice to bring the exhibition back, especially for folks who missed it the first time.
“It has been great to be able to travel it all around the country, adding more artists as it goes on. Here, at the final stop, I would say it has evolved into its best version.”
Leah Taylor, coordinating curator for the University of Saskatchewan art galleries, saw Human Capital when it debuted in Regina and was immediately eager to bring it to the U of S.
“When you bring a group of artists together and the works are so disparate — in their medium, materiality and even conceptuality — and you bring them together to pose these questions about the idea of Canadian identity and human capital, it’s really powerful,” Taylor said.
“It’s really intriguing, sometimes playful, and sometimes there’s a quietude and you have to sit and resonate with what the artist is showing you.”
The exhibit features artists based all over Canada working in photography, painting, sculpture, textile, ceramics, video and text-based artworks to explore their personal and family stories of immigration to Canada.
“The exhibition talks about these stories that are either left out or left in the margins when it comes to the dominant narrative-writing about the history of Canada and how it becomes a nation,” Pham said.
“Art has a tremendous power to visualize history, to give weight and resonance to the story that you might not get just from reading it off the page.”
For Pham, the exhibit strikes a balance between moments of poignancy, beauty, humour and irony; Human Capital was designed to inspire its audiences and challenge them in equal measure.
“I wanted to make sure that people leave the show with a more optimistic outlook into the future,” he said. “I wouldn’t want you to leave feeling guilty or feeling helpless, like you can’t do anything.
“What I have come to learn after working on the show is that policy is there for you to challenge and to change. After leaving the exhibition, once you know about the experiences folks have had or are still going through, now you can advocate for change. That is what will make this exhibit a success.”
Human Capital will remain at the College Art Gallery until April 19.
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