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Toronto bank redefines corporate art with digital collection – The Globe and Mail

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Anna Eyler, still from PAN/PAN, 2018.

Courtesy of the artist/Handout

On mountainous Arctic shores, glistening pools of silvery water are home to creatures that look like spare parts of humanoid kitchen implements, combining steel and plastic with digits and hair. This is a futuristic northern landscape imagined by artist Anna Eyler; it was created using 3D imaging software to produce a short and silent video that grabs your attention with its indefinable weirdness.

The art work, entitled PAN/PAN, is displayed on a screen in the Toronto office of Equitable Bank, where it is intended for the enjoyment – or mystification – of employees.

Some Canadian banks collect paintings by blue-chip artists or hefty soapstone sculptures to decorate their boardrooms and hallways; not Equitable Bank, a branchless bank that launched a new digital platform in 2015. Since then, it has concentrated on collecting the work of Canada’s digital artists, acquiring about two or three new pieces every year to round out an art collection that also includes about 180 physical works.

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“There was an obvious overlap,” curator Shannon Linde said in a recent interview. “Artists doing digital were facing some of the same challenges as the bank, moving into new territory.”

The collection, launched by Linde’s predecessor Lindsay LeBlanc and Equitable chief executive Andrew Moor, concentrates on works that probe and push the technology. “If you have a digital camera and take a picture, that is not necessarily digital art,” Linde said.

Instead, the bank collects stellar examples that experiment with media and question the role of technology. For example, artist Alison Postma plays with our perception of computer-generated imagery in a four-minute video loop depicting a clay cube continually imprinted with the artist’s fingerprints. Entitled A Point, A Line, A Surface, A Solid, it may look like CGI but it was actually produced using painstaking handmade claymation.

Linde also points to another example, a digital carpet created by Shaheer Zazai, an artist of Afghan heritage who renders the traditional woven pattern with pixels of red, blue and grey.

“Each knot is a piece of software punctuation,” Linde said, adding, “It’s hard to make a still digital image that captures attention, but this nails it. It’s questioning the technology, it’s got cultural context. It goes beyond.”

Much of the digital work that the bank collects comes to it through its annual prize for emerging digital artists, which it organizes in collaboration with the Toronto media arts centre Trinity Square Video. Every year, one winner receives $5,000 plus a residency at Trinity Square while four runners-up receive $1,000 and are included in a group show at the centre. (This year, recognizing the impact of the pandemic on artists, all five nominees received the grand prize amount). Winners have included Eyler for PAN/PAN in 2018 while Postma was one of the five 2020 winners.

Linde figures that digital artists are in particular need of support because their work is expensive to produce while few private or public collections buy it or integrate it into their programming. She speculates that the technology required represents an added hurdle, especially for smaller institutions.

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“You don’t see a lot of VR included in exhibitions or museum shows,” she said.

Meanwhile, the bank’s collection includes Jawa El Khash’s The Upper Side of the Sky, a 10-minute VR experience by the Toronto artist that produces a dreamscape or memory palace inspired by the ancient city of Palmyra, the archeological site that was heavily damaged by ISIS during the civil war in her native Syria.

Digital rather than physical art might seem ideally suited to viewing during the pandemic, but in truth exhibition of this art can be tricky precisely because the work is infinitely reproduceable. The bank acquires rights to screen the work in its offices, but does not usually own it outright.

“We aren’t printing these images; we aren’t sharing original files,” Linde said. “We are trying to fight for the value of this art. It’s very different: What does it mean to have a digital art work? What can you do with it? … It’s less about ownership than stewardship.”

Still, with staff mainly working from home, the bank has gotten creative about how to make the work accessible. Linde organized an Instagram exhibition for some of the artists early in the pandemic and there are now plans to commission screen savers and meeting backdrops for staff. Meanwhile, when the bank moves to new offices in 2023, digital art will be incorporated into the interior design.

Digital art can work well in a corporate setting, Linde said, pointing to the experience with PAN/PAN.

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“There’s no audio. It’s under four minutes, and it’s really curious. A lot of people stop and say: ‘Wow, what am I looking at.’”

Find out what’s new on Canadian stages from Globe theatre critic J. Kelly Nestruck in the weekly Nestruck on Theatre newsletter. Sign up today.

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Filipina front-line workers are turning their pandemic struggles into art – CTV News

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TORONTO —
Throughout her career, registered psychotherapist Elda Almario has spent a great deal putting the mental health of children she works with ahead of her own. But during the pandemic, she says, it’s become even less likely for her to “take a break and reflect.”

Over the past few months, Filipina front-line workers like Almario have found an outlet to relieve bottled-up anxiety, loneliness and fear: Writing their stories down and sharing them.

“Allowing space for my experience to come to the surface became a form of self-care for me,” Almario told CTVNews.ca in an email. “It was great to have a voice and be heard especially during a time when I have been so focused on my work due to increased demands and complex needs.”

The “Stories of Care” writing initiative, run through North York Community House in Toronto, virtually brings together front-line workers such as nurses, retail workers, at-home caretakers, dental hygienists, and cleaners, to share burdens they’ve mostly carried alone.

“It gives me strength, I feel encouraged because I know that no matter what we are facing, we face it with courage, resilience, and positivity and we continue to love what we do,” Olivia Dela Cruz, a paid caretaker of a household of six children, told CTVNews.ca in an email. “My respect [is for] all frontline workers because they all put others before themselves.”

Jennifer Chan, the lead organizer of the initiative, told CTVNews.ca in a video interview that the writers “feel seen and heard in a completely different way.” She said one participant told her, “it was so meaningful to get to write my story and just spend time thinking about me.”

Filipinx people play a crucial role on Canada’s front lines, making up one in 20 health-care workers, according to one study. A third of internationally trained nurses in the country are from the Philippines, according to the Canadian Institute for Health Information; with Filipinos making up 90 per cent of migrant caregivers providing in-home care under Canada’s Caregiver Program.

EXPERIENCES CAPTURED IN ART

Chan was inspired to start the program through her work with North York Community House, where she regularly consults with caregivers from the Philippines, who need help filling out government documents.

She and her colleagues were noticing “a lot of stuff coming to the surface” and they wanted to give them an outlet.

“Stories of Care” began last summer as a six-week writing course for a few Filipina front-line workers, and has since grown in attendance and centred on less-time-intensive sessions.

As of last Friday, some of the stories are now featured in a digital exhibition in the DesignTO Festival, based on three Filipinx artists who “read the stories [and] took inspiration from them,” Chan said.

One video called “Balikbayan” – a term for Filipinx people living outside of the Philippines — shows a fruit falling to the ground, turning into a box, crossing the sea, hitting the shore and growing into a tree. This signifies people starting a new life in Canada. The title also refers to the care packages or “Balikbayan boxes” that are sent back to the Philippines.

Another video features an animated circle of faces encircling alternating excerpts about workers’ fears, including getting COVID-19 on the job.

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Another piece features a silhouette of a person holding a sign reading, “we love to deliver,” contrasted with alternating English and Tagalog phrases such as: “I need to sacrifice my comfort for my family,” “I didn’t want to move to Canada” and “Migration is no guarantee for a better future.”

Stories of Care

“Having artists make renditions of our stories gives us the validation that our stories are valuable,” Gretchen Mangahas, a communications specialist and newcomer to Canada, told CTVNews.ca in an email.

“I felt the power of stories in the shared lived experiences of my Filipina sisters,” she said. “I knew that I was not alone, and that the connection opens opportunities to learn how to navigate in a new country I would call home. It has also created friendships and new avenues for sharing with others.”

FILIPINX FRONT-LINE WORKERS FEEL ‘OVERSIZED TOLL’

Last fall, the Migrant Workers Alliance For Change released a damning report alleging that throughout the pandemic, migrant care workers were subjected to entrapment, long hours, and thousands of dollars in stolen wages by exploitative employers.

Chan said some writers “were feeling stuck in their employer situation” and thought about quitting, but knew it would mean they couldn’t provide for family back home and might potentially lose permanent residency status.

Medical news publication Stat News also reported that COVID-19 has taken an “outsized toll” on mental and physical well-being for Filipino front-line workers in the U.S. Chan said the same could be seen in Canada.

“They need an outlet to reflect through their own stories… we’re not hearing enough from them,” she said. Chan said attendees had a lot of cultural habits to overcome initially, including so-called “toxic positivity” and the “ongoing feeling that these women feel that they have to feel grateful to be here.”

Many worried about their families back home in the Philippines, which was hit by multiple typhoons last year. Chan said others wrote about the strict lockdown measures in the country and about “not being able to go home. Not feeling safe here or there.”

Although most people today are only being able to connect with family over video or the phone, that’s what immigrants have done for decades, said magazine editor Justine Abigail Yu, who facilitates the writing workshop in both English and Tagalog.

“Loving from afar” was a big theme in their writing, she told CTVNews.ca in a phone interview. “Obviously the conditions are quite different on an extreme level, but we’ve always had to show our family who are living in entirely different countries how we care for them and how we love them.”

The organizers said front-line workers’ feelings of isolation and homesickness while living in Canada have only been amplified by the pandemic.

Yu, the founder of magazine Living Hyphen, created an environment where Filipina workers could open up to themselves and to others.

“So many of these caregivers and our immigrant families, we just want to survive. We move to Canada, work our asses off to get by and to make sure that we’re providing for our children and there’s no room to tell stories,” she said. Yu’s role involved “breaking down that barrier first and foremost.”

And the investment appears to have paid off.

“In more ways than one, we deeply resonated with each other’s experience,” Almario said. “I gained a sense of belongingness and community, the feeling of not being alone.”

Caregiver and single mother Dela Cruz agreed, saying being a part of this project “brings back so many memories that I thought completely forgotten. Stories about me that I never thought I will have the courage to share.”

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‘Glorified littering’: Junk street art installations popping up around Montreal – Global News

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From the Van Horne skate park in the Mile End to NDG’s Saint-Jacques Escarpment, bizarre art installations are popping up around the city.

Prowling panthers, massive abstract beasts — it’s all put together from the imagination of the artist under the pseudonym Junko.

It’s a fitting name, for all the art he creates is entirely made from miscellaneous “trash” that he finds on the street.

“Basically, they’re carefully arranged piles of garbage,” Junko said. “You can call it glorified littering.”

Read more:
Black Lives Matter street mural removed from Ste-Catherine Street

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Using things found on the street like car tires, bike frames, even shoes, everything is a workable piece in Junko’s creations.

Car bumpers are a common staple in his creatures.

“They’re definitely a popular item for me,” he said with a laugh.

Over the past few months, he has put together some six different statues around the city and abroad, all varying in size from small to towering.

A timber frame made from recycled wood holds the installations together.

“I’ve been making art my whole life,” Junko said. “My art has always been around creating creatures and characters. This is a new chapter in that.”

He says finding the junk isn’t that hard in the city but finding the right piece can be.

“Sometimes it’s extremely easy. I’ll be walking and find something and carry it home,” he said.

Read more:
Montreal’s Mile End construction project ends up on residents’ doorsteps

While shying away from the spotlight, Junko says he isn’t trying to make a point with his art, which he says speaks for itself.

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“There no deep hidden meaning, it’s just a way to expressing myself,” Junko said.

That so-called trash is getting a lot of likes and recognition on social media and on the street.

“There is a lot of art in the neighbourhood, so it’s good, I’m not against it,” resident Nick Barry-Shaw said.

Juno sees his form of expression as a legal grey zone.

“The people are into it but I’m not sure about the city, though,” Junko laughed.

Read more:
Pointe-Saint-Charles mural defaced by graffiti a chance to reconnect with community, creators say

He said that unlike graffiti, his street art is not vandalism but simply “an organized pile of trash.”

So far, all four art installations in the city have not been taken down, according to Junko.

The young artist says there is a lot more art to come and people should keep their eyes peeled.

“I’m just getting started so, yeah, you can expect more work,” he said.

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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Fine art in your mailbox: local artist creates unique postcards – TheRecord.com

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WATERLOO — A new postcard art project will use snail mail to rekindle memories of travel while sharing evocative original artwork.

Art galleries are closed due to the pandemic, and opportunities for local artists like Paul Roorda to display and sell their artwork are sparse.

“I just wanted to find a way to get my art out there so people can see it,” Roorda said.

His project “Somewhere Anywhere Postcards” is a series of hand-printed postcards that feature abstract landscapes, vintage stamps and messages of hope.

Roorda photographed different parts of an old, weathered wall. The lines and markings reminded him of beautiful landscapes, the ones you typically see on postcards from tourist destinations.

The postcards are small works of fine art, Roorda said, from the imagined landscape of the weathered wall he photographed, down to the vintage stamps he found and attached to each individual postcard.

The photographs were processed using an age-old technique known as cyanotype. Roorda mixes chemicals and brushes them onto paper. He then exposes the photographs in the sun and develops each photograph in water. The result of this process creates cyan-blue prints.

“I wanted to stay true to the vintage nature of the art,” Roorda said.

He has also written hopeful messages on the back of each postcard to uplift people during the pandemic as it keeps everyone indoors this winter.

“Right now with COVID we are surrounded by our walls, and we can see walls around us as barriers. I wanted to write something about seeing past those barriers at a time when people are feeling discouraged.”

Roorda is fascinated with vintage and antique items as well as found objects. Three years ago he created mini art galleries out of metal cash boxes and attached them to utility poles throughout Waterloo.

Roorda was ordered to remove them by bylaw officers, but was later granted permission by the city to temporarily display his art. The project was called “Time Stops” and each piece featured a musical element, found objects and messages.

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Roorda’s postcard project is supported by a grant from the Region of Waterloo Arts Fund. He launched “Somewhere Anywhere Postcards” last week and has already mailed postcards to addresses across Ontario and to Europe.

Roorda’s postcards can be found in his online shop at www.paulroorda.com.

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