Sergio Plazas is a Venezuelan Law Student at the University of Calgary. He enjoys using the medium of video narratives to reflect on his own life. He hopes to construct pieces that will bring truth and happiness to himself and others.
The goal of my work was to challenge the deconstruction of identity due to immigration. Using my own experiences, I saw that I was displaced from any ethnic and racial identity I had, becoming foreign to both cultures I lived in. It was impossible to hold on to my identity in fleeting memories or in a society that would never fully accept me. However, I wanted to present how I was shown a transcendental identity that reconciles the other identities I had holistically. I chose to use videos from my childhood as the basis for my narrative to make the story personal, but I contrasted this aspect through the use of rotoscoping to depict the loss of my memories and identity. Lastly, my devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe is the main inspiration for my project. She helped me heal my own identity, and I want to invite others into partaking in her motherly love.
Sasha Samarina is a 22-year-old multimedia artist and poet currently based out of Calgary. As a Russian native, Sasha’s art primarily focuses on the experience of growing up in a politically unstable country, the resulting immigration and the unsavoury feelings of guilt and shame for leaving one’s family and friends behind. She also explores the ideas of collective responsibility and guilt.
‘Vesuvius’ is a meditation on the extent of personal and collective responsibility in the face of large-scale cataclysms – be those natural or man-made. Each of the four spaces presented in the video asks a certain question about the feeling one experiences in that space in relation to a catastrophe. Near the landmark Calgary location, the viewer is asked to reconcile the seeming lack of danger in the frame and the uncanny valley feeling of the collage. When faced with the soon-to-erupt mountain Vesuvius, what should the people of Pompeii have done? What, if anything, can the protesters in Saint Petersburg ask of the deity watching them? Why had the same, or maybe a different deity, done nothing to prevent the destruction of the city it now gazes over?
Liz Kim is an emerging Korean-Canadian artist, currently studying in Alberta University of the Arts. She explores creative ways to visualize her experience of immigration, through exploring the themes of memories, dreams, connection and disconnection, and fragmentation over time.
“Through my works, I create a place of in-betweenness, a chaotic place of refuge like a dream. Where different memories and realities collide and create something new.
I consider the color blue with many different associations. To me, blue often means loneliness, but also happiness and freedom. I associate it as such, as I refer to the color within nature; especially the blue sky or the blue ocean. It’s easy to feel lonely, but that also comes with the freedom of having to not be rooted to the ground. The blue sky represents the world I knew living in Korea, and the ocean is the world I came to when I immigrated to Canada. Although in reality we know the sky is bigger than the sea, there’s still much more unknown within the sea than the sky. The unfamiliarity of the ocean is the sense I got when I immigrated to Canada and was forced to adapt. The suffocation. Inability to verbally speak up when I chose not to submit to the change. I needed to teach myself how to breathe underwater, to swim rather than fly, and be cautious not to drown rather than fly away too far.
Although the duality of my identity is always reminded in my waking moments, in my dream, I’m able to visit a place where the sky touches the sea and merges together into blue. The disconnections of my two cultures are merged together and connected to one in my dream. Neither the sky or the sea. Where kites swim and stingrays fly. Where gravity malfunctions and one can only float.”
Mary Ma: My Grandma is a Carved Name on a Tombstone
“This poem and digital story are about identity, grief, and relationship. The poem’s fugue form – which examines a central theme through several repetitions and different contexts – allowed me to explore the image of a magpie as it related to my family, my identity, and my grandmother. For the video, I chose videos of magpies and Ireland, keeping the visuals simple to highlight the poem and its musicality. I also examine in this work the complexities of my Chinese and Irish ethnicities and being an immigrant’s daughter, as well as unraveling the legacy of colonialism. However, the heart of the piece is between me and my grandma. Every time I see a magpie, I remember her and her rhyme. My future children will never meet my grandmother, only knowing her through stories and memory, and as the years pass, I lose more and more to the decay of time. However, this is not a poem about defeat, but a place of reclamation, relation, and remembrance to honour how car rides to Sunday Mass in a little Irish town and a simple rhyme my grandma gave me echo softly and warmly into my past, present and future. My grandmother will always be with me, for even after death, love remains.”
Mary Ma: My Grandma is a Carved Name on a Tombstone
Mary Ma & Sergio Plazas: Filia
“Filia” chronicles my life-long relationship with my identity and its core elements: gender, ethnic, bodily, existential, and religious. My relationship with my identity and existence has been fraught with anxiety and despair since I was a young child. An amalgamation of factors, including my mixed ethnicities and struggles with trauma, fractured my sense of self and worth. I was a perpetual “other.” Fundamentally, I did not know the answer to the question, “does my existence have meaning?” Was I known, loved, or wanted? Was it good to be, despite life inevitably containing suffering, and was it good to be me, despite my brokenness? Until this year, I thought the answer to these questions was probably no. Before, I believed I had to justify my identity and existence, prove I was a woman, Chinese, Irish, Canadian, meaningful, and loveable. In January 2020, my life completely changed when I realized God existed and He loved me, personally. It further changed this year when I finally understood that just because I exist I have identity, meaning, and am loveable. This poem and digital story is meant to limn my 23-year odyssey of identity, tracing me in a car, a solitary and transitory space, into a Catholic chapel, my community and home. I am secure in an identity I do not have to work for, because a child is simply cared for and loved. The piece is titled “Filia,” Latin for “daughter,” representative of my most fundamental, unchanging identity as a daughter of God. All my other identities stem from this. In the piece, Jesus calls me into resurrection in Cantonese and Irish – “小女, éirigh” – a translation of the words He speaks when He resurrects Jairus’ daughter. Through my identity, gender, ethnicity, sufferings, and body, God resurrects, heals, and transfigures me. In this project, I desire for my audience to confront these questions within themselves, ascend into a place of secure identity where they understand they are seen and loved as they are, and reach a place of unchanging peace, knowing that it is good for each one of them to be. For both of these projects and for “Filia” in particular, I would especially like to thank my dear fiancée Sergio Plazas. He directed, recorded, and edited “Filia,” and he also helped me invaluably throughout the creative process, encouraging me and guiding me when I was lost or discouraged. He spent many hours behind the scenes editing this project, and I truly would not have been able to create this project without his support, time, talent, and love.”
Mary Ma & Sergio Plazas: Filia
“Mary Ma is a twenty-three-year-old Catholic woman from Calgary studying English and Psychology at Mount Royal University. Through her writing and art, she wishes to humanize her perspective; pursue truth, beauty, and goodness; and ultimately serve God. Mary hopes to continue writing as a lifelong pursuit because it is her main method of understanding the world, others, and herself.”
“My name is Abrianna Morrison, and I know little beyond being a Calgarian, even though my outer appearance suggests I hail from elsewhere. I suppose, in some ways, this is true as I was born to Jamaican parents, who have spent most of their life’s work in North America. So, even with a different ethnic background, it’s difficult for me to feel like anything other than a Canadian, even with some of the alienation I’ve encountered as a minority.”
“During one of the preparatory classes I took in response to joining this exhibition, all participants were asked to select a third person perspective or entity to reimagine the telling of their personal story. In a jovial mood, I selected geese as my third party lense, not only because they are an iconic, regularly occurring presence in Calgary, but because I thought the choice was hilarious. I ended up selecting geese as the titular motif for my entire exhibition entry. I wielded them to explore my loose grasp on the mountains and valleys of human behaviours I’ve witnessed in those around me and within myself. I’ve withheld mentioning any specific societal group or person, as this allows for the behaviours I’ve represented through my visual works and spoken word to be recontextualized. The human attributes I’ve highlighted in my work can present themselves no matter the face of the person or group. All of the social dynamics recognized through these pieces rely on worldview and societal context to be compared and contrasted.”
Born in Caracas to Colombian parents, Karina Hincapié completed her BA at Universidad Central de Venezuela. Following her undergraduate studies, she was granted an Erasmus Mundus Master Scholarship to pursue a joint MA degree in Cultural Narratives from Universidad de Santiago de Compostela (Spain), Adam Mickiewicz University (Poland) and Université de Perpignan (France), from which she graduated with honours. Currently, she is a Spanish PhD candidate at the University of Calgary and a Teaching Assistant. Extremely passionate about empowering vulnerable populations and fighting for minorities rights, she identifies as part of the Latinx community in the city and has served as a Research Fellow at the Language Research Centre, where she collaborated in a Digital Storytelling Project that sought to empower immigrant communities in Calgary, and break down barriers between academia and the public. She’s also part of multiple committees at the Graduate Student Association (UofC) including the Labor Relations Committee and the Equity Diversity and Inclusion Committee. Narrating Ourselves from the City seeks to create a safe space to discuss life experiences and barriers that visible racialized minorities and gender diverse populations have encountered in various contexts in Calgary.
Hincapié’s academic research is on the use of Affect Theories as a mechanism of reflection around vulnerability and belonging, with a special interest in female agency and racialized identities.
Esker Foundation is currently hosting PhD candidate and Public Humanities Fellow, Karina Hincapié in partnership with The Calgary Institute for theHumanities, University of Calgary. Hincapié’s research with Esker is focused on decolonizing gallery spaces through the creative, community centered project, Narrating Ourselves from the City in collaboration with local youth.
Ragnar Kjartansson engages multiple artistic mediums, creating video installations, performances, drawings, and paintings that draw upon myriad historical and cultural references. An underlying pathos and irony connect his works, with each deeply influenced by the comedy and tragedy of classical theatre. The artist blurs the distinctions between mediums, approaching his painting practice as performance, likening his films to paintings, and his performances to sculpture. Throughout, Kjartansson conveys an interest in beauty and its banality, and he uses durational, repetitive performance as a form of exploration.
Kjartansson (b. 1976) lives and works in Reykjavík. Major solo shows include exhibitions at the Kunstmuseum Stuttgart; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; the Reykjavík Art Museum; the Barbican Centre, London; the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Park, Washington; the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal; Palais de Tokyo, Paris; New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York; Migros Museum für Gegenwartskunst, Zurich; Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo, Turin; Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston; and the Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh; among others. Kjartansson participated in The Encyclopedic Palace at the Venice Biennale in 2013, Manifesta 10 in St. Petersburg in 2014, and he represented Iceland at the 2009 Venice Biennale. The artist received the 2019 Ars Fennica Award, and was the recipient of the 2015 Artes Mundi’s Derek Williams Trust Purchase Award, and Performa’s 2011 Malcolm McLaren Award.