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EXHIBITION: Reconstructing Selves // Marisa Gallemit, Don Kwan, Gabriela Warrior Renaud



EXHIBITION: Reconstructing Selves // Marisa Gallemit, Don Kwan and Gabriela Warrior Renaud

DATES: Friday, May 24 to Sunday July 28, 2019

OPENING: Friday, May 24, 2019, 7:00-10:00 PM // Presented to coincide with Asian Heritage Month (May), Filipino Heritage Month (June) and the Chinatown Asian Night Market (July 26-28, 2019). Entry is free.

CURATOR: Possible Worlds Co-Director Melanie Yugo

LOCATION: Possible Worlds (708G Somerset Street West). We acknowledge that Possible Worlds is located on unceded Algonquin territory.

PHYSICAL ACCESSIBILITY: This exhibition takes place on the second-floor of a plaza and is only accessible by stairs (unfortunately there is no ramp or elevator). Accessible washrooms are available down the street in the 24-hour Petro Canada.

ARTIST TALK: June 12, 2019, 7-9 PM at Shanghai Restaurant (651 Somerset Street West). Register in advance here.


Possible Worlds is pleased to present our next exhibition to coincide with Asian Heritage Month (May), Filipino Heritage Month (June) and the Chinatown Asian Night Market (July 26-28, 2019).

In Reconstructing Selves, visual artists Marisa Gallemit and Donald Kwan and documentary filmmaker Gabriela Warrior Renaud, Ottawa-Gatineau artists of Asian descent, explore the complex issues and creative possibilities that flow from one’s cultural identity: What is the relationship between place and belonging, between diasporas and memory? What is the impact of exclusionary practices on the preservation and creation of our cultures? How do we centre our intersectional experiences within the dominant culture?

Through print, video and installation work, and Inspired by their Filipinx, Chinese and South Indian heritage respectively, the artists aim to deepen their understanding and document their own histories, while simultaneously taking an active role in reshaping their narratives and identities, now and for the future.

In her installation NANDITO KAMI (WE ARE HERE), Gallemit addresses language loss, cultural adaptation and colonialism in the Philippines, as part of her ongoing investigation of the endangered Filipino written script, Baybayin. Combining Google Drawings and handcut Roman alphabet, she undertakes the laborious reconfiguration of this pre-Hispanic, non-English written technology. In doing so, Gallemit aims to subvert and invert the invisibility of the Filipinx diaspora within dominant culture, and to portray Filipinx culture as it existed before the imprints of Spanish colonizers. 

Kwan’s installation, SELF PORTRAIT / BABY QUILT, reflects on the assimilation and exclusionary experiences of early Chinese newcomers, specifically Kwan’s own family, to Canada. Piecing together a variety of Chinese-Canadian restaurant takeout menus from the Ottawa-Gatineau region, photocopy prints and paper ephemera, Kwan weaves intimate stories and personal memories of food, family and community within the context of defining moments in Canadian history, such as the Chinese Exclusion Act, the Imposed Head Tax and both World Wars.

In the sound and video installation, HYPHEN, Warrior Renaud examines the fluid nature of mixed identity and the impact of the environment on our sense of self. Using an assemblage of sound clips, film footage and photographs from her titular documentary, viewers are invited into Renaud’s stream of consciousness as she drives coast to coast over a period of 3 months, reflecting on the ambition of the Canadian multiculturalism project, the grandiosity of Canadian landscapes, and the voices of interviews with 22 mixed race people on the complexity of issues surrounding mixed identity.



Marisa Gallemit

Marisa Gallemit is an Ottawa-based visual artist whose practice spans sculpture, assemblage,  site-specific installation, storytelling and arts advocacy. After studying film at Carleton  University (Ottawa) and the New York Film Academy (NYC), her focus shifted to  three-dimensional works, concentrating on organic forms and textures, using repurposed  materials, and focusing on tactile monuments to our collective and subtle human experiences.   

Motivated by the concept that every object carries its own history and energy, Gallemit  considers the selection process of materials as paramount. Found objects and discarded  artifacts are favoured as much for their visual markings of time and wear as for their  emblematic significance --either as souvenirs from a particular time period or as fossils of a  lived, emotionally-charged experience. Old things tell stories.   

Gallemit manipulates, deconstructs and distorts objects into sculptural compositions which  mimic the corporeal and the natural, inviting haptic interaction. Informed by womanhood,  motherhood and third-culture shock, she explores the odyssey of human emotion, identity  and heritage. The goal of each reconciled assemblage is to lean deeply into Buckminster Fuller’s query: “Now, how do we make this spaceship work?”

Since first showing work at a community group show in 2009, Gallemit has been fortunate to participate in storytelling and performative works, design installations for music and art festivals, and has facilitated art-making workshops, curated art programs for several Ottawa non-gallery venues, and produced a large-scale public art installation for the City of Mississauga.  



Don Kwan

Don Kwan is an interdisciplinary artist currently living in the Ottawa Valley. His artwork often examines identity, memory, how cultures come to assume the values, behaviours, and “pop culture” beliefs of other groups, as well as the conversion of culture e.g. how: food is adapted from one culture to another. Using mixed media, found objects and sourced personal and historical images of his family, his work draws inspiration from his family’s earliest tangible links to Canada, such as living through moments of Canadian history such as the Chinese Immigration Act, between 1885 -1923, known today as the Chinese Exclusion Act; the imposed Head Tax; WWI; WWII; and his experiences since 1971 in operating Shanghai Restaurant, a family-owned Chinese-Canadian restaurant in Ottawa’s Chinatown.


Gabriela Warrior Renaud

Gabriela Warrior Renaud is a documentary filmmaker and activist for social and climate justice. She continues her family’s legacy of storytelling, encouraging us to reconnect to our history, each other and the earth. As a queer, mixed person of colour, Gabriela explores topics that are deeply personal, in the hopes of humanizing and shedding light on issues that continue to affect many of us and yet still feel overwhelmingly pushed in the dark. Her current documentary project Hyphen was born out her own desire to feel whole within a fragmented identity. Building a narrative around the mixed experience, Gabriela was able to find the grounding she was seeking, and is humbly reclaiming her South Indian heritage. Her work has been shown, among others, at the Mirror Mountain Film Festival in Ottawa and the World Film Festival in Montreal, where she won Best Local Film and Best Experimental Film, respectively. She is an active member of the artistic community in Ottawa, working to make our spaces diverse and sustainable.