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Imagined Topographies: the 2021 FOFA Undergraduate Students Exhibition moves online

Concordia artists creatively experiment and adapt under COVID-19 restrictions
January 29, 2021
Computer generated art in pink and green
Intermedia student Marissa Sean Cruz’s “PLAY(ing in my) PEN(ding doom),” 2019, a collision of performance and computer-generated animations. | Courtesy of the artist

Concordia’s FOFA Gallery is holding its annual Undergraduate Students Exhibition (USE) online this year. USE 2021 features a number of multidisciplinary works from a variety of students, including visual artists, writers, designers and contemporary dancers.

As FOFA Gallery exhibition coordinator Geneviève Wallen explains, USE is an interdepartmental collaboration that showcases the talents of Concordia creatives and fosters cross-pollination between artistic disciplines.

The exhibition offers undergraduate students unique opportunities like getting published, having their work publicly viewed and critiqued, and experimenting with alternative ways of interpreting and experiencing art.

“Being a part of USE 2021 has been a very rewarding process,” says participating artist and intermedia student Carolina Larrosa. “As my time at Concordia comes to a close and I begin my career as an artist, I am grateful to have this experience under my belt.”

The exhibition is usually hosted at the FOFA Gallery across five weeks, featuring 12 to 14 artists. Under normal circumstances, the gallery partners with the Visual Arts Visuels (VAV) Gallery to call for and judge submissions, the Concordia Undergraduate Journal of Art History to call for and select writers to critique the chosen artworks, students from the Design Lab (DART 498) course to create the exhibition catalogue, and students from the dance course Creative Process III (DANC 401/3) to facilitate the performance programming.

Young woman in an artist studio “El agua entre nosotros es un ser” (“The Water Between Us is a Being”), 2019, by Carolina Larrosa.

‘We had to mourn the traditional format’

“This collaborative project invites students to engage in an interdisciplinary dialogue,” says florence figols, the part-time instructor who helped the dance students create and adapt their creative processes for USE 2021. “How can one artist’s process trigger and stimulate the process of another’s, working in a different medium?”

Despite the restrictions this year, the team behind the exhibition decided that with a little patience, resourcefulness and flexibility on everyone’s part, they would explore new venues to promote the selected artists and continue to encourage these collaborative contributions.

“USE is a project with many moving pieces that are materially and sensorially interactive,” Wallen notes. “Therefore, with COVID-19, the project’s tactility is mostly lost. We had to mourn the traditional format and adapt to the continued campus closures.”

Design student Le Lin echoes this point. “There is a mourning because the digital presentation of my project will probably be a tenth of what it would feel like to experience it in person, especially since they are artist books that should be held, touched and read with your hands.”

figols says the new edition has reimagined the notion of collaboration. “It unfolds ‘in conversation,’ investing in new territories for creativity, remapping movement emergence, pushing further aspects of embodiment, dance-creation and performance.”

Calligraphy written on skin with black paint Design student Le Lin’s “我只穿了一条短裤 / I only wore a pair of shorts” and “回味 / Aftertaste,” 2019 — two artist books in a series that explores queer diasporic sentiments from 潮州 / Teochew. | Courtesy of the artist

Online artist conversations, dance performances and more

The programming consists of three main facets. From January 21 to February 11, FOFA Gallery is sending out weekly newsletters featuring essays as well as profiles of the student artists involved, grouped by different aspects of the exhibition’s theme, Imagined Topographies. The essays will also be hosted on the FOFA Gallery website and their topics range from memory, displacement and world-building to kinship, colonial inheritance and interpersonal boundaries.

“While we are all processing movement constraints and practicing social distancing, the works selected for USE 2021 prompt questions around self-orientation and how one situates themself when their routine is increasingly disturbed,” Wallen explains. “Imagined Topographies highlights the conceptualized and embodied spaces interconnecting the self and others.”

On February 11 from 5 to 7 p.m., students from the Creative Process III class will present their contemporary dance choreographies and performances via Zoom. The screenings will be followed by a conversation with the dancers.

Finally, Maya Rae Oppenheimer and Joni Cheung from Concordia’s Conversations in Contemporary Art will co-animate a conversation series titled “We Are Still Processing 2020”. This series, available for viewing in March, will consist of four casual conversations about the experience of living through 2020 and how they are still processing it in 2021.

‘Celebrating the artistic process’

“It is in these exhibitions that emerging artists can dip into finding out how the system works — additionally, how to be valued, have their work cared for, discussed and challenged,” says intermedia student and artist Marissa Sean Cruz of her USE 2021 experience.

figols adds that all the artists involved are adapting to new challenges because of the pandemic.

“This edition is one of going one step at a time, shifting mediums, revisiting planning, creating new bearings, scanning possibilities and celebrating the artistic process of encountering and being in conversation.”

Find out more about
Concordia’s 2021 FOFA Undergraduate Students Exhibition, Imagined Topographies.



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