Haruko Okano, Judy Chartrand, and Wayde Compton: Lost & Found

At Access Artist Run Centre until August 26

Lost & Found is one of a recent series of lively and thought-provoking exhibitions located within and speaking to Vancouver's Downtown Eastside. This is art that reflects and reacts to the neighbourhood's social, cultural, and economic complexities, both contemporary and historical. Organized in conjunction with the recent Powell Street Festival, the show brings together three local artists of diverse cultural backgrounds and creative expressions: Judy Chartrand, Wayde Compton, and Haruko Okano.

Their various works record not only the interweaving of immigrant and indigenous cultures, but also the losses and reclamations these groups have experienced. Okano's text-based project and Compton's sound piece both explore language as a stage for enacting cultural identity and confronting racial discrimination. Chartrand's mixed-media installation challenges us””beautifully, icily, angrily””with an accumulation of ugly prejudices and ethnic stereotypes.

Okano's Homing Pidgin Project introduces visitors to words and phrases she has recovered from a hybrid language that Japanese Canadians developed and spoke during the late 1800s and early 1900s. Through printed handouts and magnetic strips, along with a small table, chairs, and place settings symbolizing the meeting of two cultures, we are encouraged to learn a little of a lost oral transition. Lusto, “last” ; pecha pecha, “chatter” ; aza, “other” ””liveliness and inventiveness are palpable qualities here. At the same time, it's evident that pidgin languages represent the mainstream's gradual erasure of immigrant (and indigenous) cultures.

Compton's <<Black>><<Canadian>><<Standard>> <<English>><<Vocal>><<Migration>> is a kind of oral history focused on second-generation Canadians whose families are of African origin. In what he describes in the exhibition brochure as “an archive of now” , Compton has recorded interviews with four Vancouverites. Each tells her or his own story and explores the ways in which language is used as a tool of discrimination and cultural stereotyping. The recordings are made on an acetate dub plate that looks like a large LP and double-tracked so that each side of the plate conveys two interviews, the one we hear depending on the direction in which the record is played. The articulateness of the participants underscores the prejudices that such eloquence exposes and unsettles in the mainstream.

Chartrand's installation of newly created, found, and altered objects calls up something of her First Nations childhood in the Downtown Eastside. Counteract simulates an immaculately white coffee counter with white stools, white condiments, white menu, and white cups, saucers, implements, and accessories. All the colour in the work is located behind the counter: a game board, a bulletin board, and a wall-mounted shelf crammed with souvenirs and chachkas, all denigrating depictions of people of colour. These found objects, which include cartoonish dolls, china figurines, table lamps, and postcards, in addition to Chartrand's skillfully executed ceramic duplications and enlargements of some of them, reveal a long and shameful history of prejudice and oppression. It's an absorbing and distressing work.