Centre A: Discovering identity through strangeness

We Are Woven Through with Strangers and Strangeness is Centre A’s newest exhibition that questions the notion of identity and strangeness within and outside of our own body. The exhibit is curated by UBC alumni Alex Cu Unjieng and features the works of five emerging Vancouver artists including UBC grad Ceri Richards and Risa Yokoi.

“The human body can be perceived as beautiful and grotesque,” said Richards, whose art explores the relationship between labourious work and biological formations.

Richards’ piece on display at Centre A consists of 2,000 individually hand sewn polyester balls wrapped in skin coloured nylon stretched across two walls. From creation to installation, the overall process took over 40 hours.

“I wanted to create something that was bodily and looked like skin. It’s spreading on the wall and onto the other wall. It’s also soft and plushy, and is visually appealing. You can’t really place your finger on what it is,” said Richards, whose work aims to suggest ways of seeing our own body which can seem both familiar and strange at the same time.

Yokoi’s textile piece echoes this sense of strangeness in relation to identity. Her installation at Centre A is made up of an unravelled sweater from a thrift store, stretched into vertical lines that resemble harp strings.

“The more I think about this work, about clothes and identity, I get this weird feeling that when you’re wearing second hand clothing you’re wearing someone else on top of you. I find that really interesting," she said. "It’s kind of creepy but at the same time, it’s beautiful too.”

Yokoi’s inspiration stems from her roommate who wears the clothing of her father that recently passed away.

“Little tears or stains tell the story of the person who owned it. Even if it’s like a t-shirt, it smells like the person, it kind of fits around that person. I just feel like it’s such a personal item," she said. "But within a consumer culture, it’s given away or thrown away or moves around and it loses its value. What happens to the clothing and its identity after it goes into the thrift store? That’s what my project works around.”

Both artists cite a theme of identity as a key inspiration to their work. "So many people these days have grown up in one place and their parents another," said Richards. "Where you're from isn't a question you can answer anymore."

Yokoi agrees. Prior to living in Canada, she grew up in Bangladesh, and is used to being part of a culture where attention is always paid to identity. "I got interested in the role of identity within textile," she said. "You can’t live without textile. It’s part of us being human. It’s part of our culture."

The exhibition features three other young artists, Richard Heikkilä-Sawan, Deborah Kisiel and Bianca Lee and is running until July 4.