Makeshift questions what culture is really made of

The curatorial team for Makeshift, a new graduate art exhibition at the Audain Art Centre, emphasized “privileging the making process” over the final result, according to event committee co-chair and curatorial studies student Maya Rodrigo-Abdi. With materials from sarees to plants, the end products are as diverse as they are fascinating.

Makeshift opened on March 2, presented by the 46th Annual UBC AHVA Graduate Symposium and Exhibition Committee, alongside a series of talks.

According to Rodrigo-Abdi, each of the works in the exhibition explores marginalized experiences of commodification through unique uses of material.

“I think we all really wanted to focus on how non-white, male bodies are commodified,” said Rodrigo-Abdi, “not just in the gallery space, but all sorts of presentations.”

Gwyneth Chao’s symbionts of capitalist ruin (2022) uses “ingestible” materials, such as onion skin, tea leaves, kiwi skin, garlic peel, coffee grounds and eggshells, to create beige organic sculptures that hang parasitically from the ceiling. The pieces emphasize how even something as detrimental as food waste can regenerate into something new and strange.

The strongest tie between all the works is the exploration of material and process. Melissa Armstrong, a PhD student in zoology, contributed their work Title Unknown (2022), which visualizes neuroscience data through time lapse images, animations and series of small canvases.

Armstrong described their process as one of reconstruction. The work is displayed both as a series of images and an animation. Armstrong also considered their data as an art form, demonstrating the expanding conception of material beyond the physical.

Some artists used digital material in their works, including first-year MFA candidate Alex Gibson, whose Plant Person Spectrum (2022) takes images of plant-human hybrids in popular culture (including DC comics character Poison Ivy and a PlantSim from The Sims 2) and places them on a coordinate system demonstrating their genders and characterization from “boring” to “icon/diva/cunt.”

The decision to include non-binary identity as a middle stage on a binary spectrum, according to Gibson, is a part of “questioning the idea of a gender system in general ... why these systems are in place and the structures that uphold those systems.”

Gibson repurposes sourced images to create a new synthesized image.

“On the surface, it appears digital, but it's all a very material practice,” said Gibson.

Like Gibson and Armstrong’s work, the exhibition as a whole both explores material outright while also exploring deeper ideas.

Anyone interested in art purely for its aesthetics can appreciate the innovation in exploring new mediums; those interested in art as a mode of communication can appreciate different perspectives on related social challenges. The strength of both of these levels makes the exhibition informative to a wide audience.

Makeshift is open through March 31 at the Audain Art Centre on campus. Admission is free.