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Above: Artists L to R: Kirsten Leenaars, Marie-Kristine Petiquay

Saturday, January 27, 2024

2:00 PM - 3:00 PM

Register for event here

Richmond Art Gallery

Curator Zoë Chan moderates a panel discussion with featured artists Kirsten Leenaars and Marie-Kristine Petiquay of Wapikoni Mobile to discuss their use of documentary video to present personal, political and social concerns of a community. The panel will focus on issues that documentary raises about the politics of representation and opportunities it provides for new forms of social practice.

This event will include time for Q+A by participants to join in the live-streamed conversation.

Session Format:

  • Live-streamed on the Zoom platform. Registration is required to participate.

  • Live automated English captions provided by the Zoom app.

  • Q+A feature open for participants to send their questions and comments to panelists.

About the Artists:

Kirsten Leenaars is an interdisciplinary video artist based in Chicago. Various forms of performance, theater, and documentary strategies make up the threads that run through her work. Her work oscillates between fiction and documentation, reinterprets personal stories and reimagines everyday realities through shared authorship, staging, and improvisation. Leenaars’ work has been shown internationally at venues including The Museo Universitario del Chopo, Mexico City; The Haggerty Museum of Art, Milwaukee; The Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; Printed Matter, Inc., New York; the Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art, Rotterdam; and Künstlerhaus Bethanien, Berlin. She currently is a Professor in the Department of Contemporary Practices at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

Marie-Kristine Petiquay is an Atikamekw from the community of Manawan. A multidisciplinary artist, she also participated in the writing, composition and recording of a song for the album “Nos Forêts Chantées”, in addition to performing it twice at the Présences Autochtones festival and the Kwe! Encountering Indigenous Peoples in the summer of 2017. Her photographs have also been exhibited in several group shows. She is co-writer of the feature documentary The Invisible Wall (2020), for which she received a nomination at the 36th Gemini Awards in the category of Best Screenplay: Documentary – Broadcast. She also won the Francophone development grant awarded by the NFB, as part of the Talent Lab of the Rencontres internationales du documentaire à Montréal, for the production of her first feature film Aniskenamakewin.

Wapikoni Mobile’s mission is to promote the expression of First Nations, Inuit and Métis people through film and music creation and the dissemination of these works. By offering Indigenous talent one-on-one support and mentoring, our organization contributes to their personal, professional, and creative development while respecting their narrative sovereignty. Wapikoni provides these artists with a distribution service to disseminate their works across Canada and the world, promoting knowledge and building awareness about First Peoples’ realities. Since 2004, Wapikoni has collected more than 1400 short films and 900 musical pieces, visited 45 communities and 36 nations in Canada and abroad, won more than 220 awards and mentions, and demonstrated a strong presence at hundreds of festivals and events.

(Re)Housing the American Dream: A Message from The Future, 2017, video still


January 20 - March 31, 2024

Kirsten Leenaars, Yaimel López Zaldívar, Yoshua Okón, Wapikoni Mobile


OPENING: January 20 2-4 pm

Richmond Art Gallery

7700 Minoru Gate, Richmond, BC  V6Y 1R8

Canada Line Station: Richmond-Brighouse

“I take stuff from real life to make something I call a film,”—filmmaker Jean-Luc Godard thus encapsulated his approach. For Godard, the intersection of film and life was an absolute imperative; he insisted that “film should bear witness to the period.”* At times, this meant that he captured the feeling of everyday life by shooting an impromptu dance scene vérité style in a bar without informing any of the clientele. Other times his stance was more overtly political, where he would feature footage of the Black Panthers or show characters reading from revolutionary texts in his films. Sometimes, this desire went beyond the confines of the film itself, spilling over into his own life. During the upheavals of 1968 for instance, he and other directors of the day criticized the Cannes Film Festival for forging ahead with this iconic annual celebration of cinema in the face of student and worker protests across France; the following day, the Festival was shut down.

This persuasive, sometimes polemical appeal to “take stuff from real life” and to “bear witness to the period” of the present day resonates especially with the practices of artists inspired by aspects of documentary traditions. This is the case with Let the real world in, where a documentary impulse runs through a varied selection of videos. Created by Kirsten Leenaars, Yoshua Okón, Wapikoni Mobile, and their subject-collaborators, these videos also share a centring on children and youth.

Young people have long been associated with such qualities as spontaneity and simplicity, authenticity and unpretentiousness, innocence and ingenuity. Indeed in North American society, it is common to attempt to preserve these qualities as long as possible by endeavouring to protect young people from difficult realities. (Certainly, this is a privileged position that not everyone has the luxury of embracing.) In the same vein, children and youth are not always consulted on relevant topics considered beyond the limits of their understanding. In contrast, the videos featured in Let the real world in take seriously young people’s perspectives, ideas, and experiences of the world around them, vividly foregrounding their agency.

Let the real world in also features a commissioned series of screenprints by local artist and graphic designer Yaimel López Zaldívar, created in response to the videos in this exhibition. Educated in Habana, López Zaldívar draws from Cuba’s rich tradition of cultural, social, and political posters from the 1960s to the 1980s. Experimenting with text and image, López Zaldívar brings his vibrant artisanal aesthetic to the exhibition.

*Quoted in Florence Platarets, Godard par Godard, 2023 (film).

A Letter to the City: "jail is not my home,” 2021

Three-channel video / Video en tres canales, 1:04:05


Last night I set about reading Till My Feet Hit the Warm Concrete: Letters from Young People Incarcerated, and I watched the video where, as part of the same project, A Letter to the City, Kirsten Leenaars and Circles & Ciphers, document the performative transcriptions and artistic translations of those testimonies. And, despite its beauty, I ended up devastated and dejected and overwhelmed. And I felt it irresponsible to have agreed to write something on the subject without having calculated ahead of time what I was dealing with. Like how to add a word to the truth without it ringing as merely decorative. How to add a word to such a painful beauty without lying.

And then, with my computer on and this document open but still blank, I fell asleep. And then, I swear, I swear it’s true, I dreamed that I was escaping from a prison. The dream had the rhythm of an action movie and I looked mighty elegant in a black suit and with my sweaty mess of hair weathering the mishaps of the getaway. When I reached a bridge already outside the prison, I ran into a well-known Mexican journalist who, from the open window of her limousine, told me that hopefully we’ll meet again in another setting where she could get to know me, making it understood that this time she wouldn’t rat me out. And so it was that I too dreamed the dream of freedom. And I woke up happy, like I hadn’t in a long time, as if I had, in fact, freed myself. And I believe that no doubt something in me was freed.

I suppose that where I read captivity, solitude, suffering, something in me, wiser and deeper than me, knew to read also love, life, hope.

The only word, then, that I can add to those texts without betraying them or betraying myself, the only word that I’d really like to say on the subject, is thank you.

Translated by Ryan Greene and Claudia Nuñez de Ibieta

A Letter to the City: "jail is not my home,” 2021

Three-channel video / Video en tres canales, 1:04:05


Anoche me puse a leer Till My Feet Hit the Warm Concrete: Letters from Young People Incarcerated, y vi el video en el que, como parte del mismo proyecto, A Letter to the City, Kirsten Leenaars y Circles & Ciphers, documentan las transcripciones performáticas y traducciones artísticas de aquellos testimonios. Y, a pesar de su hermosura, terminé desolado y abatido y rebasado. Y me pareció irresponsable haber aceptado escribir algo al respecto sin haber calculado antes a lo que me enfrentaba. Pues cómo agregar una palabra a la verdad sin que resuene meramente ornamental. Cómo agregar una palabra a tal dolorosa belleza sin mentirla.Y entonces, con la computadora encendida y este documento abierto pero aún en blanco, me quedé dormido. Y entonces, lo juro, juro que es verdad, soñé que me escapaba de una cárcel. El sueño tenía el ritmo de una película de acción y yo aparecía muy elegante con un traje negro y el cabello sudoroso y revuelto sorteando las peripecias de la huida. Cuando alcanzaba un puente ya fuera de la prisión me topaba con una conocida periodista mexicana que, desde la ventanilla abierta de su limusina, me decía que ojalá nos encontráramos nuevamente en otro escenario donde pudiera reconocerme, dando a entender que esta vez no me delataría. Así fue que yo también soñé el sueño de la libertad. Y me desperté feliz, como hace mucho no me sucedía, como si me hubiera, realmente, liberado. Y creo que ciertamente algo en mí se liberó.

Supongo que donde leí cautiverio, soledad, sufrimiento, algo en mí, más sabio y profundo que yo, supo leer también amor, vida, esperanza.

La única palabra, entonces, que puedo agregar a aquellos textos sin traicionarlos ni traicionarme, la única palabra que realmente quisiera decir al respecto, es gracias.

– Luis Felipe Fabre

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