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Opening: Let the real world in, Richmond Art Gallery

(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).


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