Minister Kenney Launches Refugee Voices

Voices of Refugees Installation launched by Immigration  and Citizenship’s Minister Jason Kenney, June 2009.

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The Voices of Refugees Multimedia Installation was officially launched by Citizenship and Immigration Canada Minister Jason Kenney on June 16 2009.  SEE www.cic.gc.ca/english/department/media/photos/2009/

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Minister Kenney Launches “Voices of Refugees”

OTTAWA, ONTARIO–(Marketwire – June 16, 2009) – In recognition of World Refugee Day, “Voices of Refugees,” a new multi-media presentation combining portraits with videos of refugees telling their stories, was unveiled today by Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism Minister Jason Kenney and Mr. Abraham ABRAHAM, Representative in Canada of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

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“Voices of Refugees enables refugees to share their stories with all Canadians, to show that there are real people in real danger,” said Minister Kenney. “Refugees are sometimes forgotten as a faceless group stranded in a far away land. We need to heed these voices and listen to their stories.”

This project came from two ordinary Canadians – Graham Thompson and Sherry Tompalski – doing extraordinary things. The partnership between these two Canadians and the refugee artists featured in the multi-media presentation is the kind of initiative that will help bridge communities and build a more inclusive and cohesive Canada for all.

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“These works of art speak for themselves and help us understand that refugees are not faceless statistics, but real people with talents and with real needs like you and me. Ask them and you will know that every refugee has a moving story to tell,” said Mr. Abraham.

Every year Canada’s refugee programs provide protection to more than 30,000 people. We have a fair and generous domestic refugee protection system that is well regarded internationally. Through our resettlement program, we provide protection to 1 in 10 refugees who are resettled globally. In fact, since World War II, Canadians have provided refuge to over 1 million refugees.

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Even so, the Government of Canada is exploring ways to improve the refugee status determination system and our resettlement approach in order to better help refugees. Canada must focus our resources where they can do the most good. Working with its many partners including the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the International Organization for Migration, private sponsors and service providers, Canada is helping refugees begin their lives anew.

Voices of Refugees is a testament to those who have already come to Canada and of the thousands still in need of protection. This presentation highlights the remarkable bravery of these individuals and the important contributions they are making to Canadian society.

Centre international d’art contemporain de Montréal

Centre international d’art contemporain de Montréal, Retrospective of net.art features North-South-East-West, 2008.

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The Centre international d’art contemporain de Montréal’s Electronic Magazine,  issue No 32 a Retrospective of net.art, features North-South-East-West Web Site in December 2008.

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The North-South-East-West web site was reviewed as follows:

COSMOGONY ALGONKINE CACHÉE/MONTRÉE?

About the well-known work of Graham Thomson, North-South-East-West, we will recall his operating mode first of all, like its organization.     With the opening of the URL an interface of reception informs us of the format of the work, carried out under Flash.

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If the hyperlector chooses not to have any action, it will discover a sequence of four distinct sequences:

  • a very fast succession of images lets to us guess a plan of country, or city. It is necessary to make use of several captures of screens, then to increase them, to realize that the plan in question is that of the Contracting State of Minnesota (or of the state), the USA. Area bordering, should it be pointed out, of the Canadian provinces of Manitoba and Ontario, ancestral grounds of Algonkins;
  • an anthropomorphic figure, that one will be able to associate a totemic representation, becomes animated on a bottom of horizontal screens. A cube drawn in three D also rolls on the space representation which this screen constitutes;
  • in tone bluish, dark, a heavenly object occupies the bottom of a scene which seems left an space-opera. A hinged jib (Canadian technology?) approaches a unit which could be a space base;
  • finally, of the parabolas, fixed on pylons, roofs, seem to receive waves coming from the sky.   Once the hyperlector will have shelled dissolve-connected these four sequences, it will have to click on one or the other of the bonds hypertexts to discover a new interface – which will give him access to the contents of work itself.

In a very simple way, and as many works born on the Web could show it to us, the interface of work is appeared as a space metaphor. In top north, bellow the south, on the left the west and is on the right.

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Under each of the four cardinal points, a list from five to eight names proposes to us, thanks to the hypertext link, to discover an animated sequence. Before returning on their contents, we stop a few moments on another element of the interface, which will be always present at the screen, méta-bars it navigation. The choices suggested by this méta-bar are as follows, rather similar to those which one can find on considerable sites: exit, home, contact, information.

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The subparagraph “information” will teach us that work is inspired by the symbolic system of the cardinal points traditional of the people algonkin. One will not be thus surprised to have discovered only the plan which ravelled at any speed in introduction was that of a state in the past (and also in a contemporary way) populated algonkins.

All work then, can be included/understood starting from this aspect of the introduction. The history of the American settlement being supposed known of all, one could only be sensitive to the fact that the people algonkin, like all the indigenous people of two Americas, have a report/ratio with the eminently problematic territory, conflict, even painful.

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This territory, that the Amerindian people had by force to divide with Europeans, it is represented here in extreme cases of the visible one. So much so that one is forced to fix the image by capture of screen, to discover that it was about a plan of Minnesota.

The territory, literally, is hidden, virtual. It is in addition the territory of the other, since the place names are for the majority resulting from the Anglo-Saxon space representation: Cambridge, Turkey Not, Normandale, etc… It is a case emblematic of the use of information technologies and communication – where the appearance and disappearance as well as the tape speed of the images make direction.

This territory hidden, evoked perhaps by this totemic dance of the introduction, then moved in the space, and finally reinvested on ground through the waves received by parabolas, the body of work then proposes to us to discover it.

It while clicking on different the items is contained under the headings North South – East – West that we will be able to open the sequences having for name:    winter, snow, elder, courage, ice, endurance (North), summer, spirit, quest, secrecies, bloom, vision, adolesence, youth (South), birth, dawn, spring, flower, sun (East), automn, adult, thunder, sunset, renewal, (West).

With the choice, one will stop on the sequence “Vision”, in the North heading, to hear the message whereby “Vision C not reveal”; or one will hear, in “Dawn” this thought animist “All that belongs to the earth belongs to me”. But there is not the essence of our reading: the quality of animations, of the spoken or sung sequences, all that is left with the appreciation of each visitor, according to his sensitivity. It will be noticed only that none the many rewards received by this work is usurped.

What must hold our attention, it is connect it simplicity of the device, behind which semiotics questions differently more complex hide.

The list of the items reproduced above informs us indeed that certain sequences are called in reference to the season (winter…) and in connection with such or such cardinal point; other sequences indicate natural phenomena (snow, ice, flower, sun, thunder); others milked in the human condition (elder, adolesence, youth, birth, adult); others still refer to human or animal qualities (courage, endurance…); and others finally with phenomena of calendarity (dawn, sunset, renewal).

What it is necessary to point of the finger, it is the extreme diversity of the items and the extremely different registers which they indicate: natural seasons (long calendarity), phenomena, age group, human and/or animal quality, short calendarity.

Consequently, the action to click on one or the other of these items, and the surprise to each time discover a different sequence by its setting in image, the absence or the presence of a said text, etc… puts the hyperlector in a situation of imbalance with the project openly announced by the work – which is, let us recall it, inspired of the symbolic system of the cardinal points of the nation algonkine. How indeed to build a knowledge of this cosmogony if no methodology is proposed by the author – and whereas we are in a new mode of expression?

Moreover, one will notice the readily enigmatic character of certain sequences – which seem to function according to a logic well more oneiric rational.

In short, none known in the past cognitive maps seems respected here: we find the linearity of the written text and its paratextuelle organization, neither the syntax of the cinematographic writing (fictional or documentary), nor the methodology of the museographic modes of exposure, etc…

It however remains that the work of Graham Thomson transmits a message well to us, and more still that a message the feeling to have shared a significant experiment.

The logic which seems to prevail is well more that of the dream – a dream directly connected to psyché of Amerindian people – a logic which one will be able to say transverse, for want of anything better for the moment.

It is perhaps the greatest quality of this work, which all at the same time enchants us in the most naive way, and reserves questions differently more difficult to us, having milked with semiotics, and the development of a specific critical language.

Xavier Malbreil

The Centre international d’art contemporain de Montréal Overview

The Centre international d’art contemporain de Montréal (CIAC) is a non-profit organisation administered by a board of directors and managed by personnel with an expertise in artistic production, communications and arts administration. The mandate of the CIAC is to disseminate contemporary art from Québec, Canada and abroad. Initially identified with the visual arts, the CIAC also showcases the creative practices of artists working in design, graphic art, art film and video, architecture and urbanism, and landscape architecture.

The CIAC’s aim is to make its activities accessible to the greatest possible number of visitors. It employs various strategies to achieve this, including exhibitions, conferences, discussions between artists and the public and educational activities for a variety of target groups. The CIAC has no permanent space for its activities. It temporarily occupies various locations suited to each event, whether a museum, an unused warehouse, a park or other public space, a gallery or exhibition venue, etc. First identified with the visual arts, the CIAC also disseminates the work of professionals in object design and graphic design, video and art film, architecture and town planning, architecture landscape.

From 1985 to 1996, the CWC was mainly noted for organizing the hundred days of Contemporary Art of Montreal.  In 1998, he set up the Montreal Biennale (BNL MTL), an international biennial included in the biennial network of major cities in the world. In addition to the organization of artistic events, the CIAC also carries out cultural work, aimed at an in-depth understanding of the stakes of contemporary art, which took the form of various programs of activities, in particular the annual competition Of Young Critics in Visual Arts (1997 to 2007).

Finally, the CIAC online edits the CIAC’s Electronic Magazine. This bilingual magazine (English and French) offers critical works and general information on active artists in the middle of the web art (or line art ) and the institutions that disseminate it.

Library Archives Canada, Refugee Voices

Voices of Refugees Installation – Central Asia, Central America and Africa at Library and Archives of Canada 2010.

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The Voices of Refugees Installation was exhibited during Ottawa’s World Refugee Week Celbrations  at Library and Archives of Canada in June 2010. The 5-day event featured 65 works of art, 25 artists, 23 videos, 19 activists and 13 NGOs from Central Asia, Central America, Africa and Canada. The project was organized by painter Sherry Tompalski and videographer Graham Thompson.

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Tompalski’s “Hamid” mixed media on canvas

World Refugee Week Celebrations June16-20, 2010

World Refugee Week Celebrations at Library and Archives Canada, 395 Wellington Street Ottawa, will featured portraits, videos, presentations and live performances of artists and activists from around the world. The work is open for viewing daily from 1-10PM in room A on the ground floor of Library and Archives Canada (LAC) with presentations and live performances given at 3PM daily.

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The 5-day multimedia event includes: the Coalition of New Canadians for Arts and Culture,  Canadian Centre for International Justice, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees,  USC Canada, The Canadian Red Cross, Catholic Immigration Centre of Ottawa, Centre for International Migration and Settlement Studies, International Settlement Canada Quarterly, Ottawa Community Immigrant Services Organization, Ottawa Chinese Community Service Centre, World Skills Immigrant Settlement Support Agency, National Capital Region YMCA-YWCA, Sherry Tompalski (Designer / Canada), Graham Thompson (Videographer / Canada),  Hamid Ayoub (Painter / Drummer / Sudan), Hawa Kaba (Painter / Drummer /Guinea), Dr. Lee (Percussionist / Canada), Yannick Ndongmo (Singer / Cameron), Tito Medina (Singer / Songwriter / Guatemala), Victor Fuentes (Painter / Singer / El Salvador), Martin Mbesha (Painter / Drummer / DR Congo), Marcela Bautista (Activist / Guatemala), Consuelo Perez (Activist / Guatemala), Sandra Hernandez (Activist / Guatemala), Dolores Bautista (Activist / Guatemala), Nubia Cermeno (Singer / Venzuela), Aisha Matar (Body Painting / Sudan), Selma Hassan (Folklore / Sudan), Gustavo Saavedra (Guitarist, Bolivia) and Maria Sabaye (Dancer, Iran)

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WEDNESDAY JUNE 16, 2010 – Dr Lotta Hitschmanova  + Marion Dewar

5:00 PM:  DOORS OPEN – Refreshments & Food, Video Installation, Paintings, Information Tables, Refugee Artists Victor Fuentes, Hawa Kaba, Hamid Ayoub
5:30 PM: RECEPTION: Marion Dewar Scholarship Fund: Celebrating One Year of Community Success organized by the Ottawa Community Immigrant Services Organization (OCISO).
5:45 PM: Opening Talks by Hy Shelow, UNHCR Senior Protection Officer and Philip Landon, Director of University and College Programming WUSC.
6:00 PM to 7:30 PM:  PROGRAM: Marion Dewar Scholarship Fund: Celebrating One Year of Community Success, SPEAKERS: Tyler Meredith President OCISO Board, Donna Holtom Chair MDSF Committee, Barb Gamble Artist and Community Advocate. Backgrounder, Application, Invitation ENGLISH. Invitation FRENCH
8:00 PM: Susan Walsh, USC Canada’s Executive Director, will provide a talk about Dr Lotta.

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THURSDAY JUNE 17th, 2010 – Central Am Artists, Centre Int’l Justice, Asylum Players

4 PM: “Voices for justice: Canadians seeking truth, accountability and redress” a program developed by the Canadian Centre for International Justice begins with Introductory remarks by Jayne Stoyles, Executive Director, CCIJ
4:15 PM: Reading by Monia Mazigh  from her book, ‘Hope and Despair: My Struggle to Free My Husband, Maher Arar.
4:45 PM: ‘Lemkin’s House,’ a play reading directed by Sarah Mahoney
5:15 PM: Musical interlude by Victor Fuentes
5:45 PM: Closing remarks by Jayne Stoyles (and Alex Neve, TBC)
7 PM: Guatemalan artists Tito Medina, Sandra Hernandez, Dolores Bautista, Marcela Bautista, Consuelo Perez.
8 PM: Peter Showler’s play “Excluding Manuel” performed by the Asylum Players of the University of Ottawa.
1-8 PM: The Installation will feature: Paintings and videos of artists from Central America, Central Asia and Africa, Youtube videos submitted by refugees from around the world, Portraits of featured refugee artists Tito Medina, Hawa Kaba, Hamid  Ayoub, Victor Fuentes and Martin Mbesha by Sherry Tompalski.
1-5 PM: Information tables presented by The Catholic Immigration Centre, The Canadian Red Cross the Centre for International Migration and Settlement Studies World Skills, YMCA-YWCA and USC Canada.

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FRIDAY JUNE 18th, 2010 – Central Asia Day + World Music Circle

3 PM: JP Melville of the Coalition of New Canadians for Arts and Culture will provide the opening remarks.
3:15 PM: The installation will feature Afghan poetry translated by Shahbaz Eshani (Iran).
3:30 PM: The installation will feature Iranian dance by Maria Sabaye (Iran)
5 PM:  World Music Circle: Musicians, in support of World Refugee Week, gather to celebrate and to create music together.
1-8PM:  The Installation will feature: Paintings and videos of artists from Central America, Central Asia and Africa, Youtube videos submitted by refugees from around the world, Portraits of featured refugee artists Tito Medina, Hawa Kaba, Hamid  Ayoub, Victor Fuentes and Martin Mbesha by Sherry Tompalski.
1-5 PM: Information tables presented by The Catholic Immigration Centre, The Canadian Red Cross the Centre for International Migration and Settlement Studies and the Ottawa Chinese Community Service Centre, World Skills, YMCA-YWCA and USC Canada.

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SATURDAY JUNE 19th, 2010 – Africa Day

3 PM: Jayne Stoyles of the Canadian Centre for International Justice will the provide opening remarks.
3:15 PM: Nubia Cermeno, activist from Venezula, will sing and display the art work of refugee children from her “I Wish” program at the Catholic Immigration Centre.
3:45 PM: The installation will feature a talk by Hamid Ayoub (Sudan) accompanied by drummers Dr. Lee, Hawa Kaba (Guinea), Martin  Mbesha (DR Congo), singer/dancer Yannick Ndongmo  and a demonstration of Sudanese henna body painting by Aisha Matar and Sudanese folklore and costumes by Selma Hassan.
1-8 PM:  The Installation will feature: Paintings and videos of artists from Central America, Central Asia and Africa, Youtube videos submitted by refugees from around the world, Portraits of featured refugee artists Tito Medina, Hawa Kaba, Hamid  Ayoub, Victor Fuentes and Martin Mbesha by Sherry Tompalski.
1-5 PM: Information tables presented by The Catholic Immigration Centre, The Canadian Red Cross the Centre for International Migration and Settlement Studies, World Skills, YMCA-YWCA , USC Canada and  Heather Thomson, RN, BScN photonovel project on nutrition, created with a group of Congolese women.

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SUNDAY JUNE 20th, 2010 – World Refugee Day

3 PM: Dr. Adnan Turegun of Carleton University will provide the opening remarks.
3:15 PM: Nubia Cermeno, activist from Venezula, will sing and present the art work of refugee children from her “I Wish” program at the Catholic Immigration Centre.
3:30 PM: The installation will feature a talk by Hamid Ayoub (Sudan) accompanied by  drummers Dr. Lee, Hawa Kaba (Guinea), Martin  Mbesha (DR Congo) and singer/dancer Yannick Ndongmo and a demonstration of Sudanese henna body painting by Aisha Matar and Sudanese folklore and costumes by Selma Hassan.
1-4 PM:  The Installation will feature: Paintings and videos of artists from Central America, Central Asia and Africa, Youtube videos submitted by refugees from around the world, Portraits of featured refugee artists Tito Medina, Hawa Kaba, Hamid  Ayoub, Victor Fuentes and Martin Mbesha by Sherry Tompalski.
1-4 PM:  Information tables presented by The Catholic Immigration Centre, The Canadian Red Cross the Centre for International Migration and Settlement Studies World Skills, YMCA-YWCA,  USC Canada.

 

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World Refugee Week Artists/Presenters – Partial List

Dr. Susan  Walsh: Executive Director of USC Canada
Susan initially worked at USC as a Program Officer in the late 1980’s, and in the interim, helmed the World Food Day Association and worked for over a decade with Canadian Lutheran World Relief as that agency’s Director for Latin America Programs. USC drew her back to Ottawa in 2004, this time as the agency’s Executive Director. During these past two decades, Susan has spearheaded strategies designed to promote the legal, cultural, and livelihood rights of indigenous peoples and marginalized farmers, strengthened though the completion of a doctoral degree in cultural anthropology at the University of Manitoba, and a year of SSHRC-sponsored field research on the biodiversity conservation and resilience strategies of indigenous potato farmers in Bolivia’s southern highlands.

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Tito Medina: Singer / Song Writer (Guatemala)
Medina is a Singer-Songwriter and an icon for Guatemalan revolutionary music. His voice and musical work started to emerge during the national protests the early 70s on the streets of Guatemala City, rapidly Tito was touring the country side of his native Guatemala with his bands Camino and Grupo Taller, then with the Estudiantina of the University of San Carlos and later with Kin-Lalat Revolutionary Music Ensemble. Freedom, equality, hope, love and consensus have been Tito’s inspirations across the time.

Dr. Monia Mazigh: Finance Professor / Writer
Dr. Mazigh was catapulted onto the public stage in 2002 when her husband Maher Arar, was deported to Syria where he was tortured and held without charge for over a year. During that time, Dr. Mazigh campaigned vigorously for her husband’s release and later fought to re-establish his reputation and sought reparations. In January 2007, after a lengthy inquiry, her husband finally received an apology from the Canadian government and was offered compensation for the “terrible ordeal” his family had suffered. Dr. Mazigh has since authored a new book called Hope and Despair which documents her ordeal after her husband was arrested and how she campaigned to clear his name.

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Hamid Ayoub: Painter / Drummer (Darfur, Sudan)
Ayoub, born in the Darfur region of Sudan, fled the expanding civil war in East Africa, to walk on a perilous journey on foot across Chad with the constant threat of famine and attack by wild animals. A graduate from the College of Fine and Applied Arts, Sudan University of Science & Technology, Khartoum, Sudan, Ayoub has exhibited in
Sudan, Nigeria, Germany, England, United States, Niger, Canada and Holland

Dr. Adnan Türegün: Executive Director of CIMSS
Dr. Adnan Türegün is Executive Director of the Centre for International Migration and Settlement Studies (CIMSS) and an Adjunct Research Professor in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at Carleton University. His research interests include the labour market integration of immigrants and refugees with a particular emphasis on their access to regulated professions and trades.

Jayne Stoyles: Executive Director of the CCIJ
Stoyles is a lawyer, the first Executive Director of the Canadian Centre for International Justice, and an Ashoka Canada Fellow.  Jayne served for several years as the Program Director of the NGO Coalition for the International Criminal Court in New York, a network of 2,000 NGOs worldwide that helped bring about the establishment of the Court and that was twice nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize. She has been a Senior Adviser to the Institute for Global Policy in New York on issues of human security, UN reform and international justice, provided International Humanitarian Law training for the Red Cross, and taught international law at Carleton University. The Canadian Centre for International Justice is a national charitable organization that works with survivors of torture, war crimes and other atrocities to seek redress and bring perpetrators to justice in Canada and internationally as part of the next phase of the international justice movement.

Hawa Kaba: Painter / Drummer (Guinea)
Kaba’s art is greatly influenced by her early years in Africa. Her interest in women and women’s issues stems from wanting to push beyond the injustice of existing boundaries – a push for freedom to fulfill life’s dreams regardless of perceived limitations. In her native Guinea, art has traditionally been the exclusive domain of men, while women are left to mind the household and raise children. Through her art, Kaba hopes to encourage women, in particular African women, to become interested in painting as a means of expression.

Philip Landon is the Director of Programs for the WUSC
Landon has been involved in international development and education for over twenty years. His work has focused on the design and management of sustainable education and international development projects and programs that address marginalized populations and engage Canadians in the issues. He is currently the Director of Programs at World University Service of Canada, responsible for strategic orientation, program development and implementation of WUSC’s programs in Canada and overseas.

Sandra Hernandez: Activist / Artist (Guatemala)
Hernandez, as a student in the National University San Carlos, was a founding member of the Environmental University Commission, an organization that  worked with Greenpeace Central America to create a front against the transportation of toxic waste to Guatemala. Upon her arrival in Canada, Hernandez organized student delegations from around the world,  to raise awareness of issues of toxic waste. As well Hernandez has worked with Union member and indigenous leaders to raise awareness of human rights issues in Guatemala.

Victor Fuentes: Painter / Song Writer (El Salvador)
Fuentes came to Canada from El Salvador with his family as refugees in 1990. Though his country has been ravaged by endless civil war, the spirit of the El Salvadorian people remains strong. Victor is the co-founder of the art group “Harmony Hopes” and is instrumental in organizing the Annual Harmony Hopes Art Exhibition to raise funds for the Youth House, Cal-Pipil in San Salvador.
Victor is a strong advocate for change in social and economic justice and development in El Salvador which inspires him to write poetry and music relating to the continued injustices to his countrymen.

Gustavo Saavedra: Singer / Song Writer (Bolivia)
Saavedra, a leading voice of the Bolivian Choir Society, and founding member of the People’s Centre of Art and Culture Music Workshop, was featured on the “La Explicación de mi País”, a musical resistance compilation during Bolivia’s era of dictatorships. His work developed into the prestigious international “Arawi” Music Workshop. He has performaed in Canada, Bolivia, and Chile.

Jessica Solomon – Comedian (Montreal)
Jessica was working as a war crimes lawyer for the U.N. when she decided to pursue a career in comedy. Frankly, she thought, it was time to get serious. Jessica works out of Montreal, Canada, where she performs regularly at the Comedyworks and the Comedynest as well as every alternative comedy room in town. No audience is too small. Seriously, a single bus stop dweller will do. But she does love a crowd, so Jessica has also traveled to cities with large amounts of English speakers. She has performed in Ottawa and Toronto at Yuk Yuks and Absolute Comedy. Internationally, she’s hit the Comedy Café in London and the legendary Zanies Comedy Club in Chicago, amongst others. She has also auditioned for Just for Laughs. When she’s not writing and performing Jessica likes to check in with her old colleagues in The Hague. She enjoys hearing how sad the war criminals are without her observational wit and storytelling to keep them going. She believes they are jealous of her comedy audience and regret what they have done.

Nubia Cermeño: Singer / Songwriter (Venezuela)
Known for her engaging performances and social work with Catholic Immigration Centre, Nubia’s “no barriers music” has been featured in variety of local festivals and  Women’s  Day events. A receiptient of the Community Builder award from the United,  she has served on the Steering Committee for the City for All Women Initiative and  the Board of Directors of the Ottawa Folk Festival. Her work with the “I Wish” program provides opportunities for refugee and newcomer children to exhibit their paintings at local venues such as the Ottawa Folk Festival, World Refugee Week and City of Ottawa events.

Special Thanks goes to the following Contributors:

The Ontario Arts Council, Library and Archives Canada, Nanda Na Champassak and Ryan Thom, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Bhat Boy (www.bhatboy.com), the Centre for Afghan Progress, Peter Showler of the University of Ottawa, Adnan Turegun and James Milner of Carleton University, Ottawa Community Immigrant Services Organization, Department of International Development (QEH) of the University of Oxford England, the Canadian Centre for International Justice and the Coalition of New Canadians for Arts and Culture.

The Voices of Refugees Installation History

Parliament of Canada, June 16, 2009: As part of World Refugee Week celebrations, the Voices of Refugees Installation featured 8 portraits of refugees from Central America, Central Asia and Africa, segments of their life stories displayed on four large screen video monitors and a live performance by Guatemalan revolutionary singer Tito Medina. The event included speeches by the Honourable Jason Kenney, Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism and Abraham ABRAHAM the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Representative in Canada.

University of Ottawa, June 2, 2009: As part of the 2nd Annual Conference of the Canadian Association for Refugee and Forced Migration Studies, posters, videos and performances by revolutionary singer Tito Medina were presented at the conference.

World Refugee Day, June 20, 2008: Posters and videos from the Voices of Refuges Installation were presented on World Refugee Day 2008 at Ottawa City Hall. Video was presented on the University of Oxford England web site and posters were distributed to relief organizations in Islamabad, San Francisco, Dublin, Tokyo, Melbourne, New York, Washington, London, Brussels, Cairo and Johannesburg.

Canadian Centre for International Justice, June 26, 2008: Posters from the Voices of Refuges Installation were shown at the formal launch of the Canadian Centre for International Justice at Library and Archives Canada. The featured speakers were Maher Arar, Lloyd Axworthy and Ellen Gabriel.

Library and Archives Canada Overview

Library and Archives Canada (LAC) is a federal institution tasked with acquiring, preserving and making Canada’s documentary heritage accessible. The Dominion Archives was founded in 1872 as a division within the Department of Agriculture and was transformed into the autonomous Public Archives of Canada in 1912 and renamed the National Archives of Canada in 1987. The National Library of Canada was founded in 1953. Freda Farrell Waldon contributed to the writing of the brief which led to the founding of the National Library of Canada.[11] In 2004, Library and Archives Canada (LAC) combined the functions of the National Archives of Canada and the National Library of Canada. It was established by the Library and Archives of Canada Act (Bill C-8), proclaimed on April 22, 2004. A subsequent Order in Council dated May 21, 2004 united the collections, services and personnel of the National Archives of Canada and the National Library of Canada. Since inception LAC has reported to Parliament through the Minister of Canadian Heritage.

13th International TV Festival Bar Montenegro

Metis Media Installation videos presented at 13th International TV Festival Bar Montenegro 2008.

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Graham Thompson presented videos from the Metis Media Installation at the 13th International TV Festival Bar Montenegro in October 2008.

Videos from the Métis Media Installation were presented with an artist’s talk at the International TV Festival Bar Montenegro in October 2008. The presentation included videos “The Anishinabe Woman,” “The Four Directions Webcast,” “John Maracle,” “Willy Bruce,” “Raymond Girard” and “Paul Bruneau.”

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The International TV Festival Bar Montenegro is the largest television festival in South Eastern Europe was developed by visionary Ljiljana Ðindinovic, who created the annual event during the Balkans War in 1994 to help preserve ties between the nations of the former Yugoslavia.

Parliament of Canada, Refugee Voices

Federal Minister Jason Kenney launches the Voices of Refugees Installation at the Parliament of Canada in 2009.

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The Voices of Refugees Installation was exhibited at the Parliament of Canada in Ottawa Ontario June 16, 2009. The multimedia event featured 8 portraits of refugees from Central America, Central Asia and Africa, with segments of their life stories displayed on four large screen video monitors and was introduced by Federal Minister Jason Kenney.

The Voices of Refugees Project at the Canadian Parliament

The event involved 4 large video displays, 10 short films, 8 portraits and the music of Tito Medina, revolutionary singer from Guatemala in celebration of World Refugee Week. The project was reviewed by Radio Canada International’s Link Program, Tony Martins of Guerrilla Magazine of Ottawa and Alan Neal on CBC’s Ottawa Morning.

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The event included the following speakers: The Honourable Jason Kenney, Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism and Abraham ABRAHAM the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Representative in Canada. The projects partners included United Nations, Citizenship and Immigration Canada, Coalition of New Canadians for Art and Culture. The project’s funders included the Ontario Arts Council, Canada Council, City of Ottawa and Citizenship and Immigration Canada.

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Tito Medina Backgrounder

Mayan musician and activist Tito Medina was just a kid when his songs got him into trouble in his home country Guatemala. After fleeing Guatemala he lived in several countries – Nicaragua and Mexico – before settling in Canada.

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Tito Medina in front of his Portrait

Tito recounts, “I started to sing songs about what was happening in my country when I was twelve years old. I have two brothers that are still missing, disappeared. My mom was heavily tortured both by national forces and foreign international advisers and mining companies, that have small armies locally. They force the people out of their communities, you know, they just to strike gold or nickel or something. We need to learn to forgive but we don’t have to forget.”

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Victor Fuentes Video Transcript

SINGING: What’s the use of having so much, What the use of having so much power, If when the day of my death comes, Nothing, absolutely nothing, I am going to take with me. What the use of having so many possessions? What is the use of all these wealth? When there are so many that have nothing? No even a bread on the table? SPEAKING: I was almost killed in my country, I was tortured, I was arrested on 2 occasions, I was a student at the National Salvadorian University. 1 week the first time, with no food, no sleeping, no water, being beaten up by 7 soldiers, although, I couldn’t see anybody. The first time I was put into a torture chamber, they put me on a chair and I was blindfolded. I was hand cuffed in the back. There was a minute of silence, complete silence, before they started to beat me up.

Citizenship and Immigration Canada Press Release

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Guerilla Magazine Ottawa, Talking Portraits

Talking Portraits reviewed by Tony Martins of Guerilla Magazine Ottawa, 2008.

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The Talking Portraits Series was review by the Guerilla Magazine of Ottawa Canada in an article entitled Portraiture by Intuition by Tony Martins in issue #8 in June 2008.

Portraiture by Intuition by Tony Martins

Do we create images of who we are on our own or through unseen collaboration with others? The “Talking Portraits” installations of wife and husband Sherry Tompalski and Graham Thompson use technology to capture a “co-creation” that is mostly invisible, highly intuitive, and quintessentially human.

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Rarely have I seen such compelling evidence of human intuition as I did on the morning I arrived at Sherry Tompalski’s studio to serve as subject for one of her portraits. I had met with the Tompalski and her husband Graham Thompson (both are Ottawa-based artists) a few weeks earlier over coffee to discuss possible treatments of their new multi-media collaboration in Guerilla. When Tompalski suggested that I could obtain a first-hand view of things by sitting for a portrait, I readily agreed and we began to make arrangements.

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The Talking Portraits series documents the creation of Tompalski’s oil-on-canvas portraits using three integrated components: the finished portrait; a time-lapse video of the portrait in the making; and an audio recording of whatever Tompalski’s subjects verbalize while beneath the gaze of the portraitist. As you may see in the three talking portraits we present here, the sum total is an almost spooky emergence of a distinct personality through shape, colour, image, and sound. Tompalski is a practicing psychiatrist. For her, the series serves as visual confirmation that “90% of what goes on between two people is unconscious”—an idea she credits to Daniel Stern, a professor of psychiatry and psychology and a noted expert in mother-infant relationship.

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In a slightly different sense, the Talking Portraits are an instance of co-construction, “the theory that there is a mutual reciprocal bi-directional interaction between two people that is unconscious,” explains Tompalski.

Which is sort of like a fancy way of saying intuition—which brings me back to that morning in Tompalski’s studio.

The smiling portraitist greeted me at the door and ushered me upstairs, where Thompson was attending to his video and audio set up. A 3×3-foot canvas was already positioned on an easel. It was nearly covered with large square swaths of purple paint.

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“This is the colour that reflects my impression of you after our first meeting,” explained Tompalski.

“Actually, purple is my favorite colour,” I replied.

“Well, there you go,” said Tompalski.

There was laughter and then knowing smiles all around. Simply by conversing over a cup of coffee, Tompalski and I had already begun to “co-create” my portrait. She had intuited the colour that best represents my conception of self and confidently used it as the foundation for the portrait.

Although Tompalski and Thompson have been married for 25 years, Talking Portraits is their first formal artistic collaboration. The idea began to take shape late last year, when the couple returned from an Asian tour where Thompson presented his digital artwork through a variety of new media installations.

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“Graham decided to document the series of large faces I was painting, as he was interested in capturing my intuitive approach to portraiture. We viewed the videos together, saw the possibilities, and began experimenting with voice tracks, music and time-lapse photography.”

On Friday, May 26, the Talking Portraits made a one-night appearance at Ottawa’s La Petite Mort Gallery. Previously, the Talking Portraits have appeared at the Red Salon Artists in Ottawa, the Bridge Street Gallery in Carleton Place, the Steam Whistle Gallery in Toronto (where the portrait “Sam” is in the permanent collection), and at the Ontario Psychiatric Association annual meeting in Toronto.

After the LPM show, the series was slated to appear at Ottawa’s Cumberland Gallery and Cube Gallery. The first international solo show of the Talking Portraits takes place at the ARC Gallery in Chicago in November and early December.

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Tompalski says the next phase in the Talking Portraits evolution will include a 90-minute ambient video version.

“The project will be shot in high definition video and the portraits will develop very slowly, in a hypnotic soothing way, and will be shown on a large screen,” Tompalski explained.

Recalling how I had yammered on about myself while sitting for my portrait, I wondered how other Talking Portraits subjects had behaved.

“I have no expectation that the person must talk, and as a result, there is a great deal of variety,” said Tompalski.

“For example, one woman sat for four hours and made only one comment. However that comment was extremely poignant and meaningful.”

Regensburg Short Film Week, Bavaria Germany

Regensburg Short Film Week of Bavaria features Annick & Tony – A Talking Portrait Story in their 2007 Short Film Market.

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The Short Film Market of the Regensburg Short Film Week of Bavaria Germany featured the  Annick & Tony – A Talking Portrait Story video in 2007.

Annick & Tony – A Talking Portrait Story

Annick & Tony – A Talking Portrait Story is part of the Talking Portrait Series. The series was featured on CTV’s Tech Now program 6/11/2006. CTV’s coverage ran as follows: An art show is a chance to escape the multi-media world we live in and quietly view artwork– not anymore. Innovative Ottawa artists are adding audio and video as part of their art, called “Talking Portraits” Sherry Tompalski is stepping into new territory with the help of her husband Graham Thompson… Both are artists learning to deal with a new medium, wiring an art gallery for video and sound… this exhibit is about more than the finished portraits. While hanging the art is still an important step the canvas only tells part of the story… each work will be shown with video of the portrait sitting and audio clips of the conversation between subject and artist… Graham Thompson shot and edited the video AND he`s also created a sound track for each portrait with individual cd-players… the sound track is the artist and the portrait subject talking about the work while the painting was taking place. The next step is taking this beyond the walls of the gallery to a wider audience, and that`s the plan with Serry Tompalski`s website, you can watch the talking portraits… A recent showing in Ottawa was one night only, but the show goes international this fall with an exhibit in Chicago and it`s streaming live 24-7 on the web.

Regensburg Short Film Week of Bavaria Germany

There’s no such thing as THE short film. Yet the short film is there. It manifests itself in most wonderful multiplicity and vitality. It is a many splendoured thing, touching on all genres and techniques. It plays with abstract forms, tells stories, gives testimony and dares to experiment. It needs a shorter or longer time. It is made in kitchens, in studios, with analogue equipment or on the computer only. It is brought to life all over the world by film students who revel in their medium for the first time, by well-known film giants, and obsessive doers of handicrafts. It promises a lot and seldom lets us down; however, it is barely visible.

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Our competition selection

Each year we receive round about 6.500 entries in total and it is our responsibility to select the best of them as the International Short Film Week Regensburg aims to present an adequate and representative selection of the enormous diversity of the worldwide short film making in the international competition. For German films there is the German Competition and regional productions can be seen in the “Window To Bavaria” and “Window To The Region”. All competition claim to be up to date: the shown films are not older than two years.

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The special programs

Beside our competitions we curate special programmes and provide a platform for guest curators and specfic projects. Well known for several years are Cinema mi Vida, a retrospective on a short film artist, and Cinema mi Amor wich shows the influence of other short films on the curator’s work. Since our cooperation with the Goethe-Institut our special focus on a country has become much more political weight.

The Short Film Week Regensburg was founded in 1994 by the Arbeitskreis Film e.V. and takes place since then in an annual cycle. In the first year it was just a small experiment with one festival cinema. Today with up to four festival cinemas the International Short Film Week Regensburg is not just a firm institution in the cultural life of Regensburg but has become an inconceivable part of the international short film circuit.

La Petite Mort Gallery Ottawa, Talking Portraits

Tompalski’s Talking Portraits were exhibited at La Petite Mort Gallery May 26th, 2006.

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Sherry Tompalski’s Talking Portaits Installation was at La Petite Mort Gallery, curated by Guy Berube,  May 26th 7 – 10 PM at 306 Cumberland St. Ottawa Canada.  The  Exhibition provided 3 ways to experience the portrait – through large oil paintings, 8 audio sound tracks, and 8 videos of time-lapse photography that record the creation of the portraits.

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PORTRAITS: The east wall will be covered with 135 square feet of boldly painted faces painted in her style of Psycholoogical Realism, where Tompalski captures the psychological experience of Ottawa’s leading psychotherapists and artists in paint on canvas. Her work is emphasizes intuition, interpretation, and co-construction (the unconscious dialogue of the portrait sitting.)

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Portraiture & New Media

SOUND TRACKS: The sound tracks, were developed by splicing together unscripted comments with original computer music and sounds of birds, trains, roller coasters, steel bands and bagpipes. This dialogue allows for a momentary glimpse into the process of co-construction through the model’s verbal dialogue and the painter’s visual expression.

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TIME-LAPSE VIDEOS: The time-lapse photography displays the development of the portrait. The hypnotic effect helps the audience take the time to look and become engaged with the painted portrait. To understand ourselves we look at others for clues as to what we are experiencing. The human face conveys a rich complexity of personal history, which we feel in an inexplicable way as an impression or an intuition. Paintings and Installation by Sherry Tompalski and Supporting Audio and Video tracks by Graham Thompson.

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Artist’s Statement

The Talking Portrait Installation, with its matrix of boldly painted faces, its use of time-lapse photography and edited voice tracks, invites the audience into the intimate moment of the portrait sitting. Rather than hang the portraits of the Talking Portrait Installation individually, Tompalski typically presents groups 9 to 15 large faces per gallery wall, covering as much as 135 square feet at a time. Consequently, art audiences are confronted by an expressive collection of personalities that for Tompalski represents “our life experience with others – those people who live inside of us, who shape the way we are from moment to moment.”

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As well, The Talking Portrait Installation offers audience the opportunity to listen on portable audio players, individual sounds tracks for each portrait (produced by Thompson), where the models unsolicited comments are accompanied by supporting sound effects and programmed music that set the mood of each encounter. In effect, the sound tracks help the audience understand what each model is feeling, as part of an ongoing effort to capture the psychological experience of each model. The painted portraits are also supported by the time-lapse record of their creation (produced by Thompson), giving audiences, a quick overview of the development of each face through multiple layers of paint. The hypnotic effect of the compressed video helps the audience take a moment to look, to become engaged with the matrix of portraits. Consequently, the overall effect of the installation is a deepening of the moment, the moment mediated by the right hemisphere of the brain.

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Right Brain Communication

The Talking Portrait installation is primarily concerned about right brain communication, as it takes place between the artist and the model, as the right brain is responsible for processing nonverbal facial expression, body language, and voice in terms of rhythm, tone and force. Research (Wexler et al 1992) demonstrates that the right hemisphere is specialized for both the receptive processing and expressive communication of facial information (primarily from the eyes and from around the mouth) between people in spontaneous social interaction.

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This occurs very quickly in 3 milliseconds and is unconscious. For Tompalski, a practicing psychiatrist, the Talking Portrait series serves as visual confirmation that “90% of what goes on between people is unconscious”-an idea she credits to Daniel Stern, a professor of psychology at the University of Geneva and a noted expert in the mother-infant relationship.

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Tompalski describes her portrait making process as follows, “To understand ourselves we look at others for clues as to what we are experiencing. The human face conveys a rich complexity of personal history, which I feel in an inexplicable way as an impression or an intuition. Consequently, I value painting from a live model. Most importantly, this allows for a mutual influence that is interactive and largely unconscious.”

National Gallery Ottawa, Human Rights Seminar

Aboriginal Human Rights Art Seminar 2006, in collaboration with Amnesty International, was conducted at the National Gallery of Canada.

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During March 2006,  Graham Thompson in collaboration with Amnesty International, conducted an Aboriginal Human Rights Art Seminar at the National Gallery of Canada.

By illustrating the spiritual connection Aboriginal People have to the Earth, Thompson in conjunction with a speaker from Amnesty International, worked with students to create Aboriginal Human Rights themed paintings and drawings based on Medicine Wheel principles and archival images of Native American life prior to colonization.

Medicine Wheel Beliefs and Principles were discussed using an interactive video based presentation North-South-East-West. The presentation North-South-East-West (NSEW), with accompanying talk, has an introduction that illustrates Ontario’s past, its present day mass media culture, and its technological future.

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The main section of NSEW begins in the east where the earth gives birth to a new day, to a new life and to the feeling of deep peace and belongingness. As well the east represents the first challenge in life – the test of survival. The animation celebrates the tiny frail flowers that live another day and open to greet the sun.

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Birth, Sunrise, Spring and the Challenge of Survival

The eastern section is followed by illustrations of the earth’s southern personality. The south brings the heat of the summer, the bloom of adolescence and the quest for a vision. The south represents the time we are given to discover our meaning and the ability to hold the power of this vision as our secret.

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The southern section is followed by meditations on the west. The west represents adulthood, autumn and the path of the vision discovered in our youth. In autumn the cool winds of the west signal the end of summer and a time of preparation – an adult time. In this direction or season of life, we learn that the path of our vision is not easy. The difficulties come like thunder clouds, yet they bring rains that “wash away yesterday” and allow us to renew ourselves and continue our work as in adulthood we realize that the sun will set before our path is complete.

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The piece completes the cycle of directions, seasons and stages of life in the north. The north represents winter, old age and the wisdom of the path of the vision. It is at this stage that our view of life is simple and uncomplicated, like a landscape where blankets of snow hide the complexities of the terrain. This is the time to have courage to live and embrace the changes of the final stage of life.

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The North South East West new media series can be summarized by mapping the geographic and climatic themes onto a matrix as shown below

Childhood

Youth

Adulthood

Old Age

Survival

Vision

Path

Wisdom

East

South

West

North

Spring

Summer

Autumn

Winter

Sunrise

Noon

Sunset

Evening

Hope, Optimism and Belonging

Bloom and Identity

Westerly Winds Bring Clouds

Life Review Like a Snow Covered Forest

CTV’s Tech Now features the Talking Portraits

CTV’s Tech Now Program, hosted by Colin Trethewey, features Talking Portrait Installation 2006.

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CTV’s Tech Now Program of Ottawa Canada,  hosted by Colin Trethewey, featured the Talking Portrait Installation, June 11 2006.

The CTV’s coverage of the Talking Portraits installation ran as follows: An art show is a chance to escape the multi-media world we live in and quietly view artwork– not anymore. Innovative Ottawa artists are adding audio and video as part of their art, called “Talking Portraits” Sherry Tompalski is stepping into new territory with the help of her husband Graham Thompson…

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Both are artists learning to deal with a new medium, wiring an art gallery for video and sound… this exhibit is about more than the finished portraits. While hanging the art is still an important step the canvas only tells part of the story… each work will be shown with video of the portrait sitting and audio clips of the conversation between subject and artist…

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Graham Thompson shot and edited the video AND he`s also created a sound track for each portrait with individual cd-players… the sound track is the artist and the portrait subject talking about the work while the painting was taking place.

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CTV Host Colin Tretheway’s Portrait by Tompalski

The next step is taking this beyond the walls of the gallery to a wider audience, and that`s the plan with Serry Tompalski`s website, on sherrypaints.info you can watch the talking portraits… A recent showing in Ottawa was one night only, but the show goes international this fall with an exhibit in Chicago and it`s streaming live 24-7 on the web.

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CTV Host Colin Thetheway sitting for his own Talking Portrait

CTV’s TechNow Program Backgrounder

In Paul Brent’s own words, the producer of TechNow program – “What a decade from 2001 to 2011. Consider the technology that we have come to take for granted, and so much of this has come about in the last ten years. It’s an unprecedented pace of change, and really shows few signs of slowing down. Covering all of it has been Tech Now, as we mark our tenth anniversary this year.  From iPhones to the iPod, from Google to Twitter, Facebook, Digital cameras, flat screen TV’s, Kindles and YouTube, they have all arrived in the last decade. It amazes me to see what happens.”