Where art breaks down barriers was a slogan used by MAI some years ago as a means of self-identification. Slowly over time the statement was dropped, replaced by others deemed more of the moment, more reflective, optimistically-speaking, of a time when the subject of territory was less of a current event. Fast-forward to 2016 and suddenly borders, barriers, security walls are all back in the news. Suddenly that slogan warrants a dusting off as the world refugee population reaches an all-time record of 65.3 million, close to twice the population of Canada. Imagine, 1 per cent of the world’s population that are refugees, asylum seekers or internally displaced people. It is difficult to not need to talk about this situation.
Public +, a series of activities offered by MAI in tandem with its exhibitions and performances is a means to process the seemingly incomprehensible, to galvanize an understanding, to articulate an opinion. Fundamentally, the series was developed to link artist and audience through dialogue and exchange, and to inspire thinking.
Aside from regular activities planned for 2016/2017 such as post show discussions, workshops, and guided tours of exhibitions for example, MAI will be presenting a number of pop-up events throughout the season on the resurgence of barrier walls, systemic racism, decolonialization, economic inequality, and about any number of phobias linked to the fear of the other. These events are to all be programmed through the optic of passing the mic … the act whereby control of the microphone is proffered to the underrepresented so that their voices might be amplified, programmed as a space for individuals with lived experiences to speak out and share their lived experiences, a safe space for making some noise – a space where the customarily vocal cede their place at the podium, and, instead, listen. Empowerment.
Finally, it’s not difficult to imagine why a slogan such as where art breaks down barriers was attributed to MAI for at core of its intercultural mandate is collaboration, a melding of disparate parts, a bridge that connects. Community.