At Surrey Art Gallery, in a further exploration of the plight of Japanese-Canadian farmers in Surrey and Fraser Valley during the Second World War, Cindy Mochizuki’s new “Autumn Strawberry (Dance Film)” project blends theatre, animation and live-action film.
On an 11-minute loop, the video/audio installation is the culmination of a project Mochizuki launched in 2019 during a summer residency at the gallery’s TechLab, where she worked with community members and a team of artist-collaborators to realize a “dance film.”
Last year, the hand-painted and digital animation of Mochizuki’s “Autumn Strawberry” was shown at SAG, and now the “Dance Film” is revealed on a TV-sized screen in the gallery lobby for a five-month run started Friday (Dec. 9). Admission is free.
“My grandparents had berry farms in the Walnut Grove, Langley area, so the whole ‘Japanese-Canadians in agriculture and berry farms’ angle has a personal connection to my own history,” Mochizuki said in June 2021.
3 years in the making at Surrey Art Gallery, Cindy Mochizuki’s “Autumn Strawberry (Dance Film)” is a further exploration of plight of Japanese-Canadian farmers here during Second World War.
Opened today at @SurreyArtsCtre with help of this sign man
— Tom Zillich (@TomZillich) December 9, 2022
With choreographer Lisa Mariko Gelley, Mochizuki worked with descendants of Japanese-Canadian families who owned farms in Surrey’s Strawberry Hill and other areas of the region before their properties were taken away and family members were displaced to internment camps in B.C. and Alberta.
“These participants enacted gestures derived from Mochizuki’s animations,” explains an event advisory from Surrey Art Gallery. “These recorded sessions of movement draw upon inter-generational memory and embodied storytelling as the performers learned, improvised, and connected once again to the lost stories.”
The result is “a hybrid multilayered artwork,” a film that combines performances with scenes from handmade animations and the installation’s whimsical sculptural elements.
In the exhibition publication, essayist Namiko Kunimoto says Mochizuki not only reflects on the former diaspora community in the Surrey area but “actively rebuilds the community by bringing together multiple generations: elders who share their stories, third- and fourth-generation people who listen and recall the impact of internment on their lives, and fifth-generation Japanese Canadians who have the opportunity to explore their heritage and identity.”
As they dance and perform together in “Autumn Strawberry,” Kunimoto writes, “the site becomes nearly sacred. Through their bodily engagement with space, performers can express their own emotions about the past, their concerns about the future, and rebuild a community for the present.”
A book about the project will be published next spring with essays by Kunimoto and Mochizuki and interviews with choreographer Gelley and composer Nancy Tam.
Also on view at the gallery is “Surrey Art Teachers Association: Connect” (art by local teachers), until Jan. 22.
Looking ahead, starting Jan. 21 SAG will feature “Keerat Kaur: Panjabi Garden” (poetry, digital illustration, painting, and marble inlay that depict motifs from the natural world to celebrate the Panjabi language and Gurmukhi script), and also “Through the Lattice” (group exhibit of multimedia artworks that “speaks to the spaces we inhabit, both physically and symbolically”).
Located at Bear Creek Park (13750 88 Ave.), Surrey Art Gallery is open Tuesday to Thursday 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., Friday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday noon to 5 p.m. For more details call 604-501-5566 or visit surrey.ca/artgallery.