Divya Mehra Releases Canada’s Colonial Genies



Winnipeg-based artist Divya Mehra’s inflatables made a splash final weekend throughout Nuit Blanche 2023, Toronto’s annual public artwork pageant. Curated by Kari Cwynar across the theme “Breaking Floor,” the pageant hosted two of Mehra’s jumbo-sized comfortable sculptures, which used town’s monetary district on Bay Road as a backdrop to name consideration to the implications of colonialism and capitalism in Canada.

On Saturday, September 23, Mehra introduced a brand-new inflatable titled “Your Want is Your Command” (2023), which took the type of an infinite, glimmering genie lamp periodically spouting smoke inside the courtyard of the Toronto-Dominion Centre workplace complicated. Towards 5 company skyscrapers, the visible incongruence of the lamp, which gently teetered backwards and forwards whereas emitting puffs of vapor, initially learn as humorous and eccentric. However beneath, Mehra’s lamp begged the query: Whose needs are granted in Toronto’s monetary district?

“My visible apply incorporates lots of humor in its critique, which frequently creates accessible factors of entry for the viewer,” Mehra informed Hyperallergic in an e mail. “As a medium, inflatables could be comedic and draw the viewers in to have a dialog about complicated points corresponding to oppression, discrimination, and diasporic existences.”

Proper on the coronary heart of Toronto’s personal Wall Road, Mehra’s genie lamp confronted passersby with the truth that the post-colonial financial constructions in place be sure that some folks’s needs are granted over others.’

Divya Mehra, “A Sensible Information” (2023), comfortable sculpture, 16 x 11 x 5 ft

On the pageant, Mehra additionally introduced “A Sensible Information” (2023), which sows seeds of resistance solely steps away from the pinnacle workplace of Hudson’s Bay Firm (HBC). Mehra sized up the usual plastic bag from a meals supply order or a comfort retailer and exchanged “THANK YOU” with the phrase “LOOT,” an etymologically Hindi phrase that was repurposed by the British throughout their rule of India. “A Sensible Information” is anchored outdoors of the HBC workplace as a direct confrontation of the colonial firm’s brimming wealth born from the fur commerce business, derived from Indigenous traditions and governance since its inception.

Canada’s First Nations populations have suffered immensely by the hands of HBC from the seventeenth century onwards. The corporate exploited their information, labor, sustainable fur-trapping practices, and ecological sources within the title of revenue and territorial enlargement. Many First Nations cultures have been solely worn out by smallpox and tuberculosis transmitted by European fur merchants, and the endemic beaver inhabitants hunted by the corporate’s trappers was depleted to close extinction.

With HBC persevering with to revenue from its colonial legacy, Mehra deliberately substitutes the expression of gratitude with “LOOT” to ask audiences “to take what they’re owed,” she mentioned. The comfortable sculpture debuted on the Frieze Los Angeles Gallery Evening in February earlier than cropping up in entrance of the HBC workplace throughout Nuit Blanche. “I believe that the work advantages from being accessible to a broader viewers,” the artist famous.

“Your Want is Your Command” has since been dismantled, however “A Sensible Information” stays outdoors of the HBC head workplace on Bay Road till tomorrow, September 29.

“A Sensible Information” as seen throughout daytime

Mehra started incorporating inflatables into her sardonic, multidisciplinary apply in 2018, beginning with a blown-up rendition of Palestinian scholar Edward Said’s 1978 book Orientalism titled “The World Isn’t a Truthful Place: Simply Barely Adrift in your Perceived Cultural Panorama (The Browning of America and the Shade of Crime).” She one-upped this sculpture with a bouncy castle Taj Mahal later that yr, describing each initiatives as “exaggerated symbols of id politics and the area they occupy in a White cultural creativeness.”

“I used to be pondering of representations of ‘The East’ and the way these projections and fantasies are sometimes lowered into backdrops,” Mehra continued. She has additionally employed the inflatable medium to untangle her personal emotions and their complexities, significantly grief after dropping her father, which she depicted by sculptures of the urn and tsunami emojis.

“Though I usually foreground my analysis and concepts, working three-dimensionally and at that scale created this area for in any other case tough conversations in a manner that different mediums that I had beforehand labored in by no means did,” she concluded.


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