Currently running in Cohen Commons (in the John Labatt Visual Arts Centre) at Western University, there’s a small but mighty exhibition up until April 7. Entitled Roll Callthe curated collection of personal statements answers the question: “What does community mean to you?”

So, what does it mean to people?

Ten large black and white prints line the wall of Cohen Commons and the statements suggest community means very different things to different people. Curator Mackenzie Sinclair asked several people that same question and then combined the the results into a diverse display of responses.

I recently got to chat with Mackenzie and fellow Vis Art student Tyler Durbano about the exhibition, what it means to them, and what it can mean to London.

Just talking all things community with Tyler Durbano and Mackenzie Sinclair. Photo by Emma Marr

Were you guys part of shaping this particular subject for the conference?

Tyler: All the MAs, PhDs, and MFAs worked together in a group effort. We all decided on the topic and that sort of thing. There was definitely a core group that sort of lead the process but in general, it’s like a department student-based thing as a whole.

Regarding the topic of community, did you guys have a difficult time arriving at something everyone agreed on?

Mackenzie: It’s this conversation that continually happens, right? So, Patrick Mahon, who is the Grad Chair, he kind of helped us create this conference and the Open Studios. Also, we had the opportunity to use the Cohen Commons for this so he asked for a volunteer… and I kind of volunteered!

Here we go. Photo by Nicki Borland

I put it in this kind of micro/macro sense and I asked the question: “what is community”? Or what isn’t community? Once people got back to me with responses, I flipped them into these text-based works.

Tyler: It’s going to be pretty interesting I think because there are so many people from different backgrounds coming in. That description for community could be so wide-ranging.

That’s what so fascinating, especially with this subject, because this is the stuff that we do (at LondonFuse) and think about every day. 

Tyler: That’s the thing. We sort of loved that it was so open and wide ranging because it promotes inclusivity, right? I mean, and it challenges us to think about who it is we can reach out to. Also, we need to think about who we haven’t reached out to before and get them to share their ideas with us.

That’s community. Photo by Nicki Borland

Okay on to Roll Call specifically. Were these prints verbal responses? 

Mackenzie: Yes some were written. Some were also through Facebook or text. I thought about how I contact my immediate community and went from there.

Interesting. Is that where the bingo night poster came in?

Mackenzie: Actually [laughs] that was my Grandmother. She did 21 years of community bingo nights and she made fingerling potatoes for the majority of it. I didn’t know if she was like reminiscing on it or if she was hating on it? I didn’t know what that was, but it’s just an interesting way of thinking about community. Especially depending on what generation you’re from as well, right?

Them potatoes! Photo by Nicki Borland

The one that reads “probably everyone getting held up at the border,” came from a friend of mine, who’s Egyptian. We had talked about traveling to the US after I’m finished with my MA, and he made this comment like “well, you’ll have to do it without me” and it was like, “I don’t know why.” I completely forgot that even though he is a Canadian citizen, he has dual-citizenship in Egypt and he probably won’t get across the border. This speaks to his community, right? The differences in what we’re surrounded with are definitely highlighted.

In terms of the aesthetic you chose, did you have a particular vision due to the statements?

Mackenzie: When speaking with Patrick (Mahon), the two of us wanted something that was both mentally stimulating, as well as visually stimulating (obviously!). So he gave me this book of an artist who’s practice involved asking people to give advice to their 80-year-old selves. The aesthetic of her answers came in the form of different fonts in different colours. I actually prefer the black and white now that I see it up.

Taking it all in. Photo by Nicki Borland

It’s such a simple concept and design, it says so much without actually doing so. Make sure you go and check out Roll Call and ask yourself, “what does community mean?” to you. For any more info on Open Studios, the Gad Conference, or other happenings at the Vis Art Department, click here!

Feature photo by Nicki Borland


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