I’ve always had a complicated relationship with art.
I can still vividly remember going to the National Gallery of Canada, in the nation’s capital. There was 13 year old me, surrounded by all my friends being ushered into a large room for a special unveiling of a new painting by a master Canadian artist. I sat on the floor, legs crossed, waiting patiently for everyone to settle down so that I could see this great masterpiece that all the adults had been raving about, when my teacher suddenly directed the class’ attention to the front of the room. And there it was- a giant floor to ceiling canvas of three thick, vertical stripes of paint. More specifically, orange, red and blue.
Needless to say, I was unimpressed. Rolling my eyes is a skill I developed early in life and I proceeded to roll them so hard I caught a glimpse of my own brain. Since then, I have categorized art into two major categories: fake, more commonly known as abstract art, and more cerebral pieces. To me, art is supposed to be a creative outlet, something intimate and personal that taps into a different part of your consciousness. While I felt no connection to the three vertical stripes that were much celebrated in my youth, I have felt moved by pieces that critiqued and questioned social and cultural norms in a way I hadn’t thought of.
The #teaseproject was created based exactly on that premise.
Housed under the Alliance for South Asian AIDS Prevention (ASAAP), the #teaseproject uses arts to challenge perceptions around gender, culture, sexuality and identity pertaining to South Asian youth. Beginning its journey in Toronto’s East end in 2012, the #teaseproject harnessed the creative energy of 37 youth in dissecting the many layers that cloak youth of colour in the Western world. Teasing apart their struggles and pulling them to the surface may lead to uncomfortable conversations but it allows us to dissect how large, abstract concepts such as racism, classism and sexism impact daily life. Art has the power to unpack, flip and reimagine issues while allowing one to create some distance from the everyday.
In the Tamil community, there are so many norms that we take for granted. The rules that we impose upon our young girls before we let them out of the house, the ways in which many of us live double lives, being careful to remove those markers of our other life. The youth of today are battling racist stereotypes, suppressed sexualities and dichotomous gender roles. All these things can be tackled through paintings, sculptures, collages and multimedia pieces in compelling ways that speak to creator and observer alike.
As a fan of the written word, I believe that expression can be powerful. But sometimes, art can be more powerful than statement. When you see something that makes you think, it’s not the same as being told and can allow you to draw your own conclusions. The experience of moulding a piece with your own hands is not only therapeutic, but allows you to challenge and reinvent the world we live in. That sounds worthy of a special unveiling to me.
Wanna be part of the movement? Tag #teaseproject with your images and artwork that deals with gender, culture, sexuality and identity.
If you happen to be in Toronto on November 6th, come check out what they do at the Tease Project: The Collection - Launch & Exhibit