Mei Lein Harrison and Emil White
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Mei Lein Harrison and Emil White were inspired to collaborate having observed their propensity to aid each other in the creation of their respective individual work in the past, as well as possesing a desire to employ their different perspectives in regards to gender dynamics, a topic of sustained interest for them both. They utilize these differing perspectives – Emil as a cis white man and myself as a coloured, mixed-race, asexual, genderqueer person – to assess past experiences with gender and dynamics of power and control they’d observed in domestic settings. This work has also functioned as a way to reflect on the shift that has occurred in the expression of these values from the each artists’ parents’ generation to their own. The creative exploration of these topics culminated, to some extent, in the installation of the work in Zavitz gallery in mid-November, an exhibition titled help help help. They used diverse aesthetic strategies to aid in the telling of a performed narrative, documenting these gestures in both their houses, as well as the street that connects these personal domestic spaces. Curating vignettes from a collection of lived experiences, they use a combination of subtle and grand, almost comical, gestures to communicate the dance around the line that resides between affection and control. The work put into the performance and the themes played upon in the video are reflected in a more tangible way in Mei Lein and Emil’s soft sculpture. The artists made a decision to only use found materials to fabricate this abstraction of the feminine form, allowing associations with these materials from previous owners, and the worn qualities, to aid in the dissection of the approach to the feminine body as an object for servitude and comfort. This work involved both the construction of parts of the body as well as the violence subjected to it in its display, particularly as all the pieces were hand-stitched onto the mattress.