Mixed up in Pot-Pourri

Cultural studies exhibition space enters its second year 

Tucked away in the offices of Queen’s Department of Cultural Studies is the experimental art space and lounge called “Pot-Pourri: A Collegiate Exhibition” in Mac-Correy B176.

The curatorial project was co-founded by Cultural Studies PhD Student Stéfy McKnight and Michelle Smith and Candidate. Pot-Pourri, translated from French to mean ‘a mixture of things,’ has been running since September 2016 and offers a free space for cultural studies graduate students to showcase their research and artistic practice.

“There are already several spaces to exhibit art in Kingston, but they can be like $800 for two weeks,” McKnight said.

The space was set up to exhibit works that are still in development, which the artists might not consider ready to invest hundreds of dollars in but still want to show to their peers and professors.

Currently on display is exhibit “olive, almond and mustard…” by student Sarindar Dhaliwal. This series of digital prints presents a collection of blown-up stills from a film Dhaliwal made about the cultural grooming routines her mother passed along to her after immigrating to England from India.

The works show images of a young girl trapped between the two cultural spaces and her working to resolve the internal conflict of displacement. Dhaliwal says the film was meant to show the existing pressures her mother experienced while facing assimilation to her new homeland. The title refers to the process her mother taught her to use for her hair-lathering each ingredient to ensure it would stay strong and healthy.

(Photo by Julia Balakrishan)

The photos show the girl in the shower with a sorrowful look on her face. On either side of her is a representation of the pressure she feels to assimilate to her surroundings. Through uniformed schoolboys laughing and an English working-class street, we see the difference between the girl’s home and school life.

The exhibit goes on to depict the patterns and iconography of her mother’s homeland and a beautiful woman seemingly at peace with her identity as a person of colour.

McKnight and Smith coordinate the exhibition as a part of their collective called Q4F. The co-curators explained that the exhibition is meant to allow students to express themselves and their interest in cultural studies through media beyond the typical academic papers.

(Photo by Julia Balakrishan)

“We have been running for the past year and we have done 10 exhibitions in total. We took a bit of a break in the summer,” McKnight said. Dhaliwal’s “olive, almond and mustard…” has been in the lounge space since the beginning of August and will be there until September 28.

“This is actually the first exhibition we’ve had that goes down the hallway,” McKnight continued. “[Pot-Pourri] has no rules at the moment and our first exhibit was actually an exploration of the life of migrant workers in Canada, the people who produce a lot of our food.”

“It’s not always such dark subject matter. We just want to help students show their interests and express them with art,” she said.

The space isn’t a traditional gallery but takes inspiration from the arrangement of one with a lounge the curators have used as the center of the space and works hanging on the surrounding walls.

The ‘Pot-Pourri’ exhibitions will change each month this year and the curators say they’re always looking for new work to showcase and new perspectives to explore. The exhibition for October will feature works by graduate students Craig Berggold and Silja Freitag.

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