Courtesy of Ahreum Lee

As the public’s need for visual and figurative work magnifies, Montreal’s art and cultural scene starts to slowly reopen its doors to its citizens. This year, from the 9th to 13th September, art exhibition Artch will be participating in the reopening project of the city and will be taking place at Square Dorchester downtown. Going on into its third edition, the Artch is a collaboration between Art Souterrain, Carrefour jeunesse-emploi Montréal Centre-Ville and Jack Marketing. It is an artistic initiative with aims to support emerging contemporary artists residing in Quebec with 23 graduate students from Concordia and UQAM or self-taught artists have been chosen to participate in the project this year.

Special trainings are offered covering an array of platforms in an artistic career management such as copyrights, networking and project funding. The second part of the initiative is the exposition, where the goal is to give the emerging artists a platform to showcase their art to a wide audience. Combining workshops, performances, conferences and mediation, the exhibition will render an immersive experience to the public and contribute to the democratization of art.

Courtesy of Artch - Facebook.

The square transformed into an outdoor gallery space, each tent discloses a unique artistic world revealed by each artist. One of these artists, Ahreum Lee, creates a world of play and of digital territorial limits. Interdisciplinary artist from Seoul, South Korea, the currently Montreal-based artist wields her cultural background as an instigative tool questioning the role and definition of self-identity in the internet age.

Fan of science fiction and speculative novels, Lee’s work is strongly affected by the feeling of catharsis brought about by a strong belief in a story. «The whole world and the construction of stories makes you believe for a slight moment in the magic of this fictional world.» Being motivated by this feeling, she creates the same dialogue using her art.

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«I am very excited about the power of installation to immerse audiences and let the audience understand my world. However, I do not think about the installation when I am making art piece by piece. I usually start with a concept or topic I want to explore, the visual motifs and iconography I want to play with reveal themselves during research. I generally start thinking about the installation when I approach a space. I think this makes my work adaptable, and also leaves open the possibility to recontextualize the work constantly. I suppose this allows a work to never become completely static.»

Courtesy of Ahreum Lee

At the Artch, Lee will be displaying prints and various objects extracted from her recent installation, Hopping for Hope. Her research revolves around the imaginary borders and our perception of reality. With our point of views being constantly challenged by technology, one can say the boundaries on Google maps are as real as a hopscotch game. Based on Korean hopscotch rules, once one has hopped a number of times, you toss a stone in the air and wherever the stone lands, the territory becomes yours. This game proposed by Lee, is played upon a real printed Google map placed on the floor – therefore outlining the blur between reality and unreality. Combining real physical movement required from the game, one can travel across the world as quickly as in virtual realm. Can our perceptions be conditioned through these false boundaries?

Courtesy of Ahreum Lee

Since Lee moved to Canada 4 years ago, the cultural clash was felt not only in the physical, but most importantly, in her virtual reality. Still very close to internet events happening in Korea, she experienced a certain duality where she was physically present in Canada, but was still digitally in Korea. However, she quickly realized that the internet she grew up with, changed as she moved to the northern country.

With the internet characterized as «global», she learned that we are embedded in a «cultural virtuality». Google tracks all electronic devices, and depending on where you are in the world, they will show you specifically what a nation endorses. In other words, you will enter specific internet «boundaries». The «apolitical» or «neutral» illusion of the internet is determined by where you are physically. Your political stance belongs to where you physically are staying.

Courtesy of Artch - Facebook.

Yet, there is also the flipside of internet where one can cross boundaries through sight-seeing on Google images, visiting different countries through travel vloggers or take a walk in London streets on Street View. However, if we have a broader overview of the map, the borders are still very present. While we see a simple line, unspoken tensions and political uprisings are taking place all over the world. Growing up with a clear cultural divide and strict limits between North and South Korea, Lee was still able to have a sneak peek at her neighbor’s state of affairs and happenings.

The immersive project questions the technological boundaries that are imposed physically and virtually. Yet, the exposition also highlights the distinct feeling of displacement where we aren’t fully present in our real environment at all times – allowing our minds to travel to other countries. Raising the question: are our bodies affected by online digital culture? Or with the sanctions of what we can or could not see on the internet, can our thoughts be changed depending on where you are in the world?

The exhibition will take place September 9 to 13 from 12pm to 7pm. For more information, visit Artch.

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