Human Capital

Various Artists

January 19, 2024 - April 19, 2024

College Art Gallery

Curated by Tak Pham

Human Capital offers insight into the impact of Canada’s immigration policies and history: how they treat humans as capital, and the role they play in shaping the complex and contested formation of a “Canadian identity.

The exhibition includes artworks by Aleesa Cohene, Chantal Gibson, Jeannie Mah, Esmaa Mohamoud, Darija Radakovic, Marigold Santos, Farihah Shah, Florence Yee and Shellie Zhang.

Organized and circulated by the MacKenzie Art Gallery

Image above: Esmaa Mohamoud, Deeper the Wounded, Deeper the Roots (1), 2019, archival pigment print edition 1 of 5 (1 AP), 101.6 x 152.4 cm. Collection of the MacKenzie Art Gallery.

Image left: Shellie Zhang, Means of Exchange ($31.94), 2019, inkjet print, 121.9 x 101.6 cm. Courtesy of the artist.

About the Exhibition

Human Capital presents work that offers insight into the impact of Canada’s immigration policies and history: how it treats humans as capital, and the role it plays in shaping the complex and contested formation of a “Canadian identity.”

Canada, like most Western nations, has a long history of immigration campaigns that promise economic prosperity to both the state and immigrants. As a result, Canadian immigration policies have historically focused on maximizing economic contributions while minimizing disruption to the “fundamental character of the Canadian population,” as remarked by Canadian Prime Minister Mackenzie King in 1947.  

Canada’s current, points-based immigration system, in place since 1967, attempts to provide a non-discriminatory framework for assessing individuals and collectives and directing them to strategic economic and geographic sectors. Once inside Canada, new immigrants are expected to boost the country’s economy by producing more for less. The system has little regard for existing marginalized communities, as it continues to reinforce “Canadian values” with an ever-growing intake of immigrants, whose admittance is driven primarily by the economic demands of the country. For all these reasons, the exhibition asks: What else is lost when human potential is measured as units of capital?

Human Capital includes artworks by: Aleesa Cohene / Chantal Gibson / Jeannie Mah / Esmaa Mohamoud / Darija Radakovic / Marigold Santos / Farihah Shah / Florence Yee / Shellie Zhang

Lan Florence Yee, Whitewashed, 2018, vinyl on found dry cleaning bag, clothing rack, 21” x 54”. Photo: Don Hall, courtesy of the MacKenzie Art Gallery.

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