Those That Came Before Us

15 June 2023 – 10 December 2023

About the Exhibition

Curated By

Anastasia Ferguson

Organized By

The MacKenzie Art Gallery


Shumiatcher Theatre

Rooted within human history is the displacement and migration of people. These experiences often reshape our lives, identities, communities, notions of belonging, and broader understanding of the world. With displacement and migration often comes the loss of knowledge – of the stories, histories, lives, and places – of those that came before us. This erasure of the past- of parts of our own family histories, creates a sense of loss and grief within many of us. How can we look toward the future without an understanding of the past – of the stories of our ancestors, our culture, our origins?  

In this program artists retrace their family histories through fragmented memories, letters, artifacts, archives, and their imaginations. Using technology such as 3D video, chroma keying, and experimental film processes – these artists place themselves and the viewer within the stories – within the images. Drawing on the hapticity of film and video, these artists create felt and embodied experiences in an attempt to unearth that which was lost and to connect to those that came before us.  

Chapter 1: Archives, Artifacts, and the Autobiographical

Elian Mikkola, Via Karelia, 2021, 12:35 min. 

Via Karelia traces a lost identity hidden in the forests of an abandoned war zone. This film looks at generational trauma and how to heal from the pressures of the past by searching for Mikkola’s grandmother’s childhood home in what was once known as Finnish Karelia, now part of Russia.  


Artist Biography 

Elian Mikkola is a Finnish Moving Image Artist (of Karelian descent), and a white settler currently based between Treaty 4, Regina, and Montréal (Tiohtià:ke), Canada. Originally from Turku, Finland, Mikkola holds a BA in Journalism from Tampere University. They completed their MFA in Media Production in 2019 at the University of Regina. 

Elian Mikkola, Still from Via Karelia, showing moving shot of dark trees.

Elian Mikkola, still from Via Karelia, 2021, 12:35 min, Courtesy of CFMDC

Ayam Yaldo , Impossible Sites, 2021, 13:03 min.

Using photographs of historical sites, ancient Mesopotamian figures, and Gulf War footage, Yaldo reconstructs lost, destroyed, and displaced ancient artifacts in her home country of Iraq. Using the internet as an excavation site and green screen as a magic carpet, Yaldo, travels back in time to rebuild what has been lost.

Artist Biography 

Ayam is an interdisciplinary artist based in Montreal. She holds a master’s degree in Studio Arts from Concordia University in the department of Intermedia. 

Yaldo constructs worlds through video, performance, ceramic sculpture and installation, exploring concepts of reconstruction, transformation and ephemerality, in relation to forms of displacement. Yaldo’s interests are steeped in narratives that shift between the personal and the political, the past and present, reality and myth. Her research is concerned with formations of the self in relation to place, historical narratives, collective memory, and personal experience of war and displacement from the Middle East as a child.  


Still from

Ayam Yaldo, still from Impossible Sites, 2021, 13:03 min, Courtesy of the Artist

Leila Sujir, Peacocks Dream, 2018, 15:49 min.

Using letters, childhood Saris, dreams, and memories – Peacocks Dream explores the disorientation and loss of those left behind. “Dis-orient” – to lose east – became Sujir’s father’s story, a young pilot who lost his direction in life and died young in a plane crash in Canada. His journeys placed him in precarious positions, too far from home. 

Using stereoscopic 3D video, Sujir evokes the experience of immigration, often talked of as a feeling of “doubled place”.  This “doubled place”, presents the conflicting experience of both the presence of home and its absence. 


Artist Biography 

Over the last forty years, Leila Sujir has been building a body of video art works using a mix of fiction, fantasy and documentary with visual and audio collage techniques. Her video art works have been shown in group shows at the Museum of Modern Art (New York) and the Tate Gallery (Liverpool), as well as galleries all over the world. Her work is in collections including the National Gallery of Canada and the Glenbow Museum. 

Still from

Leila Sujir, still from Peacocks Dream, 2018, 15:49 min, Leila Sujir, Courtesy of the Artist

Chapter 2: Imagination, Transformation, and the Historical

Amanda Strong and Bracken Hanuse Corlett, MIA, 2015, 8:07 min.

MIA is the story of a young woman’s struggle to return home through polluted land and water. The work is a hybrid documentary using animation and sound to tell a story of transformation and reconnection. The film challenges ideas of conventional documentaries and presents Indigenous oral traditions as truth and not myth. The story of MIA follows the Wuikinuxv oral story, of Xa’Pkvas Wisem Mia’x’it, The Boy Who Turned into a Salmon, as told by the late Chief Simon Walkus Sr.  


Artist Biographies 

Amanda Strong is a Michif (Metis) interdisciplinary artist with a focus on filmmaking, stop motion animations and media art. Currently based on unceded Coast Salish territories also known as Vancouver, BC, Canada.  With a cross-discipline focus, common themes of her work are reclamation of Indigenous histories, lineage, language and culture.  Strong’s work is fiercely process-driven and takes form in various mediums such as: virtual reality, stop-motion, 2D/3D animation, gallery/museum installations, published books and community-activated projects.  


Bracken Hanuse Corlett is an interdisciplinary artist hailing from the Wuikinuxv and Klahoose Nations. Bracken’s practice fuses painting and drawing with digital-media, audio-visual performance, animation and narrative. Some of Bracken’s notable exhibitions, performances and screenings have been at Grunt Gallery, Vancouver International Film Festival, Urban Shaman, Mackenzie Art Gallery and Toronto International Film Festival.  Most recently the script he wrote for Biidaaban (The Dawn Comes) won the Craft Award for Best Script at Ottawa International Animation Festival and many more. 

Amanda Strong and Bracken Hanuse Corlett, still from MIA, 2015, 8:07, Courtesy of the Artist

Yanyu Dong, Ayesha, 2017, 19:42 min.

Produced as an imaginary biography of Dong’s mother, this work imagines Ayesha, a girl of who dreamed of becoming a Bollywood dancer. Set within a dense fantasy in the heart of India, Dong reclaims their mother’s destiny and desires lost in another time.  


Artist Biographies 

Yanyu Dong 董妍妤 is a Chinese visual artist currently based in Los Angeles. She uses video, photography and performance as platforms to examine her cultural dissonance as an international artist. She received her BFA at the Tianjin Academy of Fine Arts and her MFA at the California Institute of the Arts. Her work has been exhibited at venues internationally.  

Yanyu Dong, still from Ayesha, 2017, 19:42 min, Yanyu Dong, Courtesy of CFMDC