>>> Ed Piens work honours immigrant tragedy at Birch Contemporary

ED PIEN at Birch Contemporary (129 Tecumseth), to April 23. 416-365-3003. Rating: NNNN

Memento, Ed Piens prescient 2009 work, continues to resonate ever more deeply as more refugees die at sea.

The Taiwan-born Canadian artists installation commissioned by the Chinese Arts Centre in Manchester, UK was inspired by the Morecambe Bay disaster. In 2004, the UK was shocked when a group of undocumented Chinese immigrants hired out by a trafficker to gather cockles on a northern English beach drowned in the incoming tide.

Pien known for using the Chinese medium of cut paper in 2D works and projected installations in which tiny animals, figures and demonic spirits romp on graphic fields of foliage here constructs a net of white, brown, black and orange cords, a linear matrix thats reminiscent of his paper cuts.

Conveying an underwater world of fishing and sea vegetation, the knotted form also recalls the makeshift technique migrants might use to bundle their belongings. The netted structure, tied off at multiple spots to the walls and ceiling and anchored with sandbags, forces viewers to make a small journey as we duck under ropes and climb through openings. Little paper figures, some carrying sacks, stand here and there on the net.

Video and audio provide more context. In slowly morphing images projected on a sheet of plastic, the surf washes over the artist as he sits in the sand. Bounced off moon-like oval mirrors suspended from the ceiling, short video loops show legs walking purposefully through a city and a night-vision-like scene of white figures being herded along. A subtle soundtrack of dripping water and breaking waves permeates the space.

An undercurrent of desperation and tragedy transforms Piens simple imagery into a powerful statement.

art@nowtoronto.com | @nowtoronto

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