I recently attended the opening of Sau Wai Tai's show at the Women's Art Resource Centre. Such a show, which demonstrates a feminist ethic applied to interlinking environmental and social justice issues, takes art not for its aesthetic but its potential to demonstrate, to involve the masses by taking them past speculating on a visual culture made only for their living room walls. Sau Wai Tai's exhibition "Dry Spell" deals specifically with the water crisis and allows the viewer to make the connections between the commodification/desecration of water resources to the trafficking of women caught in development paradigms.
The press release below:
"Sau Wai Tai
May 24 - June 21, 2008
Dry Spell presents Toronto artist, Sau Wai Tai¹s mixed media investigation into climate change. While floods and hurricanes command the media¹s attention as effects of global warming, severe and intensifying droughts have been largely un-reported even as the percentage of land affected has substantially increased over the last decade. Privatization of water by bottling industries, and the prioritizing of industrial needs, aggregate the problem for communities with little political/economic power. Dry Spell highlights environmental injustices against the global South with special attention to the ordeal of women. Many have suffered and perished as they tried to bring home water and feed their families. In the gallery, the artist constructs a drying, cracking Œpaddy field¹ with gradually dying seedlings. Also in the gallery lie four locked 80 litre water boxes. At the Third World Water Forum, it was said that 80 litres of water per person, per day are necessary to maintain a reasonable standard of life. Text etched onto the boxes references uses such as pop and bottled water, toilets and urban etiquette, industry and agricultural processes etc. On the floor lie scattered bottles of water containing submerged pictures of women of colour consumed/to be consumed and discarded away. A dim image with native women from Mother Earth Water Walk walking around the Great Lakes to reclaim sacred water is projected onto a gallery wall.
Sau Wai is a cultural hybrid living and working in Toronto: She was made in Hong Kong, did her tertiary education in Australia and then worked with various non-government organizations after she returned from her studies, including relief and development works in Asian countries. Realizing the importance of how the environment plays upon the well being of people living in the margins, especially women, she came to Toronto to earn a Masters degree in environmental studies. It is thus natural for her work to cross borders and to interweave dialogue about the environment, gender, class and race to highlight connections in a perceived fragmented world. She also embraces a critical understanding of humanities role in manufacturing the environmental crises and interprets the word "environment" to include the implications of the interplay between political, social, cultural and
economical global elements."