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Teenage artists explore life during COVID-19 in video exhibition

Nanaimo Art Gallery youth art group Code Switching unveils ‘I Move’
Code Switching’s I Move exhibition features short videos about life during COVID-19. Among the videos are ‘Ignorance is Bliss’ by Ross Gray, ‘Queen of Corinth’ by Sonam Maki, ‘Cycle’ by Nina Binter and ‘Untitled’ by Peter Crema (clockwise from top-left). (Video stills courtesy Becky Thiessen)

The Nanaimo Art Gallery’s teen art program is ending its year with an online video exhibition that takes a look at what young people make of life during COVID-19.

This year, due to pandemic precautions, Code Switching moved its programming online. Members met via teleconference and shared their art on the NAG’s social media pages. On June 11 the group presents its final exhibition, I Move.

Program coordinator Becky Thiessen asked the participants to each create a short video on the topic of their experience during the pandemic. She said the youths have an important voice on the issue.

“They’re the ones who are experiencing this in a really raw and real way and so I think for us to understand their perspective is vital as we move forward and figure out how we all collectively are going to navigate this,” Thiessen said.

The title of the exhibition is a response to the NAG’s new thematic inquiry “What moves?” which was to have launched with the opening the now delayed exhibition, Boarder X. Thiessen said in the context of COVID-19, it seems like “everything is moving but everything is standing still.”

Code Switching participant Sonam Maki plans to draw on that feeling of spinning one’s wheels in her contribution to I Move. She said living in quarantine reminds her of the movie Groundhog Day, in which the main character repeatedly re-lives the same day.

“A lot of the days kind of feel the same and start to feel repetitive and so I really wanted to explore that concept because our exhibition is also based on ‘What moves?’ and thinking about how things are stationary, almost,” Maki said. “It seems like nothing is moving, yet we’re all moving inside our homes, we’re all moving inside our own heads and nothing really does stop moving.”

When Code Switching member Ben James thought about movement, he thought about it on a global scale. He said “with everything going on – all the stuff – it’s been a wild year” and he predicts fluctuation of the status quo.

“I think there’s going to be a lot of movement and change in how the world is. How government is run, how people interact with their government, how the world is run,” James said. “So I’m kind of making an introspective piece about do we want to go back to how things were? Is that really what we want, or do we want change? Do we want difference?”

Thiessen said the youths’ videos are “pretty deep,” noting that they touch on themes like anxiety, food security and the importance of staying engaged with the world.

“It’s great to see the way that they’ve been able to come up with their concepts and really follow through on their ideas,” she said.

WHAT’S ON … I Move opens online via Zoom on Thursday, June 11 at 7 p.m. Link available at

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