Enna, a London, Ontario Native, speaks about her experience coming from a small town, her discovery of the modern feminist movement, and how she uses her skill to benefit others.
Tell us about yourself; your major, your year, and where you are from?
I’m Enna, I am a second year digital futures student. Originally, I am from London Ontario, which is two hours south of here. I did two years of architectural school at Ryerson.
Are there any women who influence you in terms of the creative world? It could a musician, artist, friend, family member, etc.
Social media has a good way of bringing people together who you thought you would never meet. I think the artist community is very strong there. There is Lolo, she’s a mural artist that is constantly working. Her content, maybe if it were seen in writing, you would not necessarily want to be immersed in that sort of artwork. Basically, she does murals in cartoonist style. Forms of consent and a lot of sexual innuendos. She draws octopus women having sex with each other. It is so elaborate, detailed and colourful that it puts a twist to those subject matters that a lot of people may overlook. I like how she brings a lot of street style and her non-traditional art form training into her pieces. Mural work is really hard, especially the sizes that she needs to work with, being able to see how diligent and successful she is by doing her own method of art making is really cool.
Do you incorporate your femininity into your work?
A lot of my work is digital works with mixed media. I do some illustration and some animation. I like mixing the two together. Coming from a small town, my sister and I were the only Asian people in the community as well as our school. It wasn’t until high school that we realized that there were people who didn’t look like us. As kids you kind of look at people for their values, not their facial characteristics. Once I got into university and people started talking about the modern feminist movement, I became more aware of it. But I don’t think I intentionally put that out there. That doesn’t refrain me or exclude me from making feminist work because I am not aware of it. It’s just that I am a female therefore my work is somewhat feminine even though I don’t realize it or intend for it to be feminine. I think my field in mixed media stands a lot for my architecture experience which is also a male dominated field. In terms of software and science skills, there is a lot of bias in who does what in that industry. So, I think being able to mix multiple mediums, especially analog technologies and methods, is culturally seen as more feminine. Mixing those two methods gives so many opportunities in that avenue for me to show my femininity without being too overt. That’s a challenge for anyone as a creator but I think as an artist/designer you have to revolve both ways and try to give something that viewers would like seeing as well.
In your opinion, how do you feel about the representation of other female artists and women depicted in art, media & music briefly? Do you feel like it can be improved?
Of course, it can be improved. Anything can be improved. It’s just so funny learning about it from an art history perspective as well as a consumer and creator perspective. Taking art history and learning about Orientalism and how a lot of females are depicted as sexual fantasies, people just need to know that we are more than that. I also think about my ethnicity and being an Asian woman, being two minority statuses crushed into one. Often, we are seen as fetishes. Even though that may not seem like a bad thing, I think putting us on that wrong pedestal is an informal way of portraying us. It makes me feel uncomfortable and it’s sad that no one can take us Asian women seriously just because of the way we look. I think our shift is pretty awesome because of social media and if the work is strong enough I feel like the artist’s gender shouldn’t make a negative impact on their work. That’s something that every artist should strive for. I also like how people have been more open to talking about feminist art. There are a lot of resources for people who fall into that category. They are able to discuss art and call for submissions for a specific theme among those issues. But I do think we are still a long way from getting there.
Do you face obstacles as a female art/design student?
In terms of scale of my projects, I would love to do larger projection mapping but I feel like my height gives me a disadvantage when I’m making things or setting up for shows. And I feel like when I also help with other people’s work it’s kind of like a detriment for me. I just feel like sometimes I don’t want my content to exclude anyone else just because I am an Asian woman. If I share my personal work that presents some experiences as an Asian woman, I hope that it doesn’t make more people interested in it. These are opportunities for conversation rather than overlooking or assumption. I feel like that could be an obstacle. At the same time I don’t want art to be all about that as well. If there is another avenue that you would like to speak about as well, that could be an influence.
What is your response to the Me Too movement? What impression did it leave on you and your work here at OCAD?
It makes me so sad hearing all the stories about sexual harassment within the workplace. It sucks because I’m interested in technology and I want to get into the tech industry that has been predominantly known to be more masculine/anti-feminist. It sucks seeing people not being taken seriously when they’ve worked just as hard, if not harder. I have been seeing a lot of passiveness and privilege here at OCAD. I know it’s hard to place yourself into a position that you may have never been in, but everyone needs to be more aware and more open to conversation rather than assuming that just because this person looks or dresses in a certain way, this is their past and that “my troubles are more difficult than yours” therefore you don’t get a choice to complain. I think it’s all about being aware about what you are saying around others and how that may impact you. But that doesn’t mean that you should just shut up and not voice your opinion. I’ve heard a lot of stories/allegations from the Me Too movement that were considered wrong or just not listened to and I don’t know how factual that story is, but if you’re going to complain about something, you have to have act upon it. You can’t just sit there and complain about something. I see a lot of that at OCAD and it sucks that students don’t know the power that they have within the school.
In what way are you making a change in this world with your creations (i.e. art, design, music, science etc?
I try to help my peers as much as I can within my faculty because I have about 20 students in my class and I think helping each other, let’s say it’s something I know in a software and they don’t know — it’s building that community. Being true to your own work and how you present yourself as an artist, not just putting something there for the sake of doing it, also plays a role in what type of critique you give to your peers. I think that sounds like a small scale thing especially coming from someone who goes to an art school, but being honest with people is the best way of communicating and creating a really strong foundation among your peers. Making truthful art as artists and designers may make us the most valuable in the future. There are a lot of barriers that have come about this, along with the Me Too movement, but I think creative thinkers are going to be so much more important as we become more limited in certain resources in the future. Sticking together and not trying to fight each other, especially a woman against another woman. We’re always held in that competitive lens. Being true to yourself, being true to others around you and being aware of what your actions may be causing.
Interview by Zoë Roiati
Photography by Zhuoqing Tan
Styling by Anna Luo
Make Up by Gillian Lapuz