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Photos: New Coquitlam Heritage show sharpens the lens on memories

"The Shape of Our Memories" is a display that will be up at Mackin House Museum in Coquitlam for the spring.

If you picked up an old photo or artifact, what memories would it unlock?

And would someone in the image or who had used the item remember the time, place and events in the same way?

That’s the question behind an exhibit that Coquitlam Heritage opened on Saturday (Feb. 25) called The Shape of Our Memories, a display that will be up at Mackin House Museum for the spring.

Memory, said exhibits manager Markus Fahrner, "is something that’s very personal. It’s something that you attach certain thoughts and recollections to, but can be influenced by your upbringing and your culture."

"The idea of the display is that all items create different memories because each of us is an individual."

For the show, Fahrner asked four visual artists — Carl Baird, Faria Firoz, James Groening and Karl Mata Hipol — and musician Kelsi James to dig through the society’s collection to see what could inspire them to create an original work about the past.

Baird, an English native who works as a scenic artist in the Vancouver TV and film industry, used the society’s Fraser Mills train station and CP Rail 1970s caboose to depict displacement and the quest to find a home, while Groening, a Cree artist who was raised by white grandparents during the '60s Scoop, painted a colourful piece with dark themes of losing Indigenous roots.

Firoz chose a puppet from the society’s collection to offer a 3D installation showing a mother and daughter in her homeland of Bangladesh — with the girl leaving the place where she was raised. Growing up, Firoz enjoyed South Asian puppet shows, known as Putul Khela or Katputli, as a traditional form of storytelling.

And Philippine-born Hipol presented a mosaic-like work mimicking the effects of an oil lamp to represent his culture.

As for James, who identifies as being part of the LGBTQ2+ community, she penned a song cycle based on seven historical images of Coquitlam; her performance of the tunes can be watched via a television at Mackin House Museum.

Fahrner said the five artists were selected after an open call.

"We picked them because of the integrity of their proposal,” he said. “It’s quite a diverse group, but we wanted representation and inclusivity in the show as well."

Fahrner said the exhibit also opens a pathway about how and what is collected by museums and heritage groups.

Meanwhile, on April 14, the artists will be at Mackin House Museum (1116 Brunette Ave.) to celebrate the The Shape of Our Memories.

The landmark is open Tuesday to Friday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

You can visit Coquitlam Heritage's website for more details.