The Art Gallery of Mississauga’s shift CTRL exhibit, curated by Anu Radha Verma, is a project set up in the gallery’s XIT-RM project space. It invites viewers to dive into opinionated conversation, self-discovery, and the understanding of our diverse city life.

The room, about twelve square feet, is humble but impactful. On the wall to the left, there is a table with three boxes. They are marked with the words “Art,” “Politics,” and “Belonging,” which are themes consistent with the exhibit’s overall message. This message being that we can agree or disagree with some of the cards in each box, but still make an influential opinion about them.

Each box offers about 20 to 30 cards. Filled with city facts and opinions, the boxes delve into subjects that we may or may not be aware of. In “Art”, one card reads “58,000 people visited the AGM in 2017.” This one is fair and honest—a statistic that is true but not surprising.

The cards seem to pose questions. Others are warnings disguised as facts. The second card in the “Art” box reads, “The AGM has been open for 31 years—so much can change over 3 decades.” There is a sense of urgency in this one, reminding us that the art here changes, and that it also changes us. Our perspectives alter as a community within this given space.

On the wall straight ahead, there is a flurry of papers lined up neatly across a bulletin board. They’re stacked up against the board, each in different piles but with papers that prompt the same things. Each one had a space to fill in with questions such as: “Who are you?” and “Do you feel like you belong in Mississauga?” The responses varied from “No, not at all” to “Yes, very much.”

Above the table with blank papers and colourful pens for viewers to write with, a sign read, “Hang it up to create a public archive of truths,” which is exactly what various art goers decided to do. Underneath “Who are you,” many chose to respond with an answer that didn’t include their name. These included answers like, “A people-kind” and “The stranger you walk by.” The responses intrigued me: instead of getting a name out of a single profile, I can get an entire personality by just reading that first answer.

The shift CTRL exhibit has managed to break barriers in more than one way as it reflects on how we define ourselves within the city, and also as a community within the city. This gallery space is meant to invite, challenge and engage. It reminds us that outside of the gallery walls, we are often searching for a space where we can understand our responses to everyday life. Not only to life, but to ourselves and other people.

Before leaving the gallery space, I pause to briefly look at one last sheet in front of me on the board. This one has been filled out philosophically and with very much thought. When asked about belonging, they declined to put an answer on the scale and simply wrote: “Who belongs anywhere?”

shift CTRL runs at the Art Gallery of Mississauga until December 21.

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