Text and Photography by Iqbal Ahmed
On a beautiful sunlit Saturday afternoon on 24 February, the Ustinov College opened an art exhibition called Encounter 2018: Exploring the Encounter of Human Agency with Nature at the Sheraton Park Café. The exhibition is to showcase artwork from a number of local artists in the period from 24 February until 20 April and again from 20 June to 31 August. The aim of Encounter is to bring awareness about environmental issues and their impact on human lives not just among the Ustinov College students but also among the wider community.
I sat down with Miyoko Yamashita McGregor, the Curator of the exhibition, to talk about her inspiration and vision that drives her as an artist to bring awareness of the relationship of human agency and environment in the form of art.
What inspired you to become an artist?
‘It was my childhood dream’, says Miyoko with a radiant smile that beams across her gentle face. ‘I felt I needed to express myself through art from an early age. The inspiration of art derives from my curiosity to learn about the relationship between human and their everyday experience.’
‘Our emotions are very important for our learning. They enable us to connect our experiences with the world around us not just consciously but also subconsciously’, says Miyoko.
‘In my view, this relationship is based on the inner power of human agency that propels them to explore nature and the environment and their effect on people. (…) I wish to investigate the capacity of human agency to understand nature and environment because this learning is not linear – human behavior is complex and so is nature’, says Miyoko. ‘Working with it keeps me inspired to investigate more about this relationship. I was moved by Sir David Attenborough’s seminal documentary on nature (…). It stimulated my desire as an artist to learn about the strength and power of the ocean.’
What do you mean by ‘human agency’ and how does it relate to art?
‘Human agency in relation to people and the environment is about learning about and addressing the concern of the overpowering influence of technology, consumerism, and often unknown forces that are negatively affecting the way we live our lives. My hope is to foreground this concept through art which will enable us to engage researchers and students at Ustinov College and constituents from local communities in understanding the negative effect of man-made calamities to our environment and nature. The learning may take time but if we remain focused, it will happen’, says Miyoko.
What is your message to the audience about the exhibition?
‘Keeping an open mind is the key to learning’, says Miyoko. ‘The younger generations are heavily exposed to technology these days. While it is necessary for them to keep up with the evolving pace of technology, it can be a tool for learning about their culture and origin. ‘
‘Through technology the younger generations are learning about things around them in fragments’, cautions Miyoko. ‘They need to understand the depth of the relationship between their existence and the environment around them.’
‘I insist that the young people seek to unravel the ‘entangled relationship’ between human nature and the environment because the drive to learn is what will give young people a space for creating a ‘strong dialogue’ for exploring the ‘archeology of us’.
Why did you bring the art exhibition to Sheraton Park?
‘We brought this exhibition to the Sheraton Park to bring our identity to this wonderful institution and to the wider community. Also, we hope that through art we’d be able to connect the students and researchers at Ustinov College with the effect of human agency on nature and our relationship with the environment. ‘
‘Sheraton Park is a space where the college community and students meet’, says Miyoko.
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