Background — Hands off looks at some situations immigrants that have landed in Canada for an extended period of time are facing, including their chronic under-employment and earning a much lower-average income when compared to their fellow Canadians. Reports have pointed out that the perceived health of these immigrates deteriorated substantially after arriving in Canada for 8 years. Seventeen immigrants from various countries were recruited from Craigslist Toronto and Chinese and Koreans, they were referred by immigrant centers and individuals.
These immigrants told their individual stories and summarized them in front of a video camera. They were then requested to use a single gesture to express their experiences and feelings, which was then made into plaster of Paris hand casts. These hand casts were then taken to various location that matched their stories as well as places symbolically significant to their stories. Pictures then taken. Their credentials were then written onto their left hands and their current situation on their right hands, borrowing from Palm reading practices, the left hand is the congenital hands and right is the present life.
A shared experience was that their credentials and work experiences had been undermined or dismissed in Canada. While some of them put themselves through and through re-training and training programmes ardently, they found themselves still being denied of promotion opportunities or posts that matched their capacities. Some found themselves too tired as they were handed over extra and intense work discriminatorily. Married women faced extra hardship, as they doubled up as the principle caretaker of the family and w
ere contingent upon their husbands’ job requirements and locations. Affluent investment immigrants were not better off, as they burnt off money without the promised return, they had no inner peace.
I am/I am not We all have to face the challenge of identity – Who we really are. Immigrants are always facing identity issues, as no one fits into rigid categories, yet these rigid categories are always imposed or projected on us, or we at the same time want to maintain that we do fit in. This is particularly true for people crossing boundaries or trying to cross boundaries, including immigrants. Their recognition of their own selves, the projections denying them as well as being thrown on to them, created tensions that brought forth intense questions. Four set of phrases were keyed onto the two sides of the flip mirrors for people to contemplate on or wrestle with, when they encounter their own images and the phrases together; people can fill in their own concerned identity or identity struggles, say, woman, Chinese, Canadian…..etc.
I am? / I am Not I am Not/You are You are?/You are Not You are Not/I am
Hands Off: Casts of their hands that captured their expressions about their current state of being are lying on the floor, while silenced video clippings are their self-introductions, their descriptions of their work situations in Cana
da, in three segments corresponding to an older male voice saying : Who are you? You Are? You Are Not.
The on-location pictures of the hand casts are printed in small format on the wall.