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article imageReview: 'The Exhibition' is political art doubled Special

By Sarah Gopaul     Apr 27, 2013 in Entertainment
'The Exhibition' is about an artist’s depiction of missing women that raises debates about race, privilege, art and responsibility.
Art is a subjective medium. Different styles appeal to different people. The same piece can have a variety of interpretations, depending on the viewer. This variance also influences people's reactions, determining whether they are inspired or offended. In The Exhibition, one woman's art draws on tragedy to make a point.
When Pamela Masik came across a poster collecting the photos 69 missing women in the Vancouver area, she couldn't find the words to express her feelings. So she did the next best thing: she began to paint. Twenty-six of the women were the victims of serial killer Robert Pickton. Masik has turned her frustration into a project to create large-scale portraits of every woman he murdered. She estimates it will cost $150,000 to complete.
This documentary focuses not just on Masik's chilling artwork, but also on the investigation into the missing prostitutes. Interviews reveal suspicion of a serial killer in the area surfaced at least two years before an unrelated warrant uncovered the grisly truth at the pig farm. The streets were humming with the awareness that something evil was afoot; that girls weren't returning to their usual spots after certain dates. But desperation can outweigh risk and all the missing were known drug addicts.
Friends, family, outreach workers and former emergency workers talk about the victims and the lack of urgency expressed by most police officers. These women weren't priorities because they worked the streets. But within the condensed population of Vancouver City, the rising number of missing was gaining notice.
Quick edits add an intensity to the narrative. The fast cuts to Masik's painting express the frustration and violence experienced by everyone involved as she slashes at the canvas with brushes and knives. Her intended exhibition is aptly titled, "The Forgotten." Accusations of exploitation don't come near to capturing her raison d'être, but people insist her only interest is her own.
Masik scans the images of women until she latches onto a connection with one, who she then commits to canvas. Her process is aggressive, but the result is moving. Tears, red paint and newsprint bear witness to the horror of their demise, while the portraits capture who they were before they were taken by the serial killer.
Each piece is an eight-by-ten-foot reminder that these women were ignored.
The Exhibition is screening during Hot Docs, the largest documentary film festival in North America, which runs April 25 to May 5 in Toronto.
More about The Exhibition, Hot docs, Documentary, Pamela Masik, Robert Pickton
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