Carla Melo: ‘Are We All in the Same Boat? Staging the “Invisible Majority” in the Streets of Toronto’, Canadian Theatre Review, 161, 2015, pp. 33-37


Abstract: Probing the ways in which activist performance practices may effectively generate public debate around pressing human rights issues, my article examines a Toronto-based hybrid project that brings together urban intervention, installation, and public discussion as a means of interrogating the interconnectedness of recent Canadian immigration policies, notions of belonging, colonial discourse, and racial identity. More specifically, the appropriately entitled Mass Arrival: The Intervention (2013) challenged the construction of whiteness vis-à-vis that of “boat people” refugees as it “celebrated” the third-year anniversary of the arrival of a ship carrying over four hundred Tamil asylum seekers to the coast of British Columbia—a contentious border occurrence that turned into a media spectacle, which subsequently triggered a number of regressive changes in refugee law. Inverting the colonial practice of exhibiting exotic others while carnivalizing the tradition of re-enactments, this urban intervention indeed staged a “mass arrival,” but this time the “boat people” were white-identified community participants. I consider the ways this performance of whiteness may trouble multiculturalist discourse, border politics, Toronto’s urban development, and the power dynamics of much community-based artistic work, ultimately suggesting that the piece not only performed a decolonial gesture but also relied on a decolonial creative process.

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