Carmen Papalia / Heather Kai Smith, Interdependence is Central to the Radical Restructuring of Power, 2020, pencil on paper / digital drawing. Courtesy the artists.

The Pandemic is a Portal

June 22 - July 31, 2020

Simranpreet Anand, Anna Banana, Vanessa Brown / Francey Russell, Lacie Burning, Margaret Dragu / Justine A. Chambers / Kage, Lucien Durey, Jessica Evans, Elisa Ferrari, Sharona Franklin, Michelle Helene Mackenzie, Megan Hepburn, S F Ho, Julian Yi-Zhong Hou, Hazel Meyer, Cindy Mochizuki, Cecily Nicholson, Carmen Papalia / Heather Kai Smith, Jacquelyn Zong-Li Ross, Jayce Salloum, and Nicole Kelly Westman.

In this time of shared crisis it is necessary to renounce a return to normalcy — which was already a catastrophe for so many — and to move towards an otherwise world, one rooted in care.

Drawing from the thinking of Arundhati Roy, The Pandemic is a Portal considers what is changing about our social and political realities, and what futures our responses move us toward:

Historically, pandemics have forced humans to break with the past and imagine their world anew.

This one is no different. It is a portal, a gateway between one world and the next. We can choose to walk through it, dragging the carcasses of our prejudice and hatred, our avarice, our data banks and dead ideas, our dead rivers and smoky skies behind us. Or we can walk through lightly, with little luggage, ready to imagine another world. And ready to fight for it.[1]

In sharing news of the galleries’ closures in mid-March, we reiterated our commitment to gathering publics in ways that engage with our social and political environments as historical inheritances, contemporary realities and speculative futures. We also expressed a desire to use these distanced times to critically interrogate how we form community, who we form it with and how we can do better. If we accept Roy’s proposition, that the pandemic is a portal, then how can our responses to this time prepare the ground for forms of community to come — forms that are more just and more unsettled than the forms of community we’ve left behind?

We asked artists and writers to respond to these questions from within the experience of pandemic illness, which is distinct for all. Their responses are published on the SFU Galleries Instagram account and on the SFU Galleries website: 

Sharona Franklin, Tellurian Dinner

Cindy Mochizuki, 雪 / Snow 

Lacie Burning, -attat

Jayce Salloum, beyond now

Margaret Dragu / Justine A. Chambers / Kage, NEW NORMAL: an embodied novel, chapter 4, the bed is a portal

Simranpreet Anand, 𝒜 𝓌𝒽𝑜𝓁𝑒 𝓃𝑒𝓌 𝓌𝑜𝓇𝓁𝒹 ✿.。.:* ☆:*:. 𝔻ⓞn'T уᵒ𝓊 ᗪ𝕒Řє 𝐜𝐥𝐎𝔰Ⓔ ⓨ𝐨uя єʸ𝔢s) .::.☆.:。.✿

Carmen Papalia / Heather Kai Smith, Score for a Temporary, Collectively-Held Space

Jacquelyn Zong-Li Ross, Napping Against Capitalism

Jessica Evans, Pig Pen and Chalet Style

Julian Yi-Zhong Hou, Ketamine Clear

Elisa Ferrari, In Increments of 13

Megan Hepburn, Uncertain Yield

Nicole Kelly Westman, oversharing obscure sentimentalities

Michelle Helene Mackenzie, In Violet Air

S F Ho, Water

S F Ho, Fire

Lucien Durey, Blue Feather with Skittles

Hazel Meyer, The Weight of Inheritance — cruising Joyce's house

Cecily Nicholson, a voice that will clamour

Jayce Salloum, this time

Anna Banana, Invitation to “The Pandemic is a Portal” 

Vanessa Brown / Francey Russell, Carry me over this threshold

Verbal description of videos and image descriptions by Cheryl Green

Curated by Karina Irvine, Christopher Lacroix and cheyanne turions

[1] Arundhati Roy, “The pandemic is a portal,” Financial Times Apr 3, 2020: (accessed May 8, 2020).


Talk: YES with Ashon T. Crawley
Friday, June 26, 5:30pm PDT
Presented on Zoom
Please email for details

Workshop Series: Unfinished Exercises with Jacob Wren
Friday, July 10 and Sunday, July 12, 5:30pm PDT
Presented on Zoom
Registration is required. Please email

Support Material



[Image description: In landscape orientation, the text “INTERDEPENDENCE IS CENTRAL TO THE RADICAL RESTRUCTURING OF POWER” is made from layers of pastels blended with oil crayon that create contrasts of thick and thin. It begins with a background of loosely-drawn hatch marks in an urgent, firetruck red on cream-coloured paper. The marks are drawn with intentionality but with a DIY feel in rows from top to bottom: repetitive gestures filling the page, tally marks slowing down the reader and hinting at the time taken to create each and every mark. Overlaid on the hatch marks, the text is chalky white in a font reminiscent of a typewriter in its near, but not complete, uniformity. The hatch marks interrupt the text, almost animating the words with their vibrations, keeping the words from sticking to the page, even taking over at times. Although the letters are more opaque, they’re effortful to read against the hand-drawn marks.]