Image Credit: Lauren Crazybull, I’ve always been away,, Oil on Canvas, 2023, Courtesy of the artist.


MFA Graduating Exhibition & Festival
September 6 – 23, 2023
Audain Gallery & SFU Goldcorp Centre for the Arts

Torien Cafferata, Alexandra Caprara, Kittie Cooper, Lauren Crazybull, Lauraine Mak, Mena El Shazly, Cody Tolmie, Douglas Watt, and Shervin Zarkalam.

How we exist in the world
Depends on how we describe it.
Have I always been in the world?
No, I’ve been autumn in the middle of August.
I’ve been the wind as well as the tamarack tree
Seconds after its final needles drop.
Don’t tell anyone, but I’m happiest
When my life feels like an autofiction. […]

We are all subjects of the twentieth century,
I say to a man I just met on the internet.
It sounds like a riddle for which the answer is the body.
Every winter, I take pictures of the snow
Because the snow reminds me
of my impermanence. Mostly, I want to be undone
Without being ruined. An NDN truth?
The present is as beautiful as it is brutal.  

– Billy-Ray Belcourt1

The MFA Graduating Exhibition and Festival Autofictional is the culmination of creative practice and artistic research by students graduating from the Master of Fine Arts in Interdisciplinary Arts Program in the School for the Contemporary Arts at Simon Fraser University. Collectively, the works by artists Torien Cafferata, Alexandra Caprara, Kittie Cooper, Lauren Crazybull, Lauraine Mak, Mena El Shazly, Cody Tolmie, Douglas Watt, and Shervin Zarkalam reflect both the allure and exigencies of the social, political, and environmental urgencies concurrent to their years of study. 

The artists’ projects are embedded with an acute awareness of the experience of transiting these precarious times, including a probing of the past and inherited histories: the implications of systemic settler colonial violence towards Indigenous peoples, survival strategies of the pandemic denouement, the global rise of authoritarian regimes and fundamentalist lawmaking, and protests for human rights necessary within our own neighbourhoods, but also in those of our global family. With home communities from S’ólh téméxw to Káínai/Dené territories, and from Cairo to Tehran, these artists recognize that the opportunity to gather for the exchange of ideas, sharing of their studio practices, and reciprocity of both giving and taking through their learning processes, is not to be taken for granted.  

Through sound art, performance, painting, installation and theatre production—amongst other practices—this program of artworks and events invites close study: of liminal surfaces, of representative scales of loss and longing, and of qualities of exceptionalism when emphasized by an invitation to inquiry.  

The artists in this exhibition and festival recognize that they are uninvited guests on the unceded territories of the Skwxwú7mesh, xʷməθkwəy̓əm, and Səl̓ílwətaɬ Peoples. Presented by the School for the Contemporary Arts at SFU in partnership with SFU Galleries. The MFA graduating cohort is honoured to acknowledge Billy-Ray Belcourt’s poem Autofiction, which appears here with permission from the author.  

Curated by Kristy Trinier.

1. Billy-Ray Belcourt, Autofiction, in The Walrus, December 1, 2022.

Image Credit: Lauren Crazybull, I’ve always been away, Oil on Canvas, 2023, Courtesy of the artist.

Autofictional: MFA Graduating Exhibition
September 6 – 23, 2023
Audain Gallery
SFU Goldcorp Centre for the Arts, 149 W. Hastings St., Vancouver

Opening: Wednesday, September 6, 2023 | 6:00 PM – 8:00 PM

With Lauren Crazybull, Lauraine Mak, Mena El Shazly, Cody Tolmie, and Douglas Watt.

Gallery Hours: Tuesday – Saturday | 12:00 PM – 5:00 PM

For information about the artists and their works in the gallery exhibition, please pick up the exhibition brochure.

Image Credit: Kezia Baxter & Sabrina Yu. Playbox Studios Logo 2023. 2023. Courtesy of the artists.

Torien Cafferata: The Playbox
Saturday, September 9 | 3:30 PM & 8:30 PM  
Room 4365 (SCA Sound Stage) – SFU Goldcorp Centre for the Arts
Tickets: Pay What You Want: $5 – $20

For tickets, click HERE

Note: This show is participatory, but spectators are welcome. There is no intermission but audiences are welcome to come-and-go, akin to an installation performance.

For as long as I can remember, the Playbox game system has been in development hell, haunting backrooms of game expos, impostering, perseverating, hyperfocusing, stimming, nightowling, idling in executive dysfunction, absenteeism, failed interoception, and anti-diagnosis. The Playbox, designed by and for the mad, is an analogue mixed-reality gaming console and every year it invites players to a pre-release demo of games about domestic mad labour and play. 

A live human avatar is offered as a medium of delegation and dissociation, exploring interactivity and Pfaller’s “interpassivity” through a lens of mad ludology. This lens draws from a history of play as anti-productive protest and responds to past political failures through mad methodologies based in autoneuroethnographic research in autistic, ADHD, and neuroqueer modes of creation. This brings the “undecidable” of the analogue up against the violent digitization of “gamespace,” as McKenzie Wark proposes in her call for gamer theorists to examine games as “allegorithms.”

In this way the Playbox serves as an autistic dialectics simulator –  a somatic and cognitive prosthetic simultaneously empowering and disabling, reclaiming its lost releases through a host of input-output poetics or ‘controllography’ that weave between the abstract and concrete, the glitched and unfinished. The Playbox is a site for maddening the body, unboxing it, atomizing it, interpassing it, playing and failing as a way of moving through an ‘allegorithmic neuroscape’. Play well and play madly – and you just might get to take one home this year. 

Image Credit: Alexandra Caprara, Ultra Violets, performance still image by Claire Brown, 2023, Courtesy the artist.

Alexandra Caprara: Ultra Violets
Thursday, September 7 | 8:00 PM & Saturday, September 9 | 7:00 PM
Studio D – SFU Goldcorp Centre for the Arts
Tickets: Pay What You Want: $5 – $20

For tickets, click HERE

There is an eroticism to speculation, to becoming a version of yourself that feels closer to an intrinsic truth, one you may or may not already know. With that comes dancing, and decay, and rebirth, and the necessity to become nonetheless despite these things. It offers a revolution and reclamation of the self that can only take place in the in-between; the moments of darkness before the sun rises, the unlit spaces between mirrorball tiles reflecting on the dancefloor, the moments with your eyes closed and your feet off the ground. This is an invitation to celebrate what we’ve shaped into. Derived from a personal study of how queer becoming and feminine subjectivity intersect with plant life, Ultra Violets traverses the nuances of joy, grief, and celebration in our own process of becoming oneself. Taking place within a world that is part greenhouse, part underground dance club, it is a physical exploration of what it means to queer space and perspective through the use of disco aesthetics, queer ecology, and integrated design. In witnessing this process, it imposes one question: do you want to dance?


Access the online program for Ultra Violets HERE.

Image Credit: Kittie Cooper, the lightest things float to the top, solo performance with sound, light, and objects, 2023, Courtesy of the artist.

Kittie Cooper: the lightest things float to the top
Thursday, September 7 | 7:00 PM & Friday, September 8 | 7:00 PM
Room 4365 (SCA Sound Stage) – SFU Goldcorp Centre for the Arts
Tickets: Pay What You Want: $5 – $20

For tickets, click HERE

the lightest things float to the top is a solo performance with sound, light, and objects by MFA candidate Kittie Cooper. Kittie’s sound art practice centers around found sound and found objects, and amplifying the memories held by these things. Through her work, the lightest things float to the top, Cooper takes a similar approach to composing light and shadow—reimagining lights from familiar spaces as an intermedia instrument. These performances are the first in the series developed by Kittie.  

“She fancied that the rooms brightened as she came in; stirred, opened their eyes as if they had been dozing in her absence. She fancied, too, that, hundreds and thousands of times as she had seen them, they never looked the same twice, as if so long a life as theirs had stored in them a myriad moods which changed with winter and summer, bright weather and dark, and her own fortunes and the people's characters who visited them.” — Orlando, Virginia Woolf

“What is heard by the listener is changed by listening and changes the listener.” — Quantum Listening, Pauline Oliveros

Image Credit: Mena El Shazly, Hyperopia, Film still, 2023, Courtesy of the artist.

Mena El Shazly: Hyperopia
Friday, September 15 | 7:00 PM
Djavad Mowafaghian Cinema – SFU Goldcorp Centre for the Arts
Tickets: Pay What You Want: $5 – $20

For tickets, click HERE

The natural process of decay is almost always interrupted, where the old is removed or destroyed to make way for the new: a symptom of the world we live in today. Hyperopia is a multimedia series that brings together relational aesthetics and artistic research in order to study contemporary practices and rituals of decay. The project takes its starting point of departure from the premise of valuing the process of decay and the possibility to cultivate it, encapsulating the emergence of transformation and regeneration. Utilizing matrix-based media, namely the digital pixel, patterns are identified, observed, exposed and recycled. The microscopic and macroscopic nature of things are revealed through repetitive gestures and over-indulgence in scrolling, zooming and swiping, in the processes of revealing cyclical fractions of patterns and infinite extensions. 

The project adopts the methodology of the Crystalist artists’ movement in Sudan, whose 1976 manifesto states, “The crystal is nothing but the denial of the objectification of objects. It is infinite transparency.” Through adopting their methodology of undoing layers of contradictions between semblance and essence, the project examines attitudes towards cultural appropriation and the value of not preserving an image in its original state. The work is loaded with second-hand images, glitch and compression techniques, and the use of the color blue. While blue translates to no signal in the analog circuit, it is also “the closest embodiment of Crystalism within the color spectrum” or “has the ability to create a Crystalist vision”. El Shazly’s work, in connection with Crystalism research, consists of a multimedia showcase: a gallery installation, and a cinema experience.



Konrad Agnas: Drums
Ali Hout: Riq Drum
Haniel Hout: F La Serena, Hamsa Handpan Drum & G Pygmy, Rav Vast Drum
Mena El Shazly: Rainstick
George Rahi: Birdsong Machine
Alex Abahmed: No input mixer w/guitar pedals & Tabla
Meredith Bates: Violin

Alex Abahmed: Sound mixing and mastering
Mena El Shazly: Live analog editing and mixing
Calla Paleczny: Videographer (bathroom scenes)
Ghazal Majidi: AI generated macroverse scene

Microscopic Images

Crystals on plant cuticle: Samuels lab
Drimys winteri leaf (up and low): Zhonghang (Daisy) Zhang, PhD student, Dr. Reinhard Jetter lab
Tetraphis pellucida, Sphagnum capillifolium, Plagiomnium insigne, Polytrichum commune: Drew Hall, PhD student, Dr. Anne Lacey Samuels lab, Department of Botany, University of British Columbia

Department of Botany, University of British Columbia.


Ferdinand Klüsener, Letter correspondence, 2023                              
The Crystalist Manifesto, Al-Ayyam newspaper, 1976


Senior Supervisor: Laura U. Marks and Miwa Matreyek
Committee Member: Noé Rodriguez
Director, GCA Production and Event Services: Miles Lavkulich
SCA Technical Director: Ben Rogalski
SCA Production Manager: Emily Neumann
Communications: Brady Cranfield

Special thanks

Laura U. Marks, Miwa Matreyek, Noé Rodriguez, Anne Lacey Samules, Anneka Lenssen, Lauraine Mak, Douglas Watt, Adham Zidan.

Image Credit: Shervin Zarkalam, Soft Machines: Kettle Logic and The Gale Maze, Performance still, 2023, Courtesy of the artist.

Shervin Zarkalam: Soft Machines: Kettle Logic and The Gale Maze
Friday, September 8 | 8:00 PM & Saturday, September 9 | 3:00 PM
Studio T – SFU Goldcorp Centre for the Arts
Tickets: Pay What You Want: $5 – $20

For tickets, click HERE

A Fraud Theatre: an attempt to resist the apparatus of western spectatorship & ways of producing theatre. Delving into the chaotic brain of Shervin Zarkalam, as experienced through the imaginary and multifaceted lens of his expansive mind, the audience will encounter existentialism surrounding death vis-à-vis an interdisciplinary and absurdist lecture performance. Zarkalam’s experiential performance includes elements of: 

  • Anti-theatre

  • A performance without organs

  • A performance that is dysfunctional and it defeats its own purpose

  • A performance disguised within theatre

  • A performance that critiques western norms of performativity


Torien Cafferata (they/he) is a neuroqueer interdisciplinary artist from Treaty 4 and Treaty 6 territory where they learned to be a performer, playwright, director, dramaturge, educator, and researcher. As co-Artistic Director of It’s Not A Box Theatre alongside designer Amberlin Hsu, they have toured work to the Prague Quadrennial, SummerWorks, and across Fringe Festivals. They play and research with a host of forms: devised performance creation, immersive scenography, and lo-fi game design, often exploring neurodivergence, gender, found spaces, lost futures, and new futures. For his Interdisciplinary Arts MFA at Simon Fraser University, Torien has been studying intersections between madness, interpassivity, ludology, hauntology, and gamespace through the use of interactive performance and analogue mixed reality.

Alexandra Caprara is a queer interdisciplinary artist from Tkaranto, Ontario whose practice is grounded in performance making and design, with a focus on devised processes, movement, interactivity, and design lead creation. Her work often centers themes of femininity, autonomy, somatics, and queer ecology, and believes in making and producing work that center queer joy. She has worked internationally as a director, performer, and designer for lighting and video projection, and has presented her work across Canada. Her research includes examining the ways emergent technologies can become a harmonious part of a creation process, and how the digital can embrace the organic in both form and content.

Kittie Cooper is a sound and intermedia artist, performer, and educator based in Vancouver, BC. She makes work that explores the spectrum between silliness and seriousness, and in particular where those two qualities overlap with spookiness. Much of Cooper’s work deals with the messy insides of humans, electronics, and other everyday things. Kittie holds a BM from Northwestern University in music education and guitar performance, and an MEd in teaching students with visual impairments from George Mason University. They also like ghost stories, chili, and cats. You can find more information about Cooper and their work at

Lauren Crazybull is a Niitsítapi, Dené painter living and working on the unceded territories of the Squamish, Tsleil-Waututh and Musqueam people. In her work, Crazybull interrogates how Indigenous identities have been historically represented and understood through visual culture. Working primarily in portraiture, a long-standing genre that is often embedded with an imbalance of power between the artist/viewer and sitter, Crazybull seeks to examine the relationship between herself as an artist and the individuals she paints. Through this ongoing work, Lauren uses her work as a way to assert her own humanity, and advocate, in diverse and subtle ways, for the innate intellectual, spiritual, creative and political fortitude of Indigenous peoples.

Lauraine Mak is a Canadian artist living and working between Düsseldorf, Germany and Vancouver. She graduated from Emily Carr University in 2013 and has since been enrolled at the Kunstakademie in Düsseldorf, Germany as a guest studying with artist Rita McBride. Her work is informed by philosophical investigations of language and phenomenology, and she works primarily within the disciplines of video art and conceptual painting.

Mena El Shazly’s work is grounded in time-based media. Her practice is concerned with light-sensitive surfaces, entropy, archival bodies and sites of memory. She studied performing and visual arts at the American University in Cairo, and was a fellow of the Home Workspace Program at Ashkal Alwan, Beirut. Gaining global attention through her media productions and frequent collaborations, her work has been showcased widely at venues including Contemporary Image Collective (Cairo), Vivo Media Arts (Vancouver) and House of The World Cultures (Berlin). She is the Artistic Director of the Cairo Video Festival organized by Medrar for Contemporary Art.

Cody Tolmie is an Interdisciplinary Xwelmewx(Sq’éwlets) artist from their traditional territory of S’ólh téméxw who currently lives on the unceded territories of of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish), and səlilwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations. Cody grew up off-reserve in Kekinow family housing in Ts'elxwéyeqw (Chilliwack) off his family’s reservation of Sq’ewlets.  Cody’s practice investigates places of historical significance and their role within Xwelmewx history in S’ólh Téméxw with their contemporary context in the Fraser Valley. 

Douglas Watt is an artist living and working in Vancouver's Davie Village on the unceded territories of the Sḵwx̱wú7mesh, Musqueam, and Tsleil-Waututh peoples. He received a BA in Art History from Carleton University, and studied Criticism & Curatorial Practice at OCAD University in Toronto. Recent solo exhibitions include Stunning Evidence at Unit 17 in Vancouver, and Deep End Epiphany at Downs & Ross in New York City. Group exhibitions include Some say the soul is made of wind at Downs & Ross, Spirit Off at Yaby in Madrid, and Infinity Ball with Marisa Kriangwiwat Holmes at Unit 17 in Vancouver.

Shervin Zarkalam is an Iranian interdisciplinary artist, performer, deviser, director, and dramaturg originally from Tehran, now based in Vancouver. He studied Stage Design at the University of Tehran and later honed his craft through intensive underground contemporary dance and choreography workshops. Zarkalam's performance practice and dramaturgy are deeply influenced by the avant-garde European traditions of contemporary dance and postdramatic theater, specifically drawing from Joao Fiadeiro's method for ‘Real-Time Composition’. In his performances, he expertly employs a combination of direct and indirect references from art history to pop culture, interweaving media with contemporary twists and intertextual compositions.


The Autofictional: MFA Graduating Exhibition & Festival cohort would like to acknowledge with thanks, the support of friends and family, as well as the support from the SFU School for the Contemporary Arts staff and faculty, and SFU Galleries staff, including: Peter Dickinson, Ben Rogalsky, Emily Neumann, Christopher Anderson, Brady Cranfield, Andrew Curtis, Kathy Slade, Laura Marks, Judy Radul, Raymond Boisjoly, Kimberly Phillips, Kristy Trinier, Debbie Chan, Mackenzy Albright, Karina Irvine, Russell Gordon, Christopher Outten, Cait McKinney, Alex Tedlie-Stursberg, Miles Lavkulich, Wladimiro Woyno Rodriguez, Justine Chambers, Rob Kitsos, Mauricio Pauly, Erika Latta, Stefan Smulovitz, Nadia Shihab, and many others.

Autofictional: MFA Graduating Exhibition & Festival is presented by the School for the Contemporary Arts and SFU Galleries.

The School for the Contemporary Arts recognizes that we are on the unceded and occupied territories of the xwməθkwəy̓əm (Musqueam), Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish) and Səl̓ílwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) peoples

September 23, 2023