Chain Reaction 2021–2022

Chain Reaction Series

Robert Langen Art Gallery’s exhibition programs are valued and well-respected educational resources for Laurier students, faculty and public at large. Chain Reaction represents a new online series of collaborations between the gallery and faculty members to integrate a contemporary arts component into areas of course study.

The objective of this experiential learning opportunity is to provide a shared environment where academic and artistic perspectives can come together to foster an exchange of ideas, ignite creative thinking and explore critical debate. Students are invited by the Art Gallery Curator to create a response to a selected work of art that relates to the concepts or issues discussed in their assigned course. The response can be in the form of video essay, creative literary piece, drawing, painting, photograph, spoken word, etc. — the course professor will determine or approve the student’s selected approach.

Kwentong Bayan Collective

Artists Althea Balmes (she/her) and Jo SiMalaya Alcampo (they/them, siya), known together a Kwentong Bayan Collective, are smiling at the camera sitting side by side. On the left, Althea is wearing a red scarf that matches Jo’s red shirt on the right. The artists are pictured in front of a background of lush green plant leaves. The picture is cropped into a circle.Black and white illustration of care workers marching, drawn by Kwentong Bayan Collective. A banner is held up by five figures who are women, queer and trans workers, which says, Caregivers are skilled workers. All of the figures are smiling. Two of the figures have their fists raised in a gesture of unity and solidarity. The figure on the right end of the sign is reaching out to touch the shoulder of another woman who just joined the group to march with a baby pushcart. In the cart sits a stuffed animal beside a young child that looks asleep. Along the bottom of the image is the text, Kwentong Bayan Collective

In 2012, Althea Balmes and Jo SiMalaya Alcampo formed Kwentong Bayan Collective to explore an intersectional approach to community-based art, labour, and education. In the Filipino language, kwentong bayan literally translates to "community stories". Since then, they have exhibited their work across Canada and internationally. Their art is taught in post-secondary schools and as part of the Ontario school curriculum.

A major part of Kwentong Bayan Collective’s work is in collaboration with Migrant Care Workers who support Canadian families to care for children, seniors, and those with complex medical needs. Many also work as Personal Support Workers, Cleaners and other Front-line labourers during the global pandemic.

Here and There (selected videos), 2021

Here and There was first exhibited at Myseum of Toronto’s Intersections Festival, as a series of eight digital stories, by and about, the experiences of Migrant Care Workers. Migrant Workers already know how to socially distance, dividing their mind, body, heart, and spirit when they separate from their loved ones for years to work abroad. Through the art of storytelling, Here and There explores the rhythms of this dual life; how love transcends time and space; and what we can all learn from this time of lockdown and revolution.

Three of these stories are featured in Chain Reaction in partnership with the Robert Langen Art Gallery. The featured stories and storytellers are The Thirst Of A Mother’s Love by Anna Lissa, I Am Determined to Be A Survivor by Gladys, Back Home and If I Could Snap My Fingers by Yolanda.


The Here and There series were developed with the support of theatre artist, Karen Ancheta and digital storytelling facilitator, Christine Balmes. Kwentong Bayan Collective responded to each story with illustrations and audio soundscapes.

Kwentong Bayan Collective would also like to acknowledge the support of: Museum of Toronto, the Ontario Arts Council, Care Worker Connections, Education and Support Organization (CCESO), Martha Ocampo, Bong Castro, and all the Storytellers for making this work possible.

Here and There was dreamed up and manifested in the Indigenous territories under the Dish With One Spoon covenant. We offer our deep thanks to the traditional caretakers of this land who allowed our community to live, love and create alongside them.

We wish to also thank Wilfrid Laurier University, Suzanne Luke, Professor Eleanor Ty, and Marissa Largo for their support with the Chain Reaction exhibition.

-Althea Balmes and Jo SiMalaya Alcampo

The Thirst of Mother's Love

Here and There (selected videos), 2021

Video Title: “The Thirst Of Mother’s Love” by Anna Lissa
Medium: Digital Storytelling Video
Running Time: 5 min. 16 sec.

I Am Determined to Be A Survivor

Here and There (selected videos), 2021
Video Title: “I Am Determined to Be A Survivor” by Gladys
Medium: Digital Storytelling Video
Running Time: 3 min. 35 sec.

Back Home and If I Could Snap My Fingers

Here and There (selected videos), 2021
Video Title: “Back Home” and “If I Could Snap My Fingers” by Yolanda
Medium: Digital Storytelling Video
Running Time: 3 min. 10 sec.

EN420A Life Writing and Digital Media Course Assignment

In the 2021 Fall term, students in EN420A Life Writing and Digital Media under the guidance of Dr. Eleanor Ty explored course materials on self life writing in the 21st century, focusing on the use and influence of digital media, particularly how advanced technologies such as social media, databases, digital audio, video and fashion can mediate and remediate our identities.

Using the Here and There project by the Kwentong Bayan Collective as a springboard for inspiration, students worked either independently or in groups to create a digital media presentation of a life story of someone they know and/or admire. Through these digital media presentations student will engage in their own personal narration using objects, photos, or videos to engage with themes such as desire, loss, self-representation, family, belonging, and memory.

On behalf of the Robert Langen Art Gallery, I would like to thank our participating students for their creativity, and willingness to share their projects with our Laurier community.

Suzanne Luke, Curator
Robert Langen Art Gallery