On a Saturday night, while dressed as a King, I met Anna Hawkins. We were at a Purim party and I was wearing a black fur hat tilted sideways like my vision. Anna Hawkins is an artist from Montreal who has brought her show, How to Chop an Onion, to Eastern Edge Gallery.

Today, I went to see the exhibition. Two screens hang in the gallery and the director whispers to me, “Anna made those herself.” I wonder what she means, but then I realize Anna made the screens. I wonder how.

The two screens show different footage of “how-to” videos that Anna has edited so the face is cropped out. I think it’s weird to see no personality in the “how-to” video, practically a genre on YouTube.You.

Anna has edited videos of chopping onions, making pottery, kneading dough and french braiding hair. It all feels so sexual and domestic and feminine to me. The onion reminds me of the kitchen and tears and emotions and women who have always been confined to these spaces and who start a meal, almost always, with an onion.

It all feels hollow though without the face of the woman. I want to see her, but also then I would forget the almost always consistent mundanity of these situations or something. The hollowness of this idea seeps into her next how-to video so seamlessly that I know I’m supposed to find connections. But how?

The hands shape something into physical form here. A hollow vase. The vase makes me think of containment which again makes me think of the kitchen and the onion and the woman. I wish I knew if the hands were male or female and who was shaping this container, but then I think maybe everyone can shape anything into being.

The video transitions again without warning to a woman brushing her hair. I think of people I know who have put mascara on in front of their MacBook Air and uploaded it on the internet, looking for views I think, or maybe just someone to care. I remember this and I think, this all makes sense to me now.

I watch and I think of when I learned how to French braid my own hair. I remember my mother telling me, “you take a bit from the rest as you go.” The idea of gradually adding something to something else and that thing growing into something nice and contained and organized and mostly feminine, makes me think about wholeness. What makes something whole? I don’t know. Maybe I’ll look online.

Everyone just wants to feel good at something, sometimes, probably. So I appreciate Anna Hawkins using this idea of the how-to video to explore what I think is insecurity and expertise and people giving themselves some sort of physical voice.

The director is sitting in a chair now that spins like the globe. She says, “It’s interesting. We go online to find out how to do these things but Anna is taking it offline so we can watch and learn in a physical space. All together.”

I say, “I agree. That’s interesting.”

The idea of watching something and learning how to do it. The intimacy in watching. It’s a genre I think people forget about, or don’t think about as being significant. There’s something both very private and public about opening yourself up to an audience in a way that’s practical and instructional and so often done because it’s all been done. Right? There’s something admirable about adding yourself to the huge, large, big sphere of people trying to figure it all out.

How to Chop an Onion is showing at Eastern Edge Gallery from April 9 – May 18.