Yellow Peril; The Celestial Elements

Curated by Love Intersections
| Feb 1 – Apr 18, 2020 | Opening Reception: Feb 1, 4-6 pm

Yellow Peril; The Celestial Elements is a visual art exhibit inspired by the Chinese Five Elemental forces, seized by the urgent tensions between Queer Chinese diasporic identities. A collection of multichannel installations, visual and sculptural activations provoke a cosmic encounter of our living past and present as we ‘race’ towards a healing future. These elemental activations attempt to collapse the linear temporality to dislodge an emotional, spiritual, cosmological, and metaphysical enunciation of our Queer ‘Chineseness’. Rather than focus on the trauma that queer people of colour face, this project is fundamentally an invitation to an exuberant celebration of queerness that is unabashedly Chinese. We invite you to celebrate with us. Featuring artists Jen Sungshine, Kendell Yan, Kai Cheng Thom, Jay Cabalu, and David Ng.

DATES:
  • Sat, Feb 1, 4-6pm | Opening
  • Sun, Feb 2, 1:30-4:30pm | Workshop w/ Kai Cheng Thom
  • Sun, Feb 2, 5pm | Curator Tour
  • Sat, Feb 15, 3-5pm | Yellow Peril Film Screening + Artist Talk
  • Sat, Mar 7, 3-5pm | Community Food Sharing + Live Dumpling Making Activation

COMING EVENTS:

  • Sat, Apr 4, 3-5pm | Ching Ming Festival 清明節 [LIVE Stream] with Maiden China

ARTWORK DESCRIPTIONS:

Channeling the Elements; an encounter of time/space

This installation employs the metaphor of the Chinese Five Elements to explore the discursive formation of queer Chinese diasporic identity. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the Five Elemental forces have many different applications to understanding life, identity, relationships, and both physical, mental, and emotional health. The elements also have numerous approaches to understanding ways of “being”; they also have principles of metaphysics, and temporalities.  We invoke these five elements through our artistic practices, as a conduit to understanding queer East Asian cultural formations, as not an intellectual delineation, but a way to investigate the embodiment of queer Chinese, diasporic identity. 

For example, we performed an ancestral veneration ceremony at Larwill Park in Vancouver, which was the gathering site of the anti-Oriental riots of 1907 as a way to mark an image of the temporal relationship that the project Yellow Peril: Queer Destiny has amongst a history of anti-Asian racism in Canada.  Giving offerings to our ancestors, making reference to the history of racism we are connected to in this space; and recognizing the implications that these histories have on our own identities today, as racialized, queer subjects.

The Wall of Healing; a ‘Race’ Towards a Cosmic Future

In Chinese cosmology, the world emerges from yin/yang, activated by the primordial powers found in Five Elements: Wood > Fire > Earth > Metal > Water. From the micro to macro, intimate to distant, land to table, we cycle through the synergistic and generative processes of these elemental forces: Wood feeds Fire, Fire creates Earth, Earth bears Metal, Metal collects Water, Water nourishes Wood, and so begins/ends/regenerates a beginning to an end. This ‘Wall of Healing’ employs these relational approaches of the elements to understand Queer Chinese diasporic expressions of race and gender; in an attempt to dislodge our mortal timestamp from Western linearity, and reimagine our living past/present as we “race” towards a cosmic future.

CELESTIAL FIGURATIONS

The modern slang for “queer” in Chinese is “酷兒 (kù-ér)” – which is a direct phonetic adaptation of the English word. While there is a large and diverse vocabulary for LGBT genders and identities such as “同志 (tongzhi)” meaning gay comradery; “同性戀 (tongxin lian)” meaning same-sex love; “拉拉 (lala)” or “拉子 (lazi)” for lesbian, and “跨性 (kuaxing)” for transgender, there is currently no queer-equivalent word in Chinese that encapsulates the historical and emoti  onal journey embedded in the identification of “queer”.

Inspired by the pictograph roots of the Chinese language as well as our own diasporic enmeshment as queers-of-colour, we designed this new Chinese character with the metaphysical and emotive properties of “queer” that are important to us, in an attempt at materializing our Queer diasporic ‘Chineseness’ through a made-up character that isn’t a Western derivative. The “emerging” character on the ground is our personified imagination of what this character might look like. Who are they? What are they? When are they? Where are they? Why are they? Queerness to us necessitates temporal transformation – it’s daring, it’s verbal, it’s spiritual, it’s elemental, it’s revolutionizing. This character is an intervention on the tension between “nation” and diaspora – a reclamation of our who, what, when, where, why in our self-determination.

ARTIST BIOS:

Jen Sungshine speaks for a living, but lives for breathing art into spaces, places, cases. She is a queer Taiwanese interdisciplinary artist/activist, facilitator, and community mentor based in Vancouver, BC, and the Co-Creative Director and founder of Love Intersections, a media arts collective dedicated to collaborative filmmaking and relational storytelling. Jen’s artistic practice is informed by an ethic of tenderness; instead of calling you out, she wants to call you in, to make (he)artful social change with her. In the audience, she looks for weirdos, queerdos and anti-heroes. In private, she looks after more than 70 houseplants and prefers talking to plants than to people.  www.jensungshine.com

David Ng (Co-Creative Director) is a queer, feminist, media artist, and co-founder of Love Intersections.  His current artistic practices grapple with queer, racialized, and diasporic identity, and how intersectional identities can be expressed through media arts.  His interests include imagining new possibilities of how queer racialized artists can use their practice to transform communities. His work has also recently included collaborations with Primary Colours / Couleurs primaires, which is a national initiative to put Indigenous arts practices at the centre of the Canadian art system through the leadership of Indigenous artists, supported by artists of colour.

Kendell Yan/Maiden China is an intersectional feminist drag performer who disrupts identity expectations and liberates audiences by inducing vulnerability. Maiden China’s drag explores the concept of the “hyphen”, liminal states of embodied being, and incorporates elements of classical Chinese opera, queer theory, resistance politics, and intimate contact performance art. They are the winner of the Mx Cobalt All Star competition, and Vancouver’s Entertainer of the year 2018. They are a member of the upper house of the Dogwood Monarchist Society’s 48th reign as Imperial Crown Princet, and they perform regularly as a member of the House of Rice, an all Asian drag family in Vancouver, BC. as well as one of the Darlings, a non-binary drag collective.(Kendell on Facebook)

Jay Cabalu  is a Filipino-Canadian pop artist based in Vancouver, BC. With a speciality in 100% hand-cut collage, his work is a pop-surrealist expression of his world view. He has a BFA from Kwantlen Polytechnic University and has shown in numerous spaces in Vancouver. In 2015, his niche style of art prompted his casting on season one of CBC’s reality-competition series Crash Gallery and he returned as a guest commentator the following year. The last two years of his practice have been dedicated to identity and self-portraiture, which has caught the attention of exhibitions in Chicago and London UK for its contribution to conversations about Asian and queer representation. In 2019, Jay was invited to give his first artist talk at the British Museum with Queer Asia. His art belongs to private collections in Vancouver, Ottawa, Seattle and California. (http://jaycabalu.com/)

Daxgyet Hanak – Strong Woman

Community show with SWUAV
December 7-21 at SUM Gallery, #425-268 Keefer St. 
Opening reception Dec 7, 2 -4pm

Presented by We Have A Voice: Indigenous Women Who Do Sex Work Speak Out, a project of Sex Workers United Against Violence, the Daxgyet Hanak art show displays pieces by indigenous women who do sex work using culture and creativity to speak to their experiences. Embedded in each piece is a recommendation for positive futurisms for indigenous women doing sex work, including wishes for their future and ways their lives can be made safer. 
This two-year project by SWUAV has been providing healing opportunities for women in the community to speak about their experiences in a destigmatized and safe environment, use art to express themselves, connect with cultural and spiritual teachings and support, and make recommendations to law and policymakers for improving their lives. They have represented our community at BC Parliamentary Sub-Committee Hearings on Human Trafficking, the Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women and Girls Inquiry, marches and rallies. They have provided art-based cultural learning activities at women’s drop-in spaces. They have employed decolonized harm reduction teachings and provided medicine support at funerals and community events. Come support the project’s culmination in a final art show hosted at QAF’s SUM Gallery.

Sex Workers United Against Violence (SWUAV) is a small grassroots, peer-led non-profit working on the unceded territories of the Coast Salish people to improve the lives and safety of people who do sex work on the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver and across Canada through harm reduction activities and advocacy. We Have a Voice: Indigenous Women Who Do Sex Work Speak Out is a SWUAV project funded through Status of Women Canada that provides indigenous women who do sex work an opportunity to speak to their experiences through art and culturally-based activities in a safe, destigmatized space. Recommendations provided by the women on how to make their lives better and safer through the course of these activities will be circulated to policy and lawmakers to instigate change.

An Interview With Justin Ducharme & Zachery Longboy

The pop up exhibition running, running, trees go by… shows at SUM Gallery from August 20-25 during the 2019 Vancouver Queer Film Festival. Curated by Festival Programmer Justin Ducharme, it features new and retrospective works by Zachery Longboy.

Longboy is from Churchill, Manitoba and is of Sayisi Dene lineage. The collection continues the artists’ exploration within a fractured cultural experience through deeply felt layered videos, paintings and archival film.

Justin Ducharme (JD) and Zachery Longboy (ZL) talk to SUM Gallery about the exhibition:

Justin, what draws you to Zachery Longboy as an artist and made you want to exhibit his work?

JD: I first saw water into fire, a film by  Zachery a few years ago when I was about 20 years old and I was instantly drawn to the performance aspect of the piece. The work was self reflective on his identity has an indigenous man living with HIV and there was this unfiltered approach to his making that I was instantly drawn to. I discovered Zachery around the same time I became familiar with Thirza Cuthand’s work and I admire the way they both approached filmmaking from both a performance and technical angle. I knew I was going to be making work myself as an artist that is self reflective of my intersecting identities so finding folks who were doing that in ways that felt completely new to me meant a lot. Most of my film work is narrative based but I’ve drawn heavily from people like Zachery and Thirza who have made performative documentary work. Kinship and community is a huge part of why I am where I am as a creator and human being. I can say 100% with my gut that I would not be the artist or person I am without my kin or artists like Zachery. 

Zachery, what made you trust Justin and embark on this collaboration? Were you actively pursuing exhibition opportunities or was there a particular calling that brought you to SUM?

ZL: There was no reason not to trust Justin, I had been thinking about pursuing an exhibition; however, never got beyond the thinking. I have always enjoyed collaboration and this has been the perfect opportunity to work with the Vancouver Queer Film Festival, SUM Gallery and Justin. He had a clear vision of how he saw my work presented and what it meant to him. I drew these works over the last 2 years and there is a movement that flows through all: community, difference, search for belonging and acceptance. I began animating the drawings and posting them on Instagram. That’s where Justin saw the work. 

How did you select the works? All of the pieces are new except for the stone show although it too has been reimagined. What is the artistic statement behind these new pieces? What do you hope people take away from the show?

JD: We selected the works over the course of one afternoon back in July.  It was pretty chill how it all came about. We started by talking about healing actually, cuz I was going through some shit and we mutually bonded over our sad boi identities. I thought about colour palette first because Zachery has such an expansive collection of drawings and paintings. We both connected to the greyscale black and white works and knew we wanted to keep the majority of pieces in the exhibit that tone.  

ZL:  We decided early on that the work had to stand for itself, circumventing the traditional title and explanations cards. Let the viewer enjoy and experience the work without the clutter of explanation.

JD: We talked a lot about trusting our audience.  It was kind of fitting that the theme of VQFF this year is See for Yourself because that is exactly what we are asking people to do. Something Zachery and I both love is showing someone something and then allowing them to discuss what it means to them or how it makes them feel. We didn’t want to spoon feed a narrative to anyone. Come and be immerrsed in the work and draw from it what you will. We both connect to the peices in there for different reasons and that’s the beauty of it I think. 

There are no title cards for the pieces – is there a story behind why that is? Does this create a barrier between the viewer and the art or does it allow for a more personal relationship to the pieces? 

JD: I personally don’t think it creates a barrier for people to connect to the pieces. Something I have been struggling with lately is this whole idea of having to name something when it’s finished. We have titles and terms for so many different things in the english language and it’s just not like that in most indigenous languages or others for that matter. Sometimes there are no words for things, and that is okay. 

The stone show has been revisited – cut from an hour of original footage down to a fifteen minute video. What motivated this? Has the piece become something different through its reconstruction?

JD: Mainly obsession. I desperately wanted to include an archival piece in the exhibit and we talked for a bit about what that would look like.  I had seen the orignal hour long show via footage from grunt gallery and was so connected to the visuals and spoken word aspect of the piece. Being a filmmaker myself I was up for the challenge of giving it a recut and suggested it to Zachery after grunt let me know they had the VHS footage available. For me it now feels like a cinematic love letter to knowing but not knowing who you are and where you come from. The spoken word aspect, the physicality of the piece, everything was so incredibly emotion inducing.  

Justin, you work as a festival programmer for Vancouver Queer Film Festival. Is there a particular film at this year’s festival that you can recommend which speaks to this exhibition? 

JD: Yes I can think of one in particular that I’d like to shout out. Wildfire by Bretten Hannam is a short film that is screening on Friday, Aug 24th at The York Theatre in a shorts program I curated titled all our relations: explorations on indigiqueer kinship. The film follows two Mi’kmaw teens on the run from one of their abusive stepfathers and lets the viewer see how their kinship grows through this experience. When I think of running running trees go by… I think about the journey Zachery and I took together, I think about movement, about community, about pain and longing, about kinship. I think Wildfire discusses these themes in a way that is so singular to Brettens filmmaking, so while I don’t think the comparison necessarily slaps you across the face right away I think that if you dig deep you might find something you didn’t see before.

69 POSITIONS: THE QUEER CANADIAN AND QUÉBEC ARCHIVE IN FILM AND BEYOND

Opening May 14, 2019 – 6pm

MAY 14 – AUG 17 | with VIVO Media Arts

The west coast stop of Queer Media Database Canada-Québec Project’s touring exhibition series, marking the 50th anniversary of the 1969 Omnibus bill.

A naughty, nuanced and nerdy retrospective of queer lives circa 1969 and the partial ‘decrim’ of sodomy. As the powers-that-be celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Bill C-150, the Criminal Law Amendment Act, ‘69 positions is here to set the record queer.

Continue reading “69 POSITIONS: THE QUEER CANADIAN AND QUÉBEC ARCHIVE IN FILM AND BEYOND”

Karin Lee: QueerSUM 心

May 12 – August 18, 2018 I Opening May 12, 2018 2 – 4pm I

Curated by Paul Wong and SD Holman
Presentation Partner: On Main Gallery

Karin Lee: QueerSUM 心

Queer-sum a “Chinglish” translation and play on the words Queer Love, alludes to queer attraction that people experience, even though they believe themselves to be straight identified – or queer-sum (sum=heart=love).

QueerSUM心 presents three of Karin Lee’s media works: a 2-channel remix of her classic 16mm film My Sweet Peony Remix, a fantastical drama shot in the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Gardens; Portrait of a Girl, a documentary shot in Beijing; and Small Pleasures, a period drama set in Barkerville BC.

The works not only investigate sentiments of being “Queer-sum,” but pay tribute to Vancouver’s Chinatown—where Lee spent her childhood—and examine the underlying racism which contributed to the very creation of “Chinatowns” amidst the colonization of Indigenous peoples.

My Sweet Peony Remix, shot in 16mm film in 1994, is a short fantastical drama that spins a tale of sexuality, gender and desire featuring Zamma – a Chinese Canadian garden guide (played by Sook-Yin Lee) who is stalked by a white feminist outreach worker and a Caucasian Maoist student, but is awakened by her attraction to an Asian-Canadian dyke, all the while perplexed by an other-world cross-dressing Taoist monk. My Sweet Peony Remix plays with the notion of cultural identity (or identity politics of the 90s) and race: then and now—what remains the same and what has changed in the 25 years since the film was made.

Portrait of a Girl is a peek into the life of Han Dong Qing, a cage dancer who works in the Beijing club scene. She speaks about her life, her story of adoption and her sexuality. Candid and defiant, she is always searching for love, acceptance and family.

Small Pleasures tells the story of three women from very different worlds trying to convey complex ideas about feminist resistance to each other through a common language: Chinook Jargon—an intercultural trade language used throughout the Pacific Coast until the early 1900s. Set in the late 1800s in Barkerville, this film explores how marginalized women in late nineteenth century rural Canada create individual identities in a world prescribed to fit the needs of men.

About the artist:

Karin Lee, photo: Chick Rice

“Karin Lee is a Canadian Screen Award-winning, trailblazing filmmaker who has focused on telling stories about women and Chinese-Canadians for more than three decades.” Sabrina Furminger / Westender June 7, 2017

Born and raised in Vancouver, Karin is a unique storyteller whose critical voice and perspective touches on the past and the present, both local and international. An artist who constantly traverses new territory, Lee challenges film and media forms and addresses new audiences.

Themes of trans-Pacific migration, gender, identity and intercultural contact surface in her documentaries such as Made in China, which portrayed Chinese adoptees in Canada searching for their identity; Cedar and Bamboo, which highlighted intermarriage between Chinese immigrants and First Nations people; and Canadian Steel, Chinese Grit, which depicted the outcome of migration for the Chinese who came to Canada to work on the Canadian Pacific Railway. Her early influences and links to China grew from her exposure to the ideology and the political movement of Chinese socialism in Canada through Lee’s father, who ran a fledgling communist bookstore in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside in the 1960s – the 2005 film Comrade Dad.

Lee’s art has been heavily influenced by her own family history. For example, her great-grandmother Tsang Ho Shee, who herself had bound feet when she arrived in Barkerville in 1901, is the inspiration for Small Pleasures. Now, three generations after Tsang Ho Shee arrived in Canada, Lee’s realization that she benefited from her great-grandmother’s acts of feminist resistance, has driven her to expand representations of the history of marginalized women in the Chinese diaspora and, most importantly, to contribute to the minimal coverage of women’s stories in the arts and Canadian media.

In 2001, Karin received a Gemini: The Canada Award for her groundbreaking documentary Made in China, about Chinese children adopted in Canada. In 2005 she received a BC Leo Diversity in Cultures Award and 2015 –diversity award from Women in Film for Cedar and Bamboo.

She has just completed the TV pilot for Plan B, a black comedic drama series set in a women’s sexual health clinic. She is currently in pre-production on Girl with Big Feet (Ts’ekoo Cha Ke), a period drama and Incorrigible – a feature documentary about women who were incarcerated in Ontario for being morally “incorrigible”.

She was a Sessional Instructor at SFU’s Asia-Canada program and Adjunct Professor at UBC’s Film Production program. Karin was awarded the Mayor’s Arts Award for Film and New Media Artist in 2014 and was nominated for the 2017 YWCA Women of Distinction Award for Education, Training and Development and received the Spotlight Award from Vancouver Women in Film and Video Society in 2017.

The gallery is open Tuesday-Saturday 12-6pm, closed on Sundays and Mondays, and statutory holidays.

Chocolate or Chicken Bones?

Exhibition: January 8 – February 7, 20119
Tuesday-Saturday, 12-6pm
Opening reception: January 8, 6-8pm.

SWAN Vancouver presents, in partnership with SUM Gallery – Queer Arts Festival, Chocolate and Chicken Bones, a photovoice exhibition.

“People think that we are like chocolate. That we are sweet and you can just swallow us and consume us. We are not chocolate. You can’t just swallow us and forget about us. We are like chicken bones. We will stick in your throat.” – Participant

Assumptions and stereotypes construct sex workers as snapshots: without a voice, without dimension, and without control of the perspective.

This exhibition uses photovoice methodology to address misinformation and stigma about im/migrant women who work in massage shops and apartments. This project, provides im/migrant sex workers an opportunity to self-represent their lived experiences and bring forth a dimension, reality and perspective which policy makers and law enforcement have neglected and dismissed.
By using photovoice, migrant sex workers take control of the snapshots that tell stories about their lives. They control the camera and the perspective. They control what comes into the shot and what gets left out. They tell the stories.

This project was funded through a generous grant from the Charity Pot Program through LUSH Cosmetics.