Performing Memories with pianist Michael Park

Performing Memories with Michael Park

Unravelling a queer boy’s coming out, through recollections at the piano
Co-presented by Erato Ensemble Solo Series and Queer Arts Festival + SUM gallery
Jan 19, 7:30 pm
Tickets: $25 regular admission, $15 concession (plus fees), free for students & First Nations patrons

Performing Memories is a 35-minute solo piece blending speech and piano, written by Michael Park during the pandemic. In recounting the first moment he looked back at objects from his past, the narrator takes the audience on a journey of self-discovery through themes of isolation, shame, fear and death; but also joy, love, exploration and belonging. The performance includes works by composers Cecilia Livingston, Edward Grieg, and Richard Greig. Park has collaborated with director Esteban Guti to create a film version of the piece incorporating performance footage, dramatic reenactment, and illustration/animation by Héctor Rivera. This event features the world premiere screening of the Performing Memories film.

This project was made possible by the generous support of the BC Arts Council and Canadian Council for the Arts.

ABOUT Michael Park
Michael Park (he/they) is a pianist and composer with a keen interest in speech, humour, and improvisation. His aim is to give audiences an experience beyond the realm of traditional concert-going.

Michael is a passionate champion of new music. He’s performed dozens a of B.C. premieres as resident pianist with Vancouver’s Erato Ensemble, and supported the creation of more than 100 world premieres as founder and co-director of Art Song Lab, an innovative program that teams composers, poets, and world-class performers.

For more than a decade, Michael has collaborated with dancers, choreographers, and companies including Winnipeg’s Contemporary Dancers, the Royal Winnipeg Ballet, and Ballet BC. Taking inspiration from the movement style at hand, Michael has developed a fluency in improvisation that has been praised by dancers and teachers alike.

Michael’s own compositions have been performed in Vancouver at the VSO’s Jean Coulthard Reading Session, Sonic Boom Music Festival, Songfire Festival of Song, Queer Arts Festival, and Music on Main. His music has also been performed across North America, with notable premieres in Winnipeg, Boston, and New York.

sticky extensions: Romi Kim in Collaboration with Queer Based Media

sticky extensions: Romi Kim in collaboration with Queer Based Media

Exhibition runs Oct 13 to Dec 8
Gallery hours: Tue–Sat, 12 to 6pm
Opening reception & performance: Oct 13, 6pm | SOLD OUT
Rhythms dance workshop: Oct 6, 6pm | SOLD OUT
Home meal feast workshops: Oct 26 & Nov 9, 6pm | SOLD OUT
Re: check in performance from SKIM & Bongganisa: Nov 24, 6pm | SOLD OUT

Romi Kim’s SUM gallery exhibition debut explores relationships through transformations of drag and play within created spaces. sticky extensions hosts collaborations with fellow artists Romeo Villanueva III, and Queer Based Media – Chris Reed and Kendell Yan – through performance, video and installations. Through video they explore the legacy and precarious existence of Warehouse, a DIY event space that has transformed endlessly for the Eastside queer racialized and trans communities. The exhibition opening night holds a meditative performance of care with drag artists SKIM, Maiden China and Continental Breakfast.

Throughout the course of the show, Romi and Romeo will be inviting participants to attend workshops exploring the communing experience of eating together and moving with one another. sticky extensions will evolve throughout its exhibition run, marked by performances from drag artists Bongganisa, SKIM, Maiden China and Continental Breakfast in the gallery. The artists will explore their relationship with one another in various ways throughout the exhibition. sticky extensions navigates Romi Kim’s extensions through spaces such as Warehouse, their relationships and their own body extending through materials. It will be a sticky experience.

Stickiness is tacky. It attaches one’s body or object to another body or object, sensation and feeling. It can create emotions of annoyance, disgust and fascination. sticky extensions explores the burden of 情 정: an untranslatable word that expresses attachment, feelings of connection and warmness that provoke social reciprocity. 情 encourages being present in your actions in order to create understanding. It grows over time. Kim’s exhibition is centred in thinking through relationality and thinking about their body made up with connections around them. As the exhibit continues, the space transforms over time through acts of performance, world building and homemaking. 

sticky extensions is made possible by the generous the support of Metro Vancouver’s Regional Cultural Project Grants program and The Hamber Foundation.

Exhibition Workshops & Events:

Artists Romi Kim & Romeo Villanueva III hosts an intimate dance and movement workshop in advance of their sticky extensions exhibition opening.

This 2-hour dance workshop brings participants along a movement journey following a “wave” of rhythms. The 5Rhythms* are called flow, staccato, chaos, lyrical, and stillness. This workshop will create a safe space for people of all dance experience and encourage dancers to ground themselves in their body and share a space of togetherness.

*5Rhythms is a movement meditation practice devised by Gabrielle Roth in the late 1970s. It draws from indigenous and world traditions using tenets of shamanistic, ecstatic, mystical and eastern philosophy. It also draws from Gestalt therapy, the human potential movement and transpersonal psychology. Fundamental to the practice is the idea that everything is energy, and moves in waves, patterns and rhythms.

In this intimate, 4-person workshop, guests will be invited into the space and be provided with a meal made by artists Romi Kim and Romeo Villanueva III. Attendees are asked to bring their own small, sharable food item to the meal. For second-generation Asians, food is often a strong connection to culture and a form of showing love. This first of two home feast meals focuses on the Korean jal meokgetseumnida. Romi and Romeo wish to share this communal experience with workshop participants. Please note that the meal provided will likely include meat, fish or seafood.

  • Kain Tayo (Filipino food workshop experience 2) – Nov 9, 6pm

In this intimate, 4-person workshop, guests will be invited into the space and be provided with a meal made by artists Romi Kim and Romeo Villanueva III. Attendees are asked to bring their own small, sharable food item to the meal. For second-generation Asians, food is often a strong connection to culture and a form of showing love. This second of two home feast meal workshops focuses on the Filipino Kain Tayo. Romi and Romeo wish to share this communal experience with workshop participants. Please note that the meal provided will likely include either meat, fish or seafood.

Re: check in by Bongganisa and SKIM explores through drag, materiality and performance what it means to maintain a relationship. The two artists started their friendship in 2011 after meeting each other at a weeklong summer camp. Bongganisa lived in Maple Ridge at the time and SKIM in Armstrong. They emailed each other everyday for an entire year. Their journey’s have since brought them to live and work with one another in the same place. 

SKIM defines drag as a performance of gender, explored through fantasy and play. Bongganisa sees drag as creative radical expression through queerness and transformation. Both believe drag is political and important in thinking through possibilities of how a person resides in everyday life.   

Re: check in is an intimate inquiry into the politics of being in drag and focuses on the importance of Bongganisa and SKIM’s relationship in order to offer various ways of understanding one’s being, knowing and doing.

This event is ASL-interpreted.


김새로미, Romi Kim or SKIM in drag, is a queer, genderfluid, second-generation Korean. They identify themselves in recognizing these words as verbs rather than nouns or adjectives—constantly in action, and in flux. They are an uninvited settler living and working on the unceded xwməθkwəy̓əm (Musqueam), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish), and Sel íl ̓witulh (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations. Kim explores personal histories, vulnerability, and intimacy within colonial spaces within their work. They are interested in transforming the power of a story and privileges within language. Kim has a collaborative artistic practice as part of the House of Rice, an all-Asian drag house in Vancouver and a solo one. Kim has shown works in South Korea, in the United Kingdom, and across Canada. They have performed in South Korea, Vietnam, online internationally, and in Vancouver. Kim received a BFA in Visual Arts and Gender Studies at the University of Victoria in 2017 and they are currently studying at the University of British Columbia as an MFA candidate.


Queer Based Media is a QTPOC multimedia production company that provides videography, photography, projection installation, and design work for queer creators on the unceded territories of the xwməθkwəy̓əm (Musqueam), Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish), and Səl  ̓ílwətaʔ/Selilwitulh (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations (so-called Vancouver, BC). Queer Based Media has produced award winning work for non-binary drag collective, The Darlings; The Transform Cabaret Festival, Indigiqueer filmmaker Rylan Friday, and Lantern Films. In addition to producing content, Queer Based Media provides a digital venue on their website for mutual aid and social equity fundraisers, such as Rainbow Refugee, and Visible. Queer Based Media is Vee Pho, Chris Reed, and Kendell Yan.


Romeo Villanueva III (he/him) is a visual artist and drag performer working on the traditional territories of Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh First Nations (Vancouver). His work explores identity and expression by reflecting on past experiences and reimagining those experiences through illustration, costume, or performance. He has received a Bachelor’s Degree in Visual Arts from the University of Victoria, and a Bachelor’s Degree in Education from the University of British Columbia. Throughout Vancouver, Villanueva can be seen performing as his drag persona Bong Ganisa (gah-NEE-sah) in shows such as Commercial Drag and Ricecake, and was named Commercial Drag All Star 2020. Dong’s work has also been seen online in events such as QMUNITY’s Virtual 16th IDAHOT Breakfast, New West Pride, and the Vines Art Festival.

Read the press release for sticky extensions.

Queering the Air with Rachel Kiyo Iwaasa

QUEERing the air with rachel kiyo iwaasa
Sept 23, 7:30pm
An evening of music by Queer and Trans composers, performed by pianist Rachel Kiyo Iwaasa
SUM Gallery

Featuring three exclusive world premieres, by composers Cris Derksen, Annette Brosin and Rodney Sharman!

+ works written for Rachel Iwaasa, by Leslie Uyeda, Mary Jane Coomber and Russell Wallace.

Co-presented by Canadian Music Centre BC and Queer Arts Festival + SUM gallery.
Tickets: $25 regular admission, $15 concession, free for students and First Nations patrons. All tickets proceeds will go towards Out in Schools.

Cris Derksen’s commission the bells was funded by the Canadian League of Composers as an initiative of the Canadian Section of the International Society for Contemporary Music (ISCM). 

Russell Wallace’s piece, A Clean Start, was named after Rachel (which means Innocent, like a lamb) and Kiyo (Pure, like clear running water). The name speaks to hope. Hope for a life washed clean of intergenerational trauma. Hope for a post-pandemic restart that has learned its lessons (that Black Lives Matter, that we are interconnected, that what happens to the most vulnerable affects everyone). Hope that as the number of unmarked graves exposed at former Residential Schools continues to rise, Canadians will learn to reconcile the difference between what we were taught and the history we can no longer deny. Hope for a way forward in shared respect, reciprocity, and responsibility.


Hailed in the press as a “keyboard virtuoso and avant-garde muse” (Georgia Straight) with the “emotional intensity” to take a piece “from notes on a page to a stunning work of art” (Victoria Times Colonist), Rachel Kiyo Iwaasa is recognized among Canada’s foremost contemporary music pianists.  Selected to close the ISCM World New Music Days 2017 in Vancouver, Rachel has performed in the Netherlands, Germany, US and across Canada, with engagements including Muziekweek Gaudeamus, Music TORONTO, Music on Main, Vancouver New Music, Redshift, Western Front, Vancouver Symphony, Victoria Symphony, the Aventa Ensemble (Victoria), CONTACT contemporary music (Toronto), New Works Calgary, Groundswell New Music (Winnipeg), and Vancouver Pro Musica.

Rachel has commissioned or premiered works by many of Canada’s most eminent composers, such as Hildegard Westerkamp, Rodney Sharman, Jocelyn Morlock, Nicole Lizée, Jordan Nobles, Jeffrey Ryan, Farshid Samandari, Marci Rabe, and Emily Doolittle. One half of the acclaimed contemporary flute/piano duo Tiresias with Mark Takeshi McGregor, Rachel has also collaborated with Yannick Nézet-Séguin, Judith Forst, Heather Pawsey, the Bozzini Quartet, Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Caroline Shaw, and Richard Reed Parry of Arcade Fire. Her interdisciplinary adventures have led to work with photo-based artist SD Holman, playwright/director David Bloom, choreographer Tara Cheyenne Friedenberg, and multi-media provocateur Paul Wong.


Juno-nominated Cris Derksen is an internationally respected Indigenous Cellist and Composer. In a world where almost everything — people, music, cultures — get labelled and slotted into simple categories, Cris Derksen represents a challenge. Originally from Northern Alberta, she comes from a line of chiefs from NorthTall Cree Reserve on her father’s side and a line of strong Mennonite homesteaders on her mother’s. Derksen braids the traditional and contemporary, weaving her classical background and her Indigenous ancestry together with new school electronics to create genre-defying music.

As composer ,Derksen has a foot in many worlds. 2020 compositions include: Napi and the Rocks – A symphonic story commissioned by the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra; Same Wave – an 8-part choral piece, commissioned by Camerata Nova Choir; The Triumph of the Euro-Christ, an 8-part choral piece commissioned by the Art Gallery of Ontario. 2019 compositions include: Maada’ookii Songlines – a mass choral piece for 250 singers, commissioned by Luminato Festival; Rebellion – a short symphonic piece commissioned by the Thunder Bay Symphony Orchestra; Iron Peggy – a theatre piece commissioned by the Vancouver Children’s Festival; and a new performance art piece commissioned by the National Art Gallery of Canada, Ikumagiialit.

Derksen performs nationally and internationally, solo and with some of Canada’s Finest, including; Tanya Tagaq, Buffy Sainte Marie, Naomi Klein, and Leanne Simpson, to name a few. Recent performance destinations include Hong Kong, Australia, Mongolia, Sweden, and a whole lot of Canada; the place Derksen refers to as home.


SUM gallery
co-presented in partnership with Vancouver Queer Film Festival
Opening reception: Sat, Aug 13, 7 to 10pm
Installation runs Aug 16 to 20, 12 to 6pm. Daily drop-in zine workshops from 3 to 6pm.

MOTORBIKE/SUPERDYKE is a collaborative multimedia installation by Cheryl Hamilton and lisa g, based on lisa g’s diaries about coming out and sorting through queer stereotypes circa 2000. Illustrations, art prints, an animated film and a zine echo a time and place and reflect upon personal identity politics.

MOTORBIKE/SUPERDYKE animated film trailer

Cheryl Hamilton is a conceptual artist with a penchant for visual ingenuity. She imbues her artwork with a kineticism inspired by her education as an animator at Vancouver’s Emily Carr Institute. She enjoys the process of collaboration and experimentation and tries to remain flexible in approaching mediums preferring the concept to dictate the ingredients. Although Cheryl has been working as a large-scale sculptor (blown glass, stainless steel, cast bronze) she has continually returned to the medium of drawing and painting as it serves as the backbone of her art practice.

lisa g is an artist/filmmaker living on the unceded and stolen territories of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish), and Sel̓íl̓witulh (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations. They are interested in work that has historical reference, social relevance & where possible, humour. They work independently, with other artists and within communities. lisa g is a founding member of Vancouver’s Iris Film Collective, which promotes the creation and sharing of analog film and they are the producer/mentor of Our World  which supports the creation of Indigenous self directed short films. lisa g’s work screens internationally and has won awards.

Don Kwan: Beyond Exclusion

Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden, 578 Carrall St., Vancouver

Beyond Exclusion is Don Kwan’s first solo exhibition in Vancouver. Based in Ottawa, Kwan is a queer third-generation Chinese Canadian artist whose work is influenced by his upbringing in a family-owned restaurant in Ottawa’s Chinatown. He uses mixed media, found objects, and sourced personal text and photographs to explore questions of identity, belonging, and place, reflecting on his family history while weaving intriguing stories about the Chinese Canadian diaspora.

Beyond Exclusion brings together Kwan’s diverse body of work along with new site-specific installations. 

Don Kwan: Beyond Exclusion is presented by SUM gallery in collaboration with On Main Gallery and Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden. The exhibition is curated by Debbie Cheung, Mark Takeshi McGregor, and Paul Wong. Don Kwan: Beyond Exclusion is generously funded by the BC Arts Council, City of Vancouver, and Deux Mille Foundation. 


What can belonging look like? A third-generation Chinese Canadian, Don Kwan turns to his own experiences and challenges of being a gay, East Asian artist as a way to ground in broader conversations about identity, representations, and intergenerational memory-making in the diaspora. 

关日安是一位第三代华裔加拿大同性恋画家。他的作品探索历史长河中的家庭记忆、象征、身份 及地点.

Pride in Chinatown

July 24-30, 2022

Founded by On Main’s Artist Director, Paul Wong and Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden, Pride in Chinatown is the first public celebration of queer pan-Asian Canadian art in Vancouver’s Chinatown. What began as a small, one-day event in 2018, has grown tremendously over the years. For the first time in 2022, On Main is expanding Pride in Chinatown into a multi-day festival, presented in partnership with the Queer Arts Festival + SUM gallery! To find out more about Pride in Chinatown, visit

Pride in Chinatown events:

Jul 24, 12 to 3pm: Dim Sum Brunch
Floata Seafood Restaurant, 180 Keefer St., Vancouver
Regular admission tickets: $55 + tax and fees

Celebrate Pride with an all-age friendly arts and culinary event in Chinatown!

Hosted by the legendary China Doll, the Pride in Chinatown Dim Sum Brunch is a unique cultural experience that celebrates LGBTQ+ families and legacy businesses in Chinatown. A curated selection of piping-hot dim sum will be served alongside a lineup of delightful performances:

  • Immerse yourself in China Doll’s queer diasporic humor! A beloved Ottawa icon, China Doll is famous for hosting drag karaoke and bingo in flamboyant costumes and over-the-top wigs at her family’s Shanghai Restaurant.
  • Learn about the culture of dim sum from William Liu, owner of the family-run Kam Wai Dim Sum in Vancouver’s Chinatown. He will walk you through the art of enjoying “morsels of the heart” and perform Chinese and English opera.
  • Sample Pu-erh prepared by tea master Olivia Cheung from the Treasure Green Tea Company in Vancouver’s Chinatown. She will take you on a journey to Yunnan, China, where the best Pu-erh is produced.
  • Stand in solidarity with the Asian LGBTQ+ community through spoken-word artist Lyle Chan’s heartfelt poetry readings.
  • PLUS 50/50 draw!

Each ticket includes tea, two dim sum dishes, entertainment, and gratuity. Tables are available for groups of six and eight, with a limited number of tables available for groups of four. A party of fewer than four people will be seated at a larger table with other small groups.

Additional food and alcoholic beverages can be purchased from the restaurant. Doors will open at 12pm, and food will be served from 12:30–1:00pm.

Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden, 578 Carrall St., Vancouver
Free opening reception Tickets: July 28, 5:00–8:00pm

Beyond Exclusion is Don Kwan’s first solo exhibition in Vancouver. Based in Ottawa, Kwan is a queer third-generation Chinese Canadian artist whose work is influenced by his upbringing in a family-owned restaurant in Ottawa’s Chinatown. He uses mixed media, found objects, and sourced personal text and photographs to explore questions of identity, belonging, and place, reflecting on his family history while weaving intriguing stories about the Chinese Canadian diaspora.

Beyond Exclusion brings together Kwan’s diverse body of work along with new site-specific installations. In the exhibition opening on July 28, Kwan will perform Altering the Flow of Exclusion to commemorate the 100th anniversary of his grandfather’s arrival in Canada from China through the port of Vancouver to Ottawa. Kwan’s brother, Edward, will host the opening as Ottawa’s legendary drag queen China Doll.

Don Kwan: Beyond Exclusion is presented by the Pride in Art Society (SUM Gallery) in collaboration with On Main Gallery and Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden as part of the Pride in Chinatown festival. The exhibition is curated by Debbie Cheung, Mark Takeshi McGregor, and Paul Wong. Don Kwan: Beyond Exclusion is generously funded by the BC Arts Council, City of Vancouver, and Deux Mille Foundation. 

Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden, 578 Carrall St., Vancouver
Regular admission TICKETS: $42 + tax and fees
At door (limited quantity): $48 + tax and fees

Pride in Chinatown’s signature garden party returns with a splash of neon, featuring some of the best pan-Asian LGBTQ+ artists and their allies.

Enjoy a magical evening with a wide range of performances, art installations, and immersive experiences in the beautiful Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden, park, and courtyard. Harkening back to when Chinatown was aglow with neon signs, you’re invited to interpret the theme “Neon Night” through your personal style and artistic expression.

Featured artists and activities:
• Land acknowledgment by Quanah Style
• Karaoke Lounge hosted by Ottawa icon China Doll
• Music by DJs Normie Corp and Nancy Lee, a.k.a Which Nancy
• Drag performances by Kara Juku, Maiden China, and Jolene Sloan
• The Zen Den body art by Romeo Reyes
• Poetry reading and installation by Lyle Chan
• Be Like Sound installation by Paul Wong
• Exhibition tours of Don Kwan: Beyond Exclusion
• Site decor by Link Leisure and David Robinson
• Food market featuring Boba Run, DD Mau, and Dicky’s Dump
• PIC Popup store featuring products made by local Asian LGBTQ+ artists and allies

Neon Night Garden Party takes place on the traditional, ancestral, and unceded territories of the xʷməθkwəy̓əm (Musqueam), Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish), and Səl̓ílwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) peoples. It is produced and presented by On Main Gallery in partnership with Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden and Pride in Art Society (Queer Arts Festival/SUM Gallery).

Vanishing Act at Centre A: Vancouver International Centre for Contemporary Asian Art

Jul 2 – Sep 1, 2022
Centre A: Unit 205, 268 Keefer St.
Gallery hours: Wed-Sat, 12 to 6pm

The extension to QAF 2022: Hauntings curated visual art exhibition, Vanishing Act, curated by Adwait Singh under creative director SD Holman, will continue at Centre A until Sep 1, 2022.

Centre A will be hosting works by Areez KatkiShahana RajaniRenuka RajivBassem SaadSyma Tariq and Sita Balani, and Omer Wasim in the gallery.

The exhibition’s curator, Adwait Singh, asks viewers to “behold the hulking vessel of modernity, where the only hope for a future is a ghostly one, the only inheritance a poisoned gift” and “to face our own Frankensteins, in a manner that queers have long been wont, haunted as we are by spectral toxicities.”

“I spy with my little eye a lumbering vessel—deemed too large to fail—bleeding foul plumes across the sea. For those doomed to touch life through this ooze, the only hope for a future appears to be a ghostly one; their only inheritance being a poisoned gift. The 14th edition of the Queer Arts Festival scrutinizes the patriarchal paradigms of possession as the foremost commissioners and distributors of toxicity, uncovering the processes through which they cover their own tracks. We know this to be true of administrations that made out AIDS to be a specifically gay problem with their poorly-concealed intent to police queerness; exonerating themselves of any culpability in catalyzing the epidemic through their own colonial exploits. Once again with COVID-19 we witness the consolidation of monopolistic interests, immunological schemes, and exceptional power under the cover of public health and biovigilance, in a manner that eschews any inquiries about etiology, keeping the public eye blinkered on the exigency.

“The rapid spread of alienation, dissonance, and precarity that is second nature to queers to the hitherto immunized sections of society, expands the field of queer gravity. Put otherwise, as alienation grows universal, the universe grows queer. The rampant feeling of social insecurity and political despondency is further compounded by the viral signification that literally translates care as isolation, making us look askance at our bodies as vectors of contagion. Unlike the selective localization of the human immunodeficiency virus in the bodies of queer men then, the novel coronavirus has somewhat democratized the feeling of vulnerability, revealing our bodies as deserving of curative care, not castigation. Might the looming precarity acuminated by COVID-19’s indiscriminate affliction finally succeed in seeking out a belated acknowledgement of the grave injury dealt to our predecessors who were selectively targeted, unjustly villainized, and left to die? Sometimes it takes a second viral visitation to appease the ghosts left in the wake of the first.

“This sets the stage for a mutational politics that seeks to resist neo-colonial techniques of exposure and their controlled replication of the status quo. It has become amply manifest that any bid to abject the viral through a program of differential immunisation not only redoubles its virulence, but breeds other forms of corruption. Perhaps it is time then for this ghost-making-machine-of-a-world to face its own Frankensteins, as queers have long been wont to, haunted as we remain by these toxic spectralities. In more ways than one, the AIDS crisis set the tone for what has been an unfolding revelation of queer existence as a catastrophic, even indulgent co-becoming with the viral while maintaining an overall indigestibility in relation to the devouring milieu. The existential slime that we have to wade through daily, engenders mutations discernable through a symptomology of non-institutionalised forms of virtuosity, counter-productive preoccupations, self-sabotage, impossible relationships, trans-temporal collusions, acting-outs, misshapen kinships, and uncanny ways of being and wording.

“Vanishing Act divulges scenarios of queer toxic remediation and apocalyptic negotiations from South Asia and its diasporic beyond. Through affective and subjectivating communes with spectres of saints, sinners, and snow, visions of queer futures are cast beyond notions of re/productivity and in terms that uphold virtuosity, transience and mutability. Steering the term apocalypse closer to its Greek connotations of a critical revelation, the exhibition proposes a queer incorporation and containment of toxicity as a moral and political imperative during imperilled times.” (Adwait Singh)

Artworks Exhibiting at Centre A:

Renuka Rajiv – ghosts in the backseat/exile in the corner (2022), fabric, thread, and buttons, 126 cm x 57 cm each

Bangalore-based Renuka Rajiv has had an interest in making things since childhood, exploring drawing, paper mache, tie-dye, and stitching. They studied digital video production at Srishti School of Art, Design and Technology in Bangalore and a Bachelor of Fine Arts (with Honours) majoring in printmaking at Victorian College of Art, Melbourne. Since then, their work has reconnected with their childhood interests of playing with fabric and paper. Most themes and content in their work are personal, which includes the compulsion towards the hand-made. Their work inhabits a space that accommodates the imaginative, observational and autobiographical. 

Since 2013, Rajiv has been exploring appliqué and embroidery as a medium for image-making across different bodies of work. Process is a catalyst for ideation in Renuka’s practice with several impulses cohabiting often within one work. These include diaristic jottings, their fondness for non-human animals, patterns and abstraction, text, physicality, and sexuality. They are interested in the act of layering, which operates both as a record of time as well as allowing for loose proximities. The work is a composite of various triggers and sparks. Their inquiry aims to develop both directness and abstraction in what is private and personal.

Omer Wasim – Surrender (2018-2022), photographic prints, hanging mechanism, meat hooks, shirts, sheer curtain, concrete planter, stinging nettle, soil, water, growth light, and mirror, dimensions variable

Omer Wasim (b. 1988, Karachi) is an intermedial artist whose practice queers space, subverting the frames of development and progress that shape human relationships to the city and nature. His work bears witness to the relentless erasure, violence, and destruction of our times by staying with insurgent bodies. 

Wasim’s practice and the ways in which he works are often in-flux, moving across media, including installation, sculpture, drawing, video, photography, and audio. Informed by lived experiences, botanical life forms, and queer kinship, he traces and remembers, gathers and writes, converses and collaborates to generate works that are topical and rooted, yet pervading through them is an echo of silence, which allows them to be grouped and read in multiple ways—and each time they are shown, they morph with space, time, and context. His research turns to human and more-than-human witnesses to extend the possibility of bearing witness at a time when the state is intent on erasing and annihilating life forms that are not aligned with its narrative of progress and development.

Referencing devotional spaces of worship that sit amidst environmental degradation, and relentless extraction, Surrender makes accessible the practice of drawing strength from within to challenge the state project of erasure. It treats as sacred the building elements of all life forms. Air, water, and soil are repeatedly invoked: literally, and as traces and spectres, refusing to disappear.

Karachi, a city of more than 24 million people, is perpetually in flux, blanketed in a toxic embrace of greed and development. Besieged by the military and developers, its coastline is being progressively pushed out; its historic and divine flows contaminated and concretized. In its wake lies disappearance, dispossession, and displacement.

Sufi shrines have historically been a place of devotion, refuge, and connection; where the dead permeate the realm of living, where all life forms are treated as sacred, where the presence of trees and the earth attest to the divine rhythms of life. With rapid urbanization and militarization, however, they meet a similar fate, and are defaced, barricaded, and regulated.

Despite new and evolving mechanisms of violence and control, thousands of believers throng such spaces daily, contesting these very mechanisms, challenging the state project of erasure and assimilation. In ecstasy and acts of devotion, believers surrender, tuning into the rhythms of the earth, air, and water; seeking balance from within. These devotional acts are not a withdrawal from everyday political encounters with the state, but a form of attunement, of inhabiting bodies and desires fully, of resistance to enforced disappearances, and of reckoning with environmental toxicity and imbalance.

Shahana Rajani – A cipher for the missing (2022), 4K video, 7:30 minutes

Shahana Rajani is an artist based in Karachi. Her work and research explore the emerging visualities and infrastructures of development and militarization in Pakistan using multidisciplinary methods and media. She is interested in tracing colonial regimes of visuality, and the ways in which its violence continues to unfold around us. Together with Zahra Malkani she is the co-founder of Karachi LaJamia, a nomadic space moving outside the institution to occupy public spaces in the city as sites of study, and to explore radical pedagogies and art practices. Karachi LaJamia’s sessions are site-specific and work closely with multiple organizations and activists to build solidarity and alliances with ongoing struggles in the city. 

This video work explores the Baloch practice of massad in Karachi, Pakistan, whereby the date palm tree is invoked to help locate the missing. In this practice, dating back to Bibi Fatima the daughter of Prophet Muhammad, and passed down generationally by women, the tree grants access to knowledge of the unseen – past, present, future and all things hidden. Massad, meaning message or means of connection in Balochi, locates the date palm as key in a web of relationality linking wind, water, earth, human and more-than-human beings to the all-knowing realm of the divine.

At a time when the military-state seeks to render all beings visible through surveillance technologies, while disappearing those it deems threatening, massad emerges as a queer practice of recovery that centres alternate forms of relationality, connection and intimacy in a more-than-human world; a cipher made of leaves that renders the military’s disappearance tactics legible to the very communities that bear the brunt of its violence.

 In Karachi, the date palm also features as the main emblem of the paramilitary. Worn on uniforms and painted on watchtowers and walls across the city, this colonial emblem is a testament to the military conquest and disciplining of Sindh’s ‘unruly’ desert landscapes; a remnant of the violent reordering of natural ecologies as places to see and be seen. In exploring the tensions between the appropriation of this tree as a symbol of military power, and the tree’s material participation in native cosmologies, the work asks what it means for plants and people to belong together to a place, questioning the vigilantly patrolled boundaries that construe humans as separate from the rest of the world.

Areez Katki – Oneiria: Night 1 – Night 5 (2022), cotton embroidery on khadi towel, 136 cm x 72 cm each & Fragments 1 – 5 (2022), cotton embroidery on khadi handkerchief, dimensions variable

Areez Katki’s practice dwells between textual and material-based intersections, where the phenomenology of a postcolonial identity is examined through modalities of (de)languaging and (re)framing cultural affects. A fragmentation of memory is evident throughout the migratory experience and tends to expose myriad themes, from spiritual cosmologies to its queering trajectories. These affects elucidate the notion of hybridity as a condition for identities that have been historically subject to rupture.

Questions that illuminate the political significance of materiality emerge from spaces, often domestic, that Katki dwells between. Personal and familial artifacts that were once consumed are now restored to be recontextualized through the ecological, aesthetic and cultural slippages of ancient Zoroastrian knowledge systems. Ongoing investigations into plurality manifest in Katki’s spatial interventions and installations, which frame the lived experience through reclaimed and found materials. These delicate textualities are embalmed with traditional processes of mark-making—embroidery, weaving, printmaking, staining—that destabilize the expressionistic hierarchies established by a dominant culture.

The materials explored and preserved throughout his practice also convey Katki’s ongoing engagements with storied narratives, using biomythographic threads that entwine the historic and the personal through poetic means. These gestures suggest a blurring of metaphysical dualities, while also surveying the nature of (our) relationships between sites and embodiments.

Bassem Saad – Kink Retrograde (2019), HD video, 19 minutes 

Bassem Saad is an artist and writer, born in Beirut on September 11. His work explores historical rupture, infrastructure, and spontaneity, through film, performance, sculpture, and writing. Bassem’s solo and collaborative work has been presented and screened at MoMA, CPH:DOX, Transmediale, Architectural Association, Harvard University VES, and Alserkal Avenue (Dubai). His writing appears in Jadaliyya, FailedArchitecture, and The Funambulist. He was a fellow at Eyebeam, Leslie Lohman Museum, and Ashkal Alwan’s Home Workspace Program. He is currently a fellow at the Berlin Program for Artists.

Kink Retrograde presents a speculative allegory whose protagonists live in a world presided over by shocks that come to resemble the apparent retrograde motion of celestial bodies: cyclical and seemingly backwards moving. The intoxicated characters decide that the social contract between themselves and the sovereign powers has always been breached, and so they must devise a new and transparent contract aware of its own abjectness, risk, and deviance — one of total kink.

The film was shot inside an active seaside landfill on the outskirts of Beirut, created in the aftermath of the waste crisis which saw an uptick in makeshift, profit-driven infrastructural development and space-making. It combines text, voice-over, shot footage, and digital effects to project onto the existing landscape an imagined mode of assembly. It posits ‘kink’ as a political praxis that acknowledges the latent and explicit violence of the state, the voiding of the social contract, and the necessity of risk-aware action in the context of political and environmental toxicity.

Syma Tariq and Sita Balani – both/and (2022), audio voice notes, 23:04 minutes

Syma Tariq is currently completing her Ph.D. at the centre for Creative Research into Sound Arts Practice, University of the Arts London. Her research approaches the 1947 partition of British India as a sonic condition. She engages in various types of work otherwise, including writing, editing, recording, DJing and sound production and curation.

Sita Balani is a writer and teacher living in London. She is the co-author of Empire’s Endgame: Racism and the British State (Pluto Books, 2021). Her book Deadly and Slick: The Sexual Life of Race in Britain is forthcoming with Verso in 2023. She has published in Open Democracy, Vice, Novara Media, Five Dials, and The White Review.

“This conversation [work] encompasses a series of voice notes exchanged over a few weeks in spring 2022, in quiet moments between sending emails, packing boxes, doing laundry, reading articles, meeting deadlines and dealing with the ongoing health issues of loved ones. We tried to speak of difficult things, of grief, mass death, violence, neglect, of things bigger, more urgent, and more immediate than queer identity. But nonetheless, queerness is in here, part of how we were made, how we came to know each other, and how we understand the worlds in which we find ourselves. 

“As we exchanged the final voice notes in this series, the Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Aqla was shot and killed while covering an Israeli military raid on the Jenin refugee camp in the Occupied West Bank. News of her death reverberated across social media and into the streets, as vigils were held around the world in her honour. As Palestinians gathered for her funeral in Jerusalem, the Israeli police descended, beating mourners with batons, attacking pallbearers, and almost causing her coffin to hit the ground. Watching the footage of her funeral, the reach of state violence became painfully clear – even the dead are not free of it.

“We speak here of silence and of voice – implicit is the essential role of witness, of presence, of refusing to avert our eyes or cover our ears, of trying not to turn away.”

Futurosity in the Midst of History

A Queer Black Art Share

Sat Feb 26, 3 – 6pm

Throughout the month of February, we’ve been showcasing Queer Black Art and Artists on our Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter feeds — all co-curated by Valérie d. Walker and April Sumter-Freitag. Join them via Zoom on Sat, Feb 26 for Futurosity in the Midst of History, an online Art Share with special guests Christopher Hunte (aka Symone Says), Lili Robinson, and Addena Sumter-Freitag. The panel will share their collectively diverse body of work — from fibre art, to playwriting, to drag—and discuss the joys and challenges of their craft. This event concludes with a specially curated online music set with the one and only DJ O Show!