REDRESS EXPRESS – Exhibition and Symposium

“Chinese Restaurants and the Head Tax Issue in Canadian Art”

The exhibition “REDRESS EXPRESS: Chinese Restaurants and the Head Tax Issue in Canadian Art” features recent photography, video and installations by five Chinese-Canadian artists: Gu Xiong (Vancouver), Shelly Low (Montreal), Ho Tam (Victoria, BC), Karen Tam (Montreal), and Kira Wu (Vancouver). It is held in conjunction with the two-day symposium “REDRESS EXPRESS: Current Directions in Asian Canadian Art and Culture” which brings together over twenty scholars, community activists, cultural organizers, and artists from many disciplines to consider current and future directions in Asian Canadian art and culture. The REDRESSEXPRESS project is curated by Alice Ming Wai Jim and accompanied by a colour catalogue with additional graphic illustrations by Joanne Hui (Montreal).

As a whole, the REDRESS EXPRESS project is an attempt to examine the current politics of representation, redress and recognition in Canada as they relate to art, activism, identity and geography. The call for redress has long been the bookends for Asian Canadian critiques of Canada’s racist past. The recent victory of the redress campaign for surviving Chinese head tax payers and their spouses and its inevitable effects on the current politics of reparation and representation in this country, however, presents another challenge: to ensure an ongoing, rigorous treatment these issues demand in political, cultural and educational sectors. With the host of 2007 anniversaries of historical dates significant to Canadians and Asian Canadian communities in particular celebrated this year, this provision of critical texts in contemporary discourse and practice and the broadening of understanding to address cross-cultural perspectives and realities remains imperative.

Providing the starting point of this project, the exhibition brings together recent artworks that explore the Chinese restaurant as an iconic institution and bring forward critical discourses in relation to the head tax redress and identity politics in general. The Chinese restaurant installation by Karen Tam exposes the cultural underpinnings and ethnic stereotypes that define family-owned Chinese restaurants in Canada as well as the evolution of Chinese Canadian cuisine. Kira Wu’s photographic series of the exteriors of Chinese-Canadian restaurants in the neighbourhood initiate a review of signage and cultural arbitrage. Shelly Low’s self-portraits and Rice-Krispies squares sculpture intimates a self-conscious projection and representation of the consumable ethnic or exotic ‘other’. The Yellow Pages (1994) by Ho Tam provides a video primer from A to Z of past and present Asian experience within North America. Gu Xiong’s series of hanging banner portraits of present-day and historical figures important to the development of Chinese Canadian communities gives face to the historical moments of redress.

Exhibition Patron; Ms. Anndraya T. Luui.
Centre A gratefully acknowledges the generous support of its patrons, sponsors, members, partners, private foundations, as well as  government funding agencies, including the Canada Council for the Arts, the British Columbia Arts Council, and the City of Vancouver through the Office of Cultural Affairs.

In conjunction with:
2007 Anniversaries of Change,
Powell Street Festival, August 4-5, 2007,
explorASIAN 2007,