Gu Xiong: Coquitlam Waterscapes

The catalogue for a solo exhibition published by Evergreen Cultural Centre, Coquitlam, BC, Canada (2012).

As a significant waterway in British Columbia, Coquitlam Lake is a watershed that serves as a source of drinking water for the Greater Vancouver Regional District. It is also the source of the Coquitlam River. The river, along with the Fraser River, is also significant as a path of many immigrants. In Coquitlam now, there are many immigrants, mainly from Iran, China, Korea and Japan. Along the Yangzi River in China many people migrate for new economic opportunities and in response to the economic and political developments in the region.

I conceived of this project as a way to develop the metaphorical meanings of waterways and to rethink the spaces of contemporary global migration flows. I choose to focus on two regions: the Upper Yangzi River and Three Gorges Dam areas in China; and the Coquitlam Lake, Coquitlam River and Fraser River areas in British Columbia, Canada.

The Coquitlam watershed and waterway are especially significant to the Kwikwetlem First Nations people. Their traditional lands are here, and their unceded rights are the subject of an on-going land claim. In addition, other First Nations peoples are trying to return to this region to live and work, to come back to their ancestral lands from which they were relocated. I see a connection between these social issues and ongoing upheavals associated with the Three Gorges Dam project, which has forced many to relocate.

The damming of the lake is significant as it stops the original path of water. However, despite the damning, water continues to flow, albeit in different paths. Since the Coquitlam Lake Dam was built, it has stopped salmon from returning to the lake as before by disturbing migration and spawning patterns. As a result, the fishing industry and the traditional ways of life for First Nations people who resided there have been deeply affected. The Three Gorges Dam, similarly, has also greatly disturbed local ecology and fish migration patterns. Because of the dam landslides and mudslides are common, even disturbing local weather systems.

As waterways, these different locales also function as metaphors for these issues of movement and migration. They show us how things move ahead: water, people, and time itself flows on, and cannot return to their original points. People have to face issues in society and with the environment to make it possible for life to flow on as well.

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