the chrysanthemum has opened twelve times (2020)
As installed at Koffler Centre of the Arts (Toronto, Canada)
12.29 x 13.46 x 3.20 m / 40.33 x 44.16 x 10.5 ft
At the Koffler, I presented a new series of immersive installations to evoke early Chinese Canadian photo studios and those of
historical mainstream Canadian photographers who took portraits of Chinese individuals. These photo studios include C.D. Hoy,
C.B. Wand, C.S. Wing, and Yucho Chow on the West Coast, Wesley Wong and Alex Ma in Toronto, and James Wong and Tenfay Lee of Montreal, and other
as yet unknown or unidentified photographers. The installations reimagine some of the backdrops and décor of these studios using
objects and furniture similar to those in archival photos.
This installation-exhibition also incorporate family portraits loaned by community members and institutional archives, Cantonese opera excerpts from a set of ‘78 vinyl records dating from the 1940s
and mookyu (wooden fish) songs performed by an elder, both as past forms of entertainment available to Chinatown ‘bachelor’ society.
The impetus for this project is a photograph of my great-grandfather Wong who had migrated to San Francisco in the early part of
the 20th century. As with other immigrants at the time, he had his portrait taken and enclosed it with letters sent back home to
his family left behind in Toishan, China. I was curious about its significance to my family and what it would have meant for my
great-grandparents who were separated for decades when my great-father left for America. Would it have alleviated the fears and
anxieties of his wife and children to see that he was healthy and prosperous in ‘Gold Mountain’? In reality, was he doing as well
as he represented himself or how the photographer presented him in the image?