M’GOI/ DO JEH: SITES, RITES AND GRATITUDE
|When||24 Apr 2014 - 14 Jun 2014|
229 East Georgia Street
Vancouver BC, Canada V6A 1Z6
Opening Reception: Thursday, April 24, 2014, 7pm
The recent, ongoing transformation of Vancouver’s Chinatown has been happening at a very rapid pace. A series of new condo towers are under construction and a list of new businesses are opening up. Not to mention the growing presence of the visual arts including artist studio space, artist run centres, commercial galleries and your friendly neighbourhood public gallery: Centre A. How are we to consider this process? How does the incoming community relate to and have relationship with the long established community of the neighbourhood? In some instances new comers embrace the old, retaining legacy signage or seeking other means to place a volume dial of their cultural expression. Others open up with distinct, sharply branded aesthetics that make no nod to the existing neighbourhood’s past or present.
In a capitalist society where the right to enter one space or another is dependent on little more than one’s ability to pay rent, are there rites of passage/entry, gestures and postures that should be adopted to pay respect? As a commercial rent payer and a public art institution recently moved to Chinatown, Centre A is interested, on both institutional and personal levels, in ways one takes on a posture of gratitude and respect especially in instances where the act of being given to isn’t so direct and the right to receive isn’t necessarily one’s own.
A reflection on the two distinct ways to say “thank you” in Cantonese m’goi and do jeh, this exhibition considers rites of passage and gratitude in the contexts of urban transformation in Vancouver’s Chinatown, and, the psycho-social processing of inheritance, loss and change. In so being, M’goi/Do Jeh: Sites, Rites and Gratitude’s participants, community engaged poets Lydia Kwa and Kathryn Gwun-Yeen Lennon as well as neighbourhood elder Mrs. Chang help Centre A in its quest to discover its place in the geographic and cultural space it recently moved into.
Lydia Kwa is a well-respected poet, author and practicing psychologist who spends a lot of time in Chinatown and is concerned with its transformation. In July 2012 she read an article in the Vancouver Sun about Canada’s first Chinese print shop Ho Sun Hing. Sensitive to the implications of the shop’s ultimate closure, and in a light meditation on shifting modes of cultural production Kwa purchased a selection of foundry type. Ultimately, using both Chinese and English type she created a series of playful works on paper that she later coupled with short poems, creating a deliberately unbound, self-published limited edition book entitled linguistic tantrums. For M’goi/Do Jeh, the original artworks from linguistic tantrums will be exhibited and members of the public will be invited to react to with poems of their own.
Kathryn Gwun-Yeen Lennon is a prairie storm of community building. Recently transplanted from Alberta, Lennon is a linguistically curious poet and community activist who has been vigorously engaged with projects aimed at creating spaces for intercultural dialogue and activating Edmonton’s Chinatown. Since her arrival in Vancouver last year, she has been a member of the Ho Sun Hing Project, a group including Kwa that aims to preserve some of Ho Sun Hing’s foundry type; and an integral part of Friends of 439, a group seeking to save the Ming Sun-Uchida building at 439 Powell Street. For M’goi/Do Jeh, in collaboration with linguist and Cantonese language instructor Zoe Lam and numerous neighbourhood partners, Lennon is presenting Saturday School – a series of neighborhood specific Cantonese language classes, the results of which will be progressively presented in the exhibition space and become the Living Language Studio. Once a week, this space will also serve as a pop-up resource centre, inviting visitors to imagine how a community space shared by groups engaged with cultural knowledge and community development might function. She is also curating a Youth Community Film Screening featuring recent films by Vancouver youth about life and change in Chinatown.
Then there’s Mrs. Chang, a 96 year old neighbourhood elder who stopped by one day to let us know that our signage was insufficiently welcoming, and that Cantonese speakers would have little way of knowing what was going on. Herself the impetus for this exhibition, Mrs. Chang would like to see us improve the gallery’s frontage, and so working with her we are going to try to make it a little more welcoming to the public.
Photo courtesy of the organiser/s
For more information, please click here.