Chinatown Community Think Tank (CCTT) turns the storefront space of Whippersnapper Gallery into a social space for the Chinese-speaking community in the Chinatown of downtown Toronto. For two months in this summer, Whippersnapper will become the home base of CCTT, where I engage community members in conversations about a wide range of social, political, and cultural issues that have an impact on their perception and definition of art. With my trilingual language skills (Cantonese, Mandarin and English), dialogues will be carried out and utilized as a bridge between the contemporary art community and the Chinese speaking community.
The project started with the simple question of “how is Whippersnapper’s programming accessible for the Chinese-speaking community in Chinatown?” As a Hongkong-Chinese who’s lived in Toronto for less than two years, I find Anglo-centrism in the city and the art world in general problematic. I genuinely wanted to share my creative practice with the Chinese-speaking community, which I feel strongly connected to. The first time I worked at Whippersnapper Gallery was at Nuit Blanche 2012 where I curated Didier Morelli’s project Walking Through Walls. I was going to invite the Chinese-speaking woman who works at the print shop on Spadina Road to come see the project, but very quickly realized how inaccessible the project could be because of the language barrier and the cultural differences. Since then, I continued to reflect on the incident and the issues that come along, and eventually started a conversation with Maggie Flynn, the director of Whippersnapper, about the potential of engaging this community in an open and accessible way.
CCTT attempts to break through language barrier and art elitism, taking direct actions to engage the Chinese-speaking community in conversations, collectively envisioning the role of art in the neighborhood and among this community. We will touch on themes of home, migration, race, family, language barrier, and survival. These topics serve as an entry point to open up discussions about the role of art as it relates to everyday life in this community.
My projects address issues of racism, Anglo-centrism and exploitation of labor. Besides inviting passers-by into the gallery, there will also be a series of outreach activities, including visiting the businesses in Chinatown and facilitating physical “chat rooms” in public spaces.
The set up of CCTT will evolve throughout the months. Notes and visuals will serve as evidence of the interactions. Materials produced will be collected into a set of publications that document the process of the project, mapping out a network of thoughts generated by individuals in the community, and serve as a platform for experimentation of insights gained from this political yet personal endeavor.
In March 2013, I conducted a self-directed residency – “Coming Out for Dummies – Chinese Family Edition” – within the context of Whippersnapper’s Discussion Den Series. As I came out as queer in the semi-public space of the Gallery, I sought advice from Chinese speaking folks on coming out to my parents back home. The project familiarized myself with the traffic of the gallery, and vice versa, allowing me to engage the community in a much deeper level.
Residency: 4 June 2013 to 27 July 2013
Public Viewing: 28 July 2013 (Sunday), 3pm-6pm
Whippersnapper Gallery, 594b Dundas Street West, Toronto