Each week, What's Online features a curated selection of Koffler.Digital artist projects and publications, Koffler Gallery exhibitions and online gallery publications, features on recent community-engaged programs, as well as podcasts of past Books & Ideas events, talks and discussions.

Dear Koffler Friends,

No virtual alternatives can replace the experience of a work of art in person. Unless it was conceived for digital dissemination from the start, a work’s presence and impact on the viewer can’t be duplicated online. That direct encounter, with artworks as with people, is one of the things some of us deeply miss during this time of confinement, and something to look forward to in better days to come.
Meanwhile, listening to artists talk about their process and reading what critical thinkers elaborate about their work is a great way to feel closer to art and to deepen our understanding of the human drive to create and engage the world around us through artistic forms of expression. Amidst the current stressful and confusing online clamour, we try to offer you moments of reflection through slowly paced explorations of weekly subjects, whether newly developed or derived from our archives. This week, we invite you to delve once more into the hidden histories explored by Montreal artist Karen Tam in her recent exhibition, the chrysanthemum has opened twelve times.
Begin with the illuminating conversation between Vancouver curator Catherine Clement, author of Chinatown Through a Wide Lens: The Hidden Photographs of Yucho Chow, and York University Associate Professor Lily Cho, who discuss the little-known work of one of Canada’s first and most prolific Chinese photographers, Yucho Chow. The encounter with Clement’s significant research provided Karen Tam, in part, the impetus for creating her new immersive series of installations that evoke early Chinese Canadian photo studios. In a conversation with Toronto artist Shellie Zhang, Tam offers further insight into the research and intentions that drove this new body of work in which she brings to life scholarly investigations and sheds light on long-absented historic narratives.
As the last instalment of this week’s exploration, you can peruse the exhibition’s accompanying digital publication and read artist/curator Henry Heng Lu’s thoughtful essay, which expands some of the critical considerations comprised in Tam’s work. As he notes, “the exhibition captures moments of the Chinese diaspora’s migration history and functions as an unofficial archive.”
Early Chinese Canadian studio photographers and their subjects actively shaped the representation of Chinese identity in North America, contributing to the complex and vibrant fabric of our culture. While racist and xenophobic reactions against Asian diasporic communities are stirred up again in the context of the current pandemic, Tam’s powerful gesture of remembering and retelling of Chinese Canadians’ persistence in the face of hostility and hardship compels us to consider their invaluable and indelible impact on the richness of our shared contemporary life.

Be well, take care and stay connected.

Mona Filip
Director/Curator, Koffler Gallery
Koffler family FoundationCIBC Wood GundyOntario Arts Council | Conseil Des Arts De L'OntarioToronto Arts Council | Funded by the City of TorontoCanada Council