June 6, 2020

5° C, Clear

Full Forecast

Help us deliver reliable news during this pandemic.

We are working tirelessly to bring you trusted information about COVID-19. Support our efforts by subscribing today.

No Thanks Subscribe

Already a subscriber?


Advertise With Us


International trade: Chinese/Canadian arts exchange

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 10/4/2013 (2613 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Installation shots of (Da Bao)  (Takeout) and Plug In ICA.


Installation shots of (Da Bao) (Takeout) and Plug In ICA.

Cultural exchange between China and the West is complex, reflecting geography, language, economics, global politics, ideology, and, depending how you define "cultural exchange" and "the West," some 2,000 years of history and two billion living people. Too often, this complexity elicits incomplete, unbalanced, or simply inaccurate characterizations of that exchange, but (Da bao)(Takeout), which opened at Plug In ICA last weekend, avoids these pitfalls by adopting a broad focus and a light touch.

The show's 17 artists include second- and third-generation Chinese-Canadians, Chinese artists who've worked abroad and Canadian artists who've worked in China, and curators Shannon Anderson and Doug Lewis are careful not to yoke the diverse works to overly restrictive themes or narratives.

The resulting exhibition, if perhaps a bit scattered, commendably avoids generalization and preserves the artists' unique perspectives. What patterns do emerge do so organically and, not surprisingly, distance, disconnect and the misunderstandings that result are recurring motifs (Lewis suggests that the exhibition's Chinese title itself might be better read as "leftovers").

In 2006, Beijing-born Han Xu and native Torontonian Sara Angelucci found themselves in one another's respective country of origin on opposite sides of the globe. Capitalizing on their swapped perspectives and the 12-hour time difference, the artists began taking simultaneous photographs twice daily at 9 a.m. and 9 p.m. (and vice versa), which they collect in the series Your Morning Is My Night.

The charming illustrations in South Korean artist Minjeong Oh's series of paintings and video animation, On the Resonance Port, document sights and scenarios she found unfamiliar and distinctly "Chinese" while visiting Beijing -- a potentially useful reminder of Asian cultural diversity for some. Elsewhere, Gang Chen's sensitive paintings of airport X-ray scans and Laurens Tan's sculptures of Beijing's unlicensed three-wheeled taxis each refer to the constant movement that characterizes rapidly globalizing societies.

Several artists tackle divisive issues particular to China. Shen Yi Elsie's portraits of the country's often-exploited migrant labourers are both dignified and fanciful, but others take a more confrontational approach. In Nan Hao's photograph Song Type Study One, the artist and his brother stand in front of a Starbucks in Beijing's historic Forbidden City holding a banner reading "F your mother" in local slang. A juvenile stunt to North American eyes, maybe, but the characters and style of script create added ambiguities for Chinese readers, and it's important to remember that, in China, unsanctioned protest of any kind chances serious reprisal. (In some ways, the piece was as dangerous to execute as Chi #3, a nerve-wracking video of the artist performing tai chi in the middle of a busy street).

Other works are less easily categorized (take the mushroom farm heated by an upside-down laptop -- you're on your own with that one). Vancouver artist Laiwan's 10-second video loop, Movement for Two Grannies, which shows the women standing on the surface of a shimmering body of water as they hold one another for support, is unexpectedly disarming. The decision to project video of Winnipeg dancer and artist Ming Hon's aggressively sensual (also, scary) Cleaver into a highly polished wok was ingenious -- intense flashes of reflected light sharply punctuate the already-gripping performance.

Taken collectively, the works in (Da bao)(Takeout) provide a engaging and nuanced look at the results, too often overlooked, of continuous, reciprocal and highly varied exchanges between cultures. The exhibition runs through June 2.


Steven Leyden Cochrane is a Winnipeg-based artist, writer and educator.


Advertise With Us

Your support has enabled us to provide free access to stories about COVID-19 because we believe everyone deserves trusted and critical information during the pandemic.

Our readership has contributed additional funding to give Free Press online subscriptions to those that can’t afford one in these extraordinary times — giving new readers the opportunity to see beyond the headlines and connect with other stories about their community.

To those who have made donations, thank you.

To those able to give and share our journalism with others, please Pay it Forward.

The Free Press has shared COVID-19 stories free of charge because we believe everyone deserves access to trusted and critical information during the pandemic.

While we stand by this decision, it has undoubtedly affected our bottom line.

After nearly 150 years of reporting on our city, we don’t want to stop any time soon. With your support, we’ll be able to forge ahead with our journalistic mission.

If you believe in an independent, transparent, and democratic press, please consider subscribing today.

We understand that some readers cannot afford a subscription during these difficult times and invite them to apply for a free digital subscription through our Pay it Forward program.


Updated on Thursday, April 11, 2013 at 10:10 AM CDT: adds fact box

The Free Press would like to thank our readers for their patience while comments were not available on our site. We're continuing to work with our commenting software provider on issues with the platform. In the meantime, if you're not able to see comments after logging in to our site, please try refreshing the page.

You can comment on most stories on The Winnipeg Free Press website. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or digital subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

Have Your Say

Comments are open to The Winnipeg Free Press print or digital subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to The Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

By submitting your comment, you agree to abide by our Community Standards and Moderation Policy. These guidelines were revised effective February 27, 2019. Have a question about our comment forum? Check our frequently asked questions.


Advertise With Us