Vancouver International Centre for Contemporary Asian Art

To My Unborn Child

To My Unborn Child
Wen-Li Chen

Hosted by the Richmond Art Gallery

Curated by Tyler Russell

September 14 – November 10, 2018

Talk and Tour with Curator Tyler Russell: September 13, 6-7pm
Opening Reception: September 13, 7-9pm

Richmond Art Gallery Hours: Monday to Friday, 10am-6pm
Saturday & Sunday, 10am-5pm

The Richmond Art Gallery is located in the Richmond Cultural Centre at 7700 Minoru Gate, Richmond, BC

This exhibition takes place on the unceded Coast Salish territories of the Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh peoples.

Centre A is excited to present To My Unborn Child, Taiwanese artist Wen-Li Chen’s first exhibition in Canada. The exhibition is hosted by our generous partners the Richmond Art Gallery.

How does one generation speak to the next? How do aspirations, traumas, and traditions cross the membrane from parent to child? What is the nature of knowledge transmission in matrilineal communication?

Wen-Li Chen, whose practice focuses on matrilineal/mother–daughter/grandmother–granddaughter communication, memory, and processes of identity loss and formation, examines these questions in her new work, To My Unborn Child. A dynamic multi-media installation featuring video, light, and book-making, To My Unborn Child struggles to consider what can be held on to and what might be lost in this transmission between generations. What is the texture and form of memory? Beyond mere text and toward the embodied and highly personal, when memory is transferred from mother to child through the womb, what is its form? How is it felt? How is it held? How does the child feel it? Can it passed on? What new shapes accrue?

A woman of Kavalan–Sakizaya descent, Chen is the holder of important and endangered cultural memory. Her grandmother’s practice of secret Kavalan rituals with other Kavalan women late at night, as the anthropologists came to conduct interviews and treated her grandmother as someone very special, gave her a glimpse of a world that she is heir to. But how much does she hold—how much can she hold? How much can be passed on?

The Kavalan, an Indigenous people of Taiwan, have over the last 4+ centuries experienced land loss and cultural assimilation as a result of incursions from Qing invaders, Japanese colonizers, and others. By the end of the 19th century, they were ultimately pushed to live among the Amis, another Indigenous group in Taiwan, able to partially hold on to Kavalan language and some traditions, but being separated from their land. Overlooked during Taiwan’s shift toward multicultural and inclusive policies, the Kavalan only gained official recognition as an Indigenous people in 2002. Perhaps a corollary narrative in British Columbia is Canada’s pushing of the Sinixt or Arrow Lakes First People from their lands over the course of the late 19th and early 20th centuries while state authorities declared them extinct and left them to live among the Confederated Tribes of the Colville, only to finally begin, in recent years and through great struggle, to regain some form of recognition in Canada.

Chen, who is also half Han-Chinese, only learned of herself being Kavalan at the age of 12 and did not begin to acquire some knowledge of Kavalan traditions until the age of 30. She is now living as a global woman, displaced from her lands and now residing in North America, but acting as a holder of her traditions and culture.

To My Unborn Child derives from the artist’s research, sourced from family archives, household objects, conversations with family and friends, official government documents, recent documentation of her village’s infrastructure, newspaper articles, forgotten textbooks, and didactic historical texts. Chen presents her findings as a conversation with her unborn child, using experimental image-making processes that, in her words, imagine “how the child is going to experience life as her mother did, learning something lost and missed in fragments and blurry pieces. When the baby is inside the womb, she can only experience the world through blurry light and sound through the fetal membrane. This resembles the way I have grasped, collected, and gathered fragments of memory and history from personal experience and everyday life in order to understand and learn about what Kavalan means.”

The installation features digital and analog projections that overlap somewhat haphazardly with heat-transferred images on cotton sheets. “The result,” Chen states, “was to project and, in projecting, catch onto the myriad concerns I have about how future generations of Indigenous descendants will cope with the unstoppable changes that make the continuity and perseverance of culture and identity complex.”

To My Unborn Child also collects Chen’s research in a Zu Pu (??), or genealogy book, to be passed on to her unborn child. The Zu Pu, a kind of formal record keeping, is a nod to the Han Chinese side of the artist’s family tree. “Indigenous people don’t keep written records,” she explains. “They pass on knowledge orally, according to a system of loyalty and trust.”

Wen-Li Chen is an artist based in Taiwan and the United States. She holds a Masters of Design in Photography from the Glasgow School of Art and has exhibited her work in Singapore, Taiwan, the United Kingdom, and the United States. She is founder and executive director of FOGSTAND Gallery & Studio (?????), based in Hualien, Taiwan and St. Paul, Minnesota.

Concurrent to this exhibition at RAG, Centre A will be presenting Ho Rui An: Sun, Sweat, Skirt, Fan at its own Chinatown location, at 268 Keefer Street. The exhibition runs from September 7 – 29, 2018.

This exhibition would not have been possible without the efforts and cooperation of the whole Centre A and Richmond Art Gallery teams, in particular Nan Capogna, Matthew Brown, Godfre Leung and Joni Cheung.

Sun, Sweat, Skirt, Fan

Sun, Sweat, Skirt, Fan
Ho Rui An

Curated by Natalie Tan

September 8 – 29, 2018

Opening Reception: September 7, 2018 | 7-10pm
Tropicopolitan Objects (performance lecture): September 14th 2018, 6:30pm

Lead Patrons: Anndraya Luui and Denis Walz

This exhibition takes place on the unceded Coast Salish territories of the Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh peoples.

Centre A is excited to present Sun, Sweat, Skirt, Fan, Singaporean artist Ho Rui An’s first solo exhibition in Canada. The exhibition features two works: Solar: A Meltdown (2014-) and Great Fans (Assortment) (2018). Solar: A Meltdown is a performance lecture that begins in Amsterdam’s Tropenmuseum, at the sweaty back of a wax figure of Dutch anthropologist Charles Le Roux, and from there navigates tropes of sweltering tropical heat and perspiration to examine the relationship between the Empire and the colonial subject. Drawing upon historical and fictional media, Ho looks at the establishment of an imperial global domestic—an all-encompassing, air-conditioned planetary interior—held together by the labour of those at the margins. Departing from the historical, Ho reflects upon an underclass of invisible workers in our current periphery, and the contemporary resonances of how colonial histories remain and inform how the world is structured. Great Fans (Assortment) is a new work that draws upon an inventory of what Ho describes as “tropicopolitan objects”. Centre A invites Ho and his work to Vancouver as a means to facilitate a broader consideration of the historical and ongoing impact of British colonialism on Asian bodies in both global and local contexts.

Sun, Sweat, Skirt, Fan will be accompanied by a performance lecture by the artist at Centre A titled Tropicopolitan Objects on September 14th at 6:30pm. Drawing upon Srinivas Aravamudan’s concept of the tropicopolitan, which reads the colonized subjects living in the tropics as both fleshy bodies in time and space and fictive tropes constructed by the colonial project, this lecture rewrites the history of European colonialism as an inventory of objects: from the instrument of “sun-writing” that is the heliograph to the all-encompassing skirt of a certain Anna Leonowens. RSVP is required, as space is limited.

Ho Rui An is an artist and writer working in the intersections of contemporary art, cinema, performance and theory. He writes, talks and thinks around images, with an interest in investigating their emergence, transmission and disappearance within contexts of globalism and governance. He has presented projects at the Gwangju Biennale (2018), Yinchuan Biennale (2018), Jakarta Biennale (2017), Sharjah Biennial 13 (2017), Kochi-Muziris Biennale (2014), Haus de Kulturen der Welt, Berlin (2017), Jorge B. Vargas Museum and Filipiniana Research Center, Manila (2017), NTU Centre for Contemporary Art Singapore (2017), NUS Museum, Singapore (2016), Para Site, Hong Kong (2015), Hessel Museum of Art and CCS Bard Galleries, Annandale-on-Hudson (2015) and Witte de With, Rotterdam (2014). He is a recipient of the 2018 DAAD Berliner Künstlerprogramm. He lives and works in Singapore and Berlin.

Sun, Sweat, Skirt, Fan takes place in the Byron Aceman & Caron Bernstein New Media Gallery.

Tropicopolitan Objects: a performance lecture by Ho Rui An
September 14, 2018
at Centre A
RSVP is required. Please register here.


Concurrent to this exhibition is an installation entitled Papag in the storefront/reading room by Christian Vistan with a sound work by Yu Su, organized by Shizen Jambor.

Christian Vistan’s installation, Papag, features a custom built papag (daybed) and a sound work by Yu Su in Centre A’s storefront/reading room on the second floor of the Sun Wah Centre. Currently home to part of Centre A’s collection of art books, monographs, catalogues, and artist publications, the storefront and these books are the centre’s primary interface with the public. A wooden bed (originally from the Philippines, but common all throughout parts of Asia) usually made of bamboo and other local materials (in this case bamboo, spruce, pine, fir, and cedar), used to sit, eat, sleep, and gossip on, sits in this threshold.

Emitting from beneath the bed, sampled sounds from a mall, a Canto pop song, and gongs, mallets, and bamboo, momentarily fill the space. Yu Su’s sound work considers the sonic interface the space becomes, as the malls afternoon activities echo within the muffled soundscape of the carpeted storefront/reading room/gallery.

Within the environment of the mall, Papag considers everyday supports and their quotidian use and construction as shared and public spaces that describe multiple uses, as sites for expression as well as for negotiations between occupants.

Activating the Papag as an interstitial space where mall ambience, Canto pop, the sounds of mallets, gongs, and bamboo meet, over the next three weeks, artists and writers to lead a series of casual listening sessions. Keeping with the spirit of the papag as a space for sharing, negotiation, and being together, these sessions are meant to function like a conversation–all listeners are encouraged to bring music, sounds, or recordings to listen to and share.

On Thursday, September 13, 2018 Simon Grefiel and Christian Vistan will lead the listening session playing Kalinga, Music from the Mountain Provinces, Dr Jose Maceda, Budots, and more. Subsequent sessions will be lead by Shizen Jambor on Thursday, September 20th, and Dana Qaddah on Thursday September 27th.

Continuing to explore Papag as a platform for gathering, sitting, reading, listening, and speaking together, the second part of this project will see the papag pull together words, thoughts, and interactions by artists and writers invited to contribute to an upcoming publication, tentatively titled ‘pa-pag-page,’ to be produced and edited by Christian Vistan and Shizen Jambor, set to launch later this fall.


Christian Vistan is a Filipino Canadian artist originally from Bataan, a peninsular province in the Philippines. Currently based out of both Delta and Vancouver, BC, his movement living and working within these port cities informs his work. In transit, he observes his body with its particular set of histories and materials move through a space with its own set of histories and materials: language, water, colonizations, industry, labours, migrations, familial histories. His paintings, texts, and installations, engages with these histories and materials as way to examine his own hybridity and the embodied processes and experience of displacement and diaspora. His work has been shown in Canada, US, and Philippines at Plug In ICA, Winnipeg, GUM in Ladner, BC, Kamias Triennale in Quezon City, Artspeak in Vancouver, mild climate in Nashville, and Atlanta Contemporary Art Center in Atlanta. From 2016 – 2017, he held the position of Curatorial Assistant at Centre A, Vancouver International Centre for Contemporary Asian Art, where he curated and contributed to various projects and exhibition. From 2017-2018, he took part in the Studio for Emerging Writers at Artspeak where he published his chapbook ‘a lot, a lot’.

Coming from a classical piano background of training, Kaifeng-born, Vancouver based Yu Su arrived as a sound artist and composer by corresponding audible elements freely between the cosmological Daoist mandate and the ecological properties of the Pacific Northwest. Tapping into an expansive repertoire of New Age, library music, meditative jazz and house, Yu Su’s emotion-packed compositional punches are best described as organically groovy jazz-bient expeditions between coasts. A proficient instrumentalist who conjures up moments of natural and synthetic beauty, her delicate, dub-inflected signature balances a variety of luminous and wistful downtempo textures. She is responsible for productions on DC’s People’s Potential Unlimited, NYC’s RVNG Intl. & Arcane, and The Hague-based Wichelroede. Presented through various art institutions and galleries, she also delivers intensive studies on acoustic soundscape, cultural exchange, and an ongoing response to the history of ambient music. Recent commissioned projects and installations have included performances at FUSE (Vancouver Art Gallery) and Western Front, Mutek Montreal (Société des Arts Technologiques); fellowship at artist-run-centre 221A; and concert at Contemporary Art Gallery.


Papag was originally commissioned by Vines Art Festival for the 2018 Vines Art Festival.