Vancouver International Centre for Contemporary Asian Art


November 17th, 2021

In Conversation: stories and myths we tell ourselves about ourselves and others.

A conversation between artist Lucie Chan and Centre A’s Curatorial Assistant Intern Alexandra Tsay.

Art is a mythology of our currents––some art, some currents. Myth is a traditional story of allegedly historical events that serves to unfold part of the worldview of people or explain a practice, belief, or natural phenomenon. In the past, people used myths to make meaning out of the mysteries of the world they lived in, or to explain the world to themselves through the stories of gods and supernatural creatures. The world has transformed, changed, and happened to be a less enigmatic place, but contemporary artists use art to remind us there are still mysteries in the world we live in. Human beings are one of them. I believe the narrative of art as the mythology or the body of alternative knowledge that unfolds, explains, examines, and questions the current moment is one of the frameworks to look at, experience, and appreciate works of contemporary artists, and Lucie Chan is one of them.

I met with Lucie over Zoom; the pandemic over the past year and a half proves that online conversations can still feel unexpectedly warm as a real encounter (do we know what is real anymore?). Lucie is a Guyana-born Canadian artist and a professor at Emily Carr University of Art and Design. She presented an exhibition, To Be Free, Everything You Most Hate and Fear?, at Centre A in January 2020. Lucie creates assemblage-like objects combining various artistic media and materials into both grandiose and fragile installations. We have talked about her artworks and what inspires them, about what it means to see and be seen, and how signifiers of identity both reveal and hide who we are.        

“My art reveals a mass confusion of being a human being.”

Lucie: Sometimes I feel that people want to put me into a specific box or a particular way of thinking about things. My work is often about retelling stories. I have had a long career of interviewing strangers and sometimes people I know. I am interested in these interactions when something is revealed that we don’t necessarily have every day like a sense of connection or intimacy that doesn’t exist or is impossible to happen if you live in a big city because we are humans, and we have boundaries and mutual expectations. 

I am interested in the translation of what happens when I interact with people who do not necessarily have their voices heard in an intimate way. Instead, I have always been interested in what you are not supposed to do. You are not supposed to retell the stories of others, and I have always been interested in that, because I think there is something about oral histories and carrying someone else’s narrative in order to try to create some really deep work that embodies these stories. I really treat time together as beyond research, as process. I am thinking of how without art I would never have this and without that person I would have a harder time to change as an artist. 

Alexandra: How do you meet those people? How do you choose them?

L: It starts with choosing the interviewees. I am very introverted and shy; for months and months, I can just observe people in the library or at my community gym that I think look interesting. I do the exact thing that I hate people doing to me: people think she looks interesting, she looks ethnic or looks like she is from somewhere else. I reversed the role. I am trying not to ask friends for conversations, instead, I am trying to ask people who don’t know me — that way, we don’t owe each other anything, we are strangers, or in artistic residencies I invite people, and we don’t know much about each other, but we just sit and talk, and for me, as a shy person it’s amazing that people sign up to do that. 

A: What are your conversations about? Do you have a prepared set of questions or is it a spontaneous dialogue? 

L: Sometimes I have prepared questions that I don’t quite know the meaning of. For example, once the question was: teach me a cultural lesson. I was in Canada at the time, the people I interviewed were all from different backgrounds. We immediately laughed together, and they opened up and told me things I have never heard of.  

When I was in Halifax, no one would believe that I have the last name “Chan” and that I could possibly be half Chinese. But then I said: “Teach me or make me more Asian”, and we didn’t even know what that was. There were Chinese, Korean, Japanese people, immigrants and Chinese-born Canadians, and we were just talking about how or if Asian culture could include this: when we just go to the yard and lay on our backs and scream and be really inappropriate and have an hour of that a day. Could it be Asian? What does it mean to be Asian? Those questions were a bit traumatizing for me, because people could look at my skin or grab my hand and ask what part of China I was from, what my Chinese name was. 

I realized that people I was speaking to were taking risks by exposing something about themselves, too. They were telling me that, “We are not interested in this, because we are not just Chinese or Japanese or Canadians, we are so much more.” I am interested in that, and ways in which we can arrive somewhere else. We are all immigrants in Canada, no one is similar to another person. I am more interested in those nuances and surprises that are not always on the surface or great; it’s awkward. I think it’s important to sit through that too. I think it is a part of problem-solving through art.

A: How do you translate those stories and encounters into artistic practice? 

L: Writing is a huge part of my process; I sit and write, and have a very condensed narrative. For a long time, I would ask different people to read these narratives, and because of their accents, or because they went through something similar, they all sound different. It is actually very beautiful, as we read these stories out loud to a young person, and they imagine something. I create installations with different images, sculptural elements, photographs, and audiovisual elements as well. I am trying to combine different artistic elements to reveal the complexity of being human. The translation always shows multiple aesthetics and connections and fused relationships between aesthetics — sound, video, image and that is the way of showing how layered and complex people are. My art is about the mass confusion of being a human being.  

When I ask people to teach me a cultural lesson, we can meet several times and talk, and when the project is done, I spend more time sitting and talking to them further. I think it is a cultural lesson to talk to a person about not simply about where they were born, or if their parents were first-generation immigrants. It is obvious to us, but not everyone sees and understands that cultural identity is not actually the core side of people. 

A: Do you think that, for an immigrant or an immigrant artist, it is possible to be seen out of that cultural box? You are seen as a part of your bigger identity whatever it is, whatever people have in mind and then if you want to jump out of that box it can be very difficult.       

L: I immigrated here at a young age, I always looked at my parents and thought about how difficult it must be in your early 30s, to leave your home country, have two kids, leave behind almost all of your belongings and move to a new country. It is difficult even at a young age. If you are an immigrant, it is difficult to be seen outside of your box, or what people think you are bringing with you, or what you embody. I really think it is one of the most essential human experiences, especially in Canada. I moved here in the year of the Multiculturalism Act, so suddenly, that was on my mind from a very young age. Now I see that people of different ages, have never been seen or are seen through very specific frames. I think it is my responsibility as an early immigrant to say that it is essential for Canadians and immigrants who arrive here to have a choice of what they can be and what their life could be. 

A: Can art help with breaking those frames of seeing each other and opening new ones? 

L: I am a teacher, so I bring in artists who represent some of the students who don’t usually get to be represented, and they come to me and say: “I didn’t know you can be from the Philippines and make art about the Philippines” or “I didn’t know you can be from Salvador and make art about your country.” For me, it’s a heartbreaking and important moment to realize how essential it is that we are not stuck in a bubble and let people create whatever they feel needs to be created.           

I truly feel it’s one of the most critical things and I thrive not only as an artist but as a teacher — I tell my students to not only look at artists who are taught within the canon, but also look at the amazing things that people have been doing for ages before Canadians have been doing this. 

A: Why is drawing important for your practice? Was it somehow connected with stories? Is there any connection between stories and drawing? 

L: It started as a very practical thing, I was at the art school and I liked animation, sculptures, and drawing. I liked the idea of drawing because I wasn’t rich. I actually didn’t have much money, and I was afraid when I left art school I wouldn’t be able to be an artist because I didn’t have any equipment. I just said to myself that I didn’t want to go out into the world after that special time in art school and not have access to those things and not be able to make things. Drawing was something that people usually do before they move to the next thing and people usually say to me: I have all those beautiful papers from when I used to draw, but now I am making sculptures. All these drawing materials came to me freely, and I didn’t buy any supplies for about five years after graduating from school. People were giving them to me.

Now I think there is something very powerful in drawing, it allows you to be very humble in response to materials in a way that what you did when you were very young. When I started drawing I didn’t have a plan, I had ideas, but it is not like a recipe, it is more like a slow process that doesn’t connect with the outside world. It is like a meditation and I like to start as an exploration of what a drawing can be instead of drawing as masters did. 

A: Did you draw from a young age?

L: I have been drawing since I was young. When I was bored and I wanted to go outdoors to play, my father made me write or draw, maybe related to his own visual and writing practices, but also to keep an eye on me. 

A: You somehow also combine storytelling, voices and sound, 

L: Yeah, my father didn’t go to art school but was always creating and being inventive in all aspects of his life, and I didn’t know that being an artist is something you can do seriously. My surroundings had an impact on all of my senses. Maybe indirectly, even though our works look very different, I am affected by stories, voice, sound. Thank you for making this connection for me.

Pacific Crossings: Let Individuals Represent Individuals – Carol Yinghua Lu and Liu Ding

June 9th, 2020

Borrowing a term from both navigation and research methods in social science that employ multiple points of view, Triangulations by Pacific Crossings offers three online propositions with artists and curators in Hong Kong, Beijing and Manila, encompassing shared concerns germane to the pandemic and locational contexts. Produced as part of Pacific Crossings in partnership with Centre A: Vancouver International Centre for Contemporary Asian Art, Nanaimo Art Gallery, and Richmond Art Gallery, Triangulations is a coordinated effort to bring forward distinct perspectives from different regions through digital means to support empathy and to cultivate shared understandings about what the future may hold for the arts sector and for the public.

PART II: Let Individuals Represent Individuals

A talk with Carol Yinghua Lu and Liu Ding

Organized by Henry Heng Lu

Interpreted by Yun-Jou Chang

Response by Su-Ying Lee

Thursday, June 18, 2020, 7 PM PST (Vancouver local time)

Register HERE.

Through Beijing-based Carol Yinghua Lu and Liu Ding’s own daily conversations and their contributions to “Letters Against Separation” on e-flux conversations (, they have had a chance to reflect on the impacts of COVID-19, not just on the everyday life in a practical way but on their conception of the existing orders of organization that condition our lives. They have observed a general overdependence and almost blind trust on larger structures, systems and framework of thinking as well as a universal abstraction of individual positions, conditions and subjectivities. The rhetoric around COVID-19 has pivoted on politics and its problematic, yet they argue that politics can only represent and emulate an abstract form of the society consisting of countless individuals, but not actual individuals.

The talk will be followed up by a written response by Toronto-based curator Su-Ying Lee, which will be published by Pacific Crossings at a later date.


Liu Ding is a Beijing-based artist and curator. He has participated in international biennials and triennials such as Istanbul Biennial (2015), Asia Pacific Triennial (2015), Shanghai Biennale (2014), Prospect.3 New Orleans (2014), Taipei Biennial (2012), the Venice Biennale (2009), Seoul Mediacity Biennale (2008), and Guangzhou Triennial (2005). His works have been presented in many art institutions and museums across the world.

Carol Yinghua Lu is an art critic and curator. She is a Ph.D. candidate in art history at the University of Melbourne and director of Beijing Inside-out Art Museum. She is a contributing editor at Frieze and is on the advisory board of The Exhibitionist.

As a curatorial team, Liu Ding and Carol Yinghua Lu have curated Liberation (2010); Little Movements: Self-practice in Contemporary Art I\II\III (2011, 2013, 2015); The 7th Shenzhen Sculpture Biennale (Accidental Message: Art is Not a System, Not a World) (2012), From the Issue of Art to the Issue of Position: Echoes of Socialist Realism (2014), New Measurement and Qian Weikang: Two Case Studies in Early Chinese Conceptual Art (2015), Salon Salon: Fine Art Practices from 1972 to 1982 in Profile—A Beijing Perspective (2015) and Factories, Machines, and the Poet’s Words: Echoes of the Realities in Art (2019). Their ongoing practice of exhibition and publication making establishes organic connections between history and the contemporary, investigates and narrates historical realities from multiple perspectives. They intend to generate narratives of the subjectivity in Chinese art from a diversity of entry points, related closely to the intellectual tradition in China.

For information about PART I and PART III, please visit

Sinofuturism (1839–2046 AD): Screening & Talk with Lawrence Lek

May 26th, 2020

Lawrence Lek, Sinofuturism (1839–2046 AD) (still), 2016. Courtesy of the artist.


Sinofuturism (1839–2046 AD)
Screening & Artist Talk with Lawrence Lek
Saturday, June 6, 2020, 3 PM PST / 6 PM EST

Artist/Curator talk immediately after screening facilitated by VAC Curator Matthew Kyba and Centre A Curator Henry Heng Lu.

Screening is 1 hour, starting at 3 PM PST / 6 PM EST
Artist talk at 4:15 PM PST / 7:15 PM EST
Online via Zoom, sign up HERE.

Centre A and The Visual Arts Centre of Clarington are pleased to present Lawrence Lek’s Sinofuturism (1839–2046 AD) (2016), an experimental video essay on a future seemingly (re-)positioned by China’s technological development through science fiction, documentary melodrama, social realism, and Chinese cosmologies, un-mirroring cultural clichés. Lek’s video reconciles our latent fears of technology-dominated futures with a human-oriented sociological view. Lek presents an overarching report on contemporary Chinese realities as it relates to Asiatic stereotypes, including computing, copying, gaming, studying, addiction, labour, and gambling. The work weaves in disarming commentary about the embedded and overarching digital domination of our current 21st century, blurring the boundaries between science fiction and fact. There will be an artist and curator talk immediately after the conclusion of the film.


Lawrence Lek is an artist, filmmaker, and musician who unifies diverse practices—architecture, gaming, video, and fiction—into a continuously expanding cinematic universe. His works include the feature-length CGI film ‘AIDOL’ (2019), the video game ‘Unreal Estate: The Royal Academy is Yours’ (2015), the video essay ‘Sinofuturism (1839-2046 AD)’ (2016), the AI-coming-of-age story ‘Geomancer’ (2017), and ‘Nøtel’, a simulation of a fully-automated luxury hotel in collaboration with Kode9 (ICA, London; Art Basel). As a musician, Lek composes soundtracks and conducts live audio-visual mixes of his works, often incorporating live playthroughs of his open-world games. His most recent release is Temple OST, the soundtrack to a site-specific installation at 180 The Strand, London (The Vinyl Factory 2020). 


Pacific Crossings: Revisiting A Journal of the Plague Year on the Eastern Pacific Coast – Cosmin Costinas and Inti Guerrero

May 26th, 2020

Lygia Pape, Divisor (1968 – 2013), photograph and façade print of a street performance, performed in Central, Hong Kong, 2013. Courtesy of the artist.


Borrowing a term from both navigation and research methods in social science that employ multiple points of view, Triangulations by Pacific Crossings offers three online propositions with artists and curators in Hong Kong, Beijing and Manila, encompassing shared concerns germane to the pandemic and locational contexts. Produced as part of Pacific Crossings in partnership with Centre A: Vancouver International Centre for Contemporary Asian Art, Nanaimo Art Gallery, and Richmond Art Gallery, Triangulations is a coordinated effort to bring forward distinct perspectives from different regions through digital means to support empathy and to cultivate shared understandings about what the future may hold for the arts sector and for the public.

PART I: Revisiting A Journal of the Plague Year on the Eastern Pacific Coast

A talk with Cosmin Costinas and Inti Guerrero

Organized by Jesse Birch

Response by Charlotte Zhang

Wednesday, May 27, 2020, 7 PM PST (Vancouver local time)

Register HERE.

The exhibition, A Journal of the Plague Year, originally responded to disparate narratives of 2003 in Hong Kong—the SARS epidemic, the first arrivals of mainland Chinese on individual tourist visas, and the beginning of the democracy movement, as well as the death of pop culture figure and pan-Asian icon Leslie Cheung, the exhibition traced the fears of disease and fears of other people, both colonial and recent, and the political and pop-cultural watersheds that have shaped Hong Kong identity in the years since. These themes have come back with renewed strength in the recent months of the COVID-19 crisis, with a similar profile of fear grappling our collective imagination. For this special Pacific Coast presentation, curators Cosmin Costinas and Inti Guerrero will focus on the 2015 version of A Journal of the Plague Year held at Kadist Art Foundation in San Francisco. As noted in the press release for San Francisco version of the exhibition: 

California and San Francisco were deeply affected by the Western world’s anti-Chinese immigration prejudices, through the history of Chinese immigration in relation to the Gold Rush, the 19th-century railway construction in the Western United States, and the subsequent Chinese Exclusion Act. These events make this exhibition highly relevant in a context that has not entirely moved beyond the stereotypes of its past centuries, even as it finds itself ever more deeply entangled in an emerging Asia-Pacific geopolitics of power. 

While held in the United States, the questions raised in the exhibition are also highly relevant to the parallel histories of immigration, exclusion, and heightened xenophobia on Canada’s West Coast, as exemplified by recent acts of violence and intimidation perpetrated against members of the Chinese Canadian community in B.C.

The talk will be followed up by a written response by Nanaimo-raised and Los Angeles-based artist Charlotte Zhang, which will be published by Pacific Crossings at a later date. 


Inti Guerrero (b. 1983, Colombia) is The Estrellita B. Brodsky Adjunct Curator of Latin American Art at Tate, London since 2016, and Artistic Director of Bellas Artes Projects, Manila since 2018. He was Chief Curator of the 38th EVA International – Ireland’s Biennial, Limerick (2018), Guest Curator of Dakar Biennale 2018 – La Biennale de l’Art africain contemporain-DAK’ART, Dakar (2018), and Artistic Director of TEOR/éTica, San Jose (2011-2014).

Cosmin Costinas (b. 1982, Romania) is the Executive Director/Curator of Para Site, Hong Kong since 2011, and Artistic Director of Kathmandu Triennale 2020. He was a Guest Curator of Dakar Biennale 2018 – La Biennale de l’Art africain contemporain-DAK’ART, Dakar (2018), Guest Curator at the Dhaka Art Summit ’18 (2018); Co-curator of the 10th Shanghai Biennale (2014), Curator of BAK-basis voor actuele kunst, Utrecht (2008-2011), Co-curator of the 1st Ural Industrial Biennial, Ekaterinburg (2010), and Editor of documenta 12 Magazines, documenta 12, Kassel (2005–2007). He co-authored the novel Philip (2007) and has edited and contributed his writing to numerous books, magazines, and exhibition catalogues and has taught and lectured at different universities, art academies, and institutions across the world.

For information about PART II and PART III, please visit

Centre A Listens: The Sounds in the Diasporas

May 6th, 2020

Music plays an influential role in how we express ourselves and shape our identities. From adolescence to adulthood, our memories can be linked to the sounds that chronicle our lives.

Tune in with the Curatorial Team at Centre A as we explore diverse tracks, melodies, performances, and everything in-between. The “Centre A Listens” playlist encompasses memorable hits and visual art influences that have inspired generations and evoked cultural memories of the Asian Diasporas. From Avant-garde Japanese techno to Mandarin pop to Tamil hip-hop, we would also like to celebrate the works of music and moving image makers who have influenced us from the Asian Diasporas.

Additionally, through sharing sound and performance works by past exhibiting artists here at Centre A that have inspired our programming, we look forward to growing this library and yours too.

The list will be updated weekly or bi-weekly.

Facilitated by Hana Amani.

What are we listening to at Centre A?

1. Mohammed Rafi, Khoya Khoya Chand (1960)

Listen HERE.

With a career spanning nearly four decades, Mohammed Rafi is one of India’s most influential musicians. Ranging from timeless Bollywood tracks to Qawwali music (a traditional form of Islamic Sufi music), to classical religious and devotional Indian music, Rafi was revered for his wide range of vocals and vocal versatility within the Indian music industry. He could also sing in multiple languages such as English, Farsi, Arabic, Sinhala, Creole, and Dutch. In 1960 the film Kala Bazar was released featuring Rafi’s song Khoya Khoya Chand, a hit single that remains a music staple among many avid listeners of Bollywood music.

2. Raja Kumari, Bindis and Bangles (2020)

Listen HERE.

Raja Kumari is an Indian American rapper, songwriter, and singer from Claremont, California. Influenced by genres such as dance, west coast hip-hop, and rap, Kumari creates diverse and culturally hybrid tracks. Through her music, Kumari wishes to make Indian music and culture more accessible to western audiences and members of the Indian diaspora, particularly the younger generations. Kumari is also an enthusiastic Bollywood fan as seen in the artistic direction and approach of many of her music videos. From an early age, Kumari was trained in classical Indian dance and continues to incorporate these techniques into her performances and choreography. Her hit Bindis and Bangles, for instance, is a song that reflects on being rooted in tradition while looking forward to the future.

3. Cartel Madras, Goonda Gold (2019)

Listen HERE.

Embodying Tamil hip-hop, feminism, and reflections on diaspora, Cartel Madras is a Canadian sister duo made up of Chennai-born Eboshi and Contra. Self-identifying as queer, the two sisters strive to break the patriarchy and inspire women of colour to fight for their voices and agencies through both their music and activism. In their songs, they tackle themes of identity, diaspora, and sexuality and continuously advocate for the rights and freedoms of minority voices. They are known for their mesmerizing and fierce live performances. They recently released their latest EP “Age of the Goonda,” which features the single Goonda Gold, a song dedicated to empowering audiences within the queer and POC communities.

4. Sean Paul, I’m Still in Love with You (2002)

Listen HERE.

Recognized as one of the most influential pioneers of Jamaican dancehall music, Sean Paul continues to inspire and influence many listeners in the diasporas today. However, not many know that Sean Paul is not only of Jamaican descent but is also of Chinese descent on his mother’s side. With a career spanning over twenty-five years, Sean Paul has changed and innovated the genres of dancehall, reggae, hip-hop, R&B, and dance-pop. In 2002, he released his hit single I’m Still in Love with You featuring vocals by the singer Sasha. The song reached the top ten in multiple countries throughout Europe.

5. China Black, Searching (1992)

Listen HERE.

China Black was a British pop-reggae duo active during the early 1990s, consisting of songwriter, record producer, and musician Simon Fung and singer-songwriter Errol Reid. They became known for their mixing of gospel, dance, pop, and reggae beats. China Black celebrates the evolving sounds of traditional gospel choir in contrast to popular dance beats and rhythms of the time. The name China Black is a play of the band member’s heritage: Simon Fung is British Chinese and Errol Reid is of Jamaican heritage. In 1992 they released Searching which stayed number one on the reggae chart in the U.K. for consecutive twelve weeks and re-released the single in 1994 which also rounded up a successful performance in the charts. Searching continues to be a cult dance classic to many of the Asian and African diasporas residing in both North America and Europe today.

6. Lee Michelle, Without you (2014)

Listen HERE.

In 2011, the world was introduced to Lee Michelle, a South Korean singer born to a Korean mother and African American father, who auditioned in the first season of the South Korean reality TV competition series “K-pop Star.” Lee is recognized for her powerful voice and wide range of vocals. Throughout high school, Lee Michelle faced much racism and discrimination from her school mates due to her biracial identity. She depicts this experience of being bullied as a child in her hit single Without you from 2014. The video of this song features a young girl who plays the biographical role of Lee, who encounters racially discriminatory slurs and graffiti as well as attempts to whiten her skin in one of the scenes. Lee Michelle challenges the notion of beauty in the K-pop industry whose beauty standards are often non-inclusive and are otherwise quite commonly linked with plastic surgery and western standards of beauty.

7. Jero, Umiyuki (2008)

Listen HERE.

Jero is an American Enka singer of African and Japanese descent. Enka is a popular Japanese music genre that stylistically resembles traditional Japanese music. It was transformed, however, during the postwar years into a form of sentimental ballad music, considered as Modern Enka. Influenced by the Enka records of his grandmother (originally from Yokohama) Jero developed an interest in Enka and eventually moved to Japan and took part in various singing competitions. He is the first Japanese-Black singer to perform Enka in Japanese music history and has contributed to the local Tokyo and Shibuya music scenes through his combining of R&B, hip-hop, and Enka. Umiyuki, released in 2008 and reminiscent of the 1990s hip-hop and Enka, is Jero’s first single and remains a unique and beloved track in the Afro-Asian diaspora. Jero was awarded Best New Artist at the 50th Japan Record Awards in 2008.

8. Jhené Aiko, Eternal Sunshine (2014)

Listen HERE.

Jhené Aiko is an American singer and songwriter of African, Asian, Latin and European descent. Incorporating genres of psychedelic R&B, soul, and elements of electronica, Aiko composed the album “Souled Out” in 2014 which explores the story of a woman going through the cycle of heartbreak, confusion and depression before growing and gaining enlightenment from the experience. The single Eternal Sunshine from this album navigates sentimental and nostalgic moments in Aiko’s life leading up to a tragic death in her family. From using melodies of soul music to the sounds of crystals Aiko composes ambient and soothing tracks that she intends to help listeners feel a sense of healing. Aiko is seen as a pioneer as a voice of women of Afro-Asian descent in R&B.

9. Toro y Moi, Girl Like You (2017)

Listen HERE.

Toro y Moi is an American singer, songwriter, and record producer of mixed heritage, whose mother is Filipino, and father is of African descent. He is known for his influences over Chillwave, a music genre that emerged in the early 2000s and continues to attract avid audiences across the internet. It encompassed a dreamy retro pop sound and its signature escapist lyrics. In 2017, Toro y Moi released the single Girl Like You. Toro y Moi is popular among many of the Asian and African diasporas in North America and continues to push boundaries and experiment with the mixing of music genres, from Psychedelic rock to R&B and funk. Toro y Moi is not only a musician but also a part-time graphic designer, designing most of his album covers. His music also explores the life of being a freelancer and millennial creativity in the internet age. 

10. Nujabes, Who’s Theme (2004)

Listen HERE.

Jun Seba, also known as Nujabes, was a Japanese record producer, DJ, Composer, and arranger who mixed jazz and hip-hop samples to create his signature atmospheric hip-hop tracks. Nujabes is considered one of the pioneering godfathers of early emerging Lo-fi hip hop. One of Njuabe’s most prolific and notable works is the collaborative soundtrack with the anime hit series Samurai Champloo. An adventure Anime that is set in an alternate Edo-era anarchist Japan against the backdrop of a contemporary hip-hop soundtrack, composed by Nujabes. The track Who’s Theme featuring Japanese singer Minami was one of the soundtracks most memorable and beloved by many anime fans of the Asian diasporas. Mixing atmospheric west coast hip-hop samples with Japanese lyrics, Nujabes creates mellow, nostalgic sounds that continue to influence many Lo-fi hip hop artists.

11. Yoko Takahashi, A Cruel Angel’s Thesis (1995)

Listen HERE.

Anime is a phenomenal part of our storytelling and pop culture; what is essential to any anime is the soundtrack, which creates the ambiance and can influence millions of fans across decades. One of the most well-known opening theme songs in anime is the song A Cruel Angel’s Thesis for the series, Neon Genesis Evangelion. Combining a mix of J-pop and funk, A Cruel Angel’s Thesis was one of the first anime songs to be composed of a very philosophical use of lyrics and language. Initially, the song producers intended for the song to follow a formula more similar to classical music. However, the team changed direction while still maintaining the lyrics to better suit the mid-1990’s anime audience. The vocals were sung by Japanese singer Yoko Takahashi. Ever since the release of the song more than twenty years ago, Takahashi has influenced an ever-growing body of fandom from both Japan and the Asian diasporas. Neon Genesis Evangelion cements its status as one of the most iconic anime series with A Cruel Angel’s Thesis being one of the most sung karaoke songs of all time.

12. Kenji Kawai, Making of Cyborg (1995)

Listen HERE.

In the late 1980s Ghost in the shell made its way into pop culture through its manga series and then went on to be a well-celebrated pioneering anime in the genres of cyberpunk and science fiction. Exploring the relations between humans and technology, Ghost in the shell is revolutionary and still stands timelessly relevant thirty years from its initial release. In 1995, Japanese composer Kenji Kawai created the score Making of Cyborg. Kawai mixed classical Japanese choir with a mixture of Bulgarian sounds along with traditional Japanese instruments to create the track. Making of Cyborg has become a cult classic among many members of the Asian diasporas. It is considered one of the few songs that navigate feelings towards and fears of the future while using traditional choir and instruments to reminisce upon sentiments of the past.

13. M.I.A., Jimmy (2007)  

Listen HERE.

Jimmy is a hit single by Sri Lankan British artist M.I.A., of her album “Kala” (2007). Incorporating the cover sample Jimmy Jimmy Jimmy Acha from the 1982 Film Disco Dancer. M.I.A. recalls dancing to the original 1980s track when she was a child at parties and family gatherings. Recreating this 1980s classic hit with a contemporary up-tempo twist M.I.A. arranges a mix of old Bollywood classical song styles with new waves of digital mixing. 

M.I.A.’s music is rooted in the image and identity of the Sri Lankan Tamil Diaspora. She is considered a cultural innovator and continues to influence many women in the Tamil diaspora. Her music often reflects on the Sri Lankan civil war and the politics of Tamil women.

14. Raveena Aurora, Honey (2018) 

Listen HERE.

Raveena Aurora is an Indian American artist and songwriter. Honey (2018) is a soft Jazz and R&B song looking into the intimate and romantic side of an underrepresented south Asian love affair. Usually overdramatized in media and Bollywood, Honey explores these concepts through a tender and contemporary lens. Growing up between Connecticut and Queens, NYC, Aurora blends R&B with classical Indian musical arrangements and sounds. Taking the lead role in directing the music video of Honey Aurora creates scenes capturing traditional Indian Jewelry, Mehendi elements, and vignettes of a couple while blending it with a combination of 1970s aesthetics. Honey, like many of Aurora’s tracks, navigates and explores themes of contemporary love, nostalgia and memories of Aurora’s childhood. Aurora is recognized among many of the Indian diasporic and queer communities for intersecting and challenging narratives of tradition, sexuality, and contemporary identities.

15. Mariya Takeuchi, Plastic Love (1984) 

Listen HERE.

Mariya Takeuchi’s 1984 track Plastic Love went viral during the mid-2010s when it was uploaded to YouTube and popularized with music genres such as Vaporwave (a microgenre of electronic music) and 2010s internet visual culture. It is also a staple classic to Future funk, which samples the late 1970s and early 1980s Japanese City Pop, a subgenre of new wave Japanese music that came about with an emerging economy. Future funk is associated with the 1980s and 1990s anime and consumer culture and new technologies at the time such as the walkman and cassette culture. Plastic Love is considered to have reinvented itself and influenced multiple genres of music over the decades such as Funk, R&B, and Vaporwave. It continues to hold a special place in the hearts of many listeners and recording artists of the Asian Diasporas.

16. Sevdaliza, Human (2016) 

Listen HERE.

Sevdaliza is an Iranian-born, Dutch-based singer and composer. Mixing genres of experimental pop, R&B, and digital avant-garde music manipulation, her music explores themes of power, melancholy, and the sexuality of women. Producing tracks in both English and Farsi, Sevdaliza’s album “ISON” follows the discovery and transformation of identity and how the world synthesizes it. Her hit single Human portrays the politics of women in relation to power structures and themes of lust and desire and how it persists in the modern world we inhabit. Incorporating the visuals of a 19th-century palace and the folklore of the minotaur, Sevdaliza takes us through the sinister nostalgia of fairy tales into the darker and cerebral elements of the contemporary woman. Sevdaliza is an inspiration to many women in the music industry today from her innovation in music to the enigmatic and powerful narratives she creates in her music videos.

17. Towa Tei’s 1994 Album “Future Listening!”

Listen HERE.

Towa Tei is an artist, record producer, and DJ, born in Yokohama Japan, and originally a member of the US pop group Deee-Lite famous for their hit single Groove Is in the Heart. He produced his debut studio album “Future Listening!” in 1994 collaborating with artists like Ryuichi Sakamoto, Joi Cardwell, and many others. In 2007, Rolling Stones Japan named “Future Listening!” number 59 on the list of “100 greatest Japanese Rock albums of all time.” Tracks like Luv Connection and Technova reached the top 30 on Billboard’s US Hot Dance Club Play in 1995. Towa Tei’s tunes continue to influence genres such as house, electronica, and Shibuya-kei today.

18. Leehom Wang, Wei Yi (2001)

Listen HERE.

Chinese American artist Leehom Wang is a household name not only in Asia but also in the East Asian diasporas. A graduate of the Berklee College of Music, Wang’s music often embraces Western musical influences and reinvent them with added Chinese characteristics, or the other way around. His award-winning pop single, Wei Yi (meaning the one and only) from his 2001 namesake album is a romantic anthem for lovers who are not shy away from a bit of PDA. Known as a versatile talent, Wang performed the piano and violin parts of the song himself.

19. Sandy Lam, Suffer for you (1995) 

Listen HERE.

As one of the best-known Mandarin and Cantonese superstars, Hong Kong-born Sandy Lam is recognized for her decade-spanning discography of urban ballads, love songs and, more recently, experimental and electronic, R&B-inspired musical styles. Suffer for you by Lam was released as part of her 1995 album, “Love, Sandy.” Her fourth Mandarin pop album, “Love, Sandy,” was a powerful collaboration between Lam and Taiwanese music producer Jonathan Lee; it sold over 3 million copies across the Sinosphere, and it helped solidify Lam’s pop icon stature. Suffer for you, as the leading single of the ballad-filled composition, has subsequently become a smash hit and classic within the Chinese diasporas, often covered in karaoke lounges and performed in overseas Chinese concerts. The slow-paced melody depicts one’s longing for a past love that has been a lost cause. 

20. Panjabi MC, Mundian To Bach Ke (1997)

Listen HERE.

Released in 1997, Mundian To Bach Ke, also known as Beware of the Boys, became a bestselling hit in the British club scene, during the late 1990s and well into the early 2000s. Mixing hip-hop with classical Bhangra, Panjabi MC (Rajinder Singh Rai) is a British recording artist, rapper, and producer of Punjabi descent. Fusing these two genres, Panjabi MC’s tracks reflect on the hybridity of British Punjabi culture. It was re-released in 2002 featuring Jay-Z, selling an outstanding 10 million copies worldwide, making it one of the best selling singles of all time. Panjabi MC’s innovation and fusing of genres are still influential today, from the mixing of classical Indian instruments and electronica to hip-hop, Panjabi MC’s tracks remain a contemporary classic to many of the Indian diasporas. In 2008 his video Snake Charmer was screened in Toronto at the FILMI festival, North America’s longest-running South Asian film festival.

21. Yellow Magic Orchestra, Rydeen (1979)

Listen HERE.

The 1980s was the beginning of an iconic era of the synthesizer, science fiction, and boom in video game culture. If there were ever a band to immerse these forms of pop culture, it would be Yellow Magic Orchestra. They are recognized as critical innovators to genres like synthpop, J-pop, and techno. Playing off the subculture of Japan’s fascination with black magic during the late 1970’s the name Yellow Magic Orchestra was formed. Combining computer technology and the synthesizer Yellow Magic Orchestra managed to create new sounds that had not occurred in contemporary music till then. The hit track Rydeen, from their 1979 album “Solid State Survivor”, to this day continues to influence video game composers and was even sampled in the soundtracks of several of SEGA’S video games, including Super Locomotive, Rabbit’s Software, and Trooper Truck. The signature element of the song was its use of samples of a running horse. YMO holds a special place in the hearts of many gamers and 1980’s enthusiasts as well as young and old of the Asian diasporas. They were considered the original cyberpunks and continue to influence us today.

In Conversation with Lam Wong

April 16th, 2020



In January 2020, Vancouver-based artist and writer and Centre A’s curatorial apprentice Charisma Christal Thomas sat down with artist Lam Wong at Centre A and spoke about his artistic practice and how it was explored and introduced into his exhibition, the world is as soft as a volcano: a moving composition, at the gallery.

CCT: Hi Lam, I thought we could start this conversation learning a little about your background and how your upbringing, history and past experiences have influenced your art practice as a whole? 

LW: I was born in 1968 in China, in a city called Xiamen. The year I was born was hailed as one of the most critical years for humanity. This is because all things broke loose in 1968. You know, like the man going to the moon, the Civil Rights Movement, riots in Paris, France, the assassination of Kennedy, the hippie movement, just everything. It was an important year in history and I was told that the year 2020, this year is going to be the next critical year for humanity. So that’s what the volcano piece is all about. A lot of things are just brewing and it comes to a sort of climax.

So I was born in Xiamen but my whole family immigrated to Hong Kong when I was a kid, in grade two. It was really hard at that time for any family to get out of China, but we managed somehow. My grandmother was born in Hong Kong and I think my mother was too. Anyway, there was a sort of connection to it. I basically grew up in Hong Kong. I stayed there for the next 10 years until the age of 19, and then came to Canada in 1987 with my two sisters, my mum, and my stepdad. We landed in Edmonton, Alberta in 1987. I went to high school there, my art school there and then moved to Vancouver when I turned 30, so that would be 1998. I’ve been living in North Vancouver with my wife and daughter ever since.

CCT: How do you feel these experiences have influenced your art?

LW: I don’t think that my diaspora and background really influenced my art practice. I mean this exhibition has had the most personal influence because it is about my mother, and in that sense, it is affected by the family and upbringing. But in terms of changing countries and living in different places, not exactly. I am working as a contemporary artist but the layers of meaning in my work are always informed by Eastern philosophy, especially Buddhism and Taoism. I have studied these philosophies most of my life. My work incorporates Western expressions, but the essence and soul of the work are Eastern. That’s something related to my upbringing especially because I studied Chinese first when I was younger. So I know the languages. I am fluent in those areas and am very comfortable with studying Chinese literature, especially Buddhist literature which helps my practice. Besides painting and installations, I also do tea ceremonies as performance. I use tea as a medium so I do a lot of tea-related art.

CCT: How do you explore these ideas of personal experiences and yourself in a show? How do you create? How do you take experiences and make them into art and how do you choose which narratives to portray?

LW: Well, there are a couple of approaches. Like when I have an area of interest, I’ll do research. For instance, the piano painting called CD 318 (Re-Performance); I spent months researching material for the painting and then I heard about the story of reperformance and all that [which I incorporated]. But my new series, the Free Form Biophilia series is just me throw[ing] in all the emotions. So it’s a very intuitive way to do a painting. There wasn’t any planning at all. I was explaining to Henry (Centre A’s Curator), it was kind of my way of attacking the canvas. Basically, I just have to prepare my mind into a certain space that I can paint, that I’m comfortable painting in, and once my mind was in that space, I would just take the canvas and pour myself into it. So it’s pure abstraction. I would also like thinking of them as emotions, and I am a transmitter of those emotions. So I called them “emotions under the microscope” because of what you would see through a microscope, like those kinds of amoebas and organic forms.

CCT: So, when you said that you prepare your mind before you start painting, how do you approach that, is it through meditative processes? 

LW: Oh yeah, the mind has to be present and undistracted by anything. So I have this tea table in the studio where I do a bit of tea meditation. It is where I drink tea to calm down. I also have a meditation practice at home. I have a tea room that I use for tea meditation. I am also driven purely by the desire to paint. Sometimes, you just want to paint so much and in those moments you don’t want to do anything else, you just go to the studio to paint.

CCT: How do you decide which parts of your experiences you want to share with an audience? How do you navigate what you think is personal for you and what can be shared? 

LW: This exhibition at Centre A deals with emotions from the most traumatic experience for me, which is losing my mother 10 years ago. She died quite tragically — falling down the stairs, 10 feet away from me. So there are a lot of heavy emotions and guilt and that is involved in that. It took me a long time. I showed Henry the painting I did of my mom a few weeks before she died. He kind of steered me into this more personal direction for the show. In terms of personal and emotional experiences, they were probably the heaviest in my life and after I lost my mom and got over that, I felt like I could do anything and nothing could be difficult anymore. Therefore it kind of fits into all these new abstraction series that I was doing about emotions.

CCT: Prior to this, did you show the work of your mother or is it something new that is being displayed for the first time? 

LW: I did show it years ago in a show called “21 elements” but it wasn’t really about emotions at that time. It was more about figure paintings. My theme was about painting people in different art spaces. So this [painting of my mom] is called Blind Woman in a Photography Show, that was its context. But this show is much more about my personal struggles and it is a different context.

CCT: And working off that, thinking about working with this very personal subject matter? Is it something that is newer or different to you? 

LW: This is the most personal show to date for me.

CCT: Were there difficulties that arose from that or was it something that you felt was a reflection of your work and it made sense to deliver this personal subject in this medium?

LW: I think this is a reflection of my work. It is a new approach because my other shows were much more philosophical and dealt with the notion of existence. This one does too but it is also a very direct and personal experience. The lightbox piece, for instance, called Looking at One’s Mortality, is me looking at my own death and the Volcano is a self-portrait of what is going on right now in the world, and the experience with my mother is seen in that painting [Blind Woman in a Photography Show]. So it is a new approach but I wouldn’t say it is more difficult. In a way, it was kind of liberating. I wanted to show that I can dedicate this show to my mother and describe emotions that can hopefully evoke something in the audience. Grief is a universal thing.

CCT: So do you feel that in this show, the art functions as a continuation of yourself or is it a reflection or a resolution of your problems or emotions?

LW: I feel like it is all of that together really. First of all, my art is an extension of myself. There is no question about it. It becomes a part of me and it is almost inseparable in that way. That’s just how I feel. Especially the paintings describing my own emotions. It is how I manifest into tangible artworks. I think it is all that you described.

CCT: For the exhibition itself, does it consist of past works and new works?

LW: I wanted to show the new works but what is most important to me about a show is the theme. In all my shows, I like the idea of all the individual artworks having a conversation with one another. So there are certain relationships and communications that inform each other. You then don’t see them individually, but rather as a part of something of a whole. And each one has a very special dialogue between them. These explorations are very important to me. That is my approach. So when I look at selecting the artworks, I will go to my portfolio or my collection and contemplate what should be included in the show and what works with the composition.

CCT: I know a huge part of this exhibition is that it is a “moving composition.” Do you feel that when you rearrange everything each week, it evokes different meanings or is all part of the same narrative from different perspectives, how do you think the viewer will engage with it or rather, how do you intend them to?

LW: The intention was more to do something different. To discover and surprise, was the main intention. We wanted to explore new ways of depicting and conveying meaning. Also, how the space is cut up. Space and shadow are important in my shows. All my elements also care for the shadows created. Also surprises, a lot of outcomes in the show are surprises because it depends on the space, the lighting, etc., which generate different contexts. So the rearrangement of the paintings is like that too. I think we are giving the audience different feelings and surprises.

CCT: So many people have a different dialogue with your work. 

LW: Yeah, and one of the main subjects of my work is perception.

CCT: So now more to the technical side of the work, why do you choose the mediums you work in and how does that inform your art?

LW: Well, I am a painter. Whatever I am doing, painting is always essential to me. It is the heart of my practice. When I was young, I somehow knew I was always a painter. Painting has been around for ages, it is one of the most conventional mediums. So I want to create new ways of presenting paintings. I am more of an experimental painter. So even in this show, we have the painting sculpture in the corner with the feet. I just let it sit on the ground. I also built this staircase to create an emotional painting in reference to my mum and I created this sort of 3D shadow, creating metaphysical cues. I also started doing installations and performances in the last few years, which I quite enjoy! It is a way for me to directly connect with the audience.

CCT: What is the most important thing you want the audience to experience or take away from this show?

LW: My work is very existential and philosophical. One way or another, it is always about life. Whether it is about struggles or realizations, it is always about life. I think with the lightbox piece (Looking at One’s Mortality), it is very important for the audience to be aware of their own emotions and how to use intelligence and logic to understand them. Also to look at their own lives. From birth to death, that is all you get, so I would like them to use the work to contemplate about their own time and how much time we have in life, what is meaningful to them and how they are going to live it.


Charisma Christal Thomas 

Charisma Christal Thomas joined the Centre A team as a curatorial apprentice under the mentorship of Centre A’s Curator, Henry Heng Lu. She is currently a fourth-year student at Emily Carr University of Art + Design where she is pursuing her Bachelor’s of Fine Arts. Thomas’s current work comprises illustration and printmaking, both of which are based in research methodologies and archival practices. With a focus on environmental sustainability rooted in a sense of place, Thomas looks for the intersection between artistic practices from her Malaysian and Indian heritage and the relationship that can be formed with nature. Her past exhibition experience include A Zine Launch Event at Access Gallery as part of Far Afield Collective and “A Clinic Unlike Any Other” a collaborative curatorial exhibition at Emily Carr University.

Online Artist Talk: Pixy Liao

April 10th, 2020

Saturday, April 18, 2020, 1 – 3 PM

Join us for the online artist talk by Brooklyn-based artist Pixy Liao via Zoom on Saturday, April 18, from 1 to 3 PM PST, in conjunction with her current online exhibition at Centre A, Experimental Relationship (for your eyes only, or maybe mine, too)!

In this talk, Pixy Liao will discuss her practice and inspirations, in connection with her exhibition at Centre A, which stems from her ongoing exploration of the dynamic of a romantic relationship. Following the talk, there will be a Q & A session moderated by Henry Heng Lu, Curator at Centre A.

This event is presented in partnership with the David Lam Centre at Simon Fraser University.

Registration is required. Register today at:

Please email us at [email protected] if you require assistance or any further information.

The online exhibition is available for viewing via this link:

Pixy Liao is a multidisciplinary artist based in New York who works with various mediums, including photography, installation, and performance. Liao is known for her staged photography, where she poses with her boyfriend-turned-muse, Moro. Her works challenge traditional gender roles within heterosexual relationships, humorously revealing a multitude of ways of being together. 

She is a recipient of NYFA Fellowship in photography, Santo Foundation Individual Artist Awards, Jimei x Arles International Photo Festival Madame Figaro Women Photographers Award, En Foco’s New Works Fellowship and LensCulture Exposure Awards, to name a few. She has partaken in artist residencies at Light Work, Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, Center for Photography at Woodstock, University of Arts London, School of Visual Arts, Pioneer Works, and Camera Club of New York.

Liao has participated in exhibitions and performances internationally, including the Rencontres d’Arles in Arles (France); Asia Society (Houston); National Gallery of Australia (Sydney); Chambers Fine Art Gallery (New York & Beijing); Blindspot Gallery (Hong Kong); Stieglitz 19 Gallery (Belgium); Open Eye Gallery (Liverpool); the Museum of Sex (New York); UCCA Center for Contemporary Art (Beijing); and He Xiangning Art Museum (China). She holds an MFA in photography from the University of Memphis.

Page image courtesy of the artist and Shen Wei.