On April 22, 2018, Paul Wong officially launched his year-long residency 身在唐人街 / OCCUPYING CHINATOWN at the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden. This coincided with the City of Vancouver’s Official Apology to the Chinese Community recognizing historical discrimination against Chinese people in Vancouver.
OCCUPYING CHINATOWN’s exhibition space within the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden was its Scholar’s Study, where traditionally in China, it was the pavilion for the arts: music, theatre, dance, poetry, and calligraphy. The goal of the residency was to activate this space and others within the Garden with contemporary art. The first exhibit in the Scholar’s Study was Wong’s 1988 video, Ordinary Shadows Chinese Shade. This work explores the second-generation Chinese-Canadian perspective on the Chinese in the new world, Canada, and China, and documents one of Wong’s early visits to his ancestral village where he, along with his mother Susan Suk-Fong Wong, recorded the everyday lives of his relatives. In fact, many of these relatives penned the very letters to his mother that inspired this residency. The video screened on continuous loop at the Garden’s Scholar’s Study, and was viewable online from April 22 to June 11.
Wong also launched the OCCUPYING CHINATOWN studio to the public with an open house. The OCCUPYING CHINATOWN studio is located two blocks away from the Garden. The studio was the staging and production workspace for the creation of Wong’s primary works as part of the residency. The open house featured research materials, and works-in-progress inspired by Suk-Fong’s 700 letters, photographs, and ephemera.
This open house featured a past work by filmmaker Karin Lee, Shattered, a 2-channel video installation recreating the 1907 Anti-Asian Chinatown riots that took place on September 7, 1907 in Chinatown and Japantown. Shattered was co-presented with the SUM Gallery, who presented the Chinatown-channel in its gallery next door. The OCCUPYING CHINATOWN studio presented the Japantown-channel in its gallery.
The OCCUPYING CHINATOWN studio and SUM Gallery are apart of a new cultural hub occupying three floors of the Sun Wah Centre. This is the first project of BC Artscape, a non-profit urban development organization. It opened its doors in March, 2018. The Sun Wah Centre was originally built and occupied as a mall, restaurants, a supermarket, and offices. BC Artscape has leased 50 000 square feet and has renovated it into 55 studios, workshop spaces, galleries, and offices for artists, arts organizations, and non-profit and community-service organizations. The project was funded by all three levels of government and the private sector providing long-term affordable rent for its 70 tenants.