Ordinary Shadows, Chinese Shade
Paul Wong, 1988
89 minutes, colour, in Chinese with English subtitles
Ordinary Shadows, Chinese Shade (1988), curated by Paul Wong, was exhibited in the Scholar’s Study in the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden as part of the launch, and spring exhibition of 身在唐人街 / OCCUPYING CHINATOWN from April 22 to July 6, 2018.
Paul Wong uses his second-generation Chinese-Canadian perspective to frame the Chinese here in the new world, Canada, and in the mother-land, China. This is an intimate, personal view. Through their “family network” and several trips to the People’s Republic of China, Wong and his mother Suk-Fong gained access to the everyday, non-exotic world of the Chinese. A picture emerges of displaced cultures and traditions in transition.
This experimental documentary includes recordings made in Canada and China from 1982 and 1986 recorded on 8mm video. In 1982, Suk-Fong Wong is interviewed in Canada about her expectations of returning to China, and seeing her siblings for the first time in 35 years. Ordinary Shadows, Chinese Shades takes us through Pearl River Delta, to agricultural Toisan and Hoiping, small town San fu, and the major urban city Guangzhou. We encounter friends and family, including many of the subjects who penned the very letters to Suk-Fong.
Much has changed in the 35 years since this material was recorded. Cantonese and specifically the Toisan dialect spoken by the subjects in this work, has become a disappearing dialect spoken in Vancouver’s Chinatown. It used to be a dominant language.
Collection of the National Gallery of Canada.
On the launch of the OCCUPYING CHINATOWN residency, this work was also made available online on the Paul Wong Projects vimeo channel: