• Issue
  • Mar 04, 2021

Vancouver: Centre A

At Centre A, Vancouver-based artist Gu Xiong’s exhibition, “The Remains of a Journey,” told a history of Chinese migrants, predominantly from Guangdong, who traveled to the west coast of Canada over a century ago to prosper from “Golden Mountain.” Working as miners, railroad builders, and bricklayers, these indentured laborers helped to fulfill the aspirations of Canada’s nationhood, playing a critical role in the extraction of resources and the unification of the country by building the Canadian Pacific Railway. Gu’s show posed questions about how one comes to understand the history of Chinese migration to Canada, but for an exhibition centered on the theme of land, it seemed absent of the complicating fact that the land was never ceded by Indigenous peoples in the first place.

The exhibition’s three sites of investigation, Cumberland, Harling Point, and D’Arcy Island (traditional territories of the Coast Salish peoples), were divided into three immersive multimedia installations. Imagery throughout the exhibition places emphasis on the oppression faced by Chinese migrants and the fading of this memory from Canadian history. Between projected video works on opposite walls, one was transposed to Chinatown and the Chinese cemetery in present-day Cumberland. Cobwebs lie undisturbed on weathered fire hydrants while overgrown shrubbery frames interpretive signage educating the reader that Chinatown was lost to a fire. A rusted aluminum can, once a vase, suggests that the tombs in the cemetery have been left unswept.