West Coast Curated: Queer Chinese Diasporic Identity Narratives in Vancouver’s Chinatown

West Coast Curated: Queer Chinese Diasporic Identity Narratives in Vancouver’s Chinatown

[In Vancouver’s historic Chinatown, across from markets piled high with dried goods and and a bakery that would be easy to pass by unnoticed (if it wasn’t for out-the-door line-ups) is the equally nondescript entrance to the Sun Wah Centre. The brick building is home to a cultural wealth of artists, and is currently housing Yellow Peril: Celestial Elements, a multi-media one-room immersive art show brought to life by Love Intersections, a media arts collective of queer Vancouver artists of colour.

Inside the centre and up a delightfully vintage looking elevator decorated with printed community notices in multiple languages, the fourth floor is home to the SUM Gallery. (Turn right from the elevator, walk straight through the kitchen, you’ll see the door.)

To stand in the small space with vibrant multi-channel video dominating half the room and pieces to explore, interpret and understand, is an experience to open yourself up to. The room brings together Chinese tradition, text, iconography and spirituality with West Coast North American settings, nature and mythos, that contemplate presences that are Indigenous, colonial and pop.

I connected with Jen Sungshine and David Ng, co-creative directors of Love Intersections to talk a bit more about the experience they created.

Is this the first time Love Intersections has curated an arts exhibit?

Jen: Yes! We started in 2014 as a media arts collective, making short documentaries of queer people of colour in our community.  This is our first foray into visual arts and curation, and we are very grateful to the Pride in Arts Society/SUM gallery for their faith and generosity!

Your film, Yellow Peril: Queer Destiny debuted at the Vancouver Queer Film Festival in August 2019. A part of this exhibit breaks down some of the visuals from the film into multi-channel video projections. Would you consider this exhibit an extension of the film?

Jen: The exhibit was inspired by our 2019 experimental documentary, Yellow Peril: Queer Destiny, which follows local drag artist, Maiden China in a non-linear, 5-chapter narrative through the use of the Chinese Five Elements as a conduit for examining race, gender, sexuality, art and cultural “authenticity”.

David: Encouraged by the film’s success, we were given an opportunity to expand the film into a visual art exhibit to further explore what it means for us to be queer Asians of the diaspora. One of the main through-lines of both the film and the exhibit is bringing forth our ancestors/ancestry, into our re-imaginations of queer Asian futures.  The four channel format allowed us to expand upon some of what we started with the 5 elements, and explore queerness, time, space, and identity in a different way.

The experience of being in the room, particularly on your own or perhaps in a small group, is very immersive. Can you tell me about the part the sound you chose plays into the exhibit?

David: The soundscape put together by Jamie Abugov is inspired by a mix of contemporary and traditional artists of Asian descent.  We wanted to mix past and present music, to again play with the idea of time and space, queer identity, and cultural identity. 

Tell us about “yellow peril”, turn-of-the-century racist terminology, and about the choice to use it in both the film and the exhibit.

David: Yes, the “Yellow Peril” was a racist narrative in the west in the early 1900s that framed the influx of Asian immigrants – mostly indentured labourers – as “invading” the West.  Literature, film, and media representations would portray Asian people as conniving, drug using criminals, who had sinister agendas to infiltrate and invade the West.  This anti-Asian racism is what drove the anti-Oriental riots, and the Asian exclusion acts in North America, and Europe. 

Jen: We were drawn to the term “Yellow Peril” because we wanted to reclaim the term, and also turn it on it’s head.  We’ve seen a sharp rise in queer Asian cultural organizing recently across Canada, and in a way our reclamation and insistence on enunciating our cultural identities, is “perilous” to white supremacy. 

We also wanted to reference Paul Wong’s touring exhibition Yellow Peril: Reconsidered, as the exhibit (and Paul’s work) has been not only an inspiration for us, but paved the way for queer Asian artists today to express ourselves.

Part of this piece, according to the placards, has to do with dislodging Western linearity. Could you speak more about this?

Jen: In putting together the film and the exhibit, we started realizing that the notion of linear temporality – that is, time moving forward, sequentially – has limitations to our imaginations of queer cultural identity.  The linear framework of “past-present-future”, for example, delimits our ability to think about how our ancestors dreamed us into the future; and that we are the product of our ancestors dreams. 

David: We also wanted to push our ways of thinking about queer Asian identity, time, and space; outside of a Western point of departure.  So we turned to the 5 elements in Chinese tradition, which are used in many facets of life, including medicine, spirituality, health, metaphysics, etc.  In some ways, the 5 elements became the vehicle that we used to explore queer Asian cultural identity.

Please tell me about anything else you would like to add that you feel is integral to understanding this exhibit and your work.

Jen: We feel extremely lucky to have an outpour of support from the various communities we are a part of. Over 300 people showed up to our opening, holy moly! Beyond just coming to see the exhibit, we really want to create a sense of -space- within the confines of SUM Gallery. In working with, and exhibiting at, SUM, we recognize how meaningful it is to showcase in Chinatown’s BC Artscape Sun Wah building at 268 Keefer, home to over 70 artists, galleries, and culture work spaces dedicated to heritage, education, social justice and sustainability. There is a lot of conversation right now around “Vancouver’s changing Chinatown” and what that means for residents navigating an increasingly challenging, and changing, landscape.

David: We hope to express to visitors the importance of showcasing in such an environment and to ask ourselves, “why am I here? What kind of art, spaces and communities do I want to immerse and spend time in?” and for visitors to consider the meaningfulness of dedicated, artful spaces that we all play a role in curating. For us, it’s sharing and curating with the likes of fellow artists, Paul Wong and Sammy Chien, as well as with organizations we look up to, like Centre AFull Circle: First Nations PerformanceYouth Collaborative for ChinatownMoniker PressThe Frank Theatre – we see ourselves as one small piece of the social puzzle, each of us weaving together a larger, multidimensional narrative of Chinatown. We hope that visitors will confront what it means to stand up for land rights/defenders, anti-racism, and thoughtful cultural spaces as we continue having wholehearted conversations together.

Jen: We have programmed several “activation” events throughout the exhibit run at SUM Gallery. Visitors should come to our Community Food Sharing + Dumpling Making activation on March 7, as well as the Grave Sweeping Activation / Closing Ceremony on April 4. All activation events are from 3:30pm-5:30pm.

From now until April 18th, 2020, Yellow Peril: Celestial Elements is on display at the SUM Gallery, with works by Jen Sungshine, David Ng, Kendell Yan/Maiden China and Jay Cabalu.

UPDATE: This show is now available for viewing by appointment only to encourage social distancing due to COVID-19. Contact info@queerartsfestival.com to arrange.

Written for West Coast Curated by Alexis Baran

CBC arts Queeries: This exhibit explores queer Asian identity through the lens of China’s traditional five elements

CBC arts Queeries: This exhibit explores queer Asian identity through the lens of China’s traditional five elements

Yellow Peril; The Celestial Elements is the brainchild of Vancouver media arts collective Love Intersections

Queeries is a weekly column by CBC Arts producer Peter Knegt that queries LGBTQ art, culture and/or identity through a personal lens. It won the 2019 Digital Publishing Award for best digital column in Canada.

Many traditional Chinese fields use five elements — wood > fire > earth > metal > water — to explain a wide array of phenomena, from the interaction between internal organs to the succession of political regimes. At Vancouver’s SUM Gallery, that same system is currently inspiring Yellow Peril; The Celestial Elements, an art exhibit that uses the elements to represent “the emotional, spiritual, and metaphysical properties of queerness within the Asian diaspora.”

The exhibit features a collection of multichannel installations, visual and sculptural activations that are intended to challenge how we view the past, present and future of the queer Asian experience. It’s curated by media arts collective Love Intersections, and if you’re in Vancouver between now and its closing date of April 18th, it’s an absolute must-see.

The exhibit was inspired by Love Intersection’s 2019 experimental documentary, Yellow Peril: Queer Destiny, which follows Vancouver drag artist Maiden China in a non-linear, five-chapter narrative through the use of the Chinese Five Elements.

“[The film is] a conduit for examining race, gender, sexuality, art and cultural authenticity,” Love Intersection co-creative directors Jen Sungshine and David Ng tell CBC Arts. “Encouraged by the film’s success, we were given an opportunity to expand the film into a visual art exhibit to further explore what it means for us to be queer Asians of the diaspora. One of the main through-lines of both the film and the exhibit is bringing forth our ancestors and ancestry into our reimaginations of queer Asian futures.”

An image from Yellow Peril: Queer Destiny. (David Ng)

Visitors to the exhibit will find four multi-disciplinary works by four different queer Asian artists: Sungshine and Ng themselves, as well as Jay Cabalu and Maiden China (a.k.a. Kendell Yen).

“Each bring forward a different subject of exploration within our own queer Asian-ness,” Sungshine says. “One of the themes of the exhibit is temporality, and how we can think about queer Asian identity outside of western linearity and approach.”

As noted, the exhibit is inspired by the Chinese Five Elements, specifically to explore “emotional, spiritual, and metaphysical properties of queerness within the Asian diaspora.” For example, one part of the large four-channel installation that occupies two of the gallery’s walls shows drag artist Maiden China performing an ancestral veneration ceremony at Larwill Park in Vancouver.

“[This] was the gathering site of the 1907 anti-Oriental riots, as a way to mark an image of the temporal relationship that this exhibit has within a history of anti-Asian sentiments in Canada,” Ng explains. “That ‘yellow peril’ has never really gone away.”

Another installation in the exhibit is “The Wall of Healing; A Race Towards a Cosmic Future,” which features an altar of Traditional Chinese Medicine against a backdrop of joss paper lined floor-to-ceiling.

“Underneath the altar, a cosmic laser projection is overlaid onto a scattering of calligraphy paper in text written by Jen’s father, detailing the evolving of the Chinese language in three different typefaces,” Ng explains. “In a way, we think about our past as not necessarily gone but fully woven into the language of the present, and translating our living as we race toward a healing future.”

The show opened earlier this month, and Ng and Sungshine said they feel “extremely lucky” to have had such an outpouring of support so far.

“Over 300 people showed up to our opening, holy moly,” Sungshine says. “Beyond just coming to see the exhibit, we really want to create a sense of space within the confines of SUM Gallery. In working with — and exhibiting at — SUM, we recognize how meaningful to showcase in [a building that is] home to over 70 artists, galleries and culture workspaces dedicated to heritage, education, social justice and sustainability. There is a lot of conversation right now around Vancouver’s changing Chinatown and what that means for residents navigating an increasingly challenging, and changing, landscape.”

They say that hope to express to visitors the importance of showcasing in such an environment. 

“We see ourselves as one small piece of the social puzzle, each of us weaving together a larger, multidimensional narrative of Chinatown,” Ng says. “We hope that visitors will confront what it means to stand up for land rights defenders, anti-racism and thoughtful cultural spaces as we continue having wholehearted conversations together.”

Yellow Peril; The Celestial Elements. Curated by Love Intersections. SUM Gallery, Vancouver. Until April 18, 2020. www.sumgallery.ca


Peter Knegt

Peter Knegt has worked for CBC Arts since 2016, writing the LGBTQ-culture column Queeries (winner of the 2019 Digital Publishing Award for best digital column in Canada) and spearheading the launch and production of series Canada’s a Drag and interactive project Superqueeroes, both of which received 2020 Canadian Screen Award nominations. Beyond CBC, Knegt is also a stand-up comedian, the filmmaker of numerous short films and the author of the book About Canada: Queer Rights. You can follow him on Instagram and Twitter with the same obvious handle: @peterknegt.


Too Spirited

Indigenous Burlesque | July 17 | 7 pm

Embrace your too-muchness with bombastic burlesque brought to you by the badass babes of Virago Nation, Turtle Island’s first all-indigenous burlesque collective. Featuring special guests Monday Blues and Lynx Chase! Whether you’ve seen it before or always wanted, now’s your chance to relish the many facets of indigenous sexual rematriation from the comfort of your living room. 

https://www.viragonation.ca/    https://www.facebook.com/ViragoNation/    

Performer Bios 

Shane Sable  “Mover, Shaker, Mischief Maker; the Furiously Flirtatious Force of Nature”

 2Spirit Gitxsan artist and activist Shane Sable has slayed stages all over Vancouver in front of and behind the scenes since 2011. Shane has an abiding hunger for audience engagement and delights in the tension created by breaking the 4th wall of burlesque. Shane is the convening member of Virago Nation – Turtle Island’s first all-indigenous burlesque collective and Festival Administrator for the Vancouver International Burlesque Festival.

RainbowGlitz is one of Virago’s Nations founding members and Vancouvers Rainbow Slut spreading her love medicine in a mix of classic, nerdlesque, exotic dance and pussy cat doll hip hop movements. This Haida, Squamish, Musqueam and black artist will leave you wanting to throw your gold at the end of her rainbow.

Instagram: @jaibrend

Scarlet Delirium: Vancouver BC’s Raven Goddess! The Kwakiutl Indigi-Babe! Scarlet Delirium has been enjoying the slow burn of Burlesque and Cabaret since 2010 and is a founding member of Virago Nation. During the daylight hours doubles as Costume Designer for herself and her Burlesque family.  

Instagram: @scarlet_delirium

Sparkle Plenty is Vancouver’s glamedian, weirdlesquer, and word-maker-upper who has been delivering beautifully bizarre burlesque acts for over 10 years! This fiery goddess is Cree and Metis with mixed heritage and is a proud sister of the first ever all Indigenous burlesque group, Virago Nation. You can find her teasing and emceeing with the Screaming Chicken Theatrical Society as well as on stages all over Vancouver, Toronto, Las Vegas and more. 

Instagram: @sparkleplentys

Monday Blues is an Afro-Indigenous burlesque artist, and has been performing burlesque professionally since 2011. Monday has traveled the globe as a solo female adventurer and loves to live outside her comfort zone. Her most recent endeavours include being an avid entrepreneur, both in Sex Work and coaching capacities, as well as pursuing her passion on the burlesque stages all over Canada and the US. Monday strives to exist without limits and wants to help others feel just as empowered. 

Instagram: @missmondayblues

Lynx Chase: A true showpony at heart, Lynx Chase has always been passionate about movement and performance arts. Over the years she has trained in a variety of disciplines ranging from Aerial Hoop, Silks, Contortion, Partner Acrobatics, Bellydance & Capoeira;  however it wasn’t until she discovered Pole Dancing in 2012 that she found her true vocation. Lynx has been professionally teaching in Vancouver since 2015 and has also showcased her gravity defying acts at various events and festivals across the province such as Retro Strip Show, Bass Coast and Shambhala Music Festival. It is her hope to continue to share her craft with the world by demonstrating the strength, sensuality, artistry and grace that goes hand in hand with the art of pole and exotic dance.

Instagram: @laylaylay


Wicked 2020 on its way!. July 2 – July 12, 2020. Check queerartsfestival.com for more info.

Glitter is Forever Pajama Party

Closing Binge | July 26 | 4 PM

Get your dress jammies on, grab a drink and binge-watch the entire Queer Arts Festival with us (take it all in!!). Expect surprises and special prizes. 

Pride in Art Community Art Show

Art Show | July 16 -26

From the roots of the Queer Arts Festival, this open visual art show honours our founder, Two-Spirit artist Robbie Hong and 21 years of Pride in Art organizing.

This show will launch online on July 16 and run through to July 26.

2020 Artists

Chris Watson
Edward Bader
Ilena Lee
Jackson Photographix
Kate Braun
Kyla Yin
Michel Dumont
Mikayla Fawcett
Vladimir Kolosov

This Crazy Show

Dance Performance | July 25 | 7 PM | July 26 | 2 PM

In his Swan Song, contemporary dance legend Noam Gagnon sashays the fine line between pain and pleasure in a fetishization of something glamorous and beautifully twisted: a monster beautified.

Synopsis: This piece is a reflection on the quest for love, through revisiting the worlds of childhood, both real and imagined.

How do we feel when we are hammered or deformed under pressure, but not quite enough to break? How can we be malleable and flexible, deform and reform without losing our core selves?

In ‘This Crazy Show,’ the body becomes a place of transformation, of transmutation, and of transfiguration. Alternately agitated, delicate and humourous, Noam Gagnon choreographs and performs, pushing himself to his physical limit to explore and expose “the art of artifice” in a culture obsessed with pretending authenticity. ‘This Crazy Show’ explores just how precarious and ambiguous identity can be, through the evolution of the body and the self as both are continuously morphing, unfixed and boldly celebrated.

“Because I dream, I’m not.” – Léolo

I wanted to take up the challenge of exploring new avenues of creation by playing with the range of humanly possible transformations, transmutations, and transfigurations. ‘This Crazy Show’ tackles the theme of the perpetual quest for love by revisiting the worlds of childhood, real and imagined, through the bionic woman as superhero metaphor.

We gratefully acknowledge the support of the McGrane-Pearson Endowment Fund.

Visit Vision Impure website.

The Darlings, Uncensored

Drag Performance | July 24 | 7 pm |

The QAF proudly welcomes The DarlingsContinental Breakfast, PM, Rose Butch and Maiden China—to the stage, ahem, screen, with a new performance created around the festival theme of ‘wickedness.’ The multidisciplinary, non-binary drag performance collective has been taking the Vancouver scene by storm for the last two years and is currently titillating social-distancing audiences through aptly titled online performances Quarantine I & II. Their work challenges the boundaries of conventional drag, and explores genderqueer, non-binary, and trans experience through the use of movement, poetry, performance art, theatre, and immersive/interactive installation.

The Darlings are Chris Reed, Desi Rekrut, Rae Takei and Kendell Yan.


Instagram: @queenmaidenchina


Instagram: @rose.butch


Instagram: @contibreakfast


Instagram: @pmforagoodtime

This event is ASL interpreted. 

Underground Absolute Fiction

Speculative Theatre | July 23 | 7 pm |

Underground Absolute Fiction is an immersive play-meets-punk-concert, inspired by the apartment theatre of 1980s Poland. It invites audiences into a secret meeting at a post-Communist home. There, they join a queer punk band and Lena, a Polish-Canadian settler.

Created by Anais West, the co-writer of Jessie Award Nominated musical Poly Queer Love Ballad, Underground Absolute Fiction asks audiences to grapple with the complex legacies of diaspora, queer rights movements, and white supremacy—in both Europe and Turtle Island (Canada). Directed by Fay Nass as an Associate Project with the frank theatre.

Dramaturgy by Veronique West
Featuring AJ Simmons, Claire Love Wilson, Julia Siedlanowska and Sara Vickruck
Cultural Consultant Julia Siedlanowska
Promotional photo by Kimberly Ho

This event is ASL interpreted.

A Night of Storytelling

Literary Readings | July 22 | 7 pm |

A Night of Storytelling is back for its fifth year and once again hosted by the much-beloved Danny Ramadan, this time around as a new online experience. Spend a night in with the talented LGBTQ2+ voices of the CanLit scene. Danny brings prominent writers from the Queer and trans community into your homes as they explore their identities through the medium of the written word. A Night of Storytelling features readings from Billy Ray Belcourt, Amber Dawn, jaye simpson, Jillian Christmas, and Erin-Brooke Kirsh.

Curator Danny Ramadan is an award-winning Syrian-Canadian author, public speaker and LGBTQ-refugees activist. His novel, The Clothesline Swing, won multiple awards. His children’s book, Salma the Syrian Chef, is out now. 

Jillian Christmas lives on the unceded territories of the Squamish, Tsleil-Waututh and Musqueam people, where she served for six years as Artistic Director of Versəs Festival of Words. An educator, organizer, and advocate in the arts community, utilizing an anti-oppressive lens, Jillian has performed and facilitated workshops across the continent. 

jaye simpson is an Oji-Cree Saulteaux indigiqueer writer with roots in Sapotaweyak Cree Nation. they often write about being queer in the Child Welfare system, as well as being queer and Indigenous. their work has been featured in Poetry Is Dead, This Magazine, PRISM international, SAD Mag, GUTS Magazine and Room. simpson resides on the unceded and ancestral territories of the xwməθkwəy̓əm (Musqueam), səlilwəta’Ɂɬ (Tsleil-Waututh), and Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish) First Nations peoples, currently and colonially known as Vancouver, BC.

Amber Dawn is a writer and creative facilitator living on unceded Coast Salish Territories (Vancouver, Canada). She is the author of five books and the editor of three anthologies.

Erin Kirsh is a writer and performer. A Pushcart Prize nominee, her work has appeared in dozens of literary journals internationally. Her greatest accomplishment to date is that one time she painted her nails without getting the polish all over the place.

Billy-Ray Belcourt is from the Driftpile Cree Nation, and lives in Vancouver. He is an Assistant Professor in the Creative Writing Program at UBC. His books are THIS WOUND IS A WORLD, NDN COPING MECHANISMS, and A HISTORY OF MY BRIEF BODY.

This event is ASL Interpreted.

Media Nights with VIVO

| July 18 + July 19 | 7 PM

Rupture Probe and Return to Sodom North look at the continuity of themes across the two decades that separate the works. They also illustrate the resilience of shorter experimental forms that emerging queer festivals preferred and rapidly evolving technologies coveted. However, while Vancouver artists in the ‘90s were informed by previous decades, their work suggests an impatience for the new millenium. Today, as artists approach this fifth decade of queer Canadian media art, Rupture Probe also samples works that reflect on the past, applying critical remediation to its radical legacies (Slumberparty 2018) and incisive dismantling of historical oppressions (Framing Agnes, Less Lethal Fetishes).


Queer Inquiries & Remediations | July 18 | 7 PM

Recent queer shorts rupture normative notions of gender, pleasure, and activism. Employing remediation and experimental narrative and forms, artists probe transgender and non-binary experience, new erotic signifiers, and inventive strategies for dissent and celebration.

Framing Agnes (Chase Joynt, 2018, 19min)   
Lesbian Hand Gestures (Carol Short, 2011, 3min)   
Less Lethal Fetishes (Thirza Cuthand, 2019, 10min)
Paisa (Dorian Wood, Graham Kolbeins, 2019, 9min)
Slumberparty 2018 (Cait McKinny & Hazel Meyer, 2018, 24min)               


Vancouver Queer Video 1993-2000 | July 19 | 7 PM

At Video In and elsewhere in the ‘90s, a new generation of queer artists were expanding the west coast response to ongoing racialized and gendered suppression of queer bodies, expression,and desire. Experimental narrative, appropriation, and remediation marked video storytelling. Characteristics of abbreviation, play, and provocation portent the queer potential of new platforms and emergent counterpublics that would define the new milennium. The sum of this work speaks to the desire for a more equitable future; one executed with rigour, joy, and delicious wickedness. 

*The title is derived from R.E.A.L. Women’s attempt to ban the 1990 Gay Games, warning B.C. would become Sodom North. The moniker was quickly appropriated for the queer publication, Sodomite Invasion, and Video In’s screening, Sodom North Bash Back.  

Boulevard of Broken Sync (Winston Xin, 1996, 3min)
Helpless Maiden Makes an I Statement (Thirza Cuthand, 1999, 6min)
Defiance (Maureen Bradley, 1993, 6:50min)
Surfer Dick (Wayne Yung, 1997, 3:20min)
Unmapping Desire (Sheila James, 1999, 6:42min)
Transmission (Ivan Coyote, 1998, 7min)  
Water Into Fire (Zachery Longboy, 1994, 10min)
View (Shani Mootoo, 2000, 6min)
Search Engine (Wayne Yung, 1999, 4min)

VIVO Media Arts Centre, incorporated as Satellite Video Exchange Society, is a steward of critical history and an agent for emergent experimental media arts practices. Our programs foster formal and critical approaches to media arts, and reflect the diversity of contemporary technologies and communities that coalesce around new forms of knowledge and creativity. VIVO builds an engaged audience through workshops, production support, distribution, artist residencies, workshops, performances, exhibitions and curatorial and archival research. Through these activities and the extensive resources of Western Canada’s largest repository of media art history, VIVO plays a unique role in facilitating and fostering artistic practices in the region including of queer artists, activists, collectives and organizations.

VIVO’s Crista Dahl Media Library & Archive and Video Out Distribution steward and disseminate a queer media, publications, and histories from the 1960s – present. Many are freely available online at vivomediaarts.com/archive. All materials are accessible in-house. Holdings can be searched through Every Queer Thing (vivomediaarts.com/archive/every-queer-thing).

Curator Tour

Curated by Jonny Sopotiuk | July 16 – 26 |

Curator Statement

Queer life is a reality of ongoing survival. From government and societal oppression, to family rejection and social isolation our memories and experiences have been defined and shaped by the structures that are designed to contain us.

Our identities and experiences are mediated. Living is a constant battle against and with these systems of containment.

Wicked brings together a multigenerational group of artists living and producing work across Canada and the United States as they explore the body, community, and architecture of homonormativity. 

In 2020 we’re learning to live through a new form of containment during a global health pandemic. Our long fight for recognition and the foundations of community infrastructures that we created to sustain us are being fundamentally questioned.

We’re now asked to rethink how we build individual and collective responses to queer and trans trauma and erasure? 

With new connections and intimacy now mediated by requirements to shelter in place, artists critically examine our communities’ oppression and expose implications of complicity in the homonormative systems created to contain us.

— Jonny Sopotiuk.

Jonny Sopotiuk is a visual artist, curator and community organizer living and working on the Unceded Indigenous territories belonging to the Musqueam, Skxwú7mesh-ulh Úxwumixw (Squamish) and Tsleil-Watututh peoples in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. His interdisciplinary practice explores compulsion and control through the lenses of production, labour, and work. Jonny is the President of the Arts and Cultural Workers Union (ACWU), IATSE Local B778, Vice-President of CARFAC BC and a founding member of the Vancouver Artists Labour Union Cooperative or VALU CO-OP.

Artist Panel Discussion chaired by Jonny Sopotiuk with participating artists Tom Hsu, Avram Finkelstein, Elektra KB, and Tajliya Jamal.

Following our official welcome, guest visual art curator Jonny Sopotiuk gives a virtual tour of the Curated Visual Art Exhibition joined by guest artists.

Tom Hsu is a studio-based visual artist whose works seeks to investigate the curious condition of spaces, and their correlation to the bodies that attend them, as communicated through the photography of the everyday mundane. He comes from a base in analog photography, and this stability allows him to extend into made, found, and choreographic sculpture, all of which deal with the everyday mundane. He currently lives and works in Vancouver and holds a BFA in Photography from Emily Carr University of Art + Design. He undertook a residency at Burrard Arts Foundation from April to June 2018. He has exhibited at Centre A, Unit/Pitt, Index Gallery, and Yactac Gallery in Vancouver.


Avram Finkelstein is a founding member of the Silence=Death and Gran Fury collectives. His work is in the permanent collections of MoMA, The Whitney, The New Museum and The Brooklyn Museum. He is featured in the artist oral history at the Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art, and his book, “After Silence: A History of AIDS Through its Images” was nominated for a Lambda Literary Award in Nonfiction, and an ICP Infinity Award in Critical Writing. 


Elektra KB is a Latinx immigrant artist, living and working in Brooklyn, NY. They graduated with an MFA from Hunter College in 2016 and received a DAAD award, pursued at UDK—Berlin with artist Hito Steyerl. Their work engages corporeal sickness and disability, with utopian possibilities and alternative universes. KB investigates: gender, migration, transculturality, and abuse of power. Their work entangles mutual aid, political action, and communication, often with a documentarian-sci-fi-like hybrid approach, exploring utopia and dystopia. Across: photography, textiles, video, installation and performance. KB’s work has been written about in: Art Forum, Artnews and The New York Times. Recent shows include: ‘Nobody Promised You Tomorrow’ at the Brooklyn Museum.


Tajliya Jamal is a queer, mixed-race artist of Cantonese and Indian heritage. She uses illustration, text, and storytelling, often to highlight relationships between race, sexuality, and (in)visibility. Focus on pattern and detail aim to involve viewers more intimately.


Born and raised on Coast Salish Territory, Shanique (also known as Softieshan) is a DJ and event producer widely known for her femme-forward, hip hop heavy sets. She founded ‘LEVEL UP’, the city’s only QTBIPOC centred hip hop dance party, and works adamantly to carve out community space for folks who exist within marginalized communities. Softieshan is a resident DJ at the Fox, the American, The Boxcar and has recently embarked on a new initiative “Cue Club” which offers low barrier DJ and professional development workshops for women, LGBTQ2+, disabled and BIPOC folks in a fun and supportive environment. 

This Event is ASL Interpreted.