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Whose Chinatown? explores real and imaginary Chinatown

February 1, 2021

While Chinatowns exist in a physical place in Vancouver and other cities across Canada, they’re also cultural creations that exist in fictional worlds, in movies and on TV.

Chinatown, according to the guest curator of a new exhibition, doesn’t have a fixed definition or representation. Karen Tam believes there is always going to be real and imaginary Chinatowns.

“There are the Chinatowns that are represented in television shows or Hollywood movies and the real, living organisms that are Chinatowns,” she said.

Tam has selected 159 photos, paintings, prints, artifacts, videos and other works from private collections and artist estates, as well as personal, family and public archives, to tell a story about Canada through the lens of Chinatown.

She’s called the exhibition Whose Chinatown?, because she wants to provoke discussion about what Chinatown means.

“When you have conversations about Chinatown, is it, ‘My Chinatown?’ ‘Your Chinatown?’ or, ‘Our Chinatown?’ ” Tam said. “What is your vision? What is my vision? Do we share the same views of Chinatown? If we’re thinking about the future heritage of Chinatown, who are we saving Chinatown for?”

The exhibition is at Griffin Art Projects in North Vancouver. For the opening weekend, the gallery has extended its regular hours to Friday evening and Saturday and Sunday during the day. The exhibition ends May 1.

The exhibition is at Griffin Art Projects in North Vancouver. For the opening weekend, the gallery has extended its regular hours to Friday evening and Saturday and Sunday during the day. The exhibition ends May 1.

Whose Chinatown? has several online panels and talks to expand the exhibition beyond the four walls of the gallery. They include Catherine Clement and two other collectors talking about their personal collections on Feb. 7, and Karen Cho, director of In the Shadow of Gold Mountain, talking about her documentary on the Chinese Head Tax and Exclusion Act on March 14.

People are asked to book appointments online for the opening weekend of Whose Chinatown? Griffin Art Project’s regular hours are Saturdays, noon-to-5 p.m. and by appointment.

kevingriffin@postmedia.com

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