Invisible Footprints 0.1 is a reflection of the place that LGBTQ East and Southeast Asian history has in the wider queer histories of Toronto. The vibrancy of Queer Asian life is obvious to those who live and have lived it. And yet, these experiences are repeatedly sidelined or rendered invisible within the greater queer Toronto story. Official versions of documented histories serve to legitimize a people’s contributions, struggles, and existence. But, queer Asian life in Toronto has always occupied shapes and circumstances beyond what is documentable. Much of our histories are recorded only in collective memories, experiences, and in what they have made possible. The creative resilience in the face of systemic injustices and their internalization, migration, and cultural legacies is both chaotic and beautiful. Gatherings over dim sum, movements galvanized in living rooms, loves and families brought together by shared pains and triumphs, collective liberation on dancefloors, on stages, and behind karaoke microphones — these moments, along with the officious, documented milestones, constitute queer Asian histories in this city.
Seven artists were invited to reflect on and respond to these nebulous ideas of Toronto’s “queer Asian history”. Through creative interpretation and intervention, they wrestle with what existed and exists, what was documented and undocumented, what could have been and what could be. Through illustration, photography, sculpture, text, and forming new relationships with each other and with community elders, these artists play with the real and the imaginary. Tasked with both documenting and visioning, they give shape to the past and then complicate those shapes. Invisible Footprints 0.1 is “0.1” because it is one of many layers of interpretation, just like how any snapshot of history is but one of many.
Beyond this exhibition, we continue to, at once, look back and look to the future. These two gestures bracket and make sense of the present. To do it consciously, and in both critical and celebratory ways, allow us to (re)calibrate our relationships to time, space, bodies, desires, and power. Everything is always eerily the same and yet completely different. Being queer and East or Southeast Asian in Toronto is as undefinable and multiple as it has always been. Invisible Footprints 0.1 is a celebration, a chance for calibration, and another point of access to our cultural inheritances and possibilities. We leave it open...just how we found it, and how it finds us.