by Aries Cheung
This body of work is my reaction to the ‘disappearing’ of our local Asian LGBT history. In the community at large, Asian Canadians are still facing racial discrimination. And within the LGBT community, queer Asians are often at the bottom of the sexual preference scale. Mainstream LGBT media and archives often underrepresent or misrepresent queer Asians, whose voices are silenced, whose activities are not documented and whose history is largely incomplete.
My skulls have act as the vessels of our experiences, a recollection of personal and community history and a carrier of our past and present, while the ‘severed’ body parts aim at reclaiming our ‘lost’ spirits, regaining our voice and telling our stories once again.
Like a canvas or a journal book, the white surface of my sculptures is made available for visitors to share their feelings and thoughts around the issues of sexuality, sexual orientations, gender, racial issues and identity politics.
Special Thanks to Al-Noor Wissanji, Alfred Lam, Chang Liu, Jeffrey Chan, and Philip Fung.
Aries Cheung received a Fine Arts degree at York University. His practices include visual art, graphic design, illustrations, film, media arts and performing arts. His works often deal with racial identity, gender and sexuality. He has created paintings, drawings, installations, video/web/performances for exhibitions and screening in Toronto and overseas and has created video projections and installations in multi-disciplinary productions for Little Pear Garden Collective, Eventual Ashes, Wuming Dance Project and Rice Roll Productions. He performed in stage productions by Rice Roll Productions and he was on the advisor committee and mentor team for their Invisible Footprints 0.1, an arts and archival projects involving LGBT Asian artists and activists. His short films have been presented at the Toronto Inside Out LGBT Film Festival. He often creates Asian-themed designs commissioned by the Royal Canadian Mint as collectable coins.
by Vince Ha
On the night of October 17, 2009, at the corner of Finch Ave. and Tobermory Dr., a vehicle traveling at 200 km/h stole my friend and left me in pieces; in the last few years, I have been trying to put those pieces back together.
LVCD, that’s what we called ourselves – Linh, Vince, Christine, and Duyen. I didn’t know how important these letters were to me until one of them was taken away; I still utter these four letters, but I know that one is truly gone, and no matter how much I try to cling on, it will never come back. It was close to 2:00 am when my phone buzzed and I heard Linh’s voice. I can’t remember the conversation, but I know it happened – I can still hear her choking on her own words, “Christine’s gone.” I felt nothing, no pain, no tears. I scurried out of bed and called Christine; she didn’t answer. I left a message. Maybe she’s asleep, maybe she’s still up but too busy to notice my call, maybe I should Facebook her. And between calling and leaving messages, I tinkered that early morning like an untrained locksmith, hoping to come upon some magical combination to open a mystery box, where the prize would be her voice.
Christine lost the chance to come out to her family.
Bowls Letting Go starts as a personal journey of processing memories and feelings. As a queer Vietnamese immigrant, I have had to let go of traditions, at times family members, and other things I hold close. This piece explores how we, as individuals and collectives, process our own deep, emotion-weighted experiences: what do we keep and what do we let go?
Dedicated to Christine K. Tang
Special thanks to Linh Hua and Duyen Le for your enduring friendships, and Tony Chu for always being by my side.
The photographs, taken by Tony Wei-Han Chen are from four workshop sessions of over forty community members documenting their nuanced live experiences through clay making and facilitated dialogue.
Special thanks to our guest facilitators Patrick Salvani and Jiaqing Yang.
Vince Ha is a writer-director who captures fragmentary moments and uses them to challenge issues of race, class, gender, and representation. He holds an MFA in Documentary Media. His work has been presented locally at Scotiabank CONTACT Photography Festival, Buddies in Bad Times, Canadian Lesbian and Gay Archives, and Hot Docs Rogers Cinema, and internationally in China, Germany, Japan, Thailand, United Kingdom, and the United States. His most recent work was displayed at San Art and The Factory Contemporary Arts Centre in Vietnam.
Tony Wei-Han Chen is a Toronto-based photographer with a keen interest in candid interactions between people and the urban environment. He has 10 years of experience documenting community-based work.
by Heidi Cho
Trauma Drama is a mixed-media collection exploring themes of chronic illness, sexuality and intergenerational trauma. Incorporating illustration, collage, sculpture and stoneware ceramics, Cho fabricates a trauma scrapbook of psychic ghosts that haunt and seep into crevices of her daily experiences. Cho links her lived experience of depression and body pain, to larger historical struggles of queer Asian loneliness and belonging in the diaspora.
Through her application of narrative-based illustration, and archival material borrowed from Gay Asians Toronto’s seminal magazines, Celebrasian, Cho centers the erasure of queer Korean cultural visibility and historical representation. By re-appropriating traditional Korean Celadon ceramics, Cho challenges which narratives remain ‘historicized’ and ‘worthy,’ and which stories continue to be pushed to the shadows.
Trauma Drama invites viewers into an intimate space comprised of domestic daily remedies and re-imagined Korean ancestral practices that work to soothe, protect and heal survivors from our ghosts of traumas past, in order to imagine a possible future worth living.
Special Thanks to Omma/Sung Hui Cho and Eirene Cloma
Heidi Cho is a multi-disciplinary Korean artist based in Toronto. Through the use of illustration, mixed-media and storytelling, Cho is interested in exploring racialized experiences of mental health and queerness, in relationship to migration, diasporic labour and intergenerational trauma. Her visual work has been showcased at the Art Gallery of Ontario, OCAD University, Buddies in Bad Times Theatre, and Doris McCarthy Gallery UTSC, as well as appeared in C Magazine, GUTS Magazine and Shameless Magazine.
by Khanh Tudo
Durian has been known to grow into a very defensive fruit. Its spiky, dangerous exterior and pungent, gas like smell keep many away. It does everything in its power to protect its vulnerability, but those that it welcomes are met with an acquired, sweet taste and soft texture.
I have always been drawn to the abnormal qualities of durian. The outcast, undesirable reputation of it parallels my personal experience with my southeast asian queer identity. I have had dreams where I’m able to shrink myself down and fully envelop myself in a plush, soft durian bunker. Protected from the outside world when my emotions become too overwhelming. Gentle Durian explores living in a space where coping mechanisms and distractions act as a means of survival. A bedroom filled with personal items and clay pieces made from members of the Toronto Queer/Trans East and South East Asian community, reminds us of how we can treat ourselves with patience and kindness when facing traumas and hardships from living in the margins. When our hearts are tender, and we are not ready to confront our internal demons, how do we reclaim control of our vulnerabilities?
Endless thank yous to those who have helped me with this project:
Queer Asian Youth, Bố, Mẹ, Chị Nhật, TJ, Adam Bovoletis, Adrian Muir, Benjamin Legere, Emma Moore, Hannah Raine, Isaac Roberts, Jennifer Su, Jia-Qing Wilson Yang, Julie Mai, Kourtney Jackson, Luke Gauthier, Rachele Clemente, Ria Perrault, Samay Cajas, and Weeda Azim
Khanh Tudo is a cinematographer based in Toronto, currently exploring the medium of mixed media installation and sculpture. Her previous work in documentary and experimental films have explored her experience with assimilation and spirituality as a Queer Vietnamese woman living in Canada. Her installation work has been previously showcased at OCAD Open Space Gallery, Nuit Rose, and Gardiner Museum; and her film work has been screened at QTBIPOC Shorts Night, Insomniac Film Festival, Women in Art, and Maximum Exposure, Ryerson University Film Festival and more.
Conversations in my family have always started at the dinner table. During my childhood in Vietnam, this means sitting on unrolled straw mats and sharing food. Many difficult topics were often avoided; some confronted; some inferred; some implied. It is a comfortable, yet uncomfortable, place where I often ask where my queerness fits into it all.
Rice Roll Productions has invited community members and artists to share their chosen soup. Like stories, soups can be many things to us: we can consume it when we are sick, we can serve it to those who require our care, and, like dessert soups, we can get a kick of sweetness in our lives. Over the next fifteen days, the 10-seat dining table is a safe space for our hosts to share their deep, personal stories – stories that we don’t often hear. It is a site to ignite conversations about our lived experiences and the resilient strategies we use to thrive, to help others, and to circulate our own histories. It is an intimate gathering where we invite you to share your memories and help create new narratives, as well as documenting through your eyes, your ears, your heart – and most importantly, your stomach.
When there are no scheduled sessions, we invite you to use this table to share your stories or to write us a personal message.
Session 1 – Yoichi Haruta
Session 2 – Katherine Chun & Nacy Seto
Session 3 – Kenneth Poon
Session 4 – Aries Cheung
Session 5 – Heidi Cho
Session 6 – Khanh Tudo
Session 7 – Vince Ha
En Tze Loh is a freshly graduated film student originally from Malaysia that moved to Canada to pursue the film industry. Their work and passions include production design, props making, stop motion animation, graphic design, illustration, as well as tattooing.
Thompson Cong Nguyen is a queer, Vietnamese-Canadian designer based in Toronto. He holds a Bachelor’s in Architectural Design from Carleton University and is a member of the Makeshift Collective. His work explores how the built environment can shape, preserve and erase the narratives we share within and outside of our communities.
Katherine’s roots are from Hong Kong, Hawaii and San Francisco. She is here in Toronto, proud and happily married to Nancy and working with passion in mental health and teaching social work. Honored to be part of a diverse collective linking and reclaiming our Asian LGBTQ worlds (past, present and future).
Dr. Robert Diaz is an assistant professor and Graduate Coordinator in the Women and Gender Studies Institute at the University of Toronto. His research, teaching, and community work focus on the rich intersections between Asian, diasporic, and migratory forms of cultural expression. His scholarship has appeared in leading publications on race, gender, and sexuality. Diaz is also committed to equity and the pursuit of social justice. He has worked with organizations in the greater Toronto area that seek to better the lives of racially marginalized, queer, and Indigenous communities. He is the co-editor of Diasporic Intimacies: Queer Filipinos and Canadian Imaginaries, a groundbreaking collection that foregrounds the contributions of LGBTQ Filipinos to Canadian culture, society, and the arts (17).
André Goh has over 3 decades of engaging, developing and promoting the rights of LGBTQ communities, and in particular, the East and South East Asian LGBTQ communities, in Toronto. He played key roles in the development, growth and sustainability of many mainstream and LGBTQ organizations including Gay Asian Toronto (GAT), KHUSH, Gay Asian AIDS Project, and Asian Community AIDS Services (ACAS).
Alan Li is a gay Chinese first generation immigrant from Hong Kong who has integrated his many roles of physician, community organizer, researcher and advocate to advance access and rights of immigrants and refugees, racial and sexual minorities, HIV/AIDS, and mental health. He is the co-founder of Asian Community AIDS Services, the Committee for Accessible AIDS Treatment and the Hong Kong 10% Club. He was also editor for the Gay Asian Toronto CelebrAsian magazines and an avid Cantonese opera performer.
With background in architecture and critical gender/sexuality studies, Amy Poon is a wayfinding and signage designer who is currently completing her Master’s at York University with a focus on visual and spatial representations in urban environments and their inter-influential relationships with liminal identities. She enjoys documenting her surroundings and translating lived experiences through sketching, photography, and computer-aided design.
Born in Ottawa, a first generation Chinese-Canadian lesbian, was influenced by 80’s music and wild hairstyles of the new wave era. Nancy relocated to Toronto in her late twenties with her then partner and found fulfillment and belonging in a new and wonderful community of Asian lesbians and women of colour.
Michelle is currently completing her Masters at Queen’s University. Her project focuses on understandings of sexuality that reflect on citizenship, racism, diaspora and transnational politics of sexuality, specifically with Chinese Canadian LGBTQ+ women and non-binary people. As an advisor, she is excited to be advancing the visibility of LGBTQ+ Asian Canadians.
Keith was born in Hong Kong and educated as an accountant in Australia. He moved to Toronto in 1989 to reunite with his partner. He has worked as a political organizer, community advocate, leadership training consultant that address social inequities, homophobia and HIV stigma through the many organizations he cherishes over the years. In addition, he is starting out his life coaching practice specializing in transition and career development. He enjoys photography and distance running.