Paul Wong’s Occupying Chinatown, a beautifully detailed, limited edition hardcover book, fully bilingual in English and Simplified Chinese, focuses on several of Wong’s major artworks exploring Chinese Canadian identity and his engagement with Vancouver’s Chinese communities. With full colour photos and documentation of Wong’s artwork as well as three original essays, Occupying Chinatown is an evocative exploration of language, amnesia, and cultural displacement, inspired by 900 letters sent to Suk-Fong Wong, Paul Wong’s mother, over the course of 65 years.
Within this remarkable 180-page cloth-bound book, Wong’s essay “Suk Fong, How Are You?” (淑芳你好嘛?) takes a closer look at the family histories contained within the letters, while Dr. Christopher Lee’s essay “Reading Letters, Reading with Trust” (阅读书信，以信读信) reflects on the process of interpreting a selection of these letters with his students. Debbie Cheung’s “Private to Private to Public: A New Collective Experience of Chinatown” (推己及人：唐人街新的共同体验) details Wong’s year-long residency at the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden through which these private letters offered an opportunity for the local Chinese community to consider their shared stories and their rapidly changing Chinatown.
I am not an academic; this book is not an historical document. I am neither an ethnographer nor a documentarian, and this is not a memoir or a genealogical family account. Above all, I have approached this out of curiosity about what has been lost through silence. Occupying Chinatown has provided a conceptual frame for inspiring a prolific outpouring of artworks combining fragments of memory, language, and ephemeral histories. It has continued and will continue to allow me to look at everyday things as anything but ordinary.
— Paul Wong
Occupying Chinatown features original collages, reproductions and stills from several of Wong’s significant works including Father’s Words, based on his mother’s letters; Ordinary Shadows, Chinese Shade, a 1988 video work exploring Wong’s first trip back to China; Mother’s Cupboard / 媽媽的藥櫃, a series of prints featuring his mother’s treasured jars of traditional elixirs and ingredients; and Saltwater City – Vancouver /咸水埠温哥华, a neon piece installed in several locations throughout Vancouver.
On Main is grateful to the sponsors and funders:
The Canada Council, City of Vancouver, Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden, The Audain Foundation, and Rick Erickson and Donna Partridge.
Edited by Paul Wong
Contributions by Christopher Lee, Debbie Cheung, Paul Wong
Edition of 500180 pages
9.3 x 11.7 inches
approx. 110 colour illustrations
Hardcover, black linen with silver deboss