Florence Yee, New words to describe old things

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September 8th – October 2nd, 2020

Florence Yee

Download Essay by Marsya Maharani

“This window exhibition takes into account its site as a storefront, the most accessible place of the gallery, and the one most similar to benign commercial spaces. A scrolling LED monitor sits above a large decorative knot. It has historically been used for recording events and places by the complexity, pattern, and colour of the knots. Although it is still present in spaces as mass-produced decoration, my practice questions what it means to bring knot-making skills back to diasporic youth as an intentional craft. As the knots are often seen as “tacky” or outdated, how can the agency of choosing the knots’ form change their significance? For example, the knots are usually accompanied by the words 囍 or 福, characters for happiness and fortune that are rooted in heteronormative and capitalist ideas of marriage and financial success. I am interested in new terms for gender non-conformity in the written Cantonese language, like the combination of the radical氵(water) and the character 人 (person) to mean gender fluid. Stemming from a curiosity of traditional Chinese knot-making, the project took a turn into self-reflexive questions of cultural authority, the barriers to intergenerational learning in the diaspora (especially during a pandemic), and the pressure to create the most “accurate” and “certain” representation of tradition to an audience that is used to a kitschy ethnic exotica. The LED signage functions both as an externalization of these discussions, and false form of advertising in the neighbourhood. The residency project has been a process of removing and reinstating layers of legibility that are still in negotiation for me.”

This exhibition was created during Xpace’s annual summer residency for recent OCAD U graduates.

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Documentation by Roya DelSol