March 21 marks the UN’s International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. Racism poses a risk to all, but it does not affect us all in the same way. We have witnessed the alarming growth of violent and deadly attacks against BIPOC people in our communities. As recent events appallingly demonstrate, anti-Asian hate crime has risen globally over the past year, much of it fueled by discriminatory references to the COVID-19 pandemic. According to a recent report in Vancouver, we saw a 717% increase in Asian hate crimes, from 12 reported cases in 2019 to 98 incidents in 2020.
At the Vancouver Art Gallery, we seek equity and justice for all and continue to work to create a safer space where all voices are heard, valued and represented. We condemn anti-Asian hate and stand against racism and discrimination in all its forms.
Vancouver is a city of many immigrant histories, including one of North America’s fastest growing Asian populations. But this city has always had a complex relationship with Asian migration. The Canadian Pacific Railway built its terminus in Vancouver, transforming it from logging outpost into an industrial hub. It did so with the labour of thousands of Chinese and Japanese workers. The completion of that project was followed by a series of violent and discriminatory acts including: the federal Chinese Immigration Act (1885), the anti-Asian riots in Vancouver (1887) and the Japanese Internment and dispossession of more than 90% of Japanese Canadians (1942).
How artists from diasporic communities address ideas of identity through art is a question that runs through exhibitions at the Vancouver Art Gallery, as well as in the work of the Institute of Asian Art, as we confront systemic racism in our own city and institution.
There are no easy solutions to ending systemic racism, but respect and education are the foundations for facilitating a deeper understanding and appreciation between cultures.
There is a wealth of art and cultural histories in our city. Here are a few recommended local exhibitions and projects on now that you can share with your networks:
Griffin Art Projects
Whose Chinatown? Examining Chinatown Gazes in Art, Archives, and Collections
January 2 to May 29, 2021
Brings together an art history of Chinatowns and their communities by historical and contemporary Canadian artists.
Museum of Anthropology
A Future for Memory
February 11 – September 5, 2021
On the 10th anniversary year of the Great East Japan Earthquake, or 3.11, this exhibition addresses how we deal with memory when our physical surroundings are drastically altered.
Nikkei National Museum & Cultural Centre
September 2020 to April 17, 2021
Learn about life for Japanese Canadians in Canada before the second world war, the administration of their lives during and after the war ended, and how legacies of dispossession continue to this day.
Museum of Vancouver
A Seat at the Table
November 19, 2020 to January 2022
This exhibition explores historical and contemporary stories of Chinese Canadians in British Columbia and their struggles for belonging. It looks to food and restaurant culture as an entry point to feature stories that reveal the great diversity of immigrant experience and of the communities’ immigrants develop.
Will Kwan: Exclusion Acts
March 10 to May 29, 2021
A solo exhibition by Will Kwan that brings together photo, text and media-based works to explore systemic and absurd ways that economic ideology shapes social relations and beliefs.
Vancouver Art Gallery
Sun Xun: Mythological Time
February 20 to September 6, 2021
孙逊 Sun Xun employs painting, printmaking and animation to produce ambitious works that contend with notions of time and history, fantasy and reality, ideology and myth. In his highly imaginative video installation Mythological Time (2016), Sun takes viewers on a journey through his hometown of Fuxin in northern China, a coal-mining centre facing the depletion of its economic lifeblood.
UBC Asian Canadian and Asian Migration (ACAM) Studies
COVID-19 Vulnerabilities: Asian Racialization, Coalition and Creativity
Virtual Roundtable presented in September 2020
A series of virtual conversations about Asian racialization and the multiple meanings of “vulnerability” in the unfolding global pandemic. The roundtable considers how COVID-19 amplifies the precarity of particular communities, and how creativity, art and interdependence in mutual aid might address such inequities.
To take concrete action, raise awareness and report anti-Asian racism in British Columbia visit the following resources: