December 5th 2023 – February 22nd 2024, Massy Arts will host, The House of 9 Dragons: Community, Family, Heritage, a multimedia installation by Love Intersections (David Ng & Jen Sungshine), Sylvan Hamburger, in collaboration with the Lim Sai Hor Kow Mock Benevolent Association.
“The House of 9 Dragons: Community, Family, Heritage” grows from an intergenerational collaboration between Love Intersections and the Lim Sai Hor Kow Mock Benevolent Association. With a reciprocal interest in the future of Chinatown and preservation of benevolent associations, this exhibit invites audiences to be in conversation with living oral histories of the Lim (林) clan, whose still-beating heart and spirit flow through the veins of Chinatown. Our aim is to foster a collective vision of Chinatown’s future, rooted in the wisdom of our ancestors and the shared dreams of generations yet to come.
We wish to acknowledge Canada Council for the Arts, Canadian Heritage, BC Arts Council, City of Vancouver, and the Lim Sai Hor Kow Mock Benevolent Association for supporting this ongoing project.
The Massy Arts Gallery is located at 23 East Pender Street in Chinatown, Vancouver.
The gallery is open Wednesday to Sunday, 12pm to 5pm.
Entrance is free, and masks are mandatory.
To contact the gallery, send an email to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
To celebrate the installation, curator Rafael Zen interviews Love Intersection (David Ng & Jen Sungshine) for Massy Arts, investigating the importance of oral traditions, and cultural heritage as an intergenerational project.
Love Intersections – Oral Traditions and Cultural Legacy
Rafael Zen – First, I would like to address the show’s title, “The House of 9 Dragons: Community, Family, Heritage”. Why was it important to highlight these three terms <Community, Family, Heritage>? What do you think each inform about the installation?
Love Intersections – The title “The House of 9 Dragons” is first a nod to the origin story of the Lim Sai Hor Kow Mock genealogy that began with nine sons known for their acts of benevolence and compassion, earning their house motto: “From the House of Nine Dragons new dragons soar, Virtue grow deep in the Ten Virtues Hall.” We wanted to bring forward the “pulse” of the Lim clan that continues to permeate through time and mythology.
“Community” underscores the deep-rooted sense of belonging, shared identity and purpose that the members of the Lim Association have towards their organization and Chinatown neighbourhood. The oral histories reveal this collective responsibility, and honour the historical role benevolent associations played in fostering a sense of community among Chinese migrants facing challenges such as migration and establishing new lives.
The inclusion of “Family” adds a deeply personal dimension to the oral histories, portraying the Lim Association as more than just an organizational entity. The familial connections underscore a commitment that goes beyond mere membership—a dedication to the well-being and continuity of the association. This familial aspect reinforces the idea that being a part of the Lim family clan is a multi-generational commitment, emphasizing kinship and shared responsibility within the association.
“Heritage” encapsulates the historical legacy and cultural significance embedded in the benevolent association. Benevolent associations like the Lim Sai Hor Kow Mock played a pivotal role in the migration history, particularly in the 1800s and 1900s. The term signifies a commitment to preserving and passing on the rich cultural heritage and traditions associated with the association. This installation aims to convey that the continued existence and relevance of benevolent associations are not just about maintaining historical artifacts but are deeply intertwined with the living heritage and legacy that the community cherishes.
Grounded in story, the title reflects the interconnectedness of the Lim Sai Hor Kow Mock Association with its community, the familial bonds that strengthen it, and the rich heritage that it endeavors to preserve and pass on to future generations.
RZ – Your artist statement says that the show grows from an intergenerational collaboration between Love Intersections and the Lim Sai Hor Kow Mock Benevolent Association. Could you please explain how this collaboration works, and how the show took form? What is the connection between this show’s idea, and the neighborhood in which it is hosted, Vancouver’s Chinatown?
LI – The collaboration between Love Intersections and the Lim Sai Hor Kow Mock Benevolent Association in creating “The House of 9 Dragons” stems from our ethical commitment to building reciprocal relationships and addressing the role of artists in gentrification within Vancouver’s Chinatown.
When we first moved into our studio in the Association’s building at 531 Carrall, we made a conscientious decision to engage with the Lim elders who owned the building. A grant was secured to digitize archival material and create a website for the Association, a gesture to not only honour their Chinatown presence but also to foster trust and relationship building as their tenants.
This collaboration evolved into oral history interviews with the elders, forming the basis for the House of 9 Dragons exhibit. The project emphasizes a reciprocal exchange of narratives, intertwining stories from the Association and Love Intersections to shape a shared vision centered on community, family, and heritage.
Vancouver’s Chinatown provides a poignant backdrop for this collaboration, given its historical and contemporary racial tensions. The project aims to break down cultural barriers for the wider public to engage with Chinatown’s history, benevolent associations, and cultural spaces. Against the backdrop of Vancouver being dubbed the Anti-Asian racism capital of North America during the pandemic, the exhibit was our way of responding to and addressing xenophobia and racism through education and community engagement.
By remounting the exhibit for an extended period, we are hoping to draw more people into Chinatown, fostering connections and understanding around the neighborhood’s complex history and contemporary challenges, including systemic segregation and the power of art-as-activism.
RZ – You say that this exhibit invites audiences to be in conversation with living oral histories of the Lim (林) clan, aiming to foster a collective vision of Chinatown’s future, rooted in the wisdom of our ancestors and the shared dreams of generations yet to come. In this sense, what is the importance of oral traditions? What voices does this project wish to highlight? How do voice and calligraphy come together for this exhibition?
LI – Oral traditions hold a profound importance in preserving the cultural legacy and historical narratives of communities. In the context of “The House of 9 Dragons,” the oral history interviews are a vital conduit for the living stories of the Lim clan, connecting past and present to envision Chinatown’s future. By focusing on personal and familial connections within the Lim Association, we’re hoping to amplify voices often overlooked in mainstream narratives.
The project specifically highlights the voices of Lim clan members, emphasizing their deep ties to the Association and the broader themes of culture and heritage embedded in the heritage building located at 531 Carrall. The narratives of the Lim clan serve as a bridge between generations, fostering a collective vision rooted in ancestral wisdom and the aspirations of future generations. In doing so, the project aims to counteract erasure and celebrate the resilience of a community whose stories might otherwise go unheard.
Through an intergenerational workshop, we engaged the elders in calligraphy and texture impressions of the building itself, adapting a process of monoprinting (loosely deriving from “relief printing”, one of the oldest known printing methods, thought to have originated in China around 250 B.C.E). The act of writing their surname in calligraphy becomes a tangible expression of cultural continuity, creating visually striking impressions that showcase both the individuality of the elders and the shared architectural heritage of the Lim Association building.
This fusion of voice and calligraphy serves as a dynamic means of storytelling, reinforcing the project’s commitment to intergenerational dialogue, cultural preservation, and public engagement. The texture impressions displayed during the exhibition become not just artifacts but vibrant testaments to the enduring legacy and shared dreams woven into the fabric of Chinatown’s past, present, and future.
RZ – If you were invited to suggest another artist to our readers, one that would create an interesting dialogue with this show, what artist/work would you suggest? What dialogues could emerge from this pairing?
LI – We are inspired by so many artists doing amazing work across Chinatowns, it’s an impossibly non-exhaustive list! It would be really neat to put our work in dialogue with other artists who work with themes of temporality, food, heritage buildings, architecture and cultural spaces.
Hannia Cheng, for example, recently had an amazing series of installations inside shop stalls at Dragon City Mall in Toronto’s Chinatown, where they referenced themes of history and futures through photographs of the neighbourhood, archival works, and cultural references while also activating the space by producing events and other cultural activities (like mah jong).
Aiya哎呀 Collective in Edmonton, Friends of Chinatown in Toronto, artist Karen Tam as well as the Sticky Rice collective in Montreal are also doing amazing work that we could see in dialogue with House of 9 Dragons. Locally, Henry Tsang’s 360 Riot Walk and its companion, “Riot Food Here,” focusing on the 1907 Anti-Oriental riots and the five cuisines of the people in the area at the time of the riot—European, Chinese, Japanese, Punjabi and Indigenous—presents an intriguing addition to the dialogue.
We think that exploring these artists’ work in tandem has the potential to compare/contrast community strategies and creative approaches to contemporary challenges in diaspora, culture, and urban development.
What does community engagement look like? What does the role of art, food, heritage activations have in the preservation of cultural memory? How do we navigate differences and tension in our collective mapping of Chinatown’s past, present and future? What is the artist’s responsibility?
Those are all questions we’re currently grappling with.