This is the first major Canadian solo exhibition of works by Chinese-born, Montreal-based artist Chun Hua Catherine Dong. Working with performance, photography, and video for over a decade, Dong examines issues related to gender, cultural identity, migration, and diaspora. Chun Hua Catherine Dong presents photographs from the artist’s series I Have Been There (2015–ongoing) and Skin Deep (2014–20), in which brilliantly coloured traditional Chinese brocade silk fabrics play an important symbolic role in her exploration of her hybrid cultural identity as a Chinese Canadian immigrant and her ambivalent relationship to her homeland.
I Have Been There is an ongoing performance exploring themes of death, belonging, and diaspora. Each time Dong visits a new city, she creates a beautiful silk duvet that she places over her body as she lies on the ground in front of historical sites, tourist attractions, and other significant places or events. Dong’s performance is based on a funeral tradition in her hometown in which the daughters of a deceased person each make a duvet to place over their loved one’s body. As the only member of her family to immigrate to Canada, Dong adapts the ritual to her own particular circumstances and repeatedly performs it around the world as a poetic expression of her diasporic identity and engagement with different cultures and spaces. Occasionally attracting the attention of police and security personnel in certain places, Dong has also begun to view her performance as a political act that tests the democracy of public spaces.
Skin Deep explores the relationship between the concepts of shame and face in Chinese culture. Shame, or losing face, functions as a form of social control that prevents individuals—particularly women—from acting in ways that might disrupt the status quo. In Skin Deep, Dong explores the concept of losing face in a series of photographic self-portraits, combined with an AR (Augmented Reality) component, in which she conceals her face in the same traditional Chinese silk fabrics that comprise the background, signifying the loss of individual identity and absorption into a cultural identity. This condition reflects not only Dong’s experiences as a young woman in China but also as a Chinese immigrant in Canada.
Born in Hunan, China, Dong received an MFA in Intermedia from Concordia University and a BFA in Visual Arts from Emily Carr University of Art + Design. Dong has performed in multiple international performance art festivals and her works have been exhibited in solo and group exhibitions in Canada and internationally. The recipient of numerous awards, in 2020 Dong was awarded the Cultural Diversity in Visual Arts Award by the Conseil des arts de Montréal and was a finalist for the Fourth MNBAQ Contemporary Art Award.
Guest curated by Tara Ng
Header image: Chun Hua Catherine Dong, I Have Been There–Vancouver, 2018, performance and photograph. Courtesy of the artist.