Cinema Suitcase and Will Kwan: Stories from Places and Times Distantly Close. Curated by Liz Park
Western Front Exhibitions and Media Arts are pleased to present Stories from Places and Times Distantly Close, the Vancouver premiere of works by internationally recognized media artists Cinema Suitcase and Will Kwan. At a time when the existing economic system has arguably proven itself unsustainable, this exhibition offers a closer look at the seemingly distant places and times where the consequences of free global trade can be felt in tangible and direct ways.
The video documentary Colony (2006) by Cinema Suitcase examines a crumbling outpost of the Bata Shoe Company in Batanagar, India. Envisioning a world where no one need go bare foot, the Czech industrialist Thomas Bata set up “Bata Colonies” where company-sponsored schools, hospitals, and recreation centres structured workers’ social lives. Today, Batanagar is in a state of disrepair. Unable to compete with cheap labour outsourced to the poorest of countries, Bata Colonies’ utopic-yet-paternalistic beginnings are fading into a distant memory.
In his multi-media installation Canaries (the bank and the treasury) (2007), Will Kwan connects the contemporary Hong Kong-nese diaspora to the history of the HSBC Bank. Formerly the Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation, HSBC was founded in 1865, after China’s defeat in the Opium Wars forced an unequal foreign trade agreement. The establishment of the bank in the newly acquired colony of Hong Kong played an integral role in ensuring the expansion of the British Empire.
Kwan’s Clocks that Do Not Tell the Time (2008) further a discussion of economic disparity in global trade by presenting clocks indicating the local time in such places as toxic dump sites, factory towns, corporate head offices and military headquarters.
Through different narrative methods, the artists highlight what is often left unspoken in discussions of global economy, as well as the colonial motivations that seed such disparate trade relationships.
Cinema Suitcase is an international group of filmmakers pursuing projects of experimental social documentary. Coming from a diversity of fields in the visual arts, they seek to facilitate the self-narration of their subjects, always encountered on the basis of a great intimacy, rather than constructing their stories for them. This approach enhances the performative quality of filmmaking as a collective process. The group consists of Mieke Bal, Zen Marie, Thomas Sykora, Gary Ward, Michelle Williams.
Will Kwan, a Toronto-based media artist, was born in Hong Kong and grew up in Toronto. He received his MFA from the School of Arts at Columbia University (2004) and was a researcher in visual art at the Jan Van Eyck Academie in Maastricht, The Netherlands (2005-2007). He has shown extensively both nationally and internationally, including solo exhibitions at the Doulun Museum of Modern Art in Shanghai, The Power Plant in Toronto, as well as group exhibitions at PS1 Contemporary Art Centre in New York, and Crack the Sky, 5th Biennale de Montréal. His upcoming projects include a solo presentation at the Justina M. Barnicke Gallery in Toronto and a residency at the Irish Museum of Modern Art in Dublin. He currently teaches at University of Toronto, Scarborough.