Public Artwork


Ana Chang, Henry Tsang & Eric Bontogon, Surfacing, 1992
Ana Chang, Henry Tsang & Eric Bontogon, Surfacing, 1992
1945 Cornwall Street, Vancouver, BC, Canada
Artwork creator(s): 
Chang, Ana; Tsang, Henry; Bontogon, Eric
Text author(s): 
Chang, Ana; Tsang, Henry; Bontogon, Eric
Installation year: 
Remarks on location: 
LED screens located at the following locations:

• The Flying Wedge Pizza Co. (outside), 1175, Robson Street
• Emily Carr College of Art and Design (reception), 1399 Johneston, Granville Island
• Espressohead Cafe (inside), 1945 Cornwall Street
• Proprioception Books (inside), 432 Homer Street
• The Block Shop (inside), 350 West Cordova Street
• Bulldog Café (inside), 510 Nelson Street

A series of texts was presented on LED electronic message boards or using slide projections, community access television and local print media.

Text of the artwork: 

She said, she called me Lily, again. And he
insisted that I’m precious Jade. I told them
they can call me Lily, Jade, China, what-
ever; makes no difference. They’re all the
same thing. They tell me I am so beautiful
and special, that I should feel proud to be
different. Am I supposed to be flattered? As
if he’s some kind of expert and she’s my
sister. Why do they believe that they know
me better than I know myself? What do
they want from me? My love? My loyalty?
My forgiveness?  

She said, I began to say no, you have
mistaken, I am not your Asia. It’s not like
you, I’m told. When I assert myself, my
thoughts, my feelings, my story, am I
behaving unnaturally? No, I must insist
that you listen: I refuse the labels, the
masks, I refuse to identify with your image
of me. Why should your dream live on at
the expense of my self, my life? Give it up.
I will not give in. Because when I begin to
Forget who I am, where I’m from, I will also
Begin to forget that I have begun to forget.
As if change* does not occur. As if I am as I
have always been, unchanging.

West Side Story

Brand new house with large lot, facing
exclusive golf course/country club. Very
quiet, close to the river.  
I was nine, in a new school in a new neigh-
borhood. We had made it, we had moved
to the West side. Here, we are poised on
the edge of the university lands, destined
to study in higher places.  

Wall-to-wall carpeting, three bathroom, a
rec room, my own bed room. And a large
back yard with a fish pond my father built
in the far corner, so far away that I could
hardly see it from the house.

I didn’t know why I was called that. I didn’t
know what it meant. All I knew was that it
hurt to hear it, made me draw back, it
made me turn inward and become silent. I
suppose it was the way it was said.

The pond was stocked with gold fish, and
one summer a frog came to live there. It
was large and dark green and very loud. I
didn’t know how it got there, since our
yard was surrounded by a tall wooden
fence, but there it was. Then one day, it
was gone.  

I became quiet and withdrawn. My world
shrank backwards and inside out. I felt
powerless and constantly under scrutiny.
I was vulnerable and did not know yet how to
fight back. Each day I feared being singled
out, to be made fun of, to be taunted, to
have my Chineseness become the object
of derision, for me to experience deep,
deep shame for being so special, so differ-

Black Night

Black night. A wavering sea of red and blue
light coloured my skin.  

Surrounded. To serve and protect. I guess
they were just doing their job.  

Bad Boys, Bad Boys, watcha gonna do?
I didn’t do anything wrong, really.

My warm flesh pressed against cold metal.
Do you have a record? No, officer, I only
have CD’s.

If Refugee, press 1, Landed Immigrant,
press 2, Asian Gang Member, press 3. You
speak English? My whole life flashed.

Want to see my records? Do I look like the
criminal type? Going to measure the size
of my skull? Stained. Weeks to get the ink
off your fingers, they say. I pay my taxes.

THE UNITED COLORS OF… what? It is my
brown skin, black hair, almond-shaped
eyes? You just happened to be at the
wrong place at the wrong time.

Text theme: 
Racism experienced on a daily basis
Artwork theme: 
Three texts were presented on LED messaging screens and in slideshows throughout eight locations in the city of Vancouve; video versions were presented on Roger's cable (cable 4, Chinatown Today, September and October 1992) and printed versions were published in the double center-spread of Front magazine (November-December 1992 issue).
Event: Out of Place exhibition, organized by the Association for Noncommercial Culture, Summer 1992
Event date(s): 

Out of Place

Larson, Jacqueline, Monika Kin Gagnon, Sandra Edmunds (1993).  Out of Place. Vancouver : Association for Noncommercial Culture