Asian Canadian Minor Transnationalism: A Method of Comparison

in Asian Diasporic Visual Cultures and the Americas
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This article provides a comparative analysis of Howie Tsui’s Celestials of Saltwater City (2011) and Ali Kazimi’s Fair Play (2014), two art installations that centre the histories of different Asian Canadian communities (Chinese Canadian and South Asian Canadian, respectively), but are underscored by paralleled experiences of racism, exclusion, and indenture. I bring these works together to propose a rethinking of Asian Canadian art history through Françoise Lionnet and Shu-mei Shih’s concept of minor transnationalism, a framework which helps map historical formations of “Asian Canadian” that rupture dominant cultural discourse. By comparing the ways in which Asian Canadian artists tell their own stories, drawing attention to narrative and aesthetic resonances not always immediately apparent, minor transnationalism brings into critical focus the subjective connections and experiences of diaspora that are already present but have been obscured through processes of historical erasure and settler colonial nation-building.

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Figures
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    Howie Tsui, “Capsizing” scene from Celestials of Saltwater City, 2011, wooden projectors, Chinese pigment and ink on transparencies (digital composite still), dimensions variable.

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    Ali Kazimi, image from Fair Play (2014), stereoscopic 3D installation.Copyright Ali Kazimi.

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    Howie Tsui, “Mahjong” scene from Celestials of Saltwater City, 2011, wooden projectors, Chinese pigment and ink on transparencies (digital composite still), dimensions variable.

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    Rehearsal for Celestials of Saltwater City, 2011, performance at Centre A: Vancouver International Centre for Contemporary Asian Art, Vancouver, Canada.

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    Ali Kazimi, scene from Fair Play, 2014, stereoscopic 3D video, 7 minutes, dimensions variable.

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