Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Life Vest

I have written a short piece for the Canada Council Art Bank blog about one the works in their collection. Wei (2001) by the artist Pao Quang Yeh, is comprised of a child’s shirt, like a traditional Asian embroidered silk garment, which has been adorned with 2,300 tiny Canadian flag lapel pins in the shape of a vest. The shirt hangs from the wall on a hook and hanger and conveys a palpable sense of the weight of history and cultural baggage.

Wei (2001) by Pao Quang Yeh

In Wei, two iconic artefacts merge together in a visceral way. The shirt roots the piece in Asian culture, but it is festooned with a symbol of Canadian patriotism. (In fact, the Department of Canadian Heritage donated most of the pins to Yeh, making it possible for him to realize the work.) By using everyday materials, Yeh’s art work is easily recognizable and relatable.

The piece was written to place the work within the context of the ongoing Syrian Refugee crisis. It obviously remains timely. Canadians are concerned not only for the Syrian refugees, but also for people from other places who are seeking asylum. Many have family members and loved ones who are trying to come to this country, and many more have gone through similar experiences in the long history of immigration to Canada. You can read the full text here.

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