More than a year has passed since the last feature of Creator to Creator, a series where I ask questions to Asian.Canadian artists of various backgrounds about their creative practice, and about their “favourite” Asian.Canadian artist engaging in a different medium. During the passing year, I discovered, met, and talked with numerous artists based in Toronto and Canada. I also began to witness the rise of interest and attraction toward IBPOC art in the city’s large institutional spaces, where organizers, directors, and managers (predominantly white) realize the need to participate in the discourse of “diversity” – or rather, to checkmark their way into the sociopolitical landscape. In theatre — where I currently work — more and more white directors are inviting IBPOC artists into their spaces, partnering with culturally diverse theatres, hiring a single IBPOC onto staff, or writing in a one-liner shout-out to recognize their privilege in their play.
As I intentionally engage with the IBPOC art community, particularly through working in an Indigenous theatre company, and participating mostly in the Asian.Canadian community, I have become a bit cynical towards how IBPOC artists and their art are being treated and discussed in comparison to white counterparts. The current rise of attention equates to an ongoing lack of resources and opportunities, including safe spaces for respective community groups to gather to share, discuss, and support each other. On an institutional level, IBPOC voices are still absent or tokenized on the decision-making table. These conversations, of course, are unique, diverse, and specific in Indigenous arts, Black arts, and “POC” art. Even the term “POC” itself is too broad of an umbrella to encompass the diversity and the complexity of the population.
I wanted to bring back Creator to Creator with these bigger questions in mind. I wanted to hear (more) about the creative practices and processes, stories and feelings, thoughts and concerns from Asian.Canadian creators currently participating in the Toronto/Canadian art scene – not just the typical “What is your cultural background and how does it influence your work?” I also wanted to bring the various “art worlds” together, and build dialogues between artists engaging in different mediums. As a predominantly visual artist working in theatre, I began to see how visual artists, and even writers and poets, function in separate worlds than theatre practitioners, and vice versa; yet, visual is crucial for set design and writing for good scripts, while theatre and performance are constantly interwoven with visual presentations. Could we say spoken word and slam poetry are part of theatre as well? Re-articulating what I said in the introduction of the first Creator to Creator, “Any artist can probably agree that an art medium cannot stand alone without the influence, inspiration, and collaboration with another medium.” I believe forming this web of connections builds a stronger artist community, in which we can mend what we lack in the still white-dominant arts world. I say this as I recall Montréal-based artist Karen Tam’s answer to Toronto-based curator Henry Heng Lu’s question: “How do we take up (more) spaces as artistic and cultural practitioners?” in Canadian Art. “One important thing is to support one another, as well as to share in and to create your own opportunities.”
Each month, I invite two Asian.Canadian creators from different mediums to talk about their creative practices, and introduce us to their “favourite” Asian.Canadian creator engaging in a medium similar to the other artist being featured; so we get an illustrator to talk about a playwright, and a playwright to talk about an illustrator. This part of the interview is presented as a handwritten Q&A, inspired by American photographer Todd Selby’s interviews.
I hope this series can contribute to our collective journey in the larger arts scene, and that you will discover some incredible talents in our community.
Stay tuned for the first feature of Creator to Creator II, coming to you next week.