Traces is a video interview series by Anda Zeng (interview editor) and Joseph Chung (videographer) which delves into the creative worlds of Asian-identifying artists in Toronto beyond questions of identity and racial inheritance. The project’s goal is to offer a starting point to a dynamic archival record of Asian.Canadian creatives.

“A maximalist painter moving toward the immaterial. A poet grounding new work in a single story. An experimental musician returning to what was unlearned. Traces was born of almost twenty hours in conversation with ten vastly different artists, of which you only see about forty tightly edited minutes. Through those twenty hours, a unified story began to emerge: many of these artists were undergoing transformation, finding new iterations of themselves and sometimes even shedding the very qualities that had come to define their bodies of work. Some were rekindling old loves with traditional mediums; others were finding new tools and ideas coming to life in their hands. It was an honour to be invited into their beautiful, fascinating minds.

Just like the powerful art they create, these artists are dynamic and profoundly complex, defying simplistic definitions with creative ambition, and we hope the questions we’ve asked and the portraits we’ve assembled here bear witness to that beautiful fact. Behold: the artist’s process and the artist in process.” – Anda Zeng

Traces is one of Project 40’s 2019 Col.lab Incubator projects, and partially funded by the Ontario Arts Council.

Click on the image below to view the video. New video released on YouTube biweekly on Tuesdays!

“Painting in black is taking away the light. I like how calm that is…I want you to think about the piece, I want you to feel it, think, and go deep within. I don’t want [colour] to be something distracting.”

“I lead with sound in a certain way. There’s a percussive place I go with…my measure? It’s very monosyllabic. And then I realized that Vietnamese is a monosyllabic language and I was like, ‘oh right!’ It’s almost like a literal ghost language that I’m using.”

“Usually if you look at one of my paintings, it’s one paint on top of another, over another. Some of the themes I like to explore is uncertainty and mystery. Never knowing the way something will go but keeping little parts like souvenirs in a painting. Just little elements that you sort of gather along the way while you’re creating.”

“My music practice, I’ve been primarily an improviser. [It’s] the feeling of excess. It’s not like something you can control. It’s like something has to come out of you, and that is a very bodily connection the sound.”

“Language is really important to me. I do most of my work in English, but a lot of parts in my life were segregated based on language. We usually see text as something digital, but when you see something embroidered, you have a more personal and intimate relationship with it.”

“A lot of the projects I’ve worked on — especially the ones people have seen — they’ve really emerged over the process of creating it. It’s always a process of rewriting it, as soon as you get into a space with actors, then a lot of buildings happen there. That’s one of the joys of having a piece of theatre — something that is live, something that is malleable every night.”

“I think about the future, and I think about what could be the next thing of interaction. What if there was something that could imagine these gestures as a more outgoing way of speaking about yourself? That’s why we made this costume that kind of moves and can sense all of that.”