Archive
Search
Artspeak,

Artspeak

Laiwan

An interdisciplinary artist, writer, educator and cultural activist with a wide-ranging practice based in poetics and philosophy. Born in Zimbabwe of Chinese Toisanese parents, her family immigrated to Canada in 1977 to leave the war in Rhodesia. Recipient of numerous Canada Council and BC Arts Council awards and the Vancouver 2008 Queer Media Artist Award, Laiwan has served on numerous arts juries, exhibited and curated projects in Canada, the United States, and Zimbabwe. She was Chair of the grunt gallery Board of Directors and currently teaches in the MFA in Interdisciplinary Arts Program at Goddard College in Washington, USA. Laiwan founded the Or Gallery in 1983 and is based on the unceded territories of the xwməθkwəy̓əm, Sḵwx̱wú7mesh, and səl̓ilwətaɁɬ Peoples.

Exhibitions

  • Maple Tree Spiral

    LAIWAN
    June 14–July 27, 2019

    With Egan Davis, Anne Riley, T’uy’t’tanat Ceass Wyss, Melissa West Morrison and Marika van Reeuwyk of the Environmental Youth Alliance, Sepideh Saii, Daniel Negatu, and brothers Frank and Dance Williams.

    Situated a short distance from Artspeak at the corner junction of Carrall, Water, Alexander and Powell Streets was formerly the site of Maple Tree Square. Laiwan takes the historic site of the Square as a starting point for her research project Maple Tree Spiral: the pedagogy of a tree in the city. The original Maple Tree no longer stands, and instead a statue of ‘Gassy’ Jack Deighton. As a site where one of the first city council meetings of the settlement of Gastown was held, Laiwan considers how Maple Tree Square is a space of convergence.

    Maple Tree Spiral is a research project studio residency that will remain in process over time in the gallery, being shaped through events and activities with a number of contributors and with a practice dedicated to a wider understanding of trees as a way to reorient and reconfigure how we inhabit the city and urban environment. During this time at Artspeak, Laiwan will present several works informed by her research, as well as a place to share people’s tree stories, and a site of gathering for events that will take place over the course of the project.

    Laiwan’s interdisciplinary research maintains a rhizomatic methodology proximate to Donna Haraway’s assertion of a deeply embodied praxis that lends itself to better comprehending and articulating multispecies sociality. Haraway has frequently spoken of the ‘… need for other kinds of stories’, particularly ones that draw attention to the relationship between human and non-human forms living alongside one another. Put simply, to shift our focus and attend to what is already there. Maple Tree Spiral draws upon what is not immediately perceptible in our urban environment.

    When we first began speaking about Maple Tree Spiral, Laiwan sent me an image of Goethe’s Oak, followed by an image from her work ‘C A V E: C A V E A T’ of an engraved print of a large tree in a labyrinth. Within the labyrinth are people actively conversing; and in close proximity a Minotaur is seen digging the earth, as if trying to get out. We know this image to be a depiction of The Labyrinth of Crete from Greek mythology. Central to many stories of trees is their role as monuments both mundane (as wayfinding markers) to that of bearers of knowledge, as witnesses, and integral to philosophical and religious concepts. During my year of correspondence with Laiwan, our line of questioning around trees in the city would incrementally shift to an attentiveness of the trees we live alongside. Informed by a site-specificity in her research and practice, Maple Tree Spiral questions the narratives we are attuned to, the ones that we want to deviate from, and the ones we want to write and hear.

    Meeting with several individuals and organizations over the course of a year, Laiwan started to build an informal constellation and network of relationships with the objective of how to better care for trees in our immediate environment. Laiwan describes the building of these relationships and partnerships between human and non-human forms as a process of ‘sympoiesis’ – collectively created, produced and organized, without a central node. Another term, which nuances the decentralized nature of entangled relationships that Laiwan has mentioned, is ‘holobionts’ – assemblages of different species that remain in progress and are highly interdependent. Maple Tree Spiralfosters entangled ways of knowing that allow for a reading and writing that incites other ways of living and imagining the world.

    Laiwan would like to thank Hannah Doyle, Mae Stark, Marc Hanson, Cynthia Low, Britannia Community Centre, Sharon Bayly, Mrs. Chin Kow Chung, Harmony Gardens X̱wemelch’stn pen̓em̓áy, City of Vancouver Arborists Troy Hudson, Jeff D’Altroy and Terry Marshall, Karen Henry, Douglas Justice, Dana Cromie, Dan Guinan at the Native Education College, and the BC Arts Council.

  • rapture : rupture

    LAIWAN, SAM SHEM
    December 11–January 29, 2000

    This exhibition is a culmination of a collaborative process between Laiwan, an established interdisciplinary artist and writer, and Sam Shem, an emerging artist working in installation. Taking the form of on-going discussions and shared readings over the past year this collaboration has informed their respective new works.

    Sam Shem’s work will be installed in the gallery space. This new installation work uses small circular mirrors, painted walls, lighting and bubbles produced by a bubble machine: ephemeral materials that are contingent upon the bodies of viewers to craft the experience and atmosphere of the work as they move through it, while reflections appear and disappear, bubbles fall and break. The work draws attention to its own impermanence and the transitory nature of experience through the immediacy and indeterminate approach to materials and space.

    Laiwan’s new text work will be presented in the publication centre and will take two forms: an ‘installed’ poetic text will be present when the exhibition opens and a theoretical text which will be added for the final half of the exhibition period.

  • Built To Code

    KATI CAMPBELL, LAIWAN, RUTH SCHEUING
    June 19–July 31, 1998

    Customized Island (three motile versions towards a train-of-thought, including a prototype for utopian upholstery)

    (We are only as crafty as the secrets we keep.)

    I think Proust would be amused at the idea that your own work should seem like an interesting game about other people, rather than something terrifyingly banal about the self.

    Nature hides: Heraclitus said it 2700 years ago (it was an oral culture then). You have to have a sense of humour if you’re going to go after the unconscious. Now we might add that it is also nomadic, it takes its baggage with it, plus it squirrels away things in different places, it makes memory devices of the visceral, it has its own time clock and keeps its own anniversaries, itâs capable of endless displacement, and it practically invented economics.

    The Titans are the prime residents of the unconscious, whose forms have nothing resolute about them, so that there is constant drama in trying to distinguish these figures from the ground they’re made of. (We tend to think of the relation between figure and ground in adversarial terms, of the ground as something against which we see figures. Tsk, tsk, say the Titans. A tisket, a tasket.)

    —Kati Campbell, 1998

    Thanks to: Susan Edelstein, Warren Murfitt, Robert McNealy, and Irma McInnis.

    REMOTELY IN TOUCH explores images created by remote digital signals sent via satellite or robotic camera found on the internet or from other sources. I have chosen this process of imaging as a framework for my curiosity into how digital visualization, and its attendant technologies, alter our codes of signification. By this I include questions of how these digitized, visualized and informational processes alter the way we perceive the world, the way we perceive ourselves and the act of perception in general. Within perception we learn to move in the world. Perception and movement evolve in a symbiotic interplay, where skills are gained and skills are lost, many times without our choice or knowledge.

    Juxtaposed with these digital images are analog video images that encapsulate a “visceral moment” or an “embodied movement”. By contrasting the binary of digital/information and analog/body,

    I intend to challenge my investigation to raise issues of what is ‘real’? what is ‘body’? how is ‘representation’ inadequate? what is constructed or ‘science fiction’? what are the implications of “pattern” over “presence”, “randomness” over “absence” within information systems.

    I have included images of my blood cells ‘captured’ by an electronic microscope; NASA’s Pathfinder mission to Mars; ultrasound imaging; an underwater volcano; exploratory surgery using a robotic camera; wing chun martial arts, the Human Genome Project and satellite imagery of the earth’s surface. The audio also continues my exploration within digital, musical and narrative possibilities.

    The process of making this first videowork has shown me the strengths and weaknesses of the medium. By choosing images sent by satellite or robotic camera, particularly those from the internet, I found myself embracing the low-resolution, highly pixelated quality of the digital and of video media in general. During this installation study, for the purpose of particularly focusing on issues concerning ‘duration’ and ‘real time’, these analog, magnetic tapes will not be replaced as they degrade with drop-out caused from repeated over play. Thus, near the end of this exhibition, the images on these video loops may possibly not be as clear nor as recognizable as during opening night. The tapes will only be replaced if they break or get tangled in the machine.

    For more notes on REMOTELY IN TOUCH please ask for the folder in the office.

    —Laiwan, 1998

    Thanks to: Wendy Oberlander Susan Edelstein E. Centime Zeleke Jennifer Abbott Warren Arcan Michelle Frey Winston Xin John Fukushima Steve Chow Louie Ettling Chris Welsby Donna Zapf Ellie Epp Roberto Ruiz and the world wide web SFU, School for Contemporary Arts Artspeak Gallery Grunt Gallery Semperviva (blood imaging) my family Video In the Canada Council for past and present BC Arts Council support and resources.

    “The analytical engine weaves algebraic patterns just as the Jacquard loom weaves flowers and leaves.” (A. A. L. (Ada Lovelace))

    This quote initiated my interest in the connection between Jacquard weaving and the beginnings of the computer in the mid 19th century. It also provided an excellent forum for reinvesting patterning, composed of flowers and leaves with new meaning, interwoven between language, imagery and pattern.

    Ada Lovelace/Byron was educated in mathematics and collaborated with Charles Babbage, who invented the Analytical Engine in 1843. Ada translated a text about the Analytical Engine by Manabrea and her notes took up more space than the original text. This engine never really worked, but it contained the operating principles of the computer. The process was derived from the Jacquard loom which uses punched cards to store and process information. The Jacquard loom was developed to produce elaborately patterned weavings with representational imagery, based on fabrics brought back to Europe from Asia during the 18th century.

    Donna Haraway’s notion of the ‘Cyborg’ bridges opposites against a simplistic reading of divisions between nature/culture and many other categories. By embracing seemingly contradictory concepts, possiblities open up for new dialogues in well established territories, in this case computer technology, the hand-made, domestic and functional design, women’s work etc. Lastly, weaving often uses complex equipment and requires an efficiency of movements, which causes the weaver to become an integrated part of the process and blurring the boundaries between human and machine—a Cyborg is born.

    “We are all chimeras, theorized and fabricated hybrids of machine and organism; in short we are cyborg”. “The cyborg is a condensed image of both imagination and material reality, the two joined centers structuring any possible historical transformation”. “This is an argument for pleasure in the confusion of boundaries and for responsibility in their construction”. “Nature and culture are reworked; the one can no longer be the resource for appropriation or incorporation by the other”. “The cyborg would not recognize the garden of Eden: it is not made of mud and cannot dream of returning to dust”. “Cyborg are not reverent; they do not remember the cosmos”. “The main trouble with Cyborgs, of course, is that they are the illegitimate offspring of militarism and patriarchal capitalism, not to mention state socialism. But illegitimate offspring are often exceedingly unfaithful to their origins. Their fathers, after all, are inessential”. “The cyborg myth subverts myriad organic wholes, in short, the certainty of what counts as nature—as a source of insight and promise of innocence—is undermined, probably fatally”. “Cyborgs are floating signifiers moving in pick up trucks across Europe”. (Donna Haraway from ‘Cyborg Manifesto’)

    I have long been interested in myths about weavings of the past and the future. Ada died of cancer at 32 and was ill most of her life, she might enjoy her new seat and virtual life in order to take the tradition of the Fates into the future and create a new mythology composed of cyborgs, weavers and computers.

    Cyborg women weave translucent thought into sturdy cloth and with Arachne still defy the gods. The Fates still weave with Ada’s help on ancient looms and computers. Nature weaves a digital dream into the text and Philomela has her own web page now.

    —Ruth Scheuing, 1998

    Thanks to: Susan Edelstein for her interest in pushing these ideas forward; to Marianne Danylchuck for her professional upholstery of the chair; to Louise Bérubé at the Centre des Métiers d’Art en Construction Textile in Montréal for help with computer and the Jacquard loom and to the Canada Council for Financial Support.

    Sources: Sadie Plant in ‘Clicking-In’ and ‘Zeros and Ones’; Donna Haraway in ‘Cyborg Manifesto’

    Titles: Flowers and Leaves #1: Ada: Enchantress of Numbers – Queen of the Engines upholstered chair with computer assisted handwoven Jacquard cotton fabric,

    Flowers and Leaves #2: Cyborg women weave translucent thought…. computer assisted handwoven Jacquard cotton fabric

    Flowers and leaves #3: The Fates still weave…. computer assisted handwoven Jacquard cotton fabric

    Web links: Ada Lovelace Site listing several webpages on Ada Lovelace: http://www.cs.yale.edu/homes/tap/ada-lovelace.html

    Ruth’s web page entitled: ‘to weave a virtual web: textiles as metaphor’ http://www.capcollege.bc.ca/dept/textile/ (creates a context for Ada, the Fates and Philolema and etc. mentioned in my text)

  • Artspeak: 5th Anniversary, Exhibition and Sale

    DONNA LEISEN, DAVID STEELE, DOUG MUNDAY, WORKSITE, LAURA LAMB, ARTISTS'S BOOKWORKS, MARK GRADY, REID SHIER, ROB LINSLEY, LAIWAN, ROBERT SHERIN, SFU STUDENT WORK, PATRONS, STAN DOUGLAS, BRENNA GEORGE, MARK LEWIS, HENRY TSANG, ROY ARDEN, ALLYSON CLAY, KATHERINE KORTIKOW, BEHIND THE SIGN, ANNE RAMSDEN, CORINNE CARLSON, CHRISTINE DAVIS, LAUREL WOODCOCK, AMI RUNAR HARALDSSON, KATHY SLADE, PHILLIP MCCRUM, EDWARD POITRAS, WILL GORLITZ, KELLY WOOD, NANCY SHAW, KEN LUM, LORNA BROWN, ROY KIYOOKA, KEITH HIGGINS, ELLEN RAMSEY, SARA LEYDON, MARTHA TOWNSEND, MINA TOTINO, FRANK GAUDET, LANI MAESTRO, PANYA CLARK
    February 22–March 23, 1991

  • She who had scanned the flower of the world

    LAIWAN
    May 2–May 22, 1987

  • Vancouver Artists’ Bookworks Exhibition

    MARIAN PENNER BANCROFT, NANCY FROHLICK, ROBERT GORE, ARNI HARALDSSON, LAIWAN, DONNA LEISEN, ALEXIS MACDONALD, DOUG MUNDAY, KAREN STANLEY, FANNA YEE
    October 18–November 7, 1986

    From October 18 to November 7 1986, Artspeak Gallery will present the Vancouver Artists’ Bookworks Exhibition. Ten artists will be featured in the exhibition: Marian Penner Bancroft, Nancy Frohlick, Robert Gore, Arni Runar Haraldsson, Laiwan, Donna Leisen, Alexis MacDonald, Doug Munday, Karen Stanley and Fanna Yee.

    An artists’ bookwork can be anything that is in the form of, or takes its form from a book. The diversity of artistic approaches and content matter in contemporary bookworks are clearly in evidence in the Artspeak exhibition. The works range from Doug Munday’s sculpturally altered “found” book to Fanna Yee’s delicate, handmade book of “painterly” photographs.

    The Vancouver Artists’ Bookworks Exhibition is intended to be the first of an annual artists’ bookworks show at Artspeak Gallery. In conjunction with the exhibition, ARTSPEAK and the Kootenay School of Writing are offering three courses that pertain to the creation of unique bookworks: an artists’ bookworks workshop, a class in papermaking by hand, and one in hand bookbinding.

Talks & Events

  • Artspeak: 5th Anniversary, Exhibition and Sale

    DONNA LEISEN, DAVID STEELE, DOUG MUNDAY, WORKSITE, LAURA LAMB, ARTISTS'S BOOKWORKS, MARK GRADY, REID SHIER, ROB LINSLEY, LAIWAN, ROBERT SHERIN, SFU STUDENT WORK, PATRONS, STAN DOUGLAS, BRENNA GEORGE, MARK LEWIS, HENRY TSANG, ROY ARDEN, ALLYSON CLAY, KATHERINE KORTIKOW, BEHIND THE SIGN, ANNE RAMSDEN, CORINNE CARLSON, CHRISTINE DAVIS, LAUREL WOODCOCK, AMI RUNAR HARALDSSON, KATHY SLADE, PHILLIP MCCRUM, EDWARD POITRAS, WILL GORLITZ, KELLY WOOD, NANCY SHAW, KEN LUM, LORNA BROWN, ROY KIYOOKA, KEITH HIGGINS, ELLEN RAMSEY, SARA LEYDON, MARTHA TOWNSEND, MINA TOTINO, FRANK GAUDET, LANI MAESTRO, PANYA CLARK
    February 22–March 23, 1991

  • Neocolonialism and Post-coloniality: modern myths about ancient habits

    LAIWAN
    September 27, 1990