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Karen Tam: Installation of 鸕鶿飛 (Flying Cormorant Studio [For Lee Nam])

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Published on Jul 8, 2014

Time lapse video of Karen Tam's installation process for 鸕鶿飛 (Flying Cormorant Studio [For Lee Nam]). This video shows almost seven days of installation compressed into two minutes.

鸕鶿飛 (Flying Cormorant Studio [For Lee Nam]) is part of Convoluted Beauty: In the Company of Emily Carr, at the Mendel Art Gallery from June 27 to September 14, 2014.

Karen Tam is a Canadian artist whose research focuses on the various forms of constructions and imaginations of seemingly opposing cultures and communities, expressed through installations in which she recreates spaces such as the Chinese restaurant, karaoke lounge, opium den, and other sites of cultural encounters. For Convoluted Beauty, Tam considers notions of cultural, political, and social exile in her imaginative reconstruction of the studio of Chinese Canadian artist Lee Nam, a friend of Emily Carr.

Lee Nam had been trained in Chinese brush painting, art, and music, but was employed as the bookkeeper of a Chinese merchant in Victoria, BC when he met Carr. They met in at least 1932, and references to him are found in her journals until April 1935. Despite having recently been welcomed into the collegial circle of the Group of Seven, Carr felt isolated in Victoria, and perhaps as a result she was attracted to those whom she also considered outside the mainstream English colonial artists society that dominated the city. For decades, Chinese immigrants were subject to attack, exploitation, forced exclusion from English Canadian society and general political and social disenfranchisement. Lee Nam's engagement in artistic production may be seen as a way of escaping these repressive conditions. Tam's installation, which relies in part on Carr's descriptions, acknowledges his studio space as a site of resistance.

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