Curatorial Probes


Complementary Vision/互補願景

Posted May 23, 2018

"In words all that matters is to express the meaning."

-- Confucius (551-479 BCE)

"To excel the past we must not allow ourselves to lose contact with it; on the contrary, we must feel it under our feet because we have raised ourselves upon it."

-- Ortega y Gasset (1939)


China Netcasting Services Association [state-controlled body overseeing more than six hundred media companies in China], PROHIBITIONS FOR ONLINE MEDIA (2017) ...

•  Diverging from historical fact

•  Excessively portraying the dark side of society

•  Confusing the fundamental boundaries between right and wrong

"The most obvious artifices of language are often the most deceptive and bring on an epidemic of prejudices."

-- George Santayana (1905)


Lewis text


Pedro Arrais/Times Colonist (Victoria, British Columbia), 19 May 2018:


The renaming of a painting by Victoria artist Emily Carr [1871-1945] at the Art Gallery of Ontario [Toronto] has started a debate between curators and the  Indigenous community.

Known for the last 89 years as INDIAN CHURCH, the painting has been renamed CHURCH AT YUQUOT VILLAGE.

The renaming reflects a worldwide trend for art galleries to retitle works with racially charged language and replace them with more neutral terms. The focus is on works that have descriptions of people or places based on race, that are negative or that use terms common in colonial times. 

The name change is the first for the  Ontario gallery, home to almost 95,000 works, with 22 of them by Carr.

The effort to review and rename works has gathered steam since 2015, when the Rijksmuseum [Amsterdam] created an Adjustment of Colonial Terminology project. The goal is to review 220,000 titles and descriptions in the musum's catalogue of images and replace them with more neutral ones.

Some think it is going too far.

"While in general I am in support of the principles of reconsiliation, as an artist I can't support the change," said Carey Newman, a Kwagiuth/Coast Salish artist.

"As an artist, I am always aware of my language. If I said harmful words, I would address and take ownership of them. Changing words merely obscures the truth of how people spoke."

He is against changing the names, preferring instead for an institution to add a panel to explain the use of the word.

"Giving it a greater context can lead to a conversation around it."

Oswald Spengler (1922):

By understanding the world I mean being equal to the world  It is the hard reality of living that is essential, not the concept of life.


Carr Indian Church

Emily Carr, INDIAN CHURCH, 1929. Oil in canvas. Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto.

"If it were not for ideals and longing after them, what would life be?"

-- Emily Carr (1936)

"Transcendence is identity with difference."

-- Maurice Merleau-Ponty (1959)

"All words, in every language, are metaphors."

-- Marshall McLuhan (1988)


Arne Naess (1995):

There is no physical WORLD with specifically physical CONTENT. There is a reality, the content of which we have direct contact with only through and in our spontaneous experiences. It is a reality of infinite richness.

Shierry Weber Nicholson (2002):

If the material world gives to us through its ungraspable wildness, and our perceptual capacities develop as a result of what we realize from it, then there will always be more wildness. ... That is the sense in which nature's bounty is genuinely inexhaustible.


Tang Di Landscape

Tang Di (Chinese, ca. 1257-1355), LANDSCAPE WITH A POEM BY WANG WEI, 1323. Hanging scroll --ink and colour on silk. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. 

Artist's Inscription:

In the spring ... Tang Di painted this picture after a poem by Mojie [Wang Wei, 699-759 or 701-761].

[ Note:

In the 'realization' of this painting, Tang Di 'contains' this Wang Wei couplet:

     I walk to where the water ends
     And sit and watch as clouds arise. 

-- CAUSA Research Curators ] 


Ernst Bloch (1954):

The not-yet-become of the object manifests itself in the work of art as one that searches for itself, shines ahead of itself in its meaning. Here anticipatory illumination is not simply objective in contrast to subjective illusion. Rather, it is the way of being, which in its turn wakes utopian consciousness and indicates to it the not-yet-become in the scale of its possibilities.

Wang Bi (226-249 CE):

The Image is what brings out concept; language is what clarifies the Image. Nothing can equal Image in giving the fullness of concept; nothing can equal language in giving the fullness of Image.


Trees and sky

" ... 'Double Ground' ...". (Photo: M. Cynog Evans.)

"To and fro in shadow, from outer shadow to inner shadow. To and fro, between unattainsble self and unattainsble not-self.

-- Samuel Beckett (1976)


Complementary Vision/互補願景

Posted May 18, 2018

Zisi (d. 402 BCE):

Absolute sincerity is ceaseless. Being ceaseless, it is lasting. Being lasting, it is evident. Being evident, it is infinite.


 Bakunin text


Wool's wool is the best of wool,
but it cannot be sheared, because
the wolf will not comply.

-- Marianne Moore (1932)


Animal politics

Joseph Beuys, A POLITICAL PARTY FOR ANIMALS, 1974. Offset lithograph on paper (with ink stamps and handwritten additions in pencil) --proof sheet of sugar bags found by the artist during his first USA journey.

[ Beuys formed a Political Party for Animals in 1969 ... "in representation of those who do not have a voice". In 1980, he was one of the founders of the German Green Party. ]

Joseph Beuys (1974):

The whole problematic of understanding the function of art in the society is to change our understanding of ourselves and humankind. ... Artists working in the West and the Far East cannot arrive at a good result until they look first to the point where creativity springs. 


Edmund Burke (1790):

Political reason is a computing principle, in adding, subtracting, multiplying, and dividing, morally and not metaphysically or mathematically, true moral denominations. 

Whitman animals


Hui-neng (d. 713 CE):

Truth has nothing to do with words. Truth can be likened to the bright moon in the sky. Words, in this case, can be likened to a finger. The finger can point to the moon's location. However, the finger is not the moon. To look at the moon, it is necessary to gaze beyond the finger.


Kierkegaard text


"If art is probe then 'make it new' is a simple conclusion."

-- Marshall McLuhan (1965)


Beuys Revolution

Joseph Beuys, WORK ONLY WHEN YOU FEEL: YOUR WORK STARTS REVOLUTION, 1969. Oil paint, iron chloride, watercolour and graphite on paper. Tate Gallery (London) and National Galleries of Scotland.

Joseph Beuys (1974):

It's now necessary to establish a new kind of art, able to show the problems of the whole society, of every living being-- and how this new discipline, which I call the social sculpture, can realize the future of humankind. It could be a guarantee for the evolution of the earth as a planet, establish conditions for other planetarians too. And you can control it with your thinking.

[ ... ]

We have to first ask, in what part of the social structure does art live? Art as an element in the whole culture, is normally placed at the point of creativity. But we have to see what creativity means for the whole. ... Art is the ONLY possibility for evolution, the only possibility to change the situation in the world. But then you have to enlarge the idea of art to include the whole creativity. ... All work that's done has to have the quality of art.

Niall Williams (2014):

To begin with you must be traced into the landscape, your people and your place found. Until these are you are in the wrong story. 



" ... 'True Thusness'...". (Photo: M. Cynog Evans.)

Hsüan-tsang (596-664):

There is really no external sphere of objects. There is only inner consciousness which produces what seems to be the external sphere....


Russell text



" ... 'Self-Transformation'...". (Photo: M. Cynog Evans.)

"To regard knowledge as a product of time means to respond to events as if they had to be."

-- Chuang Tzu (fourth century BCE)


Howard text


Dewey text


Laozi nonbeing


As I was going to St. Ives,
I met a man with seven wives,
Each wife had seven sacks,
Each sack had seven cats,
Each cat had seven kits:
Kits, cats, sacks and wives,
How many were there going to St. Ives?

-- Traditional English-language nursery rhyme (circa 1825)



                     M.K. Morton

Some film star claims he's on good terms with all his past wives.
I'm on good terms with almost all my past lives;
Just a mite uncertain how much of each survives.
But I'd settle to learn whether quite a lot of that for which one strives
Now from those far-off days derives.

I'm not the type exactly to ransack the archives.
For sometimes too deep nostalgia dives.
Beyond belief what a coil of karma contrives.
On the other hand, glancing way back might spread some of the blame.
To the Queen of Sheba sometime more than couturier,

Could that film star've been the nursery stray
Rhyme guy en route from St. Ives?
Perhaps a reincarnation or two ago I was training to be a boulevardier?
Who knows with what in an earlier century for a Champs Elysees
One made do. Whoever I was back then I can't remember the name.

Still, could explain why much I focus on thrives?
Maybe best leave it to my genealogist to worry, eh?
Does Ma Goose on each of her personnel keep a dossier?
Does a decimal need reminding to repeat?
What physicist worth his indeterminacy

Principle with his twin-frame,
Split-decision double game
Isn't a croupier?
Difficult to keep the record neat;
Constantly changing the meaning of the same,

(Who would have thought to such incorrigible resurgency see?)
Options show and go again so fleet,
Come in on little Schroedinger cat feet.
Would a 30s soap-opera remake impart yet more sense of urgency
To Lady MacBeth's intensive detergency?


Irigaray text


"Life is the elimination of what is dead."

-- Wallace Stevens (1956)


Horse and mule

Wu Yin Xiang, FELLOW SUFFERERS, JIANGSU (China) --photograph (gelatin silver), 1933. International Center of Photography, New York.

Bamboo in Wind


-Korea, early 17th century. Hanging scroll: ink on silk with gold colophon. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

Curatorial Record:

A premier literati artist of his time, Yi Jeong was celebrated for his poetry, calligraphy and ink paintings of bamboo. The crisply articulated stalks and leaves --deceptively simple yet  difficult to achieve-- capture precisely the essential physicality of bamboo and the metaphorical qualities associated with it: nobility, integrity, and high-mindedness. Plum blossoms, bamboo, chrysanthemums, and orchids were associated with the four seasons and became known as the "Four Gentlemen". Symbols of the Confucian scholar, this group was a favorite subject of literati artists in East Asia.

Jean Gebser (1949)

It is our task to presentiate the past in ourselves, not to lose the present to the transient power of the past. This we can achieve by recognizing the balancing power of the latent "future" with its character of the present, which is to say, its potentiality for consciousness.


Sapir text






● 2014 

"The Public live in a more and more unreal world, necessarily. ..."

                      – Wyndham Lewis (to Marshall McLuhan), 1945


CHINATOWN(S) IN MOTION: READING (RE-READING) THE CITY is dedicated to the memory of Marshall McLuhan – in recognition of the fiftieth anniversary of the pioneering study UNDERSTANDING MEDIA.

Curatorial Statement

"Harmony is different from uniformity."

– Yan Ying (c. 580 - 510 BCE)


"The city's active role in future is to bring to the highest pitch of development the variety and individuality of regional cultures, personalities. These are complementary purposes: their alternative is the current mechanical grinding down of both the landscape and the human personality."

– Lewis Mumford (1895 - 1990)


"Environments are not just containers, but are processes that change the content totally."

– Marshall McLuhan (1911 - 1980) 


"A concept is a brick. It can be used to build a courthouse of reason. Or it can be thrown through the window."

– Gilles Deleuze (1925 - 1995)


CHINATOWN IN MOTION will develop through new fields of communication that draw inspiration from deep-rooted, sustained traditions of Chinese material/spiritual culture [Confucian/Taoist/Buddhist] and their enduring New World [North American] incarnations.

This interdisciplinary/cross-cultural CAUSA initiative – established in association with the University of Manitoba's Asian Studies Centre – will propose new and expansive conceptual links to the four oldest 'literary' texts in China – engraved stone tablets located at the Suzhou Confucian Temple (within the Suzhou Stone Inscription Museum). These 'stellae' present the key themes that will consciously inform a CAUSA /University of Manitoba Asian Studies Centre research programme.

The association of Suzhou stone inscriptions and New World 'Chinatown(s)' extends from specific and self-defining conceptual horizons:





As a co-ordinated, multi-site exploration (connecting New Westminster Museum and Archives and the University of British Columbia Barber Learning Centre, Vancouver) CHINATOWN IN MOTION will present (consider/reconsider) broadly contextual aspects of its simultaneously historical / contemporary (prospective) framework. From a broadly and deeply compiled curatorial nexus – thematic compilation / contextualization of pertinent verbal and visual documents (assembled for intermittently edited 'online' digital presentation) – a coherently focused programme of research will function to transmit archival records of timely (critical), 'future-bearing' vitalities.

As an integrated archival engagement and conceptive curatorial envisagement (purposefully translated and projected) READING (RE-READING) THE CITY will connect active cultural memory to the complementary, anticipatory functions of potentiality and revivification.

CAUSA Research Curators


A curatorial research project conceived and developed by CAUSA (Collective for Advanced and Unified Studies in the Visual Arts) in collaboration with Ken Lum.


•  Pause / Reflect

"The effect of mass migrations has been the creation of radically new types of human being; people who root themselves in ideas rather than places, in memories as much as in material things; people who have been obliged to define themselves – because they are so defined by others – by their otherness; people in whose deepest selves strange fusions occur, unprecedented unions between what they were and where they find themselves."

– Ken Lum

Established in the 1860s (as a result of the 1858 Fraser Canyon  Gold Rush), New Westminster's Chinatown was located at the eastern end of Front Street – between the waterfront and the escarpment. By the 1880s, this New Westminster precinct had been established and densely occupied by settlers from both California and China. It had become an assemblage of two-storey tenement buildings, warehouses, retail stores,  restaurants, railway and shipping terminals, gambling/opium dens, and temples.

With Front Street becoming fully occupied, the Chinese community expanded, through land ownership within a flood-prone area known as the "Swamp". (This second Chinatown district was located in the western portion of the City, in close proximity to the Anvil Centre and Sky Train sites.)

Both Chinatowns were destroyed on the night of September 10-11, 1898. But the first decade of the twentieth century entailed ever-larger growth of the Chinese Community in New Westminster. That trend was halted by the 1913 economic recession.

In 1919, a Provincial Fire Marshall ordered the demolition of Chinatown buildings that were deemed to be "fire traps". Further (officially imposed) demolitions followed, and by 1941, New Westminster's Chinese population had been reduced to a community of four hundred people. (Many inhabitants would have by then relocated to Vancouver's Chinatown – or else moved to a third Chinatown enclave, as represented by a 1912 building known as the Riverside Apartments, located at Royal Avenue and Eleventh Street. (The building was demolished in 1948.)

In 1979 – through a civic gesture that highlights the culturally rooted Chinatown cityscape as a 'continual prospect' containing  future-bearing (positive)  patterns of cross-cultural/trans-generational change – the New Westminster Chinese Benevolent Society donated its official building, and accompanying small tract of land, to the City. This Chinatown building (which had at various times functioned as hospital, school, and home for the elderly, was demolished in 1979. The 'vacant' site has been designated (temporarily) as an Off-Leash Dog Park; it was opened to the public in 2009. Proposals for alternative public use of the site are now underway.


 KEN LUM / CAUSA, 'Centre/Surround' (Installation view) –     Anvil Centre, New Westminster,   15 September - 30 November 2014.

Window Facade (facing former New Westminster Chinatown precinct). Classical Chinese  Characters [Left to Right].






"Things start and finish, finish and start, like a circle, having no point of origin...."

– Hsün Tzu (c. 310 - c. 220 BCE)


Window Characters


Monochrome Image

Installation View: Anvil Centre, New Westminster.

KEN LUM / CAUSA, "New Westminster Chinatown and Its Environs – circa 1900." Monochrome image (from archival 'panorama format' photograph) pasted on wall and enclosed by blue-black 'frame', painted on wall. Dimensions variable.

"We can say order the country and bring peace to the world, but we cannot say order the country and bring peace to Heaven and Earth. We can say as we do in China the world at peace or the world in confusion, but we cannot say Heaven and Earth at peace or Heaven and Earth in confusion."

– Fung Yu-Lan (1885 - 1990)


Anvil Centre Gallery

KEN LUM / CAUSA ... CENTRE / SURROUND ... (Anvil Centre, 2014.)

As a temporary installation "New Westminster Chinatown and Its Environs" was placed in a South-West orientation – facing a vanished Chinatown precinct.

– CAUSA Curators


Laozi Text 3

Exhibition text [Digital Signage Screen / Display Case Document]: KEN LUM / CAUSA ... CENTRE / SURROUND, Irving K. Barber Learning Centre, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, 2014.


I see a cloud at day's end and just can't look away.
It has no mind at all, no mind and surely no talent.
A sad flake of bright jade radiant with colour, drifting ten thousand miles of clear sky, nowhere it began.

– Tu Mu (803 - 853 CE)


"What we call the different appearances of the same thing to different observers are each in a space private to the observer concerned. No place in the private world of one observer is identical with a place in the private world of another observer. There is therefore no question of combining the different appearances in the one place; and the fact that they cannot all exist in the one place affords accordingly no ground whatever for questioning their physical reality. The 'thing' of common sense may in fact be identified with the whole class of its appearances...."

– Bertrand Russell (1914)


Installation views ... KEN LUM / CAUSA ... CENTRE SURROUND ... Anvil Centre, New Westminster, 2014.

Left: 'Photo-Mirror' (1997)

Centre: 'Photo-Mirror' (1997)

Right: 'Photo-Mirror' (1997)

[Note: Individual photographs –  produced by anonymous visitors,  throughout the duration of a previous exhibition – are  contained within the open framework of an artist's decision  that 'anyone' could assist in the temporary 'completion' of a particular body of work. The  project was initiated at the São Paulo Biennial.]

 Lum Mirrors1

Lum Mirrors2

Lum Mirrors3

Lum Mirrors4

Lum Mirrors5

Lum Mirrors 6

"I'm interested in what constitutes the subject, not only the subject in the work, but the subject standing in front of the mirror. And that constitution has been a recurrent theme in all my work ... always in between.


Hybrid, always in the process of transformation."

– Ken Lum


"The problem of motion touches, at once and immediately, the secrets of existence, which are alien to the waking consciousness and yet inexorably press upon it. In posing motion as a problem we affirm our will to comprehend the incomprehensible...."

– Oswald Spengler


"The Forgotten is not to be remembered for what it has been and what it is, because it has not been anything and is nothing ... but must be remembered as something that never ceases to be forgotten."

– Jean-Francois Lyotard

Ch'an Master Fa-Yen Wên-I (885 - 958 CE):

The Master pointed to a bamboo tree and asked a monk,
"Do you see it?"
'Yes I do."
"Is it that the bamboo
tree comes to your eyes,
or rather do your eyes go
to it?
The monk answered, "Neither
is the case."

– Recorded in "Ching-te ch'uan-teng lu" / The Transmission of the Lamp (1004 CE)

Ch'an Master T'ung-shan Shou-ch'u (? - 990 CE) ... Question and Answer:

MONK: "What is it when being and non-being both disappear and both temporal and real are forgotten?

MASTER: "The top of Mount Ch'u
when it is turned upside down."

MONK: "Is it possible for me to understand this?"

MASTER: "There is a way."

MONK: "Please tell me the way."

MASTER: "It is one thousand miles and ten thousand miles."


MEMO to CAUSA Research Curators:

"I am sure you know that Cantonese still often refer to Vancouver and the Fraser river area as 'Gum Shan' or Gold Mountain."

– Ken Lum, August 2014


Gold Mountain Installation

Installation in progress: KEN LUM / CAUSA ... CENTRE / SURROUND ... Anvil Centre, New Westminster, September 2014.

[The exhibition contained four plasters – selected from a series of eight works comprising "Gold Mountain (New Westminster Chinatown Punctum)," 2014.]


Gold Mountain Installation2

Ken Lum, "Gold Mountain (New Westminster Chinatown Punctum), nos. 1 - 4," painted plaster, 2014.


In metaphysical terms,
The relationship of all under
heaven to the Way
is like that of valley streams
to the river and sea.

– Lao Tzu (sixth century BCE)


Gold Mountain Installation3

Ken Lum, "Gold Mountain (New Westminster Chinatown Punctum)," painted plaster, 2014.


Dog Park2a

"Temporary" Off-Leash Dog Park – New Westminster Chinatown precinct, 2014.


Ch'an Master Joshu (778 - 897 CE) ... Question and Answer:

MONK: "Has a dog the Buddha Nature or not?"

MASTER: "Yes."

MONK: "Having the Buddha Nature, why is he in such a dog body?"

MASTER: "Knowingly he dared to be so."