Yellow Peril: Reconsidered is the third in what has become a series of related projects which focus on the works of Asians in the New World. The first Asian New World, was a four-part video art and documentary series developed for the Video In (June 5 - 8, 1987, Vancouver). The eighteen tapes, co-curated with Karen Henry, presented work by Canadians and Americans. The four parts were titled Identities, Bitter Fruits, Recent Pasts and Modern Myths & Rituals. They were promoted as "works of a wide-eyed experimental nature and more accessible works intended for broad band distribution" and as a "showcase that reflects the diversity and vitality of a growing and living community of contemporary media artists - visible artists of the New World".
This event was extremely successful, not only in full houses but more importantly, it attracted a largely Asian-Canadian audience. Reaction to the work was overwhelming. The audience was riveted by material that reflected their experiences. The combination of the individual works affected the viewers in a very real and positive way.
A second exhibition was produced for the Chisenhale Gallery, an alternative space located in the Hackney district of London, England. It was cosponsored by Canada House with additional assistance from the Department of External Affairs (Sept. 26 - Oct. 16, 1988). This second exhibition called Yellow Peril: New World Asians included the work of sixteen artists, eight presented photoworks and eight videotapes.
The exhibition received curious, and mixed, reactions. The UK has a well developed "Black Arts" (artists of colour) movement. Much of that work refers to issues of decolonialization and the effects of living in what was once the colonial power base of the English empire. Within that context, Yellow Peril: New World Asians was seen as peculiar, a prominent exhibition from the colonies featuring the work of Asians. The photoworks and videotapes were exported from the colonies and presented as an import in what had been the centre of imperial power. The exhibition and participants were not viewed as marginalized. They were seen as serious artists presenting important new work at the forefront of Canadian Art.
Yellow Peril: Reconsidered is the name of this publication and of the exhibition. It includes photo, film and video work by twenty-five Asian Canadians. The works are represented in the artists' pages. They include photo reproductions, technical descriptions and statements. In addition, we have commissioned six timely and important essays . These in-depth articles provide us with necessary history and critical analysis to assist in understanding the present discourse: the social, political and economic factors that inform and create the context for such an exhibition at this time.
We have also included short biographies of the artists and writers, in which we have purposely included year and place of birth, and in some instances the date of immigration. We felt that this type of information will provide yet another way of looking at this complex collection of work. Three of the essays are written by participating artists: Anthony Chan, Richard Fung and Midi Onodera, who offer us valuable insights that will assist to more fully comprehend the creative process.
The intention of this project is to contribute in a concrete way to the current ongoing discussion around the issue of race and representation. Throughout the development of this project we have tried to remain inclusive. Therefore neither the publication nor the exhibition define, or attempt to pigeonhole, emerging ideas into narrow frameworks. The inclusion of formalist, didactic, expressionistic and community oriented works attest to the plurality of visions.
We are deeply committed to insuring that artists are in control of the means of production, dissemination and exhibition. It is our intention to be able to speak directly to the producers of art: students, professional artists, teachers, progressive curators, adventuresome critics and audiences.
This exhibition is touring coast-to-coast. It will be seen in Halifax, Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, Winnipeg and Vancouver. It has been specifically produced to be exhibited in Artist-Run Centres. Although these centres are predominantly operated by and for the white middleclass, we feel that these organizations who purport to be engaged with "new thinking" would be the most open to the issues revealed within Yellow Peril: Reconsidered.
We view the Artist-Run Centres as a potential entry point that could involve other communities. It is projects like this that will initiate dialogue in the educational process: to be able to see and better understand the "not so foreign or exotic" offerings of visible minorities.
September 8, 1990