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Conversation Pieces on Chinoiserie, Materiality, and the Lure of Objects








Type of activity



In Person


Saturday March 25, 2023 at 02:00 pm

For this roundtable, Dr. Karen Tam will moderate an engaging discussion on a constellation of artworks and archaeological objects selected by the panellists from the Museum’s Chinese art collection.

Dr. Karen Tam, Artist and Curator

Dr. Alice Ming Wai Jim, Art Historian
Bryan Beyung, Muralist
Yen-Chao Lin, Multidisciplinary Artist


Public Partner: Conseil des arts de Montréal

About the panel:
This conversation will explore diasporic heritage, Chinese material culture, and chinoiserie in the colonial practice of consuming and commodifying culture. Bringing their respective viewpoints as two diasporic artists and an art historian, the panellists will also question museal discourse around Chinese artworks and artifacts and ask how and whose art history gets written. How can cultural groups in Montreal such as the Chinese community engage with displayed objects versus those that are not on exhibit and which lay dormant in storage? What knowledge, histories, and values are repressed by an artwork’s or object’s invisibility? What is the agency of the local diasporic community and its artists in this relationship between museum and object to generate additional legitimate interpretations and representations?

These objects and artworks trace former trade routes and map their transitional movements from a home or ritual altar to a new social space, which requires a renegotiation of their presence, affect, and meanings. Through a speculation on the materiality, life and movement of these artworks and artifacts from their places and communities of origin to their current environment, this convivial exchange aims to tease out some of the stored signs and memories that they hold and go beyond the exotic while reflecting on a shared history and future.

This roundtable discussion is one of three planned for this year under the Rethinking the Museum program, an initiative funded by the Conseil des arts de Montréal. The goal of these roundtables is to reflect on the representation of multiple perspectives in museums as knowledge-based institutions that mirror the issues of the day.

About the moderator:
Dr. Karen Tam is a Tiohtià:ke/Montréal-based artist and curator whose research focuses on the constructions and imaginations of “ethnic” spaces through installations in which she recreates Chinese restaurants, karaoke lounges, opium dens, curio shops and other sites of cultural encounters. She has exhibited her work and participated in residencies in North America, Europe, and China, including the Victoria & Albert Museum and He Xiangning Art Museum. She holds a PhD in cultural studies from Goldsmiths (University of London) and an MFA in sculpture from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Dr. Tam is the Adjunct Curator at Griffin Art Projects and is represented by Galerie Hugues Charbonneau.

About the panellists:
Dr. Alice Ming Wai Jim is a professor of contemporary art history at Concordia University and co-editor-in-chief of the journal Asian Diasporic Visual Cultures and the Americas (published by Brill, with Concordia University and NYU). An art historian and curator, she researches diasporic art in Canada and contemporary Asian art to generate new dialogues within and between ethnocultural and global art histories, critical race theory, media arts, and curatorial studies. Dr. Jim is a member of the College of New Scholars of the Royal Society of Canada and the recipient of the inaugural 2022 UAAC-AAUC Award for the advancement of equity, diversity, inclusion, and accessibility.

Yen-Chao Lin is a Taipei-born, Montreal-based visual artist. As a natural history enthusiast, she is an avid collector of mineral, botanical, animal and industrial specimens. Through intuitive play, collaboration and scavenging, her multidisciplinary practice often incorporates craft techniques such as copper enamelling, ceramic, textiles, and paper making to create installations, sculptures, and experimental films. Yen-Chao Lin has shown works at institutions and events such as Art Metropole (Toronto), Berlinale, Centre A (Vancouver), GAX Asian Indigenous Relations in Contemporary Art (Montreal), Hong-gah Museum (Taipei), and Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal.

Bryan Beyung is a visual artist who was born in Montreal to a Chinese-Cambodian family. His work mainly addresses the themes of travel, immigration, and their migratory flows. Inspired by his past as a graffiti artist and graphic designer, he deconstructs raw lines, flat colours and realistic shapes to develop a second intuitive pictorial approach for an image, idea, or memory. His work can be seen in the United States, Canada, Haiti, France, Morocco and Cambodia.


Location: To access the event, please enter through the Michal and Renata Hornstein Pavilion for Peace, located at 2075 Bishop Street.

Reservation terms: Free event. Reservations are not required.

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