Gu Xiong: Coquitlam Waterscapes

Gu Xiong: Coquitlam Waterscapes

December 1, 2012 – January 19, 2013

Internationally celebrated mixed-media installation artist Gu Xiong examines the significance of rivers and their ability to stand as microcosms of our ever-changing, fluctuating world. He focuses on the inherent migration patterns found along BC’s Fraser River and China’s Yangzi River – revealing their deep linkages despite their separation by the vast Pacific Ocean. This show also addresses the significance of our own waterways, in particular, the Coquitlam River and Watershed in connection to our history and relationships with the Fraser River, and in turn, the Yangzi River.

As a significant waterway in British Columbia, Coquitlam Lake is a watershed that serves as a source of drinking water for the Greater Vancouver Regional District. It is also the source of the Coquitlam River. The river, along with the Fraser River, is also significant as a path of many immigrants. In Coquitlam now, there are many immigrants, mainly from Iran, China, Korea and Japan. Along the Yangzi River in China many people migrate for new economic opportunities and in response to the economic and political developments in the region.

I conceived of this project as a way to develop the metaphorical meanings of waterways and to rethink the spaces of contemporary global migration flows. I choose to focus on two regions: the Upper Yangzi River and Three Gorges Dam areas in China; and the Coquitlam Lake, Coquitlam River and Fraser River areas in British Columbia, Canada.

The Coquitlam watershed and waterway are especially significant to the Kwikwetlem First Nations people. Their traditional lands are here, and their unceded rights are the subject of an on-going land claim. In addition, other First Nations peoples are trying to return to this region to live and work, to come back to their ancestral lands from which they were relocated. I see a connection between these social issues and ongoing upheavals associated with the Three Gorges Dam project, which has forced many to relocate.

The damming of the lake is significant as it stops the original path of water. However, despite the damning, water continues to flow, albeit in different paths. Since the Coquitlam Lake Dam was built, it has stopped salmon from returning to the lake as before by disturbing migration and spawning patterns. As a result, the fishing industry and the traditional ways of life for First Nations people who resided there have been deeply affected. The Three Gorges Dam, similarly, has also greatly disturbed local ecology and fish migration patterns. Because of the dam landslides and mudslides are common, even disturbing local weather systems.

As waterways, these different locales also function as metaphors for these issues of movement and migration. They show us how things move ahead: water, people, and time itself flows on, and cannot return to their original points. People have to face issues in society and with the environment to make it possible for life to flow on as well.

Gu Xiong 2012

The artist gratefully acknowledges the generous support of the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada as well as his research team: Chris Lee, Jennifer Chun and April Liu.

Special thanks to Evergreen Cultural Centre’s Executive Director, Jon-Paul Walden, Visual Arts Manager, Astrid Heyerdahl, and all Staff and Volunteers who helped make this show possible.

Evergreen Cultural Centre would like to thank Gu Xiong for his incredible work and for his commitment to researching and expressing the history of Coquitlam as well as pertinent contemporary concerns for this community. We would also like to thank the Embrace BC Multiculturalism Grant Program for their financial support of this project.