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SWALLOWING MOUNTAINS – Exhibition by Karen Tam
February 17 @ 10:00 am - August 13 @ 5:00 pm
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As part of its Artist-in-Residence program, the McCord Stewart Museum presents the exhibition Swallowing Mountains by multidisciplinary artist Karen Tam, a tribute to the women of Montreal’s Chinatown from the 19th to the 20th centuries. In this immersive installation, you will discover objects from the Museum’s collection, works created by the artist, objects belonging to members of the Chinatown community, and photographs.
The exhibition explores the relative silence in public records and historical accounts of women in Montreal’s Chinatown in the 19th and 20th centuries, as well as the discrepancy between the historical attraction to chinoiseries and Japanism and the reality of Chinese women living in Canada since the late 19th century.
2023 marks the 100th anniversary of the passage of the Chinese Immigration Act, which banned virtually all forms of Chinese immigration to Canada. This policy, combined with a head tax, led to a strong imbalance in the proportion of women within Chinese Canadian communities, who were prohibited from joining their husbands there. Despite their under-representation in the early 19th and 20th centuries, Chinese women’s contribution to Chinatown’s vitality and economy was considerable. The exhibition Swallowing Mountains thus pays homage to the many contributions of women who have lived and worked in the neighborhood over the past century and a half.
The title of the exhibition refers to the name that the first waves of immigrants from China gave to Canada, Gold Mountain, in reference to the gold rush and the opportunity to make a fortune in Canada. Over time, the gold mountains of Canada’s El Dorado also became synonymous with the separation of families. Swallowing Mountains becomes a metaphor symbolizing the need to swallow, one kilometre at a time, the immense distance that separates loved ones in order to reunite them.