Tear Possibility 8
Gabi Dao’s Tear Possibility 8 features collages comprised of documents bootlegged from The British Columbia Sugar Refining Company fonds and photographs of the artist’s compost. Better said, it depicts her scanning of these collages, after tearing them by hand and reconfiguring them with painter’s tape.
These collages emerge from Dao’s archival research on Rogers Sugar (originally BC Sugar), which between 1891 and 1914 incited anti-Chinese racism in newspaper ads pitting its “clean” and “pure” sugar against its rival companies’ cheaper, Hong Kong-imported sugar. A generation later, the Rogers family was involved in founding the Vancouver Art Gallery, which in 2021 debuted Dao’s audio-visual installation Last Lost Time, a work also created from this body of research.
Created amid the accelerated wave of anti-Asian hostility that accompanied COVID-19, Tear Possibility 8 foregrounds the intrusion of the artist’s hands into the controlled, sanitary space of the archive, partially as a gesture of frustration with the past’s imprint on the present, and partially to imagine a way to reconceive the triangulation of corporation, state, and cultural institution in Rogers Sugar’s history. Tear Possibility 8 imagines states of ameliorative transformation: photographs documenting a factory that accepted municipal subsidies in exchange for banning Chinese workers, torn and assembled anew; a flatbed scanner converting analog documents into digital information, here scaled up to billboard size; acid from the sweat and oil on the artist’s hands corroding archival documents; compost heaps turning rotten organic matter into nutrients to sustain new life. According to Dao, “For every tear there is a possibility. For every tear there is an opportunity to mend.”
Gabi Dao is an artist and organizer who spent the majority of her formative years based in the unceded and ancestral territories of the xʷməθkwəy̓əm (Musqueam), Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish), and Səl̓ílwətaʔ/Selilwitulh (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations—also known as Vancouver, Canada. Her practice insists on counter-memory, intimacy, multiple truths, messiness, entanglement, sensorial affirmations, and blurred temporalities, which often become sculpture, installation, moving image, and sound. Beginning with “patchwork” conceptions of time and materiality, she’s interested in tracing histories of the everyday through themes of globalization, consumption, belief, and belonging. She’s recently moved to Rotterdam, The Netherlands where she’s currently an MFA candidate at the Piet Zwart Institute.