To her dismay, artist Annie Wong’s site-specific banner set up, A park and not using a identify (2021), was on view at James Brief Park within the Canadian metropolis of Calgary in Alberta for simply 4 days final week. The park, named after a lawyer and faculty principal who was instrumental in stopping Chinese language Calgarians from establishing town’s Chinatown, has undergone a years-long renaming course of since July 2020 amid a reckoning of Brief’s racist legacy. Now, the artist accuses town of “white fragility” and “fear-mongering” which led to holding off the undertaking since 2021, and ultimately displaying it for lower than every week.
Wong’s seven printed banners characteristic quotes from interviews she had performed with Chinatown’s neighborhood members about Brief’s racist historical past and town’s sluggish strategy to acknowledging the historic injustice towards its Chinese language residents. The banners characteristic statements together with “James Brief was a racist,” “Erasing a reputation in historical past can not erase what was performed,” and “James Brief was a pacesetter within the anti-Chinese language motion.”
As a lawyer, Brief represented the White residents of town aiming to stop Chinese language Calgarians from establishing Chinatown throughout the metropolis heart in 1910 because of property depreciation considerations. “These folks don’t beautify any property, and actually they have an inclination to make a district obnoxious,” he informed the Calgary Herald that 12 months. “They don’t know of sanitation in any respect.”
Brief’s lawsuit was unsuccessful and the event of Chinatown proceeded.
The park, developed on the block throughout from Calgary’s Chinatown in 1991, was named after Brief as the highschool as soon as sat on the property. Even though Chinatown’s improvement prevailed, neighborhood residents discovered the park’s identify offensive as Brief’s racist zoning efforts set off many years of discriminatory habits towards Chinese language locals. Wong informed Hyperallergic that the neighborhood has vied for the park’s renaming for over a decade, however the movement was solely filed in 2020.
By town’s Chinatown Artist Residency, Wong was capable of interview Chinatown residents between the ages of 20 and 60 relating to their ideas about Brief and the renaming of the park. The banners have been up from October 25 by 28. The town’s announcement about renaming the park is predicted on November 1.
“It was my intention for the work to be up for a lot, for much longer than simply 4 days,” Wong informed Hyperallergic. “The town was afraid to put in the work as a result of they felt like they have been getting numerous pushback from the, uh, residing descendants of James Brief.”
In response to Wong, this wasn’t the primary time town of Calgary dropped the ball within the effort to rename the park, both. She claimed that the preliminary steps that town had taken to seek the advice of the Chinatown neighborhood members on appropriately renaming the park have been “fairly insensitive” because the committee was “led principally by an all-White crew they’d employed.”
“They have been actually afraid of the White folks in Calgary who have been arguing towards renaming the park,” Wong added.
A spokesperson for town informed Hyperallergic in an announcement that “each the native Chinatown neighborhood and The Metropolis of Calgary had security considerations about putting in the paintings, given the rise in anti-Asian violence that many cities throughout North America have skilled.”
“Whereas it looks as if a brief time frame, this paintings is a daring step ahead for The Metropolis of Calgary and units a precedent for future work being seen as much less of a danger,” the spokesperson continued.
Wong talked about that sure neighborhood members felt that the committee conferences have been erasing the historical past of Chinatown’s battle a second time round. She additionally indicated that among the older Chinatown residents, fearful for his or her security, have been prior to now afraid of asking to rename the park.
“Calgary is a really conservative metropolis in Canada. You possibly can lower by the odor of white supremacy with a knife out right here,” she mentioned.
The Metropolis of Calgary mentioned it would purchase the banners for its public artwork assortment, with the opportunity of displaying them once more sooner or later. The Metropolis additionally mentioned that it plans to ask Wong for an artist speak and additional dialog in regards to the banners.