But really, where are you from?

Florence Yee

June 1st to June 30th, 2018

Exhibition from June 1st to June 30th , 2018
Opening on Friday June 1st , at 5 pm

But really, where are you from?

Through a subversion of everyday objects that makes them non-functional, Florence Yee illustrates the challenges faced by members of ethno-cultural communities as they navigate between their identity, which is contemporary North American, and a sort of authenticity that Canadian society seems to expect. In a similar vein, Yee fabricates artificial nostalgia in photo albums made of images found online through Google Street View, thereby subverting a way in which we construct our perception of others.

Florence Yee expresses the ambivalence felt by the offspring of second and third-generation immigrants, caught between the conflicting influences of the traditional cultural heritage transmitted by their parents and the realities of their North American life. Her body of work recognizes the need to establish identity on a common ground provided by the present experience of the community’s members, rather than past glories of the mother country.

But really, where are you from?” That is the question that Florence Yee deconstructs in her exhibition. In contrast to commoditized Cantonese culture crystallized in preset representations (typical objects, Chinatowns and other facades of identity), the artist re‑appropriates codes that are specific to Asian culture and thereby aspires to a rewriting of the history of its diaspora.

Florence Yee

Florence Yee is a 2.5 generation, Cantonese-struggling visual artist based in Tiohtià:ke/Montreal, unceded Mohawk territory. She recently obtained her BFA from the Concordia University, and works with community groups for visual culture, such as articule, an artist-run centre, and EAHR (Ethnocultural Art Histories Research). Her interest in Cantonese-Canadian history has fueled an art practice committed to dismantling institutional and casual ideals of Eurocentric patriarchy, as well as examining the daily life of her diaspora.

Childhood Scribbles are the Future Healers

an accompanying text by Sarah Blondin

There are moments when entering a space curated by someone can feel like a revelation. In that instant, we have an idea of what their childhood was like. The way our eyes scan a room, we have a stereotypical mindset that brings us to pre-assuming their memories. For example, I was a young girl full of drama, trapped in the suburbs; therefore my walls were obviously covered in Backstreet Boys posters. Even now in my adult years, I find myself covering every inch of my walls, expressing my likes and dislikes in my bedroom.

After studying visual arts, I began to notice that artists are truly captivated by their childhood memories. There is forever a sense of looking back and turning their story into a current visual component to document and remember their formative years: I would often ask myself, why? Our childhood is full of embarrassing and traumatizing moments—some more than others. However, after spending many years thinking, and staring at my Backstreet Boys wall, I realized that our growth as human beings is the reason for our creativity. Art is shaped by our experiences and the place they subjectively hold in our personal narrative. So that time you thought that tripping down the stairs in high school was the worst, that time you’ll likely never forget about, will spark a future creative project that will heal something within you by expressing it through your own life.

Walking into the GNO for Florence Yee’s exhibition “But really, where are you from?”, I felt strings from my heart being pulled. The way the show was curated, I felt as if I was walking into someone’s life experiences, as if I was sitting in the artist’s home and experiencing the deeper inside the womb of the home; absorbing the joy, struggles and outcomes of this life. When I stepped into the gallery, Florence’s life story easily came through and was attached to me. Her work also serves as a powerful source that speaks to a large community: one that tends to be socially looked down on, but has and forever deserves its voice to be heard. There is a balance of innocence and maturity to her exhibition. We can see the child within Florence protecting and holding on to her traditions, yet we also understand the pressure of Western culture seeping in. She is an artist speaking from her child-self, creating in hopes of sparking human connection: something we all want and strive for. As people, we are all just searching for a sense of community, and Florence’s art truly encapsulates that ideal.

Something about Florence Yee that also completely struck me was her age. For someone this young to have such a strong connection and love for her community—and additionally for possessing the courage and bravery to express her memories in the public eye—is in itself a work of art to be remembered for. She ultimately speaks for the many youth today who are struggling with their own identities; a subject quite pertinent in our country and today’s society. Always remember your childhood, be close to your story and create from you.


Sarah Blondin is a local mixed media artist who is still 16 at heart. Her inspiration comes from being a young woman and growing up in a smaller community where the internet was the way for over dramatic expression, a time when every MySpace page was a way too personal diary, however shared with many. Her work explores collage, illustration and sculpture. She hopes to bring joy, curiosity, humour and memories to her audience.