Bagua Artist Association, Artist Duo – Vancouver  

Bagua Artist Association 八卦藝術家協會 is an artist duo (Katharine Meng-Yuan Yi and Sean Cao) living and working on the unceded territories of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm, Sḵwx̱wú7mesh, and səlilwətaɬ Nations. Formed in 2018, Bagua’s multidisciplinary practice explores the duo’s common interest and shared lived experience as first-generation immigrant settlers. Bagua’s research-based and socially engaged practice examines the quotidian, popular culture, and folk arts through a migratory lens, and re-envisions traditions and current phenomena with a focus on contemporary Chinese diaspora discourse. They are one of six artists participating in the exhibition The Prop House: A Collection of One Million Objects on display at Griffin Art Projects until August 18.

  1. Facebook Marketplace (Sean)

There’s a bunch of ordinary stuff, and then there’s the treasure that takes a lot of scrolling, searching the right keywords, and the perfect timing. Sometimes it’s really up to fate too. Browsing FB Marketplace is also, needless to say, very addictive. My recent hauls are vintage dinnerware from Chinese restaurants that ran heritage businesses in Vancouver’s Chinatown a long time ago. I’ve started an honourable list of collections from many famous establishments: Ho Ho Choy Suey (1950s-2000s), Bamboo Terrace Chinese Restaurant (1940s-1970s), Hong Kong Cafe (1940s-1980s), etc. This dinnerware is like time capsules that bring me to Chinatown and its vibrant food scene (which I didn’t get a chance to see) – though they have definitely left behind a legacy that’s inherited by Chinatown today.

  1. Dragon boating

We started a dragon boat team called Chinatown Flower Bridge (hear the name said in Cantonese, and you’ll have a laugh) in 2023 with our friend Doris. Dragon boating is a fun sport that is about teamwork and collaboration. The light breezes and occasional seal sightings can be meditative. It can also get very competitive on race days. The sport was first introduced to Vancouver during Expo 86. We paddle alongside twenty other team members who, like us, are connected to Vancouver’s Chinatown in one way or another. Everyone is committed to practicing once a week to improve our paddling skills. Friendship, laughter, and team meals are the best parts. Our team won a gold medal at a regatta this past June. It was a great memory.

  1. Sichuan hot pot (Katharine)

Sichuan hot pot has always been my go-to comfort food. Recently, I read a fascinating post about TCM (traditional Chinese medicine) and the benefits of eating Sichuan hot pot. People who have damp body types (emotional, anxious, indecisive, and repressive) can find relief in eating hot pot. The hotness can neutralize coldness in damp (寒濕) body types, while the spices used in the numbingly spicy broth, like peppercorn, cinnamon stick, black cardamom, and star anise, are all pungent-warm natured (辛溫), which can uplift the heart-qi (心氣), relieving stress. My favourite foods for hot pot are duck intestines, celtuce, and potato starch noodles.

  1. Chinatown Recreation Mall

As we were putting together our Hit List, a shipment came to our studio door. It was an artwork of ours that was in an exhibition in Shenzhen. The work is a yellow and green shop awning replica with Chinese and English text. We grocery shop, stroll, and eat in Chinatown all the time, and we love the colourful, bilingual awnings that are part of the neighbourhood’s character. They inspired us to make an artwork in the form of an awning as part of our ongoing project Chinatown Recreation Mall (唐人街大百貨).

  1. Cats (Katharine)

I enjoy the days I get to stay home and hang out with my cats Dong Dong and Si Si. These tabby cats are siblings and are thirteen years old. For the last two months, I’ve been teaching them to press a button for treats. Dong Dong has learned that if his paw presses the button hard enough, a voice recording saying “yummy treats” plays, and he gets to have two treats. Sisi is not quite there yet, but has learned that if she puts a paw on top of the button, she gets to have one treat. It’s fascinating to see how conditioning and reinforcement work in practice.