Florence Yee is a 2.5 generation, Cantonese-struggling visual artist based in Tkaronto/Toronto and Tiohtià:ke/Montreal. Their interest in Cantonese-Canadian history has fueled an art practice examining the daily life of their diaspora through the lens of gender, racialization, queerness and language. Notable solo and duo exhibitions include Sino(n)-Québécoise (2018) at Never Apart, Le Salon (2018) at Articule and Lend Me Your Ears (2017) at Centre Regart. They have completed residencies at the Ottawa School of Art, the Concordia Fine Arts Reading Room, la Galerie du Nouvel-Ontario, as well as the John and Maggie Mitchell Art Gallery. Having graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Concordia University, they are now pursuing an MFA at OCAD U in Interdisciplinary Art, Media and Design as a Delaney Scholar. They are represented by Studio Sixty-Six.
Bad forgeries make for good originals. Much of my interdisciplinary practice of installation, fibers and sculpture relies on a methodology of copying, tracing, re-staging and autobiographical re-making. This exploration of “authenticity” has prompted my practice to commemorate the objects and experiences of the Cantonese-Canadian/Québécoise diaspora, through my relationship with my grandmother, and my struggles with language, as well as queerness and failure (or queerness as failure).
Estrangement and failure can function as forms of counter-hegemony. My practice aims to find ways of resisting, building and processing for myself, by embodying alternative narratives to the intergenerational effects of displacement, assimilation and loss.
My interest in text-based textiles stems from their ubiquity and domesticity. Often seen as cheap, tacky or worthless copies, I hope that the investment of my research may endow everyday objects with their due importance in defining diasporic cultures. The rituals and personal experiences surrounding their consumption reveal a daily reliance on their existence, despite how easily they may be ignored.
The liberal multiculturalism that is nationally sanctioned only values culture as novelty acts, food at festivals and costumes on holidays, while erasing the unresolved and untidy narratives of lived experience. Although often used as signifiers of our own alienation, perhaps everyday diasporic objects can be reclaimed to shape alternative ideas of authenticity away from romanticizing traditional, static identities grounded in one space or one time. Prioritizing fluidity and self-representation, my artwork problematizes a sense of belonging, whether wrongful or desired. I use my art practice as a path to reinstate my complexity as a queer Cantonese femme who does like white jasmine rice, but also likes cheesecake.