Pine Street, Now and Again
by Dana Qaddah
Two backlit screens sit five feet apart on either side of me, as per Zhang’s instructions to view the two-channel audio/video installation in the confinement of a darkened room, performing the civic duty to isolate oneself.
[Image description 1: A video still from Charlotte Zhang’s Pine Street, Now and Again (2019) The image shows a treed, grassy area littered with debris—crumpled plastic bags, suspended tarps, and the aluminum legs of what could be a broken camera tripod. Two gilded antique picture frames have been collaged over the image in post-production. One is empty, revealing the treed area behind. The other holds a black and white image of a group of young Chinese diasporic women in 1950s attire.]
Duality chimes through Zhang’s audiovisual composition—depicting the realism and abstraction of a non-written history of diasporic reside in Pine Street Chinatown, Nanaimo. Combined documentary format and creative direction, the work exposes the historical erasure of a prominent, active and contributing Chinese community as per the Chinese Exclusion Act.
Fantastical scenes of landscape, searching in, chasing for, living with, are held in proximity to the archives and voices speaking personal narratives of recollected memory. They echo sentiments of excavation, lending to the notion that, when overcoming erasure, collective memory is non-absolute. Rather, it subjects itself to constant recovery and reconstruction. Without land-based monuments to ground it, the act of retracing, for Zhang, is subjective and abstract. The land clings on to the history spoken by the people, and is now given the space to be read, to be heard.
Fireworks and mahjong tiles fill the room with auditory textures, sounded stories of celebration and leisure, and it was not exclusive to the Chinese community. Youth, poised by a parked vehicle at the dark end of Pine Street, express the sentiment of Chinatown as a refuge for generations of expatriate activity, a space for outcasts who live on the peripheries of Western society and seek departure from its monotonous control.
Placing blame elsewhere, contending narratives allude to the accident which struck Pine Street Chinatown and burnt it to the ground. A disaster struck a community—incinerated garbage or extraterrestrial forces? The false perception of the immigrant as alien, the illusory cause of their own dismay.
[Image description 2: A video still from Charlotte Zhang’s Pine Street, Now and Again (2019) The dark image shows two young adults with a grey car, parked on the side of a road near a checkered ‘end of the road’ sign. One figure, dressed in loose-fitted black clothing, leans against the car while resting their elbow on its roof. The other figure is seated in the driver’s seat, their legs out the open door. The streetside is ungroomed, with a crumbling curb and overgrown vines. Glaring lights on houses are seen in the background.]
Pine Street, Now and Again
April 14, 2020, 6pm EST
Images courtesy of the artist:
pg. 2-3 and 8-9| Charlotte Zhang, Pine Street, Now and Again (video stills), 2019.
This post was made possible through a private donation of $250. The author was paid $225 for their work and $25 was allocated to administrative costs. To support further haunt texts with a donation please direct message @hauntprojects or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org