Lode, 2020
Installation with household objects, magnetized needles, plastic flowers, water

 

Installation views, Terra Economicus, Robert McLaughlin Gallery, Oshawa, CA, 2020.

The installation Lode consists of a collection of containers that one can find in a Chinese-Canadian household—a plastic tofu tub, a clay pot used to cook rice, tea-ware, and other vessels commonly found in Asian home goods stores. The containers are filled with water and floating in each is a plastic flower petal cradling a magnetized sewing needle. This assemblage of materials will be familiar to many viewers as a common grade-school science experiment in which students are taught how to make a simple, makeshift compass. In the installation, the needles are magnetized to orient in the opposite direction—south instead of north.

There is evidence that the compass was invented in China around 200 BCE. The title Lode is a reference to a lodestar, a celestial marker used for orientation prior to the arrival of geospatial satellite technologies. Magnetic north, unlike true geographic north does not perfectly align with the rotational axis of the earth. Instead, this magnetic field migrates, and is currently situated in the middle of Ellesworth Island in northern Canada, about 500km away from the North Pole.

Lode can also be read as a metonym for the word load—baggage and weight.  In the Chinese diaspora, particularly among the first generation, there is an enduring tension between home in the adopted country and one’s ancestral home, the latter maintaining a profound hold and attraction. In this work, the notion of home is manifested as both a physical orientation and an emotional weight, each activated by an immense and invisible force.