Reimagining Chinatown: Speculative Fictions from Toronto’s Chinatown(s)
“Reimagining ChinaTOwn” is an anthology of short stories which collectively reimagines the world around us. Through speculative fiction set in Toronto’s Chinatowns in 2050, authors envision Chinatown anew, creating radically more generous and expansive worlds than the present. As an anthology, “Reimagining ChinaTOwn” embodies a visionary act of resistance against state-sanctioned narratives by elevating community narratives that exist beyond Toronto’s official heritage definition of its Chinatown neighbourhoods.
Each story explores a personal relationship to Chinatown in the aftermath of COVID-19. Pandemics radically reshape the world. In fact, they can elicit new worlds. They have dramatically reshaped cities as we know them today. Historically, new sanitation needs have challenged questions of not only zoning, housing, industrialization and waste management practices in city planning but even produced radical breaks with longstanding societal rituals and cultural traditions. If COVID-19 has exacerbated and revealed the structural inequities and failures of the present, how could we radically break from this present condition to envision a brighter future?
This anthology began as a writing workshop presented in partnership with Myseum of Toronto in April 2020. Through storytelling, authors speculated on what Chinatown could be like in 2050 and provided new ways of seeing the present and understanding our relationships to the Chinatown neighbourhood and its community in today’s context. Read together (and in the unspoken spaces between each story) the anthology aims to open up the present to new possibilities for the future of Chinatown while finding joy, laughter, and care even in face of adversity. Faced with such future possibilities, these stories are really about the present moment: what should we do now? Through these stories, we can jointly reimagine these possible parallel universes and futures for the present. Finally, each author’s story also comes with a virtual reality game for you to explore. Virtual reality world aims to bring the everyday architectural spaces of their stories to life. We invite you not only to read stories, but also to explore the world of virtual reality. Three stories are presented as part of this exhibit to offer a glimpse into the anthology.
If you are interested in ordering a copy of the book, please visit: www.reimaginingchinatown.com.
To read one selected story, please visit: www.ricepapermagazine.ca/2021/04/chinatown-island-by-amy-yan
But as we reimagine the future of Chinatown together, we also remind readers and virtual reality explorers that Chinatown is as much defined by what is unspoken as what is recorded. The reimagined future(s) of Chinatown is found in the anthology not only as words or representations, but rather through the silences between the stories, through the relational affects the virtual reality architecture invokes, through the shared lived experiences across divergent stories, and through the labour of memory necessary to experience the depths and meanings of Chinatown that a single monolithic story is not able to tell. Through speculative fiction, we aimed to reimagine and articulate new possible future(s) for Toronto’s Chinatown(s).
Virtual Reality Designers
Linda Zhang (she/her) is a registered architect and educator. She is an Assistant Professor at Ryerson SID and a principal at Studio Pararaum. She was the receipt of the 2020 Toronto Excellence Award, 2019 NCECA Multicultural Fellow, the 2017-2018 Syracuse University SOA Boghosian Fellow and a 2017 Fellow at the Berlin Center for Art and Urbanistics.
IG: @lindayzhang @pararaum
Maxim Gertler-Jaffe (he/him) is a filmmaker and artist/researcher currently based in London, UK and Toronto. His focuses include social/political documentaries, essay films, and participatory, inventive, and speculative methods. Maxim was line producer on the Emmy-nominated feature documentary ALL GOVERNMENTS LIE, which screened at film festivals including TIFF and IDFA, had a North American theatrical run, and was broadcast worldwide.
Reese-Joan Young (she/her) is in her fourth year of studying Interior Design at Toronto’s Ryerson University. Her eclectic work is guided by her interest in designing real-life and virtual environments that are narrative-based and sensorially engaging. Currently, she is conducting a design research project in partnership with Georgia Barrington, funded by Ryerson’s Creative Technology Lab that explores the hearth and its identity as a domestic symbol.
Margarita Yushina (she/her) is Russian-born fourth year student at Ryerson School of Interior design in Toronto. She is interested in a variety of different design fields and directions. From graphic design to 3D modelling, rendering and animation, she loves to learn the new emerging ways and technologies. Recently, she is heavily interested in Virtual Reality. Margarita already had a chance to work on a variety of design projects and installations. She continues to explore and expand her digital skills, learning design fabrication, and stays active in the design community.
Meimei Yang (she/her) is Chinese-born, third-year student Interior Designer at the Ryerson School of Interior Design, based in Toronto, Canada. Her design ethos is heavily influenced by her cultural heritage and her background in visual arts, while her design process involves (fun)ctional considerations and ideas that tell a story. Meimei continues to expand her creative and digital skill sets in exploring various advanced technical design and manufacturing processes and typologies, in and outside of the academic setting.
Jimmy Tran (he/him) is the Research Technology Officer at the Ryerson University Library Collaboratory. He is also a postdoctoral fellow at the Network-Centric Apply Research Team lab in Computer Science at Ryerson University where continues his research in robotics and computer vision.
Linda Zhang, architect, artist, and assistant professor based in Toronto.
Myseum of Toronto, Toronto’s museum without walls with engaging programs and experiences that showcase the history, spaces, culture(s), architecture, and the people, that represent Toronto’s unique place in the world.
Friends of Chinatown, grassroots organization comprised of artists, architects, writers, journalists, business owners, residents and community activists fighting for community-controlled affordable housing, economic justice, and racial justice in Toronto’s downtown Chinatown
Tyler Fox, community services professional and social sector consultant based in London UK
Maxim Gertler-Jaffe, filmmaker and visual sociologist based in London UK
Biko Mandela Gray, assistant professor of African American religion based in Syracuse NY
Erica Kim, architectural historian based in Toronto
Morris Lum, photographer based in Toronto
Philip Poon, architect and artist based in New York NY
Howard Tam, strategic designer and urban planner based in Toronto
Lexi Tsien, architect and assistant professor based in New York NY
Shellie Zhang, multi-disciplinary artist based in Toronto
FEATURED STORY AUTHORS
Amy Yan is a graduate of the Ryerson School of Interior Design in Toronto. She is interested in exploring the intersections between design and storytelling with her work, and in finding new ways to be able to convey narratives that can be experienced visually, emotionally and at all scales. Her passions include illustration, 3D prototyping and longboarding.
Eveline Lam is a maker who moves between research, craft, and architectural work. She graduated from the University of Waterloo Master of Architecture program in 2017 and continues to practice illustration and ceramics in both traditional and digital mediums.
Michael Chong lives a short walk from Chinatown. He grew up in the suburbs, where leaving the house means getting into a car because nothing is within walking distance and biking on the road is dangerous. He is currently spending his time baking bread, growing vegetables, and assembling IKEA furniture.
STORY AUTHORS (VR COMING SOON)
Amelia Gan is a Malaysian-Chinese architectural designer who is currently based in Washington, DC.
Emperatriz Ung is a Chinese-Colombian writer, game designer, & educator from the American Southwest. She works as a narrative designer for mobile games and is a 2020 Margins Fellow at the Asian American Writers’ Workshop
Eva Chu is a Queer Taiwanese Canadian who is intrigued by the question of identity. Through lots of self-reflection, she found that identity is never self-contained and will always be intersectional. It is informed and linked to communities, experiences, even locations – all of which eternally tie Eva to Toronto’s Spadina Chinatown.
Georgia Barrington is a mature student in her third year of a BID at the Ryerson School of Interior Design. Before beginning the program, she worked in marketing and communications for four years at ParticipACTION and in various roles in Toronto’s non-profit and arts and culture sector.
Helen Ngo loves startups, cities, artificial intelligence, poetry, and midnight. She teaches machines how to write. Previously, she completed fellowships with Sidewalk Toronto and the Recurse Center.
Razan Samara is a Palestinian storyteller living on Turtle Island (near Tkaronto/Toronto). Her work is grounded in elevating diverse community voices and experiences. Her writing has appeared in the Silhouette and Canadian Art Magazine, and she was recognized as Best Journalist at the 2018 Hamilton Independent Media Awards.
Robert Tin is a graduate of the Ryerson School of Interior Design. He has an interest in exploring philosophical ideas using the built environment as a medium. He treats design as a way of reconnecting with humanities and as a way of life. He speaks its language. He lives by its philosophy. And he enjoys its poetry.
Tiff Lam is a journalist and audio producer at Canadaland Media. She was born in Scarborough to immigrants from Hong Kong, then raised in Hong Kong, Scarborough, and Beijing. She was called “urban” once and is recovering slowly from a colonial hangover. She did not coin either phrase.
想象2050年的唐人街是什么样？ “2050年的唐人街”作品的一个部分是，征集虚构的故事 ，请参与者想象一下，2050年多伦多唐人街会是什么样子？我们将使用“推测性小说”（并非科幻小说）来重新想象新冠疫情可以如何从根本上改善我们的世界？我们将写的短篇虚构小说背景设在2050年的多伦多唐人街，并探讨在那个背景中（推测和想象中的）立法改革和从新冠疫情汲取的教训是如何扎根下来的。我们从2020年都学到了什么？在那些新的系统到位后，世界是什么样子的？如果所有的进步都有代价，那么我们将失去什么样的生活方式，以及，取而代之我们获得了什么？
面对这样未来的可能性，我们现在应该怎么做？通过这些故事，我们可以共同重新想象这些可能发生的平行宇宙和未来。 因此，每个作者的故事都附带了一个虚拟现实游戏供您探索。 虚拟现实游戏将他们故事的建筑世界栩栩如生。 我们邀请您不仅阅读故事，而且探索虚拟现实世界。
张亦飞：原本，“设计自己的唐人街”是要在2020年四月展出的 ，还要举办研讨会，邀请历史学者，建筑学者， —— 当然，这个计划因为这场疫情而推迟到了2021年。在2021年四月，我们按照计划有一个网络的研讨会。而我们的讨论中都觉得，社区需要在这个时刻更加延伸出去。于是，我们就开始这个虚构写作创意，让人们用文字描述想象中的2050年 —— 文学创作中展现华人在这场疫情中的隐忧。我感觉，在新冠病毒爆发前，我更多是寻找唐人街历史，让我们思考如何构建更好未来。而这场疫情对我的作品的改变是，想象不同的未来可能性， 用以思考当下 —— 方向完全不同了。通过“推测性”创作，我们将重新构想和阐明多伦多唐人街的新的可能的未来 。
Myseum of Toronto，一个在多伦多的没有围墙的博物馆，提供引人入胜的活动和体验，展示历史、空间、文化、建筑和人文，代表多伦多在世界上独一无二的位置
Friends of Chinatown，一个由艺术家、建筑师、写作者、记者、企业主、居民和社区活动家组成的基层组织，在多伦多的市中心唐人街争取由社区自己控制的经济适用房、经济正义和种族正义
Biko Mandela Gray，基于纽约州雪城的非裔美国人宗教学的助理教授