Made of woven replica Chinese coins, Coin-Suit, 2021, draws on a complex range of East Asian, Western, and Indigenous references, including ceremonial burial suits created from thousands of pieces of jade for wealthy aristocrats during the Han dynasty (206 BCE – 220 CE); the eighteenth- and nineteenth-century maritime fur trade network, where sea otter pelts were exchanged off the coast of Alaska for Chinese coins, silks, porcelains, tea, and other goods; and historic Tlingit body armour that incorporated Chinese coins. Tam explains that this work “is dedicated to the early immigrants who came to North America and faced much hardship and discrimination. When worn, the weight of the coins is symbolic of the heavy burden of the decades of racism experienced by our communities while [we are] expected to act as the submissive model minority. At the same time, Coin-Suit can act as a type of protective armour.”
Karen Tam, Coin-Suit, 2021
Imitation Chinese coins, nylon satin cord, velvet, and Isolofoam, 20.5 x 139 x 63 cm, Courtesy of the artist and Galerie Hugues Charbonneau, Montreal. Photo credit: Campbell River Art Gallery.