This Is A Tiger

This Is A Tiger is a window installation, part of the distanced & digital DesignTO Festival 2021

Dates: February 26 - March 4, 2021

Location: Scout - 405 Roncesvalles Ave, Toronto

Viewable 24hrs a day from the sidewalk, outdoors

Please wear a mask and practice social distancing when visiting the installation

Project Statement:

‘This Is A Tiger’ is a window installation pairing Wy Joung Kou’s intricate ceramic & glass mosaic work with elements of inclusive design. This work launches us into the layered intersections of identity, ancestry, dis/ability, and artistry. At the centre of this installation is Kou’s recently completed mosaic, ‘The Tiger’. ‘The Tiger’, an 8 square foot ceramic and glass mosaic, is based off a Chinese brush painting by one of their Great Uncles on their father’s side. As a mixed-race, 2nd generation Chinese-Canadian settler with no applicable knowledge of traditional Chinese arts, Kou has blended their contemporary mosaic style with traditional Chinese imagery to re-create their Uncle’s painting. The result is a unique artistic manifestation of diasporic identity.

Beyond showcasing this mosaic work, ‘This Is A Tiger’ also embeds visual description (with digital text and audio-recorded versions available online) into the installation. With a practice rooted in principles of disability justice and inclusive design, Kou’s mosaic work is usually intended to be experienced both visually and via touch. Due to COVID-19 and the implications of touch, sanitization and safety, the latter is now far less possible. Visual descriptions primarily serve as a way to increase accessibility for Blind and low-vision people. In this case, it is also employed to raise awareness for inclusive design in the arts by placing it centrally and creatively within the work, bringing it to the forefront of our attention.

‘This Is A Tiger’ offers up Kou’s take on art created in the in-between places of racial and cultural identity. It invites sighted viewers to reflect on what we, too, can gain/learn from visual descriptions. It welcomes us to consider what our relationships are to touch/tactility regardless of ability, and how those relationships might be changing due to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on our lives.

Video Tour & Visual Description

Video Description: video of Kou giving a tour of the This Is A Tiger installation while providing visual description.

This Is A Tiger: Visual DescriptionWy Joung Kou
00:00 / 01:56

VISUAL DESCRIPTION: A four-foot-tall and two-foot-wide rectangular mosaic made out of hundreds of pieces of colourful glass and broken ceramics is displayed in a window storefront. It is mounted to the front wall of a black plywood structure that fills up the entire front display window. This description is affixed in large white vinyl lettering to the larger side window. The mosaic is made up of four individual frames that stack vertically to create a whole. It features a fierce orange tiger, mid-roar, with black stripes, emerald green eyes and sharp prominent claws. The style of this imagery takes inspiration from that of traditional Chinese brush paintings. The tiger’s face and whiskers are rich with detail. It is descending a clay coloured rocky terrain, surrounded by tall green grasses matching the colour of its eyes.  It is emerging from behind tree branches the colour of coffee with lots of cream, with bunches of perfect little bright red circles at the tips which could be read as blossoms or as fruits. In the dark black, brown and blue speckled sky above the tiger is the gnarled arm of another larger tree of a darker wood colour. This tree has navy blue abstract foliage made with lots of triangular shapes. Texturally, a mixture of ultra-thick ceramic, thin glass, and everything in between has been used to create a very dynamic topography throughout the mosaic. The majority of the glass and ceramic shines and glistens in the light. This is in stark contrast with the grout – the matte, black, cement-like material that fills the cracks in between all the tiny pieces. The grout looks almost like really, really dark soil. This “soil”, along with the tiger’s piercing gaze, vivid colour and 3D surface, brings a liveness to this otherwise still portrait.

This installation is made possible thanks to the generous support of the Ontario Arts Council and DesignTO Festival.

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About DesignTO:

The DesignTO Festival is Canada’s largest annual celebration of design with over 100 exhibitions and events forming Toronto’s design week, January 22-31, 2021. Going into its 11th year, the distanced and digital Festival transforms Toronto into a hub for creativity, taking art and design out of the studio and into the urban sphere. The Festival brings people together to celebrate contemporary culture, provides opportunities for emerging talent, and engages the community with exceptional and accessible public programming.