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About Richard Fung
Best known for his work in video, Richard Fung has made the politics of gender, ethnicity, and sexual orientation his central focus. His early Orientations (1984) and Chinese Characters (1986) deal explicitly with gay issues: the former is an ambitious 56-minute study considering racism and cultural self-assertion through art, coupled with stories of individual experiences, while the latter work examines the ambiguous relationship of gay Asian men with white gay porn. In a different form of self-discovery, The Way To My Father's Village (1988) seeks out his father's birthplace in Guangdong, China, and "is about the construction of memory and history, the experience of colonialism, and about Westerners looking at China" (Vtape catalogue 1996). My Mother's Place, of 1990, follows the artist's own history through his mother's stories from her life in Trinidad, interwoven with statements and commentary from Fung's friends. The more recent Sea in the Blood (2000) traces the history of thalassemia in his family, a hereditary form of anemia that claimed a brother and a favourite sister while still young. It is a poignant memoir revealing its own notes of regret. Fung's most recent video is Uncomfortable: The Art of Christopher Cozier, a journey through the work and ideas of Trinidad-based artist and cultural critic Christopher Cozier, a leading contemporary artist in the Caribbean, seen in the context of local and global dynamics.
Fung brings rich visual colour to his eloquent narratives; in his use of both personal experience and cultural history, his observations are quietly revelatory. His thoughtful voice, though matter of fact, instills a sense of wonder in the viewer, as Fung understands and recognizes the value even of tragic events and experience. The layers of recollection interweave to suggest a world subtly illuminated from within and coloured by time passing; we are led to understand so much more than is in the words themselves.
Fung's work has been included in exhibitions and festivals worldwide such as retrospectives at the 47th Robert Flaherty Film Seminar (New York, 2001), the Images Festival (Toronto, 2002), Pièces d'identité at Rencontres Vidéo Arts Plastiques (Caen, 2002) that toured to Paris and Berlin, and Spotlight Tour at Filmhuis Cavia (Amsterdam, 2005) and Centre Bruxelles-Wallonie (Paris, 2005). Broadcasts have included DCTV, New York; Vision TV (national Canadian broadcast), LA Free Waves, PBS Los Angeles, TV Ontario, Pridevision TV, and The Knowledge Network. His works are included in public collections and universities in Australia, Canada, Germany, Japan, New Zealand, Singapore, Taiwan, the UK, the U.S., and elsewhere.
Articulate and perceptive as writer and critic, Richard Fung won the Ontario Association of Art Galleries award for Curatorial Writing in 2005. He has published extensively since 1980. With Monika Kin Gagnon he co-authored 13 conversations about art and cultural race politics in 2002 (Montreal: Artextes Editions). Other texts appear in many anthologies including the forthcoming Home Movies: Excavations into Historical and Cultural Memories, Karen Ishizuka and Patricia Zimmerman, eds., (Berkeley: University of California Press). His essays are included in Magnetic North, Jenny Lion ed. (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2000), Video re/View, Peggy Gale and Lisa Steele eds. (Toronto: Art Metropole and Vtape, 1996); Constructing Masculinity, Maurice Berger, Brian Wallis, Simon Watson eds. (New York: Routledge, 1996); Queer Looks, Martha Gever, John Greyson, Pratibha Parmar, eds. (New York: Routledge and Toronto: Between the Lines, 1993). He has also been very active as a curator and organizer of conferences and film/video festivals since 1985.
Fung's video work has been discussed in numerous publications, including the comprehensive Like Mangoes in July: The Work of Richard Fung, Helen Lee and Kerri Sakamoto, eds., (Insomniac Press and Images Festival, Toronto, 2002). Other titles include Other Conundrums: Race, Culture and Canadian Art by Monika Kin Gagnon (Vancouver: Arsenal Pulp Press, 2000) and The Skin of the Film: Intercultural Cinema, Embodiment, and the Senses by Laura U. Marks (Durham and London: Duke University Press, 2000), as well as a long list of magazines and scholarly journals.
Born in Trinidad where he spent his early years, Richard Fung studied photo-electric art at the Ontario College of Art in Toronto, graduating in 1977. He later completed a BA in Cinema Studies (1984) at the University of Toronto and a Master of Education at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education in 1993. A frequent speaker, guest lecturer, and panelist, he teaches currently at the Ontario College of Art and Design in Toronto.
Fung has received many awards, including grants from the Ontario Film Development Corporation and the Secretary of State (Multiculturalism) of Canada, the Canada Council and others. In addition he has received a Rockefeller Fellowship (New York University, 1995), a McKnight Fellowship (Center for Arts Criticism and Asian American Renaissance, Minneapolis-St. Paul, 1996), a Toronto Arts Award (Media Arts, 2001), a Pioneer Award (Chinese Canadian National Council, 2003), and a Juror's Choice, Edges Festival (Victoria, B.C., 2005). He was awarded the Bell Canada Award in Video Art in 2000.