Conversation with Gary Zhexi Zhang and Zach Jama, moderated by Clara Halpern
Friday, September 29, 2023
Offsite at Small World Music (Toronto)
To view the film, please visit https://thetourist.ggyu.art/
On September 29, 2023, the AGYU premiered The Tourist, a digital commission by artist and writer Gary Zhexi Zhang in-person at Small World Music here in Toronto. Following the premiere, a live conversation between Zhang and documentary filmmaker Zach Jama was presented, moderated by Clara Halpern. Jama was in close dialogue with Zhang as the project developed, and he shares his perspective as a filmmaker, reflecting on his insights and experiences in East Africa. Zhang and Jama discuss cosmopolitanism and worldmaking, particularly in relation to the film’s main subject, the revolutionary Ali Sultan Issa, and more broadly the history of the Non-Aligned Movement and the emergence of various polarities in the 1960s in Zanzibar, China, and beyond. The conversation touches on shared themes of speculation, time, and constructing futures in both The Tourist and Zhang’s recent book, Catastrophe Time! (2023).
Gary Zhexi Zhang is an artist and writer whose work draws connections between cosmology, technology, and economics. He was born in Suzhou and works in London. He recently edited Catastrophe Time!, a book of fictions, essays and interviews about finance and time. The opera he co-created with Waste Paper Opera, Dead Cat Bounce, premiered at Somerset House in 2022. His last solo exhibition, Cycle 25, documented events that blur the boundaries between speculative belief and the material world, like natural disasters, scam nations, and cosmic economies. Recent group shows include Katabasis, Totalab, Shanghai; Liquid Ground, UCCA Dune, Beidaihe & Para Site, Hong Kong; and The Principle of Hope, Inside Out Art Museum, Beijing. He is lecturer in Critical Studies at Goldsmiths MFA and taught previously at Parsons School of Design. In 2023, he will be an R&D fellow at Rockbund Art Museum, Shanghai. His writing on art, technology and economy have appeared in Frieze, ArtReview, Verge Journal of Global Asias, Journal of Cultural Economy, MIT Journal of Design and Science, among others.
Zach Jama is a documentary filmmaker and engineer. He received his BASc in Systems Design Engineering from the University of Waterloo and his MFA in Cinematic Arts in Jordan. He holds a Master of Science (MSc) in Art, Culture and Technology from MIT. His interests reside in exploring different forms of storytelling. Past projects include mobile applications that challenge users to recreate actions from peaceful protests, virtual reality performances with flashbacks triggered by personal objects, and interactive documentaries. As a documentary filmmaker,Jama directed projects commissioned by CBC Short Docs, Al Jazeera English, and Hot Docs. His most recent short documentary entitled Mending a Crack in the Sky, 2021, is about a group of mothers in Toronto that lost their sons to gun violence.
Gary Zhexi Zhang, The Tourist, 2023, is commissioned by the Art Gallery of York University (AGYU), Toronto and curated by Clara Halpern, assistant curator, exhibitions. This event emerged from the AGYU’s digital art commissioning program, supported by the Canada Council for the Arts Digital Strategy Fund. It was generously supported by media partners InterAccess and Images Festival.