Rex vs. Singh

August 27, 2010 7 – 9 p.m.
John Greyson (Toronto), Ali Kazimi (Toronto), Richard Fung (Toronto)
EMMEDIA Screening Room

Rex vs. Singh trailer

EMMEDIA presents this innovative collaborative video that draws out a little-known yet contentious narrative in Canada’s history. In 1915, two Sikh mill-workers, Dalip Singh
and Naina Singh, were entrapped by undercover police in Vancouver and accused of sodomy. This experimental video stages scenes from their trial, told four times: first as a period drama, second as a documentary investigation of the case, third as a musical agit-prop, and fourth, as a deconstruction of the actual court transcript.

Dalip and Naina were arrested one year after the infamous Komogata Maru incident, in which the Japanese-owned ship and its 376 would-be immigrant passengers from British India, mostly Sikhs, were turned back after sitting in Vancouver harbour for two months without being allowed to land. The South Asians, all British subjects, had hoped to challenge a systemically racist regulation that required potential immigrants to undergo a “continuous journey” from their country of origin, an impossibility deliberatelycreated for people from the sub-continent.

Between 1909 and 1929, an inordinate number of men tried for sodomy in Vancouver were Sikhs. Based on the 1915 case, Rex vs. Singh is a speculative exploration of the interplay between homophobia and racism in this little-known chapter of Canadian history.

Rex vs. Singh was commissioned by the Queer History Project of Out on Screen Vancouver Queer Film Festival.

In a commissioned critical text about this video, Former Calgary artist and EM Member Karilyn Ming-Ho argues for a concept of reenactment that uses Nietzsche’s notion of the “eternal return”, as a model for reenactment and performance. This model is a cyclical rather than a linear one, focusing on the concept of revisitation of the past in the present, keeping in mind that everything must return back to us. She places emphasis on the ethical dimension to Neitzsche’s “eternal return”, which is central to reenactment or revisitation of any art form or medium in its ability to wield difference, rather than sameness.

Artist Bios:

Richard Fung is a Trinidad-born, Toronto-based video artist and cultural critic whose work deals with the intersection of race and queer sexuality, and with issues of post-colonialism, diaspora, and family. His award-winning tapes, which include My Mother’s Place (1990), Sea in the Blood (2000) and Islands (2002), have been widely screened and collected internationally, and broadcast across North America. His essays have been published in numerous journals and anthologies, including his famous “Looking for My Penis: The Eroticized Asian in Gay Video Porn,” in How Do I Look?, ed. Bad Object-Choices (1991). A former Rockefeller Fellow at the Center for Media, Culture and History at New York University and winner of the Bell Canada Award for outstanding achievement in video art, he teaches at the Ontario College of Art and Design.

John Greyson was born 1960 in Nelson, B.C.. He is a prolific video artist, filmmaker and writer whose work has been screened in numerous international festivals and venues. He studied visual art in London, ON and in 1991 attended the Canadian Film Centre in Toronto. He has taught at the California Institute of the Arts in Valencia and at the Ontario College of Art, Toronto. He has organized numerous video screenings and written extensively about contemporary media issues. He was the coordinating producer of AIDS (Angry Initiatives/Defiant Strategies) for Deep Dish Television Satellite, California, and a co-organizer of Video Against AIDS produced by the Video Data Bank, Chicago. Greyson has recently edited an anthology of writings on AIDS and is currently working on his second feature film.

Ali Kazimi is a documentary filmmaker whose research interests include race, migration, indigineity, history and memory, with a particular interest in South Asia and Canada. He also has a keen interest in emerging and cutting-edge digital image technologies. In addition to his creative roles, Kazimi has worked as a film/video instructor. He was the President of the Independent Film and Video Alliance 1992-93, and the Co-Chair of the Canadian Independent Film Caucus – Toronto 1996-97. Kazimi joined the full-time faculty in York University’s Film Department in 2006. He is currently working on film that re-examines the 1947 partition of British India.

Karilynn Ming Ho is a visual artist based in Vancouver, British Columbia. Her practice involves the research and exploration of various formal and conceptual frames existent in performativity. Her work exists through live actions, video, installation, and photography. She has exhibited her video and performance-based works extensively
throughout Canada.

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