8mm Cassette

In 1985, Sony released the Video 8 Handycam: an affordable, smaller and lighter format than any previous attempts at a portable, consumer-grade recorder. Wong purchased his first Video 8 in 1986. The Video 8 and Hi-8 tapes here are examples of how Wong utilized this more portable and inconspicuous format in his art practice, documentation of activism, and inquiries into new technologies.

Greenpeace Protests Against Nuclear Warships

Vancouver, Coast Salish Territories 1989

In 1989, Greenpeace conducted a series of international protests as part of their Nuclear Free Seas Campaign. In the U.S., their efforts were directed towards the Trident missle tests. In Vancouver, the campaign was tied to the 1983 declaration that Vancouver would be a nuclear-free zone, yet warships were still arriving in Vancouver’s waters. Wong was invited by Greenpeace to document their actions.

Greenpeace action against the U.S.S. Merrill at Ballantyne Pier.
Port of Vancouver  July 20, 1989  58:00
Greenpeace Flotilla action against the U.S.S. Independence aircraft-carrier. [Tape 1]
English Bay, Vancouver   August 11, 1989.
Greenpeace Flotilla action against the U.S.S. Independence aircraft-carrier. [Tape 2]
English Bay, Vancouver   August 11, 1989.
Greenpeace Flotilla action against the U.S.S. Independence aircraft-carrier. [Tape 3]
English Bay, Vancouver   August 11, 1989.

Protest at Clayoquot Sound

Wong and friends travelled to Vancouver Island in July 1993 to attend an action at the Clayoquot Peace Camp, the site of what is often referred to as the largest, peaceful blockade in Canadian history. The protestors’ goal was to dismantle all clearcutting in the biologically diverse ecosystem of the rain forest. By the end of the summer 856 protestors had been arrested.

Clayoquot Sound
July 16, 1993  40:32mins
Hi-8 video
Footage was shot at the clearcut called Black Hole, 10kms east of Ucluelet, on Nuu-Chah-Nulth territory. At the site, speakers include Tla-o-qui-aht First Nations Chief, Francis Frank, who explained theconcerns which led to the concert being moved from its original site to Black Hole due to the Nation’s concerns. He also thanked Valerie Langer (Friends of Clayoquot Sound) for creating the movement and Midnight Oil lead singer and environmentalist, Peter Garrett, for respecting protocol. Later, there is discussion in the camp about the defiance of the next injunction and strategies around support for those who will be arrested.

Tamio Wakayama Interviews

January 17 & July 31, 1992

Paul Wong interviewed photographer and activist Tamio Wakayama (1941-2018) in 1992 – twice with a representative of the Powell Street Festival. Wakayama was publishing his photographic book, Kikyō: Coming Home to Powell Street, a history of the Powell Street Festival – an annual Vancouver series celebrating the history and culture of Japanese people in Canada.

Wakayama and his family were interned during WWII at Tashme, B.C. when he was just nine months old. This artist statement contextualizes his work and activism:

“Much of my life and art has been devoted to coming to terms with that history. The long journey of healing and empowerment began when I left university and worked for two years with the Civil Rights Movement in the deep South followed by involvements in the anti Vietnam war protest, communities of the dispossessed in Canada, Rochdale College and the Coach House Press where I published my first book of photographs. When the tumult of the 60s ended, I went to Japan which gave me a new perspective on my past, racism and identity. Japan was a bridge that brought me back to the West Coast where my life began. In Vancouver, I became part of the explosive creativity of the revitalization of the Nikkei community which gave birth to the exhibit and book A Dream of Riches: The Japanese Canadians, 1877-1977, the Redress Movement and the Powell Street Festival.”  From the Artist Statement of Tamio Wakayama, Japanese Canadian Artist Directory.

Tamio expands on this history in this series of interviews. Transciption of interviews is in progress.


Special thanks to Mayumi Takasaki for her support of this project.
Tamio Wakayama Interview,  Tape 1
Location: Paul Wong’s Main Street studio
Interviewers: Paul Wong & Unidentified Powell Street Festival rep
Record date: January 31, 1992
Tamio Wakayama Interview, Tape 2
Location: Paul Wong’s Main Street studio
Interviewers: Paul Wong & Unidentified Powell Street Festival rep
Record date: January 31, 1992
Tamio Wakayama Interview
Interviewer: Paul Wong
Record date: July 17, 1992

Paper Son

Paper Son is an as yet unrealized video piece. Wong began recording in 1988, following his Canada-based relative’s adoption of a young child from family in China, and continued through to that child reaching adulthood. This personal story intersects with the historical immigration of Chinese nationals to Canada and the role of extended family in providing opportunity to others. These videos represent the earliest recordings in this series (for context, recorded just six months prior to the Tiananmen Square Massacre.)

The recordings demonstrate the advantages of portable video in telling this story: the format allowed a nimble and relatively unobtrusive venture into what was a very tight-quartered and personal experience and it provided some personal protection, implying “tourist” rather than “foreign journalist” status.

Paper Son #2
Republic of China  December 8, 1988  59:49
Language: English and Mandarin
In 1988, Paul Wong travelled to a small village in China with family members to document the adoption of a relative’s son in a village neighbouring Thai Gong Lay, in Toi San County in southern Guangdong Province in the Pearl River Della. The village, home of Wong’s aunt, Ha Fong, is featured prominently in Wong’s video Ordinary Shadows/Chinese Shade (shot in 1982 and 1985).  The child being adopted is that of his aunt’s daughter who married into the next village. This video is part of an as yet unrealized video work following the lives of those involved from adoption to current day.
Vancouver Airport
Hong Kong/Vancouver  1988  1:19:23 min
Language: English and Mandarin
Wong captures the resistance against the handover of the British colony of Hong Kong to People’s Republic of China pending in 1997. He records the street activism street of the pro-democracy movement as well as the grandiousity of capital and consumerism in the city. We see the adopted child navigate this glossy world before being put on a plane for Vancouver and his arrival in his new country.

Stereophonics Heaven

Stereophonics Heaven (Tapes 1 & 2)
Main Street, Vancouver
June 19, 1990
Paul Wong and friend Joe Turato combine experimentation with play in this raw rendering of  Hi-8 stereo recording.
PW_095 and PW_096