Maternal Instinct

Date: Thursday May 18th, 2023

Time: 6:30 pm

Cost: FREE

Join us for an intimate evening of film and live performance in celebration of Asian Heritage Month, in honour of our mothers and grandmothers – our 媽媽s, 奶奶s, nanays, and okaasan-tachi. Featuring works by local Asian-Canadian artists Clare Yow, Long Xi Vlessing, Alger Ji-Liang, Janice Esguerra, Lisa Mariko Gelley, and Sophia & Shana Wolfe, Maternal Instinct is a tender exploration of maternal love, grief, matrilineal complexity, invisible labour, and diaspora identity. It explores our mothers’ intuitions and our own instincts in remembering who and where we come from, and the complex and nuanced relationships we share with our mothers and motherlands.

RSVP here.

Doors at 6:30pm
Films and Performances at 7pm
Artist Q&A to follow
RSVPs are appreciated


Daughters of Our Diaspora, film by Clare Yow
Canada | 2020 | 3min | English Subtitles
For diasporic immigrant communities, strong familial ties exist between culturally specific foods, embodied knowledge, nostalgia, and caregiving. Drawing on the significance of invisible and devalued domestic labour performed disproportionately by racialized women, I turned towards my own mum, Yam Sock Yee 任淑儀, who has spent the past twenty-five years as an unwaged homemaker. Through the lens of meticulous and mundane food preparation, she reflects on matriarchs, inheritance, and the nourishment of family.

Blanket Song, film by Long Xi Vlessing
Canada | 2021 | 4min | Mandarin Chinese with English Subtitles
Vlessing’s 奶奶 (nainai, grandmother) isn’t an avid writer, but she writes stories in her own way: sewing them into her blankets and quilts. In Blanket Song, she faintly narrates her creations, and the artist regards them up close with the warped glass lens of his broken camera, a laptop webcam, and a clunky Xerox scanner. If quilts are the most analogue, hands-on medium, the visuality of this threadbare document seeks to reflect a similar nature.

motherland 母懷之地, film by Alger Ji-Liang
Canada | 2021 | 13min | English and Cantonese with English Subtitles
A grieving boy moves across the liminal spaces of his memory to connect with someone he’s lost. Through this act, he must confront the tension and trauma within his body to find solace.

Leftovers, live reading by Janice Esguerra
“Leftovers” explores themes of family, intergenerational grief, love, loneliness, and hunger through the lens of a nuanced relationship between a mother and her daughter.

Midori by Lisa Mariko Gelley
Performed by Sophia Mai 舞 Wolfe & Shana Ai 愛 Wolfe
Midori asks how we meet, connect, and love, from distant places. Rooted in a practice of instinct, this dance honors our bodies as exquisite containers of knowledge, allowing us to access and embody all that is not fully understood. Midori creates a space for the complexities and depth of familial and sibling love, sweet memories, and impossible distances. In this place, we offer, connect, receive, play, and are held, in rhythmic ritual.

Created by Lisa Mariko Gelley in collaboration with Lily Yuriko Tamoto, Sophia Mai Wolfe and Shana Ai Wolfe.

About the Artists
Clare Yow is a Chinese-Canadian visual artist. She looks at the politics of identity, community, and being while interrogating everyday lived experiences as a diasporic immigrant-settler, woman and mother of colour. As an extension of her practice, Clare co-founded and is artistic lead of the Vancouver Chinatown-based United Aunties Arts Association.

Alger Ji-Liang is an emerging interdisciplinary artist, filmmaker, collaborator, and arts worker based on the unceded territories of the Squamish, Tsleil-Waututh, and Musqueam nations (Vancouver). His work explores personal and communal experiences of navigating kin, love, and grief.

Janice Esguerra is an emerging writer/multidisciplinary artist from East Vancouver. She is a recent graduate from UBC’s Creative Writing BFA program, and has a heavy interest in fiction, non-fiction, photography, and film. She is currently working on the manuscript for a short fiction collection, set to release in 2024.

Lisa Mariko Gelley is an artist and mother, dedicated to sharing experiences through dance and art across generations. She is a settler of Japanese and European descent, living on Coast Salish Territory. Lisa is Artistic Co-Director of Company 605, a contemporary dance company creating collaboratively with artists in many forms. Lisa’s Japanese name, Mariko, was given to her because it combines her grandmother’s name, Yuriko, and her mother’s middle name, Mayumi. Some of her favorite Japanese foods are kabocha, mitarashi dango, and her grandmother’s poached salmon.

Sophia Mai 舞 Wolfe (she/her) is a queer, Japanese-Canadian independent dance artist who also works in visual media including photography, filmmaking, curation and video art. Shana is her sister and remembers choreographing dances to the Lion King soundtrack as kids. She loves soba, tsukemono and her mothers gohan desuyo. The longest distance she’s been away from Shana was 14362.31 km when she was in Kenya and Shana was in Comox. Her middle name translates to “dance”.

Shana Ai 愛 Wolfe is a Japanese-Canadian dance artist based in so-called Vancouver on the unceded territories of the xʷməθkwəy̓əm, Skwxwú7mesh, and Səl̓ílwətaʔ/Selilwitulh Nations. She is the younger sister of Sophia and has always called her ‘Sophie’. Some of her favourite foods are natto and mitarashi dango. She is a freelance dancer, monthly instagram poster and crochet blanket maker. Her middle name means “love” <3

Long Xi Vlessing (b. 2000) (龙喜) is a photographer and filmmaker from Vancouver and based in Montréal. He is a graduate from Concordia University with a BA in Communication Studies. Recent work includes a photographic collaboration with New York University’s Orphan Film Symposium, and the short film Blanket Song, which was selected at the Seattle Asian American Film Festival and the Vancouver Chinese Film Festival. His first solo gallery exhibition of photography opened this spring at Gallery Gachet in Vancouver, showcasing themes central to his evolving work interested in shared humanity in strangers, the novel possibility of text, and quotidian scenes as a site of personal transformation.

Banner Image: Alger Ji-Liang, motherland 母懷之地, video still, 2023

  • The Polygon Gallery
  • Maternal Instinct

See what’s up next.