Collection Count + Care with Barbara Astman and Tran T. Kim-Trang

Collection Count + Care seeks relationships within and conversations across the collection. What stories does the collection tell?

Prise en compte, prise à cœur cherche à tisser des liens et des dialogues entre les œuvres de la collection. Quelles histoires la collection raconte-t-elle?


Operculum discloses voices and footage from several consultation meetings for cosmetic surgery of the upper and lower eyelids on an Asian woman. Tran T. Kim-Trang presents the surgeons’s explanations of the popularity and success rates for different Asian nationalities. She frames them with a written description of experimental lobotomy through the eye socket designed to eradicate schizophrenic hallucination. Operculum means “little lid” from Latin and signifies, in animal and brain biology, covers or flaps that open or close to control contact with internal and external world. Kim-Trang turns a camera’s own aperture on the “self-effacing fantasy” of these surgeries and the normalized black hole that is insistently neutralizing differences on the face. The piece ends with a laugh, however; a found movie clip shows Lao Ze disguising his eyelids and erupting in laughter as he looks into what seems to be a mirror.

The faces in Barbara Astman’s I as artifact seem to sing silently or to express thrown voices. Their eyes seem wide open to a void within and all around. Or perhaps, instead, do we look out—through a mask that would cover our own faces, as if the mask were glimpsed from an uncanny remote interior? Astman reveals a multiplicity of possible expressions temporarily frozen at the intersection of desires and practices. To produce this series, Astman exposed her own cosmetic facial masks on a scanner bed and then inverted their values, digitally emphasizing their folds and creases. They become like a chorus of planetary topographies that offers solace but no anesthetic.

The pairing suggests critical encounters with the face as a social landscape, one where gender, race, ethnicity and age intersect, and where normative violence enacts physical intercessions. At the same time the works express counteracting proliferations of difference. We cannot see our own faces directly, and ultimately, the facial diagram is frayed by a mutability that implies passage to chaotic universes.

Curated by Sunny Kerr


Tran T. Kim-Trang, Operculum, 1993, video 14:00 minutes. Purchase, 1996

Barbara Astman, I as artifact, 2014, 20 digital prints on Epson Ultrasmooth Fine Art Paper.
Gift of the Artist, 2020


Johnson, Johnston and Macrae Investment Group, part of CIBC Private Wealth Wood Gundy is the sponsor for Collection Count + Care and its related programs.

Collection Count + Care videos are available on Digital Agnes, Vimeo and YouTube. Funded by the Museums Assistance Program, Digital Access to Heritage grant.
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