The Book of Imaginary Beings

Sai Di, Marcy Friesen, Woojae Kim, Josh Steinhauer, Katayoon Yousefbigloo

Curated by Ophelia Yingqiu Zhao

5 Aug to 9 Sep 2023

NOTE: Masks are encouraged, but not required, during the opening reception. During regular gallery hours it is often quiet enough to comfortably choose not to mask, and the staff will happily mask if you prefer us to. Please refer to our Summer COVID-19 Safety Measures for more information, and to our Accessibility Notes for information about our space. Thank you for helping take care of our artists, staff, and each other.

There is a secret anthology that imagines a planet populated by art objects as sentient, living creatures. Upon this celestial body, hidden from the human eyes, an alternative order of living unfolds the exhibition: The Book of Imaginary Beings. Taking its title from a book by Jorge Luis Borges, the exhibition space hopes to become what the book would characterize as: a place filled with beasts, where children encounter tigers without fear[1]. Through the glimmer in the eyes of the Imaginary Beings, this exhibition invites you to enter into the physical presence of art objects as living creatures. The Book of Imaginary Beings is a group exhibition that features works by artists Sai Di, Marcy Friesen, Woojae Kim, Josh Steinhauer, and Katayoon Yousefbigloo. 

How can we re-encounter art objects as if they are animated, sentient creatures? How can we create a physical relationship with the sentient beings outside of our own finitude? 

If it is believed that materials encapsulate memories in physical forms, a constellation of stories will arise from the prism of an imaginary reality. Experimenting with a variety of material research, such as mycelium networking, sound vibration, laser transfer technique, electro-kinetics, and sensual archive, five artists provide us with a glimpse into an animated sphere in which art objects tell their own stories: 

a story by Sai Di that imagines space as a mandala cosmos;
a story by Marcy Friesen that shares the paranoia of eating the granny’s poisoned soup; 
a story by Woojae Kim in conversation with Seren Bradley on listening to the maple forest that covered the downtown area;
a story by Josh Steinhauer that alludes a Saskatchewan prairie ghost to the ghost of a machine; 
and a story by Katayoon Yousefbigloo that scavenges the fragmented golden mystery of a never-solved crime. 

(how can we enter into an art object’s story, if the story is in itself the material?) (How can we become part of the story before we start to project, encode, mystify, and make it a story of our own?)  (Is it ever possible?) ( thereafter, how can we co-exist?)

In the five stories that comprise The Book of Imaginary Beings, each work will re-emerge as their own storytellers, intimately embodying sounds, images, tastes, consciousness, and spirits in their physical relations to us, with the hope that our co-existence will become temporal, energetic, and successive in space.

Borges, Jorge Luis, Margarita Guerrero. Preface. The Book of Imaginary Beings. New York: Viking, 2005.

Sai Di is a Chinese Canadian artist who builds living systems and multi-media installations to decode the present reality at the intersection of science and ecology. Her work develops poetic nature/techno synthesis at the threshold of sensory perceptions through discursive material experiments, sound and performance gestures. She is an active member of the performance group Cuerpo Collective which enquires how the body may exist within the very function of art production as a means for healing and decolonization. She holds a BSc degree from the University of Shanghai for Science and Technology and a BFA from the University of British Columbia.

Marcy Friesen is of Swampy Cree and Welsh ancestry and currently resides on a mixed farm with her family near Carrot River, SK. She comes from a long line of traditional master beaders and talented creative family members. Threading through beads, leather, and furs, Friesen draws the viewer into an intimate experience using her honed skills and intuitive sensibilities toward material, colour, and presentation. In Friesen’s practice, the natural and synthetic come together in ways that are inclusive of the contemporary condition, transforming ways of understanding and expectations of cultural production. In June 2021, Friesen had her first solo exhibition, S0E 0L0, at Fazakas Gallery in Vancouver, BC.

Woojae Kim combines his research on biology with somatic experiences. He is currently making Makgeolli to learn about microbiology, and the histories and relationships between living creatures and the land. Through words used in both scientific and cultural discussions, such as “colonization”, “culture” and “diversity”, he observes how we relate to each other and to non-human others. Kim received an MFA from Milton Avery Graduate School of the Arts at Bard College. He lives in Vancouver, on the unceded territories of the xwməθkwəy̓əm, Skwxwú7mesh and səl̓ílwəta First Nations.

Woojae Kim collaborated on the audio for his piece with Seren Bradley, a sound artist living on Wabanaki land (Portland, ME). They acquired a Bachelors of Fine Art from the Kansas City Art Institute (’14 Sculpture), a Masters of Fine Art from BardMFA (’22 Music/Sound), hold certificates from the Wickerson Center for Alternative Fine Arts (’15) and the Center for Deep Listening (’17), and are currently completing a Post Baccalaureate in Psychology (’24 UC Berkeley Extension). They’ve previously performed as SOLLUS (with J Ashley Miller and Joey Watson in Kansas City, MO), co-directed the BEGIN Series (with Jon Mueller in Door County, WI), and they currently perform and record as the steward, rev.web, and seren.

Josh Steinhauer is an interdisciplinary artist whose practice spans drawing, painting, printmaking, photography, multimedia sculpture, and performance. He began making art as a young boy, drawing throughout class time, and giving works away to friends and family. Steinhauer’s artistic practice emerges from a varied array of fields and lived experiences, through which he navigates the complex elements of human existence within our constructed ecosystem. Steinhauer received a BFA in Visual Arts from the University of British Columbia. 

Katayoon Yousefbigloo is an interdisciplinary artist and musician working with degraded media to reverse-engineer cultural narratives and mythologies. Her work often takes shape in media installation and performance, but leaves ephemera of text, music, and merchandise. She is a founding member of the experimental art collective Liquidation World, and holds an MFA from the School of Contemporary Arts at Simon Fraser University.



With gratitude as guests, Access is located on the unceded territories of the xʷməθkwəy̓əm (Musqueam), Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish), and Səl̓ílwətaʔ/Selilwitulh (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations.


Access gratefully acknowledges the ongoing support of the following funders as well as our committed family of donors, members, and volunteers, for enabling this organization to remain vigorous and connected to the communities we support.

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With support from the Killy Foundation and the Audain Endowment for Curatorial Studies through the Department of Art History, Visual Art and Theory in collaboration with the Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery at The University of British Columbia.

Woojae Kim thanks Seren Bradley for collaboration on the audio piece that is part of Listening to the Silence. Sai Di additionally thanks the generous support offered by MYCA Farms, for her mycelium research for the exhibition. A special thanks to Andrew Booth for lending artwork from his personal collection for the exhibition.