The Tourist by Gary Zhexi Zhang: Screening & Conversation with Zach Jama

Fri Sep 29 2023 at 06:30 pm to 08:00 pm

180 Shaw St | Toronto

Art Gallery of York University (AGYU)
Publisher/HostArt Gallery of York University (AGYU)
The Tourist by Gary Zhexi Zhang: Screening & Conversation with Zach Jama
Please join the AGYU for the in-person premiere of The Tourist, a new digital commission by artist and writer Gary Zhexi Zhang.
About this Event

Please join the AGYU for the in-person premiere of The Tourist, a new digital commission by artist and writer Gary Zhexi Zhang to be followed by a conversation between Zhang and documentary filmmaker Zach Jama, moderated by Clara Halpern, on Friday, September 29 at 6:30pm, off-site at Small World Music (305–180 Shaw St).

Zhang’s new film, The Tourist, 2023, tells the story of Zanzibar, China, and Ali Sultan Issa, a man at the centre of an uneasy marriage between Afrofuturism and Sinofuturism. It explores a shifting geopolitical atmosphere from the cosmopolitan optimism of the "Bandung Spirit" declaration, signed at the first large-scale Afro-Asian Conference in 1955, to the uncertain alignments of today. Issa and his comrades sparked a diplomatic romance with communist China in the sixties, and sought to build post-revolutionary Zanzibar in the image of the People’s Republic of China. Issa was not only a leading Zanzibari socialist, but would also become its capitalist pioneer, spearheading the foreign investment which would later define its fortunes as a tropical tourist paradise.

This newly commissioned film grew out of a dialogue with AGYU curator Clara Halpern through the program …this is not made of language but energy, a series of conversations about born-digital art in 2020 in which Zhang participated. AGYU also co-published with Strange Attractor Press, Catastrophe Time!, an anthology of fiction, essays, and interviews about finance and time edited by Zhang.

Gary Zhexi Zhang is an artist and writer whose work draws connections between cosmology, technology, and economics. He was born in Suzhou and works in London. The opera he co-created with Waste Paper Opera, Dead Cat Bounce, premiered at Somerset House in 2022. His last solo exhibition, Cycle 25, documented events that blur the boundaries between speculative belief and the material world, like natural disasters, scam nations, and cosmic economies. Recent group shows include Katabasis, Totalab, Shanghai; Liquid Ground, UCCA Dune, Beidaihe & Para Site, Hong Kong; and The Principle of Hope, Inside Out Art Museum, Beijing. He is a Lecturer in Critical Studies at Goldsmiths MFA and taught previously at Parsons School of Design. In 2023, he will be an R&D fellow at Rockbund Art Museum, Shanghai. His writing on art, technology and economy have appeared in Frieze, ArtReview, Verge Journal of Global Asias, Journal of Cultural Economy, MIT Journal of Design and Science, among others.

Zach Jama is a documentary filmmaker and engineer. He received his BASc in Systems Design Engineering from the University of Waterloo and his MFA in Cinematic Arts in Jordan. He holds a Master of Science (MSc) in Art, Culture and Technology from MIT. His interests reside in exploring different forms of storytelling. Past projects include mobile applications that challenge users to recreate actions from peaceful protests, virtual reality performances with flashbacks triggered by personal objects, and interactive documentaries. As a documentary filmmaker,Jama directed projects commissioned by CBC Short Docs, Al Jazeera English, and Hot Docs. His most recent short documentary entitled Mending a Crack in the Sky, 2021, is about a group of mothers in Toronto that lost their sons to gun violence.

This event is generously supported by Media Partners InterAccess and Images Festival.

This event emerges from the AGYU’s digital art commissions program. This year’s commissions include Dele Adeyemo’s From Longhouse to Highrise: The Course of Empire, curated by Felicia Mings, curator, AGYU, and Gary Zhexi Zhang’s The Tourist, curated by Clara Halpern, assistant curator, exhibitions, AGYU. Stay tuned to this fall to access these new works online!

The AGYU’s digital art commission program is supported by the Canada Council for the Arts Digital Strategy Fund, and is part of a new program stream centered on born-digital art.


For further information and press inquiries please contact Clara Halpern: [email protected]

Small World Music is located downtown in the Queen West neighbourhood at 180 Shaw St, Toronto, ON, M6J 2W5. It is wheelchair accessible. For accessibility requests, please contact Maria Won: [email protected]


Photo credit:

Slide 1-4: Gary Zhexi Zhang, The Tourist, 2023, commissioned by Art Gallery of York University (AGYU)

Slide 5: @garyzhexizhang Portrait by Klara Kofen

Slide 6: @jamazach Portrait by Danny Goldfield


Event Venue & Nearby Stays

180 Shaw St, 180 Shaw Street, Toronto, Canada


CAD 0.00

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