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December 18, 2020
by Rea McNamara

“Screenshot documentation of Ahasiw Maskegon-iskwew's Speaking the Language of Spiders, a Flash-based web project commissioned by Neutral Ground's SOIL project, and Paul Wong’s Hungry Ghosts (2003) for Neutral Ground and Soil Media, which consisted of a performative livestream video and web piece.”:

“While a large portion of the projects have been exhibited long-term in the SoilMedia Digital Gallery & Archive, a lot of exhibitions, performances and events were not,” writes Cyril Chen, who recently led a “Gone In a Flash” workshop about Conifer, and shared their experiences preserving Flash-based works from Neutral Ground’s digital art collection. It involved them sourcing documents and various email chains through old drives, recovering what they could from a website backup and viewing SWF files — an Adobe flash file format containing videos and vector-based animations — via open source emulation tools. “Open source archiving tools and communities are the best option for smaller arts organizations, independent creators, and the general public.”


“Online communities have been the driving force for open source digital archiving missions,” explains Chen via email, citing the Internet Archive’s repository of user-generated flash collections and Archive Team, an online archiving group founded in 2009 that was partially responsible for preserving Geocities. “These organizations were created in response to the ever changing nature of the web […] There is a bit of hope that our web history won’t be erased because of a few predatory business moves or myopic legislations passed in favor of mainstream media industries and tech conglomerates.”


Thoughts of a
Digital Archivist

Neutral Ground Artist-Run Centre
Window Gallery, Regina SK
featured on gallerieswest

THOUGHTS OF A DIGITAL ARCHIVIST: by Cyril Chen (they/them) is an evolving piece in response to their role as an archive assistant at Neutral Ground Artist Run Centre.

‘The archival process is one of re-animation. An introspective endeavour in post-spectatorship. You become friends with unfamiliar people and places. You seek within yourself the same nodes of reflection, striving for sensitivity or humbleness towards these bodies of work; not to be simply reduced to a spreadsheet data point.

Can digital files become haunted? I look at images of eyes and hands who have reigned before me and I wonder if they see me too. In real life, I sort through boxes of documents and brochures, and out of date light fixtures, handled and touched for art exhibited in my absence.

Digital media possesses an uncertain finality. We feel these underlying anxieties. We try not to be shallow. What is not tactile but still holds place in the world? An illumination of the metaphysical.

CYRIL CHEN: was born and raised in Regina, Saskatchewan, with family from the Guangdong and Hong Kong regions of China. Cyril’s work stems from interest and exploration of migration, separation, and the ways in which we are intertwined with cyberspace. A member of the CBC Creator Network, Cyril is a practicing expanded media artist.

Keep updated on this evolving piece through social media, as new AR and video components are added to the window.
Artivive Feature

Find more of Cyril’s work at and @cyberspacevoid’

on permanence,
on illumination,
on ghosts

03. CBC Visual Storytelling Piece:  

On International Transgender Day of Visibility, artist Cyril Chen explores happiness

Mar_31_2021 - CBC Nova Scotia - article link

I knew that I was a boy ever since I was two. Long before trauma, and long before gender preconceptions could make any influence on me. It may as well have been one of my first memories. I remember looking at newspapers and books, seeing boys, and asking my older sister, "Don't you wish you were one of these, too?"

I found happiness in places where I could escape these feelings and the anxiety that came along with it. I still find so much happiness in these places now. Being in nature, playing music, being a part of bigger art projects helped me both cope and distract myself from what I used to describe as a mind-body incongruity. As I have gotten older, I learned more about the scientific literature behind gender dysphoria and transgender identities. That has been the most empowering for me.

Growing up, these feelings were quite suppressed, but they jumped out from here and there. My sister and I frequented a united Chinese church in Regina. Not because my parents forced us; my mother used to attend church, and my father is more so on the atheist side but still practises some Buddhist and Taoist customs. We ended up being churchgoers, just the two of us, because we met friends who spoke Cantonese and joined the Sunday band.

I remember zoning out in the pews during service. I wondered if I'd burn at the touch of holy water. I fantasied I was possessed by a male entity — that one day, I would engulf into a fire of brimstone gay transgender flames. That I would use all the gay power unbeknownst to me to cast hellfire over any belief rotten with bigotry. That I could shake out the real devils residing in organized religion.

We ended up not going anymore for various reasons. I was in high school at that time and feeling more dysphoric than ever. I studied at the University of Waterloo in 2016. At student health services, I finally obtained a diagnosis for gender dysphoria.

I was in Halifax the year after. I needed an excuse to situate myself in a city that had a thriving animation industry. I studied at Dalhousie for one year and then NSCAD University the next. I met more friends who fully embraced my identity, accepted my pronouns and also felt dysphoric themselves.

During the pandemic, I kept in touch with a friend from NSCAD, Excel Garay, who is non-binary and baklâ. Talking about our dysphoria empowered me to start my transition. We're both lifting each other up, albeit through digital space. The second panel of this comic is inspired by one of our life-saving conversations.

Animation Installation:

: Animation Projection for Neutral Ground Artist-Run Centre using archive materials from the organization's past 40 years as an Artist-Run Centre in Regina SK, Treaty Four Territory. This was projected for their 40th-anniversary party (SAT 19 2022, 8pm-late).
Photos provided  Yuji Lee and Neutral Ground ARC.

Copyright ©2023 artist Cyril W. Chen