The Unavailable Memory of Gold Coin Café Book / Publication / Landmark Writing


NameThe Unavailable Memory of Gold Coin Café
Writer(s)Kerry Ann Lee
Type of TextZine
ArtformVisual arts, Zines


The Unavailable Memory of Gold Coin Café (2015) is a handmade artist publication that explores the intersection between place, memory and migrant Cantonese heritage in Te Whanganui-a-Tara. Created by acclaimed designer, artist and zinemaker, Kerry Ann Lee, it was produced alongside Lee’s artwork The Unavailable Memory of Gold Coin Café which was shown at Enjoy Contemporary Art Space in 2013 as part of the exhibition Hither and Thither — an exploration of migration and settlement in Aotearoa curated by Claudia Arozqueta, which also featured artist Melissa Laing. The title references John Cage's 'Unavailable Memory of' composition and the work consisted of a large-scale, suspended cutout photo installation and two-channel sound work.

The Unavailable Memory of Gold Coin Café was re-exhibited as part of the Imagine Asia exhibition at Pātaka Art + Museum in 2015. The publication was launched in 2015 as part of this second showing. The Unavailable Memory installation and publication also featured in the international touring exhibition, Invisible from 2019-2021 (at Cranbrook Academy, Detroit, Michigan and BWA, Wroclaw, Poland).

The zine uses found ephemera to record the story of Gold Coin Cafe — Lee’s parents’ takeaway shop and former family home from 1978–1986, located at 296 Willis Street (now the Young Shing Restaurant). In 2012, the original building from 1886 was earmarked for demolition due to being earthquake-prone. Driven by this news, Lee investigated questions of space and nostalgia through the publication. In this way, The Unavailable Memory of Gold Coin Café became an archival piece, documenting photographs, menus, council notices, and other ephemera from the original cafe’s existence. Drawing upon Carlo Ginzburg’s writing on microhistories, exhibition curator Claudia Arozqueta comments that: "All those memories linked to that place would have been lost without [Lee] making The Unavailable Memory of Gold Coin Cafe".

Lee uses the zinemaking and publication space to catalogue both the existence of Gold Coin Cafe as a personal memory as well as a spatial representation of the legacy of Cantonese migrant history in Wellington City.


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Last updated: 29 February 2024 Suggest an Edit


Kerry Ann Lee, The Unavailable Memory of Gold Coin Café PDF, 2015

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