This publication accompanied Ken Lum’s exhibition Canadian Cataloguing in Publication Data that travelled from Winnipeg, to Vancouver, ending at Witte de With, Rotterdam, the Netherlands from December 8th, 1990 to January 20th, 1991. It includes essays by Jeff Wall, Ken Lum and Linda Boersma.

Both the publication and the exhibition grew out of a desire to provisionally identify the genres that comprise Ken Lum’s artistic activities, and in turn, to review the multi-levelled discourse which connects them. The work addressed was produced between 1984 and 1991, a time in which the artist lived and worked in Vancouver, Winnipeg, New York, Toronto and, since 1989, Vancouver again. For the purpose of this particular exhibition and discussion, Lum’s early performances, Portrait-Logos, Historical, Youth and Attribute Portraits, Furniture Installations, Language and Poem Paintings were collected under four main discursive units: the domestic, language, graphic design and portraiture. The ideas of scientific manipulation and classification, interpretation of and struggle for identity, location and relocation, as well as the blurring of the concerts of private and public are important factors in the understanding of these four principal aspects of his work. The attendant meanings re-inscribe and reassert their opaque presence within each distinct series of work.

Lum’s work invites contemplation and reflection. Furthermore, there is an intelligent distancing from the minimalism and conceptualism of his older colleagues. Unlike many of them, Lum not only criticized and commented, but also made connections and propositions.