Josephine Lee

I think I Canada I Know I Canada

The work interrogates the psychic and physical tensions of legibility, and confronts the precarious conditions of cultural and national belonging. The text and title, based on a children’s book (The Little Engine that Could), appropriates the story’s signature phrases “I think I can” and “I know I can” to examine the story’s intent in reinforcing meritocratic values of hard work and optimism, to instead examine the exploitation, alienation, and dispossession prevalent within immigrant life and labour. Extending the text to nationhood, the work materializes the psychic burden of identity, language, and belonging as a physical one that colonizes and reconditions the immigrant body of colour.



Informed by a lifetime of movement through the United States, Canada, and South Korea, Josephine Lee’s interdisciplinary practice is heavily informed by the psychic violence of cultural assimilation and naturalization through migration. Lee’s sculptures, installations, and performances intersect narratives of dispossession and nationalism, making explicit how ideas of place are entangled within politics of citizenship and national identity. Within this framework, Lee’s materials and forms both signify and complicate overlapping identity formations, and notions of home and belonging.