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Over the last several decades, scholars and curators have written about the historical richness and heterogeneity of Asian American art, yet art made by and about Asian Americans has remained for the most part unnoticed, an afterthought, or an oversight, especially in major thematic museum exhibitions and sweeping art histories.
organization and orientation of desire and matter into/as body; formation and function of sense, sensibility, common sense.
Yunhee Min, Anna Sew Hoy, and Van Tran Tram
Jésus wrote a personal account based in Antonin Artauds hallucinatory pilgrimage to the Mexican desert and Yeni chose a possible imaginary of Zheng He, the 15th century eunuch navy commander, discovering Teotihuacán. The two texts were written individually, cut up, and reassembled into the exquisite corpse airport burger.
I belong to a group called A-Doc, the Asian American Documentary Network, that was conceived in 2016 to build alliances between Asian American documentary filmmakers normally isolated from one another. As cultural workers, we are grappling with similar issues/problematics as those in the art realm vis a vis being an Asian American artist. Since its founding, A-Doc membership has grown to over a thousand, heralding heritage from not only East Asia, but South Asia, and the Middle East as well.
I first encountered Ken Lums work as a graduate student working at the early stages of what would become my book Alien Capital. Even though Ken and I are now based in the US Northeast, we are both from British Columbia and I still think of him as a Vancouver artist, whose multimedia works have profoundly shaped my own grappling with the contradictions of that city. I gravitated toward his art because it filled a gap that my previous interest in experimental poetry had left, particularly in terms of thinking about aesthetics and racial abstraction. Kens work helped me generate new ideas about place, occupation, work, and migration that better captured the scale of argument that I was hoping for in my project. His art animates the vexed intersections of race, class, global capital, and the neoliberal states production of multiculturalism. Our dialogue here delves into some of the push and pull of identity in Asian North America, and also more broadly in the US and Canada.
The world has changed because we are all living in a more dangerous state. There is no place to hide and no place to escape. Where you stand is where you fight. Hope and despair are intertwined endlessly, they dissolve and complete each other. If hope is presented as "once upon a time", this past time can be put into the present as disappointment and desperation, at the same time it can also stimulate new imagination.
Well the thing is, Wong, you're doing it! Your show, Kristina Wong: Sweatshop Overlord, basically makes huge space and shows how the Auntie Sewing Squad got mobilized to make 350,000 masksit called a lot of attention, helped our country, and made a national community of folks that are bonded foreverthat's what we want!
You prefaced this image with a smirk, knowing how it could be contextualized within this conversation. Maybe it's about ping-pong, or maybe it's about redefining Asian female representationor both, and-and.
n our collective, Related Tactics (Michele Carlson, Weston Teruya, and Nathan Watson), we think a lot about the ways power is created through systems of knowledgesome of these systems are very loud and obvious while others are much more subtle, embodied, and insidious. Here we consider the space of Asian American art as a monument and offer a series of speculative interventions pulled from studio brainstorming done in the production of our 2022 project, Memories Breathe and Every Monument Deflates. This project considered themes such as collective memory, systems of knowledge, and monuments within the American landscape. With this list we ask, how might this strategic repositioning offer tools to reimagine our intersecting communities collaborative movements towards liberation?
The Japanese text in the background says Nuchi du takara which is a proverb in Okinawan/Uchinaaguchi which means Life is precious. It is said to have been the final words from the last king of Ryukyu/Loochoo before he was taken by the Satsuma shogunate, reminding the people of Okinawa that all life is important and deserves to be protected. Over the last few years, it has been a phrase used in the movement to protest the military base at Henoko and, more broadly, the US military occupation in Okinawa as a whole.
Plants serve as windows to our collective wellness and anti-displacement resilience. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, San Franciscans began sheltering-in-place on March 16, 2020: households are in close quarters with their roommates, family members, existential thoughts, essential items, and house plants. In the Excelsior, Mission, and South of Market districts where Black, brown, and immigrant families have built histories over a century, we ask this simple question
Thoughts on being an “American” artist and queer theory
This is from a series I was working on in the early 1990sre-reading, re-writing, re-working books that had been banned from import into the US or banned from school libraries. I shot portions of the books on a copy camera with black and white film and then worked back into the gelatin silver prints, using reducing agents to chemically (partially) erase and edit them. This one is from Another Country by James Baldwin.
At this prompt I feel wistful, as memories of late friends I wish to be in dialogue with still and more than ever, rise top of mind.
Virtually all residential hotels rent out their ground floors to shops and businesses, very often to sewing factories, John K. C. Liu, an architect and professor who taught principles of community living in both the United States and in Taiwan, wrote for a description of Single Room Occupancy (SRO) residential hotels in Chinatown and Manilatown 1970-1980s
When I think of my cultural identity as an artist, feminist, immigrant, and Asian American, I recognize that labor through these perspectives is a powerful tool for creativity and transformation. The physical labor of immigrants is often intense, undervalued, or invisible to others, yet one's survival and ones familys livelihood depends on it, giving it a sense of purpose and urgency. Immigrants often end up with whats leftover and unwanted in society.
(poem by Larissa Lai in exchange with Rachel Lees [yours truly]: relationality without closure, poetics, and cooking up alternative futures)
Creating these images of Asians probably came out of a desire to fill an absence that I recognized was damaging or misinformed. To show real human lives that reflected my community was something that I wanted to create out of love, to address out of love. To correct the misconceptions out there around who Asians were, what their lives amounted to.
Spaces for collective grief are precious for minority communities, including for Asian Americans who must bear histories and memories that are often publicly repudiated. Recurring themes in your work include ghosts, loss, and grief, which often exist in realms deemed private. How does your work think about these themes in relation to power? What is our responsibility to ghosts who might operate where invisibility is essential?
Its so important that we see the work that youre doing right now, and particularly the way you contextualize it in relationship to COVID, also in relationship to the Atlanta shooting. Because I think that this is the kind of work that reveals how quickly Asian goes from reviled limit of the human to erotic object of desire whose potency as an object of desire is the cause of violence against it.
Discussions of spirituality have long been missing from the discourse on contemporary art. This act of erasure limits our perception of the art we seek to embrace. It imposes a Western, secular lens on the work of Asian American and other marginalized artists who evoke faith traditions. Skewing away from this lens allows space for an eruption of multiple cultural, gender, and psychic layers, dual consciousness, traversing borders, and integrating fragments of self otherwise obscured by opaque whiteness.
TNT Traysikel is a public artwork that engages the streets of San Francisco. Traysikels are ubiquitous transport vehicles in the Philippines but a rare sight in the United States; we are aware of 5 Philippine-made sidecar rigs in the US. For many, its existence in America contributes to a sense of belonging and comfort.
In Fall 2020, Margo Machida and Marci Kwon began corresponding about Martin Wong (19461999) in preparation for the artists forthcoming catalogue raisonné. What began as a straightforward exchange of sources soon metamorphosed into a rich dialogue about the multifaceted nature of Wongs practice. As we puzzled over Wongs iconography, sources, and aesthetic choices, the conceptual depth of his practice began to reveal itself to us. In Wongs work, nothing is ever a single thing, and the same can be said of Asian American art.
The first thing I notice is the timbre of your voice as you tell me about alternative practices of reading, though I mean to begin with a more visual cue per the instructions of this prompt. Beginning with the sonic register of paperless notifications, audiobook mimesis, conversations over gluten-free snacks, I think, is not the alternative but the normative practice because it keeps us closer to vernacular praise, where we all need to be as people of the future. Anyone who has had a great teacher will recall a literal voice, and that is still what I hear when we converse silently: the teacher is a work of art because she travels in her own timbre.
We want art that builds and sustains a world of our own making. Art that allows us to live in such a world, if only in one place, at one time, temporarily. If only for a moment. Knowing that we might still carry this moment, even as we depart. Knowing that we are training our bodies in the work of freedom. That such temporary passings can yet linger within us. Can reorient us. Can change the relationship our bodies have to the freedom constantly denied us.
I have been thinking about how to make an expansive art practice beyond just painting and ceramics. I am not sure I have arrived at a solution yet, but I have always admired artists who are able to articulate their ideas through film and text. This was such a thoughtful question, I would like to pose a similar question back to you.
On Being Honest [Side A] by Beau Sia and On Being Honest [Side B]by Adriel Luis.
Ever since I was a teenager when my brother told me he was sure that the people at a bus stop in the suburban California city where we lived were Vietnamese because they were squatting where there were seats.
We are using a lexicon as an organizing principle and have placed your works under W for We
Poem by Jeffrey Yang Art by Kazumi Tanaka Japanese translation by Hiroaki Sato
It is a "framed" conversation between me and Renée Green. It captures a dialogue nested in a dialogue (sort of a dialogic readymade) but also points to expansive issues such as institution, decolonization, and undoing necessary to understand the assignment at handin the spirit of this AA project.