ANTI-ASIAN RACISM UNDONE
Artists in Dialogue: Past, Present, Futures
Livestreamed on May 30th, 2021
Hi, everyone, I'm Richard Fung. I'm part of the organizing committee for Anti-Asian Racism Undone. Welcome to Artists in Dialogue: Past, Present, And Future. I want to start by locating myself at the traditional territories of the Huron-Wendat, the Haudenosaunee, the Anishnaabe and Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation. I also want to express my condolences for the 215 Indigenous children whose bodies are at the former Canada’s Indian Residential Schools. The genocidal violence of settler colonialism, underlined by this discovery, emphasizes for me how the work that we do around anti-Asian racism must be in solidarity with the anti-colonial struggles of the Indigenous people, and also with the movements against anti-Black racism, and all forms of racism and ethnic nationalism.
I want to start by thanking Beverly Bain and Min Sook Lee for starting Scholar Strike, and maintaining this platform that has become really crucial in terms of progressive discourse, progressive discussion, that are bringing to light things that the mainstream media are not covering. So that's been really amazing. I also want to thank my fellow committee members for organizing this event. It's been a joy to work with. I want to thank Rajean Hoilett for technical support, Lokchi Lam for website and promotion, and today's captioner Denise. I also want to thank all the people who spoke yesterday and earlier today, including the last panel on sex work, which was pretty amazing. Because we imagine continuing a conversation that started before us and that will continue.
For a long time I've been drawn to thinking through the work that contemporary art can do that is different from, but complimentary to, and sometimes overlapping with traditional scholarship, with activist interventions, and with journalism and popular media. What insights could it communicate, what visions can art do that other mediums cannot, and how it can affect us differently. So this panel today is really wide ranging. Yesterday, we started from Montreal to Vancouver, today we go from Stockholm to Vancouver. This pattern looks at six artists working across different mediums with different registers, and engaging in a range of topics and in different localities dealing, or having to contribute something to do with our compensation around engaging and countering anti-Asian racism.
So what we’ll do, in addition to the short bios that I would read in turn, is each artist introduce themselves through one of their artwork. I thought, let's do something audio visual. And so I will start with the first artist, Jin-me. Jin-me Yoon is a Korean-born Vancouver-based artist living and working on the unceded territories of the Coast Salish people. Since the early 1990s, her lens-based practice has unpacked cultural assumptions while investigating site-related entangled local and global history. She's a faculty member at Simon Fraser University School of Contemporary Art. Jin-me, would you like to introduce us through your art work? And turn on your mic.
Can you hear me? Okay, sorry about that. I just want to thank you, Richard, for inviting me and all the organizers and the participants. I've just been so inspired by yesterday's sessions. And this morning session was just so powerful. And just before I start to address this work, the last session really reminded me that the incredible work that people are doing, and the fact that the militarized, sexualized violence against Korean women due to Japanese and American imperialism, and how the positivity of sex work and an empowerment and the agency of sex work needs to be supported. So it was amazing. My Anger is a Gift: Sex Workers Rights and Strategies and Knowledge really, really touched my heart and gave me such incredible reaffirmation about the importance of organizing and in solidarity in multiple ways.
You suggested that I use Souvenirs of the Self. This image was made 30 years ago. I just finished a filming last week, all outdoors, work with Korean youth, many who are biracial and queer, thinking about different departure point, which is thinking about land, and water. And of course that means the absolute necessity of my indebtedness and our indebtedness to Indigenous peoples. But I thought I'd start here because it's still important for me to address white settler colonialism. As a part of that, even though as I said, I don't want to spend a ton of my energy anymore in terms of being reactive to frontal racism, of course, we have to fight that. But there are other ways that we could dream up other possibilities. And like I said, today's earlier session gave me opportunities to think through that and feel through that more deeply.
So I'm going to introduce this work very quickly, because you said we have three minutes by describing it particularly for those who are visually impaired. So there's a youngish woman who is visually coded as East Asian. Her hair is in a bob, she wears a nostalgic retro sweater that vaguely suggests Nordic or the North. She wears jeans and sensible Oxford-type shoes. Her pose is frontal and stiff, her hands are clenched and to her side, her facial expression is neutral. Though she seems to be squinting slightly from the sun, she stands on a human-made stone platform. There is snow as a lake is in the process of thawing. The backdrop is snow-capped Rocky Mountains. Aggressively perspectival, she is placed in the center of this scene. The figure ground composition is about 50-50, it is a photograph.
Originally, this project was a six set of postcards that were placed in an intervention this way in the touristic shops. And then I made larger photographic works in 1996 for the gallery setting, which has a different context of course. So I need to begin by asking as an immigrant or diasporic settler, subject from South Korea, an arrivant according to Chickasaw scholar, Jodi Bird, whose ancestral lands my family and I have settled on, and as Richard has already said, I am settled on the the traditional territories, and the unceded territories of the Coast Salish peoples. And more specifically on Musqeuam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh peoples, in what is now known as Vancouver. And for me, while in my body and not just as a speech act, I understand the inequities faced by Indigenous peoples, the ongoing colonialism, I'm ambivalent about fully adopting the potentially totalizing term settler without qualification, as it does not take into account the different intersectional relationships to history and land within our continuing colonial and late capitalist context.
So I made Souvenirs of the Self in 1991. And it's made within Canada's first national park, Banff, Alberta that was established in 1885. And without going into full detail, Banff National Park was instrumental in bringing wealthy tourists and also to encourage settlement out to the Rocky Mountains via Canadian Pacific Railway, largely built by Chinese workers doing the most dangerous work. And I want to say in my research, that definitely there were class divisions, not all whites were white. And also, during World War I internment camps were set up for immigrant prisoners from the Ukraine, Germany, Austria and Hungary in Banff.
So I always wanted to interrogate, what does white supremacy mean in the context of colonial Canada, and what interests, whose interest does white supremacy serve? And so for me, while it seems like my body is a kind of projection to project whatever you want, because mostly when I went there to do this research in 1991, I was Konichiwa’ed, as a verb. Because the yen was very high, and there were many, many Japanese tourists, and of course, that kind of flattening is in concert with the formal strategies I use to flatten my body, almost like a collage strategy of sliding my body into the scene, and what does it reflect back.
So on the back of the caption of the postcards, not in this version, but in the postcard version that says, “Lake Louise, feast your eyes on the picturesque beauty of this lake, named to honor Princess Louise Caroline Alberta, daughter of Queen Victoria. She discovered a lake on a sunny day before that she did not exist.” So I think this points to the fact that you know, this kind of naming, unpeopled colonial relationship to the land that's everywhere, everywhere you look, from your street names, to place names, etc. And if they're Indigenous place names, they're conveniently used in a way that really suppresses the reality of ongoing colonialism. So I think for me, I guess I'll just say that in terms of the Assiniboine and stony peoples that were forcibly removed for the park to come into existence, and also mining extraction as a part of what Banff was, in this case, and the differentiating class divisions with who were managers, who were workers. Although they were white, they were not equally white. And also the Chinese workers that built the railways in very dangerous terms and also continue to work in mining, they had to live on the other side of the waste products, literally somewhere else from the rest of the town - these histories are important to interrogate and also to make sure that we're not, as so-called racialized or visible minority - I think a lot of this made in the 90s was enfolded within this kind of benign multiculturalism that, yes, I need to I want to belong, but that was never my intention. I don't really want to belong, I want to belong to the communities in which I feel alongside with. But it was never my intention to simply slip myself in, insert myself to a kind of benign managerial multiculturalism of the Canadian state.
So that's important to me that I continue to think through how it is, and which communities that I belong alongside with, and I would say that that's a flexible, fluid, creative act in itself. And I’m not sure - and I'll just end here by saying, I'm not sure I would have made this work that I made 30 years ago, if I was younger artist now. But the last year and more I have been told to go home, my family has been spat on, my mother no longer walks alone. And the vulnerable service industry jobs in the Korean community, and the mom and pop businesses, and service workers have suffered, and some have succumbed to COVID. And there are ongoing disparities, obviously, economically, in our communities. But when I came to Canada, I think it was a different Canada, but yet when I think to the current conditions, I wonder how much has really changed. But I think we can't afford to think through our racialized minorities’ supposed status in Canada as simply one of belonging.
And like I said, I was really moved and inspired by the incredible speakers this morning, Mina, Elene and Mercedes, who really helped me feel a kind of possibility of healing in terms of the relationship to sexualized violence against Korean women and our disposabilities. There are so many histories of the Japanese use of Korean women's bodies as comfort women, as basically sexualized slaves, and the need for Korean women to do sexual work due to American military bases and to support families, as well as being shunned by their families, and then a different alternative way to think about sex work more agentively, in terms of positivity, and empowerment. And I really, really think that's why we are in solidarity, that we continue to learn and listen. And that is with other racialized communities, Black and Indigenous, queer, trans communities. And I'm very heartened by the fact that as an artist, I have the ability to listen, to learn and to be in conversation with all of you. So thank you.
Thanks, Jin-me. We will come back to that question of intersectionality later in the conversation, but I wanted to thank you for starting us off both because that work Souvenir of the Self is so, such a landmark in relation to Asian Canadian contemporary art production. But it also starts us off in terms of the body and the land, the body and place. And you reminded me when you were talking about white supremacy, because I made a film in 1996, shot in Banff, and I interviewed the historian Nayan Shah. And one of the things he talks about is, he reminds us that in the era when settlement happened, the Irish Southern European Slavic people weren't considered white. That's the way in which white people have been, have been victimized by white supremacy too. And Kobena Mercer has said the problem with white supremacy is not white people, it's a white subject position. So I think to think about those things is really kind of important.
I'm going to move on now to the next artist, which would be Immony Mèn, who is an artist and educator and community based researcher. He's an assistant professor in the Faculty of Design at OCAD University. His research focuses on developing a theoretical framework for understanding specifically Khmer Cambodian diasporic experience through media praxis, critical race theory and various forms of community engagement. Immony.
Okay, hello, everyone. Yeah, so I have a quick video to screen. Are you going to do that or do you - okay.
I was stunned silent. My smile left my face and not knowing what to say. I hurried along, a grown adult feeling helpless and humiliated by kids. Creative, intelligent, funny, racist kids. And that was when he was coming to walk closer to me. I could hear it and when I ignored him, and we walked directly past each other, that was when he turned and he spat in my face. And that was a real shocking moment, as you can imagine.
Okay, so I'm here to talk a little bit about Receipts, but also joining this in this conversation. Hi, everyone. My name is Immony Mèn. I'm a Cambodian refugee artist, educator and community based researcher. I'm an assistant professor in the Faculty of Arts and Science, with a specialization in interaction design at OCAD University. I'm currently on the ancestral and traditional territories of the Mississauga Credit, the Haudenosaunee, the Anishnaabe and the Huron-Wendat, who are the original owners and custodians of this land.
I will talk a bit about this project titled Receipts. In addition to the direct health impacts of COVID-19, we're experiencing parallel shadow pandemics of racial discrimination and violence, housing precarity, and homelessness, and negative effects of isolation. These occurrences disproportionately affect our vulnerable communities. For example, Asian diasporic communities have seen troubling intensifications of racism that have had negative impacts on personal safety. Receipts is a multimodal interface that receives anonymized archives and performs the testimony of people that have experienced or witnessed anti-Asian aggression in public space. This work was created with Lilian Leung, Patricio Davila, Dave Colangelo, and with contributions from Asian participants in Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal.
At its core, this project is concerned with addressing safety in public space by focusing on the social and technical aspects of recording and publicizing testimonies. We hoped to build this prototype in order to develop a robust and flexible tool that can be modified and employed by equity-seeking groups. This work applies technologies and processes that are commonly used to recognize faces, voices, and bodies as a way to protect the identity of individuals who wish to share their experiences, to bond, heal, and provide strategies. We’re working on developing a different type of recording. One that applies computer vision, speech to text and character reenact meant to protect the immigration statuses, professional networks and personal relationships of participants. This platform was developed with the intent of offering it to other vulnerable communities outside of the south, southeast Asian diasporas on Turtle Island. Visualizing these anonymized accounts humanizes the experience and memory. The rasp of the AI voice, the movement of the reenactment actors’ lips, my lips, is echoed through the storage container, words that I'm too familiar with. When I stand in front of this work, the text and computer generated faces illuminate the shipping container at the Bentway, the stories from individuals who have experienced anti-Asian racism, scroll across the screen as Watson, an AI speech to text software, demystifies the doubt that these sentiments and actions occur in public spaces in our neighborhoods, and to our loved ones. What we can see through these stories is the hyper visibility of faces, the racialization of the pandemic, and an anonymized voice asking you to feel the weight of their words. Seeing Receipts at the Beltway brought forward all these complex emotions I have for myself, my family, the Montreal Khmer community, and the student population at OCAD University about moving through public spaces, moving through anger, fear, biases, racism and collective healing.
Thanks Immony. Again, very sobering to actually think through - to reconfront the context that is producing the work, and also interesting to think about work that responds so quickly. Often work that you know, what might see in poster form, but here you are working in an installation, that inserts itself in the public space is really interesting, and something again that we'll come back to in conversation.
Next artist is Amy Lam. Amy is an artist and writer. And she has exhibited conceptual film and performance works internationally, both solo and as part of the collective Life of a Craphead with John McCurley, who I might add, was one of my students many many years ago, I still remember his brilliance. Actually, I was teaching him video and he did not do video, but he still got a great grade anyway, because his work was so good. Her first chapbook, The four onions, is available from yolkless press. She was born in Hong Kong and lives in Toronto. Amy.
Hi, everyone. Thank you for the introduction, Richard. And thank you to all the organizers of Scholar Strike, and for organizing this panel. I'm really looking forward to speaking with everyone today. And it's been so great already just to hear more about Jin-me's work and Immony’s work. So I'll describe this photo. This is a work by Life of a Craphead, my collaboration with John McCurley, which spanned from 2006 to 2020. So in this photo, it's taken in Saskatoon, Treaty Six territory, and what we see are two buildings. One building, the one on the left, it looks more modern, it looks kind of forbidding. It's two stories, there's a large image across the top of it, the kind of balcony and the image is a black and white photo. And then on the front of the building the facade, there's a metal kind of grating with text on it, which is an artist text, which isn't the text - it's not the artwork that I'm actually referring to. But just so you get a sense of what that building is like. And then beside it, what we see on the right hand side is a smaller, also two-storey building that's covered in a kind of faded red plaster. Two small windows upstairs, and then one window on the downstairs floor with a small front door and a sign, handpainted, that says Jinjin cuisine. And then in Chinese the name of the restaurant, which unfortunately, I can't read Chinese so I can't tell you, or I can read like one word.
So we see these two buildings side by side and the artwork is called Until Either One Closes. And what the work is, is an agreement or relationship that we, as Life of a Craphead, instituted between the gallery and the restaurant next door. And this was in 2019 as part of our exhibition that traveled to Saskatoon called Entertaining Every Second. And that exhibition was mostly focused on a research project around the American war in Vietnam, and the figure of the Asian woman in that war. And so just to go back to the specific artwork, the agreement, what the agreement actually is, which is still in place, is that all openings and events at the gallery, at aka artist-run, are to be catered by Jin Jin cuisine for the rest of time, until either one of the businesses closes or moves. And as part of the agreement, the logo of Jin Jin cuisine is also now included in the logo block of aka artist-run amongst other sponsors and funders, like the Canada Council, or whatever.
And part of the context of wanting to institute this relationship is the fact that aka artist-run is located on 20th Street West in Saskatoon, which is a former, and also existing, currently existing Chinatown. But it's a neighborhood that is changing very quickly, and has changed a lot over the last decade, as with many other Chinatowns across North America. So for example, many other Chinese businesses like restaurants and markets still operate in the area, but it's mixed in with coffee shops and juice bars. One really interesting instance of how this takes place is, for example, there's a bar that's kind of like a new, cool, expensive bar. And it's located within a former Chinese restaurant. And they've kept the interior decoration of some of the Chinese restaurant elements, mixed in with their own branding. So they've kind of like incorporated this aesthetic of ruin. An important note to make is also that aka artist-run, which inhabits the building on the left along with Paved Arts, that building itself used to be a Chinese restaurant, which was called Toon’s Kitchen. And in the back of the building near the offices, they actually have one of the neons from that restaurant, which maybe was also used in a Karen Tam exhibition, I believe.
And so this relationship that's instituted speaks to the pressures of gentrification and displacement that Chinatowns face today. And it also speaks to the historical context of Chinatowns, right, which are that of legislative racism in North America, and also planned destruction. So, nearly every Chinatown in North America has experienced some kind of planned destruction through state expropriation. And in Saskatoon specifically, a Chinatown used to exist on 19th Street East, and the neighborhood was forced to move when the city expropriated the land for the Saskatoon Technical Collegiate Institute.
So my three minutes is about up right now. But I just want to say finally, that this is also against the backdrop of the foundational theft of land from Indigenous peoples to create Canada. And so what this project points to is a possible type of interdependence or relationship between neighbors as long as it can last or as long as it can be maintained.
Thank you so much. And again, I'm taking from this the question of the continuation of a conversation around the land, but also specifically now, pressures that are facing Chinatowns across Canada. So in Vancouver - you know that I'm involved with a project with Shelley around Chinatown in Toronto and the process of gentrification and appropriation of the markers of Chinatown, right, and then Montreal, also there are these struggles.
But I'm also struck by, and I'd like you to come back again, to this about your work, thinking through the kind of institutional infrastructures of contemporary art and how it works, and the politics of funding and institutional structures. And I know that you have been part of that letter about the Koffler and artwork in relation to Palestine. So again, something else to come back to and a continuation of a kind of activist art intervention, in a way I think that carries on a conversation with Immony’s work as well. So now, we're going to jump to Ms. Nookie Galore. Having been raised to fear everything, Ms. Nookie Galore has an un/comfortable relationship with stories that haunt us. Creator of shows like Scary Stories People of Colour Tell in the Dark, Ms. Galore’s DRAG reminds us that dreaming is part of our survival and that nightmares are dreams, too. Nookie.
Patrick Salvani/Ms. Nookie Galore:
Thank you. I'm so honored to be here and really nervous. It's not like my usual lip sync and let's do shots at the bar gig. So I feel very grateful to share this space and time with everyone here. So here's a picture. So as a performance artist, I was thinking of submitting a video, but as a drag performer, drag is also an art to be consumed visually. I definitely feel most comfortable in front of an audience, so thanks for everyone for watching, and a camera. Similar to the other artists around connection, memory, and action. I find drag is an opportunity to clear up pasts, presents and futures, and really critique assumptions around gender and my own Filipinoness. I would say my drag is centered around finding home. And home for me can be multiple things, whether it's like in the Philippines and my lack of memory from it, migrating to the US and then moving to Calgary when I was 13, and where Asians were racialized in a particular way as gang members and drug dealers. And yeah, I can neither confirm or deny my involvement in those things.
So finding home is also about family. So you can see I'm in the kitchen setting here, family dinners. Like I saw how my mother, who had multiple business degrees, but her three jobs within North America were caregiver, someone who worked behind the cash register at a gas station. And she retired as a data entry clerk, so both my sister and I can have a better life. Or how my dad had to fight for accommodation within a workplace after working 20 years of service, following all the rules, and then was now being labeled as difficult and faced so much resistance because he was becoming blind.
I also just recently saw my family. And I saw my mom, and we were going grocery shopping - I base everything around food. So we're going grocery shopping, and then there's like a lineup to the grocery store. And there's probably just six people, the lineup is going very fast, actually. But my mom just goes straight to the front of the line. And I'm literally like, this is so embarrassing. And then she was just like, even me? Do I have to wait in line, she's like, I just have to get my family bread. And like, she lied, she had to get more than that. But I think for my mom, and for my parents, it's just like activism, and that hustling is like a part of their life.
And so for me and my performance art, it's like I wanted to queer that experience for the stage. So when I'm in this kitchen, being away from my family, being part of the diaspora, food can be the most accessible way for us to connect to home. So basically, I play with my food a lot, and if you ever see me perform, this picture also is kind of playing off one of my first shows, my first solo show actually, was SARAP!, which was about migrant workers and reimagining the story of like a migrant worker caregiver as a manananggal, which is the Philippine vampire. The manananggal is basically a half body beast, so the body would split in half, and then the top half would fly around, eat people, the bottom half is the one where you have to find to kill and stuff and to destroy everything. For me it was playing on that idea of just like what does it feel like, in terms of like migration, to have your feet planted in one place and then your heart somewhere else.
So as you can see also, the makeup. I love makeup. This is my natural look today. I'm a horror story-telling drag queen. I grew up watching scary movies. My mom loves scary movies and my Lola, my grandma loved telling me like superstitions and folktales, so it really felt like home. And for me, I am a giant scaredy cat, I will literally scream and hide behind someone when watching a horror film. So, a really good date to bring to a horror film. But so as a child, fear is an emotion that I accessed the most. So there's also this Filipino proverb. It's like, “Ang taong walang kibo, nasa loob ang kulo.” So basically a chill persona, but they got some fire in them. So for me, what's inside of me is a demon, with unknown pronouns, but it becomes a constant battle with myself, and a lot of my performance is really showcasing my own journey, through working through my own emotions and finding ways to do better. And I think people hopefully can relate to that. And they love good exorcisms.
So when I first started doing drag, I was really battling the idea of masculinity, and really trying to find myself in my own Asian masculinity, when you're constantly told to feel less than. Added to that I was, I grew up very fat. So I felt very disconnected from my own body and sexuality. So I was like this weirdo. That’s how I chose this shirt, low-femme weirdo. But also, I just had to code switch so many times to feel somewhat seen. So it almost makes you feel wanted in pieces. So for me performing means freedom, rewriting all the cultural and gendered violence I and others have experienced, not allowing my stories, histories, body, to be hidden for others to feel whole. Not everything comes in a pretty package, despite how society wants a model minority to be. It's messy and complex, we experienced hard shit. And to me, that is where our strength is Asians come from, and I really wanted to put that x in Filipinx.
So I guess the last thing around this picture, too, is performance. If I do theater, lip sync, I want it to feel like home for others as well and feel as accessible as possible. Even like language-wise. I try to use very colloquial everyday language, pop songs. I like using pop songs and subverting the meaning through all aspects of performance, through movement, stage, to props, looks. Imagine singing your favorite song in different rooms in your house. And what stories does that tell. So basically playing with the idea of, I or you can say something out loud, you can sing a song with me, we're putting this into the universe into existence. And if others hear us we will be accountable to that. So like in SARAP!, I use the song when I grew up by the Pussycat Dolls to talk about immigrant dreams, hopes, and migrant disappointments, and how so much of those hopes and dreams and to support disappointments are colonial in nature. So for me, it's very much me trying to be as authentic to my Asian self as possible when I perform and do drag, and it's using a community approach to doing drag. So, finding home was always that in community, is finding community, especially as a queer and trans person because sometimes we can feel rejected and isolated within our own families. Yeah, and that's so finding home is what this picture represents for me.
Thanks so much, Patrick. I've seen you perform before and to hear you speak, it really fills out - with a depth that I never quite appreciated the your persona, your drag persona, it's so interesting to hear because you know, it's funny to hear you say that you are interested in horror stories, but you're a scaredy cat, as am I, and I grew up also in Trinidad where everything is haunted. There’re all these figures of people who come out at night and shed their skins and fly through the air and suck your blood, or - so I grew up with that there was a kind of liberation to leave that behind and come to a big city which is not haunted in the same way. But again, and thanks for introducing the whole question of intersectionality that we will come back to.
Next we have Jacqueline Hoàng Nguyễn, who is a visual artist and using archives and a broad range of media including, but not exclusively, photography, film, video, sound and printmaking to investigate issues of historicity, collectivity, utopian politics and multiculturalism via feminist theories. Currently based in Stockholm, she is a PhD candidate in the ‘Art, Technology and Design’ program at Konstfack University of Arts, Crafts and Design and KTH Royal Institute of Technology. Jacqueline?
Jacqueline Hoàng Nguyễn:
Yes, thank you so much for this invitation. Thank you to the organizers and Scholar Strike really, it's so exciting to be able to talk about serious issues, but through the lens of contemporary art, but particularly cultural practitioners and how we position ourselves and how our work can actually resonate and challenge some of the infrastructures, the white colonial settler society that is being perpetuated. I'll just start with maybe showing a short video trailer of a recent production, which is titled Untitled (Entitled), that was recently shown at Bonniers Konsthall here in Stockholm.
We have the correct name.
Do we have the correct pronunciation of your name?
Jacqueline Hoàng Nguyễn:
Yeah, so Untitled (Entitled) was a production that took about 10 years to complete, which basically looks at a series of interviews that I've conducted with people who have a history of migration, cultural workers, mostly, who carry a history of migration and for reason or another decided to change their name for a more Westernized version of their name. Either Francophone, Anglophone, and to use that as a departure point to this work. So if we could just have that image as an anchoring image to discuss the work, I'll just describe it for the visually impaired or people who might have difficulties actually seeing the work.
So basically, the work is a series of structures that are lenticular prints that are mounted on chromed-frame structures and wheels. So there are five of them. Rajean, is it possible to show the image as well? So I'll just continue describing the work as I remember it. So basically, there's these five structures, and they're movable. And alongside with these structures, there are handles also in the gallery space. So the structures, because they are lenticular prints, it allows to show two images in one. And so depending on where the viewer places himself or herself in front of the structure, they decide what can be seen on this image, on this lenticular print.
So because of the basics of animation that is inbuilt in the lenticular print, then it's possible to also activate the work with dancers. So this choreography was recently produced, we can just have that film still just there. So there's a choreography that I produce with three dancers, which move these structures around. And each of the panels are basically one person that I interviewed, and both their names, the name in their mother tongue, and also the Westernized version that they've adopted, or maybe their parents gave them, is printed together. So it's really up to the viewer to decide what he or she sees in this name, and the colonial legacy and history of what it means to be bearing these names.
And I think we did mention about earlier naming and how streets are carrying names in the city, and what kind of histories that are being perpetuated. And it's the same, not necessarily exactly the same, but similar mechanisms that are in play with how our bodies are carrying these names and what kind of histories and cultural legacies we are perpetuating. And this we can observe it, and I don't want to flatten each of our different histories, but it's definitely mechanisms that we can observe at the recent, or very early colonial context with Canada with Indigenous people, Black Canadians also that were forced to change their names, and also the Chinese community already, during the building of Canada with the railroads were - many of the Chinese were forced to use this name of John Chinaman as being the shorthand to be able to name all these Chinese that for the white men looked as similar labor power that could just be interchanged regardless of their individuality.
And although these mechanism maybe don't happen en mass in the same way as it historically has been, but it's highly internalized, and individualized, and what I've observed in these interviews that each individual thinks that is something unique that they're doing, but it's a much more commonly-practiced strategy. And so five years ago, Diane Dechief submitted her PhD research where she observed that actually applicants within the Canadian context, that applicants who apply with their name and their mother tongue often wouldn't be called back for an interview. But if you would change your name for Western English-sounding or French-sounding name, you have 30% more chances to be called back for an interview. So how names are so much embedded in this colonial legacy.
And here I'll just read a short quote from Trinh T Minh-Ha, from When the Moon Waxes Red: Representation, Gender, And Cultural Politics, in how actually clarity and communication can be seen as a form of tyranny for non-white people, that we bodies of color, have to constantly adapt herself and accommodate. So she says, “Since clarity is always ideological and reality always adaptive, such a demand for clear communication often proves to be nothing else, but an intolerance for any language other than the one approved by the dominant ideology, at times obscured, and other times blaming. This inability and unwillingness to deal with the unfamiliar or with a language different from one's own is in fact, a trait that intimately belongs to the man, of course, of power. It is a reputable form of colonial discrimination, one in which difference can only be admitted once it is appropriated. That is, one, it operated within the master sphere of having.” So I'll end the quote here. And yeah, I guess we can continue with the conversation together later on. But I just wanted to anchor my work with this recent production. We can't hear you Richard.
Sorry, I unmuted myself, so I wouldn't bother you when you're talking. That's my own difficulties with technology. Thanks for introducing the question of language, which again in the diasporic context is one of those points of friction for Asian communities. The face, the language, and those ones that go internal the food, which is Patrick was talking about, internal or external in terms of our identities, we will come back to that too.
And finally, but not least, is Shellie Zhang, who is a multi disciplinary artist, she explores how integration, diversity, and assimilation are implemented and negotiated, and how manifestations of these ideas relate to lived experiences. Shellie is interested in how culture is learned and sustained, and how the objects and iconographies of culture are remembered and preserved. And finally, Shellie is also one of the organizers of this committee, and it has been wonderful to work with her.
Thanks so much, Richard. I have the benefit of going last so I get to hear all the wonderful things and subjects that we're going to talk about in our discussion, but I also just want to begin by thanking everybody who spoke, the co-committee organizers and everybody who's supported the past few days. I'm really thankful to be able to share digital space with you all as we're all isolated in our kitchens and living rooms. And so on the screen right now is an image of a brightly-colored pile of plastic flowers in pink, orange, purple and white, on top of fake green grass against the backdrop of a yellow floral fabric. The Spork is from a series titled Means of Exchange which depicts still life displays of products manufactured from Yiwu and imported into Canada. And to give a bit of background, my family was permitted to live here in so-called Canada because we were rejected under one nation's economic qualifications for settlement, but qualified under the colonial project of Canada and seen as beneficial in this context. So notions of worth defined by economic contributions have always stuck with me as a framework. And earlier in my practice, I became really interested in ideas about “made in China.”
And so in 2019, I became drawn to the city of Yiwu in Zhejiang province, which is, Yiwu is best known as the global supplier of dollar stores. It's a trade supplier of small commodities across the world. And because of its position, as a global trade market, the city has this really bizarre and interesting spin on multiculturalism, which is why I became really interested in a city of multiculturalism that is both contingent and informed by trade. And so in Yiwu there are these malls with specialized shops where you can meet with wholesale traders for everything you can think of from dollar stores. So from plastic inflatable balls, stuffed animals, or even, there are shops for just dancing Santas, for instance. And these shops are often filled to the brim with endless options of the same thing.
Yiwu is kind of a popular place for filmmakers and photographers. And if you just do a quick Google of Yiwu, you'll see these really loud color box shops, usually staffed by one worker who facilitates purchases, in the way where things surround them, in a way almost engulfs the subject. And this is a common aesthetic scene for depicting the city. And so, from these images, I was reminded of an etching of Afong Moy, who was the first known Chinese woman to immigrate to the US in the 1830s. And Afong was brought from her homeland and Guangzhou and toured around the US and exhibited as the Chinese lady. And so in this, this etching of her, which you can also find on Google, I had a hard time picking one image, but in this etching you can find her, she's in the center of this display of things where she almost becomes an extension of those things in the setting.
So Means of Exchange references this visual history, where Asian and Asian femininity is ascribed notions of commodity, impassivity, especially in visual history. But also how objects translate culture. How do objects versus people circulate in the global economy? And what terms these are often under. Thinking more recently, there's this really interesting conversation about how post secondary institutions can't exist without money from international students, even though there's rising hostility, and to be able to keep those individuals safe. Or I'm thinking of migrant workers who have statuses and contingent on the power of their employers, for instance, and are unable to lay down roots in a place as a result of that. So in my work, I often work with archival and photographic citations, and some folks have talked about this already, but I'm actually really interested in hearing about how everybody employs and references these modes of citations in their work. But I'll stop here.
Get the Scholar Strike newsletter to hear about upcoming panels and actions!
Anti-Asian Racism Undone Pulse of the Moment: Check In with Asian-Canadian Activists Across the Country
Anti-Asian Racism Undone Critical Race Studies Now: Teaching Anti-Asian Racism With and Without Institutions
Thanks so much, Shellie. And that leads us directly into the discussion around citation. And when I looked at the work, as I mentioned, I'm seeing these different kinds of signifiers of function in a diaspora context, and I guess in the North American term, we use this term Asian as opposed to South Asians, and Asian meaning Eastern Southeast Asian people. Yeah, the citation, it's the face right? And so many of you are using the body, either directly, Patrick, and performance in the body, or Jin-me right there, the body is the Asian signifier, and some of you like Shellie, you're refusing that, Immony, you are also kind of masking and giving that body of anonymity, and Jacqueline there's a way in which you're - even the name conjures up that face, right?
So maybe I'll start with asking you how you negotiate those kinds of questions. You know, Jin-me, maybe I'll start with you. And then anyone can jump in. Because you know, when I revisited that work, Souvenirs of Self, which of course I know from 1991, at that period, there was the figure of the Japanese tourist. These kind of ways in which there’s also almost a hyphenation of Asian with something, right? So ‘Japanese’ and ‘tourist’ went together, especially if you were at Banff. And the image of this person now called always conjured with a camera, it was said they always have cameras, right? And so there are ways in which that functions and I'm wondering if you could talk again about the body and how you negotiated it. And I think that one of the things that struck me, you said, if you were a younger artist working today, you may not do that work. And I’m kind of curious why you said that. If you can start us off.
Well, I'll be really brief because I'm just so interested. I think you've gathered such fabulous, like, I'm so inspired by everybody. But the Japanese tourists, yes. I mean, obviously, in terms of this “mass,” Asia, and what Asia are we talking about? There’re also histories, and to walk around in the early 90s and Banff and, Konichiwa, Konichiwa. And then I'm thinking when I came here as a kid, no one knew, they'd call me a Jap or a Chink. But I'd say, hey, you know, I'm Korean. And they’d said, oh, Korean, perhaps, and older persons would say, oh, the Korean War. So how these things get conflated, that's what racism feels like, it's something that hits you, flattens you, dehumanizes you. And so, for me, the body at that time was like a projection screen for the process of racialization in relation to representation.
Now, why I said wouldn't make that work today, is even though we're subject to so much - it's always there, but just the frontal racism has been just absolutely mindboggling in terms of Vancouver - it’s because I'm really thinking, and I see this in other artists’ work, the idea of embodiment, that to also refuse the kind of relationship to the body that is a projected screen for violence, sexualized, racialized violence. And what I'm interested in now is also this idea of a way that we can claim a different kind of relationship to our own bodies, not denying that these frames of reference or context don't play a part, but to think about a kind of pleasure and also our own relationship to how we produce that for each other in different communities. And so I've kind of moved into movement and gesture and dance, but not in a kind of show us your songs and dances way, in a completely different kind of way that unsettles those things, and also in relation to understanding land, not representations of land, but whose lands are we on? And what is our relationship to land and water, and as humans on a continuum of animals, as a part of nature. So I'll just end it at that because I'm really interested in what other people have to say, here. It's so interesting to me to see how these conversations are evolving and different and shared.
Thanks, Jin-me, one of the things you said just now, you used the word pleasure, and I'm going to Patrick now, because - as gay Asians, but also one of the things that I think for a lot of racialized people has long - the phrase ‘Black is beautiful,’ came out of a sense that Black people did not feel themselves included in notions of beauty that was very Eurocentric, and that's been a topic, a perennial topic among Asians as well. And among gay Asians the question of looks is so much part of kind of the dominant gay culture. Patrick, the pleasure you take in your own body, and the way that for instance - I was looking at your recipe for arroz caldo. And you're talking about the skin of the chicken kind of like a tan body. And so yeah, talk about that and talk about the importance of your presence in your own work as a performance artist.
Patrick Salvani/Ms. Nookie Galore:
Yeah, for me as a performance artist, I really want to feel connection to the audience, and for me to feel connection to the audiences to be as seen as possible. But also like when I'm doing demon, drag, horror drag, it’s kind of representing that we're not as digestible, or we can't just fit into certain things, there's a lot to us as bodies. We hold history, we hold memory, we hold futures and stuff like that, too. So yeah, I love talking about bodies. I don't know. It's interesting because when I first started doing drag, it’s like, feeling that disconnection from my own body. So I came up with the name Nookie Galore before I even felt Nookie Galore, you know. And that was for me to try to live up to something, to become what I imagined a confident person to be. So I think time has changed in terms of like, I think you can find confidence in being quiet and - I think feeling seen is important. But also seeing yourself as just as important.
I just wanted to tell Patrick, that I also grew up in Calgary. And I also was like an Asian “gang member.” I didn't do any gang activities, but I really tried hard to look like I was in a gang.
I want to talk to Patrick about moms, and parents.
I was gonna ask you Immony to talk about the face of the denial, the face in that project. But feel free to segue into moms, because family is an interesting perennial, I was looking at a film the other day, and I forget even what it was. But I said to my partner, if this were an Asian film, you could not have the absence of family as you do in this scenario. Right? So there is a way in which family is also - and the kind of network of connections that might trap us, perhaps, but it's there. Immony could you talk first about this question of how you negotiated, how you would stage the installation without a face to anonymize it in the way that you did, and the kind of conversations you had in thinking through that work? You’re muted.
Yeah. To contextualize it a bit, we were approached by the Bentway to think about how to think about computer vision, and all these things that track the body, the voice, the face, and public space to think about safety. And during that time, I believe we entered the first phase of the lockdown. And all I could think about is the increased vulnerability of racialized bodies during this moment, and seeing reports of incidents of racism and violence and, and thinking about offering a different record, one that that allows a different comfort level of disclosing information about identity, protecting professional relationships, and status, and networks. And that this was this was why anonymizing the face or visualizing oral testimonies was came out of that project, because it offers a different type of recording that we're still working through, we're still working on, on how to build out that platform or how to build out this process. Not only for different populations in different communities. So it's still we're still working on it, still iterating on it.
But I do want to talk about parents. And I do want to talk about coming here. Being Cambodian, coming to Ottawa, and having my mom share information about her trauma and her experience without words, and the haptic experiences and the memories that I have of my mom holding my hand. And I was talking to a colleague and we spoke about haptic experiences and the memories of parents holding our hands and recalling the tightness of the hands, and from a child's view we’re without words, we see the desire to not lose kin as we move through public space, and as we commute from work to the market. The impressions of the hand, and the gaze communicates the fear and the trauma of loss, the urgency of bond and connection, a directional pull to parented movements with bodies moving in opposing directions.
For me, I believe I'm my mom's memory project, or post-memory project, the experiences and the memories and the traumas are recorded in my body through the tightness of the hands. When we hold each other, while we cross the street. The fear of familial loss and disconnection was communicated to me at an early age. And it gets echoed through what I do, and how I engage in space, through my relationships through my networks, and through my practice, and what I'm doing now. So that fear, to lose a family member and to rediscover a family member, is something that my mom never wanted to do again, or never wanted to happen. And that she brings that through how she holds my hand in public space in Canada. So thinking about this work that focuses on the safety of safety in public space and in our bodies. So that's what I wanted to share with you, Patrick.
Okay, I'm not gonna mute myself again. Okay. Thanks so much for bringing that up. Because there's a way that the body's a signifier, but there are ways in which your work centers the body as a center of feeling, as a center of emotion. Patrick, when you talk about food, or Amy, when you talk about food, it is about the internal body and the identity from the inside. I'm wondering if anybody wants to take up that question, that thread that Immony has raised. Shellie?
Yeah, Immony, I just want to say this work was really interesting, because there's such an interesting push and pull happening at the same time. You know, simultaneously, when I saw this work, there was a real push to enter that space, the intimate stories and vulnerability that that that shipping container should have produced and at the same time, there's this inherent distance in the anonymity of it, there's the use of these face tracking surveillance technologies. And so you almost are simultaneously seduced by it, yet not given the ability to be enveloped in it completely. I just wanted to thank you for sharing that story of your mom and the hand holding as a really beautiful note as well. On a bit of a sidetrack, I'm just going back to Patrick, I wanted to say that the first time I saw Patrick perform, I actually found myself crying because it was just so moving in that particular moment. And then the use of the popular culture references and the use of face to reference, that was really great.
I wanted to ask Jacqueline, actually, since you have lived and worked in Canada, in the United States and in Stockholm, how you experience those differences. And the extent that movement has impacted your work, like has informed your interest in working through questions of names?
Jacqueline Hoàng Nguyễn:
I mean, I was born and raised in Montreal, in a neighborhood called Côte-des-Neiges. So yeah, did my foundational education in Quebecois French, basically, so I had French and Vietnamese as my mother tongue, but the neighborhood itself Côte-des-Neiges is known to have neither French nor English as their dominant language, because it was highly immigrant-populated, so it was a very rich and diverse neighborhood while at the same time being very white working class, because it was mostly newly landed immigrants who were trying to figure out a way to find a way of sustaining themselves and their families.
And so for me, this moment of realizing that my names didn’t work was actually when I entered the Quebecois institution when I started school, and basically Hoang was a moment of anxiety for teachers and staff that couldn't pronounce my name. So at that time, that's when my parents decided because of French colonization in Vietnam, and they were trained in French, they thought the most natural thing to do was to give me a French-sounding name, Jacqueline, which I've been bearing since then. But nonetheless, it’s not in my Canadian passport, it has never been registered officially. So it's a name that I carry. But at the same time, it's this handle that makes my subjecthood more available or more accessible, or that just transition and facilitates to the Quebecois community.
But what I thought was actually unique to me, this bubble was burst in the courtyard, when I realized that a friend of mine of Haitian descent, she was like, Oh, so you're also having a French sounding name, because my name Jocelyn is not actually my real name. And so that's when I realized that it's not unique to Vietnamese or Asian, but actually was a practice that is commonly used amongst other communities as well. And so that's something that I've been bearing with me, and that I've noticed as well, when I lived in New York, in the US, and then definitely so predominant in Sweden as well, where clearly if you're not wearing a Swedish name, then the prospect of establishing yourself on the job market is very, very limited. So it's a common practice to change name.
But then just to point back to this notion, to food, that you've been talking about, although it's not really apparent, maybe in the work itself and how it is presented, there's definitely a reference to food and home and this space of tenderness or of childhood, where - initially the lenticular panels, I had my initial sketches were in black and white. And for me, it came too close to the legacy of institution or conceptual critique, or conceptual art. And I actually want it to move away from that particular aesthetic reference. And so basically, I was like, what kind of visual language can I use in order to work with these texts? And yeah, basically, I was like, well, what's closest to me in terms of thinking about texts and space and visualization? And it's actually Asian grocery stores. And so that became my reference point to actually think about how the text image and the spectrum of color that I wanted to work with, this highly saturated kind of color space that is a bit more playful than institutional documents, basically. So there's strangely enough, a reference to food here.
There's that visual reference, and there's a way in which - also not in this piece, but I know your archival work, which is also about maintaining that kind of thread that Immony is talking about, that thread back somehow, creating family or creating community. And then I'm going to move perhaps to Amy, since that's what your work is about, the work that you showed, it is about trying to create community. If you could talk about that a little bit more - In fact, many of you work in collaboration, Jacqueline, you work with Chris Lee. But many of you work either formally and artistically in collaboration, or many of you work in community groups, for example, or in relational practices. Maybe you can talk about that, and the importance of that in the production of your own work.
One thing that I wanted to bring up about that specific work, and the way in which Jin Jin Cuisine operates, is that when we went and visited, it immediately became evident that it's a very unique kind of space. Because the couple who runs the restaurant only speak Mandarin, they don't speak any English at all. And the way in which the restaurant operates is basically if you go in and you want to order something, and you don't speak Mandarin, you have to either call a friend who does speak Mandarin, and get them to speak to the restaurant owners to help you order off the menu. Or perhaps there will be another restaurant goer there who does speak, and then they can translate for you. So when you're in the restaurant, you constantly see this happening, where someone's like eating their dumplings, and then they'll get a phone call. And then the person will have to put down their dumplings and like, go and ask them what they want, like, do you want to drink like, this is what your total is?
So going back to what Jin-me said about how racism and white supremacy, its ability is to flatten. Its ability is to reduce people just to specific types of objects that are defined by the way that they look. But obviously, the way in which our experiences actually operate are much more complex, and rely on all these different relationships that we have to everyone around us. I guess that's just to say that I think that the kind of community that was exhibited in Jin Jin Cuisine also stands against the kind of forces of displacement or gentrification that I was talking about. It's sometimes in the media or in stories that people write, they'll be like, oh Chinatown is so beleaguered. Like, these poor people, they're getting pushed out of the neighborhood, that's how racialized people are often portrayed. And in reality, there's all these relationships and networks that are super strong, and defied the odds, and still able to succeed, despite all of the things that tried to prevent them from succeeding. So Jin Jin Cuisine has been around for 10 years, and that's the only way in which they've operated, which I think is a really amazing fact.
And just to talk a bit about just the nature of food, I think it's really interesting how everyone has talked about embodiment, and I think a lot about food, not just on the level of representation we have all this stuff that's like, bubble tea, or like cultural appropriation and stuff. But for me, food is so embodied because it's literally something that makes up our bodies and something that - you know, taste and smell evoke memory. And there's all these parts that I find so mysterious and magical, and that can't just be relegated to these very simple kind of statements. Yeah, I don't know if that quite answered your question.
Absolutely. I mean, I think that's the thing about food that’s so interesting. I know Immony for example, has done the, what's it called, Postcolonial Hot Ones. And the last one I attended, where he made Cambodian food and Ryan Rice did red and green chili from the Southwest, and I think Patricia Davila did something else. So again, these kind of sharing of food and hospitality is so much part of our cultures, I suppose, in a way that rocketed you know, Tiravanija, who first did the serving the pad thai. That was so foundational in relational practices. It says that he was Thai. Shellie, you do work in food in an indirect way, and like your MSG references, for example, maybe you could talk about food in that way.
Yeah, I kind of want to go back to one thing that Amy mentioned a little bit, which is this framing as these impoverished communities, or these difficult communities, and then going back to thinking about food in terms of an embodiment, a joyful experience, but also something quite sacred, as Immony and Patrick have also mentioned as well. And then how it's not about representation, per se, but it's about this idea where that sacredness is robbed. And for me, I used to work in restaurant industries quite a bit, and it was, it was so strange to consistently hear people ask for no MSG in these Chinese restaurant spaces, which is a really codified way of saying, none of this other in a form to me. And for MSG in particular, it's really kind of a magical additive in my opinion, as someone who's quite terrible with cooking, but who likes to eat delicious things. This is like a tool that I use to do that. And now the conversation is changing a little bit about what the industry around MSG in particular works and how that circulates. I'm also quite familiar with Jin Jin, because I got to visit Saskatoon about a year and a half ago and yeah, it's kind of a magical little shop, they're run by this couple who there's a little bit where you're sort of, because of the appealness and the warmth of the space, you really want to try to make these connections. Just everybody from the Chinese community that I've talked to in Saskatoon is like, you have to go to Jin Jin, in that respect. So it becomes not only a place of eating, but a place of gathering and sharing in that nature as well.
Thanks. There's actually, I had like a whole list of questions, Shellie you also gave me questions, there's so much, but I realized we've got like 10 minutes. And one of the things I wanted to ask you all about individually, we'll go around again, is the question of futures, right. Like what do you see in the future? What do you want for the futures? How do you see your future practices? Anybody wants to go first? Yes, Jacqueline.
Jacqueline Hoàng Nguyễn:
Yeah, I guess I also want to interject a little bit on what Amy just talked about in her project with the Jin Jin cuisine, and that ties into questions of future. But I think it's the question of redistribution, how you so nicely made sure that Paved Arts and aka artists-run actually through their funding is able to support and sustain a certain community that is existing there, and so that it wouldn't partake in this processes of gentrification of the area. And I think that's also was something that was very present for me in my own work, even though it's not evident, but who I decided to work with. And Richard, you did mention that Chris Lee is a collaborator that I’ll often work with for graphic design. He's also the one who worked and been in conversation with in terms of thinking about typography, fonts, and what does visually language do to us, how it is being rendered, and what kind of power forces are implicit and in text. So he's definitely someone that I'm thinking of, often when I want to work with text based material or book forms, but also with the dancers.
For me, it was really important to work with non-white dancers and within the Swedish context, it’s not an easy affair to reach out to a community of dancers that are trained, and are professionally working as dancers, but I do want to support that community in finding these people and to be able to have the funding and the support of an institution like varnish comb style, that is producing the choreography, to make sure that the question of redistribution, that through the payments that I'm able to create a community with whom I'm in conversation, and sustain their practices as well. And the same also with my stylist, who helped me with dressing my dancers, it's also someone that, yeah, non white person. And I think that becomes more and more the direction where I'm heading, that I'm aware that in order to sustain a cultural sphere, a cultural scene, artistic scene, where I want to have people like me that were able to talk about certain things that aren't necessarily addressed in the white cube, then I need to also make sure that I'm in conversation, but also I'm able to support their work and practice not only in dialogue, but also financially. So yeah, that's where the type of community that I'm hoping to shape and support and sustain for the future as well.
Thank you, anybody who wants to go next. Jin-me.
I just want to say that I feel really fortunate to be in a kind of community with all of you because I think community isn't pre-determined. I think that when we talk about specific communities, let’s say Korean community, that's a very complex thing. And I just don't mean theoretically, or politically, but I think there's also kind of a constant need to create communities rather than just assume them. So this is another kind of community. I just want to share that when I first came into the art world in the 80s, I mean predominantly, and also working in institutions, like art institutions, predominantly white. And I don't, I feel that that has changed, but it hasn't changed. It has only changed, if it has, through demand, power didn’t just roll over.
And I think Jacqueline, that's when I'm saying they support what you're saying, in terms of redistribution of resources, who we choose to work with, but also that this kind of relationship to embodiment and presencing like, that's a difference for me, for my own futurity in terms of thinking about my own life, and where I am being 60,and thinking about my own mortality, and having lost a parent and thinking in a greater kind of temporal frame. That's a kind of futurity and also a different departure point because when Tarah Hogue, who’s a Métis curator that was at Vancouver Art Gallery, when she curated a show, starting with Sophie Frank, who was a Sḵwxwú7mesh basket weaver, who was a friend of Emily Carr, that actually had so much influence on her material form of understanding color, understanding the kind of ways in which thinking about the kind of energetic forces that are in nature. She never got credited with anything, but through our historical references that were raised, etc., you see the fact that when you privilege certain other departure points, then you end up in different places. And I think when she said, hey Jin-me, what can we do? We're going to show a group of ‘67 again, that ol’ nugget in this context, and talking about Emily Carr, and what can we do in terms of community related thing, just that question, and I said, Well, I would really like to have Chief Bill Williams, and talk to Korean youth and elders, about this departure point.
And then it's kind of beautifully, organically, and through a concerted kind of desire for a different relation-making has ended up doing, becoming so many different things, which I can't really get into. But it's really important that we keep at this relationship-building and trust and also presencing, rather than just representations of just where I started in the beginning, saying that, oh, yes we want a piece of the pie, I think we don't want the piece of the same pie, we want to absolutely transform things. And that's futurity for me now. The world that I like to see together, and build it together, and our differences, and that's tough work too. It's not easy, it's not all cozy as you know, food is also extremely political and difficult, when we think about our work together, but also pleasurable and joyful. So that's futurity for me, all that work to be done, but also doing it in a way with all of you that just gives me so much, I don't know, hope.
Thanks, Jin-me. Patrick.
Patrick Salvani/Ms. Nookie Galore:
Similar to Jacqueline and Jin-me’s, with just like, for me when I think of my future art, I dream of community, I dream of building with other folks. I think in the spirit of like parties and art spaces like Desh Pardesh, Asian Arts Freedom School, Blockorama, that have carved out spaces for communities to celebrate and have fun. I'm part of this collective called New Ho Queen. And for me fun is part of healing, building resistance. They say revolutions can start on dance floors. And I know in comparison to the hashtag, #StopAsianHate, New Ho Queen’s hashtag is #AsianLove. So working with the question of stopping Asian hate from a different angle, we're posing the question, how do you want to be loved? Which I think is really important.
And I guess it's been such an interesting - because when they asked me to join, I was like, I don't know, I don't know. I don't know any of you kind of thing, you all weird, beautiful. But it was like interesting to be around like filmmakers, graphic designers, fashion student, DJs, textile manufacturers, porn stars, and like other drag performers. And like, for me, it was like such a rewarding and amazing experience to dream something into creation. Something I couldn't imagine by myself as an individual visual artists, like I feel like I can be very stuck in like, Oh, this is the path like from Ru Paul’s Drag Race. This is where my future as an Asian drag queen will be. But I just think it's so important to kind of connect with, build that community, connect with other artists and dream together. Yeah, and I think for Asian love, we're fighting with anti-Asian racism, it's not just a momentary thing. It's what has always needed to be done and will be continue to be done.
Amy, or Immony, Shellie.
Patrick, it's so interesting hearing you talk about this, the linguistical shift and how that hopefully generates the thinking shift a little bit. And I think for me, for futurity, it's exactly that, focusing on the strategizing and the pleasure that comes out of this process and the joy that comes out of this process. There's this article by or this essay, I should say, by Eve Tuck that talks about damage-centered research, so like research that intends to document people's pain and brokenness, but how that also becomes the really depleted and solo narrative. And so I've been thinking about that in relation to for instance, this idea circulating more recently that Asians aren't all quiet,and it's somewhat harmful to circulate that narrative I think because it separates from these histories of activism, loudness and advocacy. And so I think this thinking back to what Robert was mentioning in our opening conversation, but also Mina said in terms of the importance of pleasure and joy, and building around it, almost using those as markers of things that work and building from those.
Amy or Immony?
Yeah, I think that in thinking about - lots of times as artists we’re asked to think about the future, present visions of the future, because there's this idea of artists as like, being geniuses who are going to innovate new solutions, and all these kinds of things. But I guess I would also just say that for me, what I'm trying to focus on lately is the present conditions in which I find myself, so not only in terms of larger issues, like the pandemic, and all the forms of racism that we see, but also in my own life as an artist, and just how I can continue to keep working in a way that is ethical, and that is sustainable, and that is grounded in relationships that are honest, and but I actually trust and not to be like, super cynical about the art world, but I think that - but also to be cynical about the art world - there are a lot of demands that are made towards institutions. And I think that over my experience of working within institutions as an artist, and also as a staff member, I just don't actually see how these institutions can be reformed, you know. So I think that for me, it's really about trying to figure out ways that I can work without relying on them, and through relationships that I have with other people that I trust, and that I share values with, because I think that also, it's easy to use the word community. And in this panel today, I think that there are very clear instances of where community lies. But there's also lots of instances in which that word is used to obfuscate differences, very real differences that we have to face.
Thanks, Amy. And Immony, I guess you get the last word.
Oh no. So when I think about the future, I think about the spaces we want to grow old in, right. And I think this is a moment where we get to reimagine these spaces and model it and image what we want and who is around us, and how we can support them. And yeah, and I think, and address some of the processes or some of the barriers that exist there. So I think, I think that's what I think of the future and even being surrounded by food, but also entering different roles, right, different roles and responsibilities as we age in that space.
Thank you so much. Thank you all for your sophistication, for your complexity, for your commitment, for your brilliance, and for the beauty that you bring to the world. The pleasure that you brought me today, this afternoon. I really enjoyed this panel, so much I wish we could go on for longer. I want to draw your attention to the next panel, which is at 4:30. It's Creating Otherwise Worlds: Relations, Abolition And Freedom with Harsha Walia, Robyn Maynard, Erica Violet Lee and Ian Tian. Moderated by Beverly Bain. And that will be at 4:30. And for the last time today, thank you again, so much.