Joining a panel of scholars, artists, and researchers, I will present new work at the annual Association for Asian American Studies as part of a panel discussing Visuality and Mixed Race Asian Americans. I will join Myra Washington, Laura Kina, Camilla Fojas, & Genevieve Erin O’Brien. Full description/abstract below.
This roundtable features a dynamic discussion between artists and academics as they critique the ways race is traditionally shown and offer their own explorations on the ways they see mixed-race Asian Americans. Laura Kina will talk about mixed race in the context of ghostliness and her recent exhibition at the Japanese American National Museum and the related book publication - Sugar/Islands: Finding Okinawa in Hawai‘i –the art of Laura Kina and Emily Hanako Momohara (July 11-Sept 6, 2015). The exhibition incorporates her Sugar series of paintings and photographs by Emily Hanako Momohara from her Islands series to “examine worker migration and settlement from the islands of Okinawa to the islands of Hawai‘i, prompted by opportunities afforded by the latter’s sugar plantations and pineapple farms during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.” Sugar/Islands explores their mixed-heritage roots in Okinawa and Hawai‘i, and employs unique strategies that blend fiction and reality to question the stability of memory and identity. Through metaphors of ghostliness, Kina examines the complex ways that the past is present in all of our collective and individual identities.
Genevieve Erin O’Brien will discuss her use of food as a medium to explore race, ethnicity and identity. Her most recent projects include Meat My Friends, GEO's Mixed Spices, and Post Pop AKA Postcolonial Popcorn. In Meat My Friends O’Brien takes storytelling to another stage, the plate. Her sausages are inspired by the stories of her family and friends and include offerings like “Pyongyang Ain’t No Picnic” which details her father’s journey to oversee the dismantling of North Korea’s Nuclear Reactor and his failed attempts to buy a local rotisserie chicken. The sausage is made with ground chicken, garlic, garlic chives, Korean gojujiang chilies, soju and oven crisped chicken skin. Her current project, GEO’s Mixed Spices, is an attempt to gastronomically represent the culture of mixed race people through unique flavor and spice combinations.
Alejandro Acierto will be talking about a new body of work that follows a series of performances, sculptures, and sound works exhibited as part of the group show “Nitty Gritty” shown at the Chicago Artists’ Coalition Space. He examines the significance of the human voice as a communicative technology, and considers the use of the breath as a critical site of renewal, reclamation, and belonging. In an attempt to make visible the bodies that are portrayed without voice, this work, extending the work of Patti Duncan’s notion of politicizing silence, proclaims the breath as another strategy of agency. Continuing Duncan’s work, Acierto offers a physical manifestation of the breath through installation and audioscape as a way to claim space within the confines of the White-box gallery. An externalization of his interior, this work eschews coloristic representations of mixedness through an ephemeral sculpture that changes form based on its environment. Connecting the ways multi-racial people embody various histories and traditions, this work also reimagines the breath as a site of mixed temporalities – a site in which each inhalation fills our bodies with the breath of the past, a reminder of our predecessors, and exhales with the traces of history and family.
Finally, Camilla Fojas critiques visuality at its most familiar location – mediated representations. She uses a number of recent cases of transracial identification as a point of departure for examining the historically shifting terms of race through ideas of racial plasticity, racial betrayal, misrepresentation, passing, covering, and the various ways that subjects self-style around racialized lines in twentieth and twenty-first century popular culture. Through her exploration of how transracial representation, when deployed by white actors and actresses—as in the yellow face portrayal in Breakfast at Tiffany’s—is a function of white supremacy. Fojas examines numerous examples in popular culture of figures who trouble racial categories by identifying with cultures or identities not their own.