October 18, 2013

A collaborative blog by Cheryl Derricotte, Zoe Bender, Laurie Moyer, Sarah Pritchard, Lisette Lugo, MaryAnn Johnston, and Katie Richardson, students in Professor Cindy Shearer’s MFA Interdisciplinary Arts Workshop

Students in CIA 7091, MFA Interdisciplinary Workshop visited Proximities 2: Knowing Me, Knowing You, part 2 of the Asian Art Museum’s three-part inquiry into What is Asia? This exhibit focuses on family and community.

What did the exhibit place them in the proximity to? Students selected 100 words from their responses for this blog.

Cheryl: Will mixed race identity become the norm?  Yes, says the multimedia installation Eve (2013).  Instead of cultural misappropriation, why not just laugh at our clumsiness? Like the piece “The Lost Interview” where the Polish artist repeats a Bruce Lee interview verbatim with hilarious results.  Some Asian pop culture references are universal. Siamese cat or Kung Fu anyone? What happens when we find someone who shares our name, particularly when one person looks German and the other looks Asian? Cartoon both our heritages! Why not?

MaryAnn: Out of touch. Off balance. Americentric. These were my feelings viewing Carlene Tam’s vivid in-your-face work, Love Forever: Homage to Yayoi Kusama. Not in on the joke. Here was a reference that eluded me. My background, my studies, my interests failed me. Who was Charlene Tam? Who was Yayoi Kusama? What was the fun bit? With Michael Jang’s black and white photograph, Kung Fu, I at least got the joke – American white guy portraying an Asian guy dispensing to Americans sage advice from ancient Asian traditions via television. The living room looked very much like my own; might Jang be very much like me?

Katie: I gravitated to the black and white family portraits. I was transported to a home in the 70s — my home. The dress, furnishings, hairstyles and activities were memories of my past. I then went over to the Lazy Susan Video. Even the name “Lazy Susan” evoked strong memory. My grandparents had one on their kitchen table that my father had made for them. Then came the food. I could smell it. I could taste it. I grew up going out for Chinese food and then learning how to make Asian dishes with my family. I know that. I am in proximity to that experience.

Sarah: The exhibit "Knowing Me, Knowing You" placed artists in close proximity to one another in space. In experiencing the exhibit, I was placed in proximity to diverse artists and media. I was placed in proximity to artists in conversation with their cultural, artistic, and political lineages. Contemporary art placed in proximity to so many ancient art objects and artifacts. I noticed how political messages were conveyed through slight distortions of familiar scenes - as in the animated video of fake CNN commentary or the black and white portraits of Asian American family.

Laurie: On floor 2, I watched a wedding reception being ‘installed.’ As guests exit the elevator for the reception there is a collection of items containing symbols of longevity, abundance, many sons, rank – wishes for the new couple. Also is a set of jewelry in jadeite, diamonds and platinum. In 1941, a Chinese mother presented these to her daughter on the occasion of her wedding. The Museum pays attention to detail. Few guests will stop to see these items but, for the person who does stop, it can be an unexpected delight. The Asian Museum’s attention to detail is what I want to have with my art.

Zoe: I have been placed in proximity to my American-ness. I am so acutely aware of my whiteness here. I find myself taken aback by the number of non-Asian artists featured in the exhibit. What right do they have to be here? What right do I? While my body wants to imitate the postures of these Asian figures (back swayed, foot flexed, head tilted, eyes wide and fierce), I'm also intensely sensitive to the danger of fetishizing, co-opting, exploiting. In a way, I feel like the young Chinese man in the photo holding the Ziggy Stardust album with a tender mix of reverence and glee. I would hold a Javanese rod puppet just so.

Lisette: Asia is a made-up name. How does one put a finger on space? Thinking of Asia, I think of family. I think of Jade. She came from China as a baby. She is my friend’s daughter; she is adopted. Asia, I think, ancient civilization, family, unity, celebrating, adornment. Eastern philosophy, the spiritual in tune with the physicality of life. A weaving. Details, an invitation. My friend Leslie asked me “would anyone know she is adopted?” Would anyone know. I think of Jade given gifts as she left China. Leslie a new mom. Would anyone know? Knowing me, knowing you…….. who really cares.

MFA, Student News

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