Saturday, October 23, 2010

Critical Mixed Race Studies Conference Nov 5-6, 2010

“Emerging Paradigms in Critical Mixed Race Studies,” the first annual Critical Mixed Race Studies Conference, will be held at DePaul University's Student Center 2250 N. Sheffield Avenue Chicago, IL 60614 November 5-6, 2010.

The CMRS conference brings together scholars from a variety of disciplines nationwide. Recognizing that the diverse disciplines that have nurtured Mixed Race Studies have reached a watershed moment, the 2010 CMRS conference is devoted to the general theme “Emerging Paradigms in Critical Mixed Race Studies.”

Critical Mixed Race Studies (CMRS) is the transracial, transdisciplinary, and transnational critical analysis of the institutionalization of social, cultural, and political orders based on dominant conceptions of race. CMRS emphasizes the mutability of race and the porosity of racial boundaries in order to critique processes of racialization and social stratification based on race. CMRS addresses local and global systemic injustices rooted in systems of racialization.

DePaul University and CMRS is proud to host over 200 participants from all over the world gathering for two full days of programming, including 62 sessions of panels, round tables, and seminars; caucus sessions in one large room so no one has to choose one part of themselves to the complete exclusion of others; multiple film screenings; keynote addresses by leading scholars Mary Beltrán and Andrew Jolivétte and community activist and artist Louie Gong; a Mixed Mixer social event; a performance by comedian Kate Rigg; an Information Fair and a Book Table at which the De Paul Bookstore will sell relevant texts from presenters and other key texts in the field.
The 2010 CMRS is organized by Camilla Fojas and Laura Kina (DePaul University) and Wei Ming Dariotis (San Francisco State University



Depaul University co-sponsors

For updates and information about the conference join our Facebook group: Critical Mixed Race Studies

All queries should be directed to the conference chairs or 773-325-4048

The conference is free and open to the public.
Preregister at:


Friday, November 5, 2010
8:30am-6:00pm             Registration
9:00am-6:00pm             Information Fair
9:30am-10:00am           Welcoming Remarks - continental breakfast 

Sponsored by DePaul University’s College of Liberal Arts & Sciences Dean’s Office
10:15am-12:15pm         Session One
12:15pm-1:30pm           Lunch Break/Caucus Meetings/CMRS Business Meeting
1:30pm-3:30pm             Session Two
3:00-6:00pm                  Book Table
3:45pm-5:45pm             Session Three
6:00pm-7:00pm             Plenary Session Keynote Address - Andrew Jolivétte
7:00pm-8:30pm             Mixed Mixer Social - appetizers, live music, cash bar
Sponsored by DePaul’s Center for Intercultural Programs

8:30pm-9:30pm             Film Screening - Anomaly

Saturday, November 5, 2010
8:30am-5:00pm             Registration
9:00am-6:00pm             Information Fair
8:45am-9:45am             Plenary Session Keynote Address - Mary Beltrán

10:00am-12:00pm         Session One
12:00pm-3:00pm           Book Table
12:15pm-1:15pm           Lunch Break/Caucus Meetings/CMRS Business Meeting
1:30pm-3:30pm             Session Two
3:45pm-5:45pm             Session Three
6:00pm-7:00pm             Plenary Session Keynote Address - Louie Gong
                                       Film Screening UNRESERVED: The Work of Louie Gong
7:00pm-8:30pm             Dinner Break
8:30pm-10:00pm           Comedian Kate Rigg
Sponsored by DePaul’s Center for Intercultural Programs
Here are the two session event that I'm going to be part of at CMRS (besides the welcoming address, CMRS business meeting, and introducing other speakers):

Friday, Nov 5 10:15am-12:15pm
DePaul Student Center 2250 N. Sheffield Room #324
CMRS Round Table “Creating Resistance: Using the arts in challenging racial ideologies”
Laura Kina (moderator) DePaul University
Alejandro Acierto
, Musician/Improviser/Composer/Sound Artist (DePaul University Alumni)
Maya Escobar
, Performance Artist/Internet Curator/Editor
Tina Ramirez, Writer/Educator/Youth Organizer (DePaul University Alumni)
Jonathan Reinert, Filmmaker (DePaul University Alumni)

Saturday, Nov 6 10:00am-12:00pm
DePaul Student Center 2250 N. Sheffield Room #312
CMRS Panel “Arts ReMix: Exhuming Ethnicity Koden, Obake, & Anthropolocos          

Laura Kina (chair) DePaul University
Richard Lou
, University of Memphis -“UnEarthing Whiteness and the White-Fying Project: Examining Los Anthropolocos As They Look Back At Their Future Richard A. Lou – ½ of Los Anthropolocos”
Emily Hanako Momohara
– Art Academy of Cincinnati - “Koden”
Laura Kina - DePaul University - "Painting Paradise: Cane Fields, Kasuri, and Obake Talk"

Sunday, October 17, 2010

BamBUDDHAed Opening Night Oct 16, 2010

installation view - BamBUDDHAed art portageARTspace in Chicago

Blurring the literal boundary between home and gallery, between art and decoration, between curatorial practice and interior design, between (Far) East and West, MOLAR Productions and portage ARTspace proudly presents

Or I Ching, You Ching, We All Ching… for I Ching.

portage ARTspace

Oct 16 - Nov 20, 2010

4837 West Berenice (Enter through rear gate)
Chicago, IL

(Co-curated by Larry Lee and Johannah Silva)
Imagine an empty room.

Where to put things, all your personal stuff including artwork neatly or not requires geomancy or the art of placement which the Chinese call feng shui. Otherwise the flow of chi is disrupted and negative energy results from lack of Kansei engineering.

But no need to fret or fear.

With fu dogs, ba quas and joss sticks in hand, Johannah Silva (portage ARTspace Founder & Director) and Larry Lee along with their ersatz team of select artists, designers and craftspeople such as

Gabriel Bizen Akagawa, Christina Dougherty, Sean M. Gallero, Surabhi Ghosh, Ling-An Fang, Avika Bhansali, Greyson Hong, Molly Jinam Kim, Cecca Morrone, Joanne Aono, Hui-min Tsen, Hee Jin Koo, Regin Igloria, Naomi Yorke, Shreya Sethi, Laura Kina, James Kao, Martin Kim, Ana Kei Ut, Emily Lin and Jeanne Medina

accessorize if not transform a boring white cube into an exotic den/parlor/showroom inspired by Pier One, Cost Plus World Market, IKEA and other fine home furnishing stores.

*portage ARTspace is a year-long curatorial/experimental art project started by Johannah Silva. Johannah regards this project as an extension of her artistic practice and intends for the project to inspire dialogue, build and promote community, and create new experiences both for herself and the project's participants.

installation view - BamBUDDHAed art portageARTspace in Chicago

installation view - BamBUDDHAed art portageARTspace in Chicago

Curator Larry Lee giving a tour

Curator Larry Lee sitting on a bench designed by Gabriel Bizen Akagawa/in front of my Devon Avenue Sampler textile

PortageART space founder/director Johannah Silva, friend Carlton Mok, curator Larry Lee, me, friend John Dodge

Gabriel Bizen Akagawa cooking up some yakitori for the opening

My family - Abby Moy, Midori Aronson, Sam Kina chillin at the opening

BamBUDDHAed art portageARTspace in Chicago - Opening night Oct 16, 2010

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Art & Activism: Telling stories to change the world

Q. Do you believe that art can actually have an effect on the general society?

Of late I've found myself involved with the practice of oral history - listening carefully to other people's stories and the responsibility of recording, transcribing, and the process of editing, retelling and/or transforming these stories. It started with teaching seminar courses on "Asian American Arts & Culture" and "Mixed Race Art" and simply not being satisfied with the materials out there so for the past two years, my students have been interviewing artists across the country and specifically in the Midwest for the Asian American Artist Oral History Project Archive I started at DePaul. I've also been conducting my own interviews with mixed race artists for a book project. Trauma, loss, pain, suffering, and victimization are not central themes in my own work but when you open yourself up to listening to's all part of the story. So what good can retelling a story of trauma do? How does this empower the original story giver? What toll does this take on the story teller as vessel? What action are we the audience supposed to take after we hear the story?

Cherry Blossom artwork by Alfred Li Tsao

On Sat. Oct 2, 2010, I had the pleasure of attending FALLING PETALS. The show was presented by the theater group Erasing the Distance  and Asian American Suicide Prevention Initiative (AASPI). I went to support a fellow artist, Alfred Li Tsao, whose work was on display during the show and also used as the set design. Professionally trained actors and one real life story teller, got on stage and retold true stories of "people of Asian and Indian descent, impacted by mental illness and suicide." Following their intense and emotional performance/sharing, the actors debriefed the audience and conducted a Q&A. We came to find out that many family members and friends of the original story tellers were in the audience. They shared. We all cried. It was very powerful. Leaving the theater, I dashed back to a kids birthday party that I was supposed to be attending at the same time as the play. I ate an amazing red velvet cup cake from Sweet Mandy B's and this took my mind off of what I'd just seen temporarily but I found that I couldn't get rid of the weight of hearing these painful stories. I guess empathy feels like heartburn.

On a side note, if you would like to bring one of the story tellers or the entire play to your organization (say for Asian American Heritage month in May...hint, hint...), please contact the director Brighid OShaughnessy.

So today I found myself on a panel discussion about "Activist Art and Social Transformation" as part of the Iraq History Project Art Festival at DePaul University directed by artist, writer, and activist Tom Block and organized by Tom and the DePaul International Human Rights Law Institute. It was an incongruous place for me to be in one sense. I am not involved in any way in art or activism about Iraq. Here again, the day started out with listening to more stories of trauma.
Tom Block's "Mazlum: Artist Book"

First about the Iraq History Project and the Art Festival:
Iraq History Project (2005 – 2009)
The Iraq History Project (IHP) gathered and analyzed first person narratives of severe human rights violations committed under the government of the Ba’ath Party and Saddam Hussein (1968 – 2003) and by a variety of groups after the U.S.-led invasion (2003 – 2008). While some data on past and recent human rights violations in Iraq is available, the suffering of the Iraqi people has been inadequately documented making it difficult to understand the severity and impact of political violence over the past four decades. The IHP addresses this issue by collecting over 8,900 testimonies representing over 55,000 pages of personal narratives. The material documents the individual experience of torture, massacres, assassinations, rape, kidnapping, disappearances and other violations. The IHP is one of the largest independent human rights data collection projects in the world and provides important insight into both past and current violations in Iraq. The project provides Iraqis with an opportunity to talk about their experiences of political violence, analyzes patterns of violence to provide a better understanding of the systematic nature of political violence, and presents policy suggestions regarding transitional justice in Iraq and mechanism of improving human rights protections.
For the Iraq History Art Festival, artists were asked to make a work of art in response to one or more of the 8,900 testimonies. One of the artists that really stood out to me who took on this brave task of responding and retelling was Benjamin June. He created three handmade artists books (Loss, Trauma, and Hope), in which he hand embroidered excerpts from these testimonials followed by the name of the original teller. His use of embroidery made one slow down to read the text. You had to don white gloves to read the book so this also reminded me that this was something that must be respected. That you had to slow down. I was surprised how much the simple shift of changing the color of thread (black for loss, red for trauma, green for hope), changed the way I read the text.

After viewing the art works at the fair, four students from the DePaul students School of Law, one of whom is from Iraq, took the stage and shared testimonials.The act of listening as an audience member is not a passive thing. My heart began to race and my cheeks turned red, listening to the horrors of war retold on this very personal and specific level. This was not the distanced voice of a news report that we have grown accustomed to. Surly I shouldn't be sipping a coffee or nibbling on snacks while hearing these stories?

After a brief break, I joined my fellow panelists, Miles Harvey, Rachel Albers, and Sufyan Sohel, to take on the more general question of the role of the arts and activism.

One of the prompts we were given as panelists was, "Do you believe that art can actually have an effect on the general society?" More heartburn, anyone? I share my brief notes here in part as my own "therapy"....I'm not sure what to do with these two experiences of listening this past weekend.

First of all, I’m a visual artist. In one sense I’m quite traditional. I make paintings. I draw pictures. I embrace the genres of portraiture, landscape, and history painting. My work is aesthetically pleasing, and hopefully beautiful. You can buy it and hang it over your couch, if you wish. I have a solo show called Sugar up right now at Women Made Gallery in Chicago through Oct 28th:

Set during the 1920’s-1940’s, the paintings in SUGAR recall obake ghost stories and feature Japanese and Okinawan picture brides turned machete carrying sugar cane plantation field laborers on the Big Island of Hawaii. Sugar take us into a beautiful yet grueling world of manual labor, cane field fires and flumes.

My work is not, on the surface, what I think you might think of as “Activist” work. What does align my practice with “activist intentions” is the subject matter of my work, which focuses squarely on underrepresented if not invisible histories – specifically Asian American history and representations of mixed race individuals in the United States.

Just down the hall in DePaul’s Center for Intercultural Programs you can see my 2006 Loving series, which was inspired by the landmark 1967 Supreme Court case Loving v. Virginia that overturned this nation’s last anti-miscegenation law. The Loving series consists of nine life-sized charcoal portraits of “mixed-race” friends and acquaintances and one self-portrait. We are all rainbow children of the civil rights movement and members of the post-1967 biracial baby boom. Through the process of drawing and subtle gestures in the sitters’ poses, I wanted to capture a sense of community, the ability to connect with others and the distances between each of us.

(what follows here in my talk are excerpts, in part, from a chapter of a forthcoming book I'm working on with Wei Ming Dariotis titled "War Baby/Love Child: Mixed Race Asian American Art")
As an artist, I began to find that it was exasperating to have to tell my whole life story before the viewer could get the nuances of my cultural signifiers. Art can speak for itself but it helps to have a critical discourse between the artwork and artists and the audience – whether that audience is the marketplace, critics, academia or other artists.

American art and cultural critic Dave Hickey visited DePaul last spring and in his talk “on Art and Democracy”[i] he argued,
…works of art have no intrinsic value….all the value of a work of art is invested into it from without. Works of art are elected. And just like our senators, they have no virtue beyond their being elected for us to particularly like them. They aren’t the truth. They are just who got elected. …[The arts] have no stable function. The function of all of these practices shifts and they function in culture as a wild card in the sense that what art, literature, music, dance and theater do is what we need done at that moment.

Like Hickey, I believe that the arts can be a “wild card” and can play a crucial role in envisioning, forming and reflecting (and disrupting) our communities…I need Art to restore what the Culture Wars and rigid multicultural identity politics of the 1990s rendered mute and ineffectual. I need Art to talk about issues of identity, race and ethnicity in a nuanced and non-essentialized way. One of the jobs of Art is to raise questions and complicate things rather than provide us with succinct and tidy answers

This messy mission, this “wild card” agenda frames my work as an academic, curator, writer, and community organizer and activist and my practice as an artist. I’ve developed and teach classes at DePaul on “Asian American Arts & Culture” and “Mixed Race Art and Identity”; I serve on the board of MAVIN, “the nation's leading organization that helps build healthier communities by raising awareness about the experiences of mixed heritage people and families.”; I’m in the middle of co-curating an exhibition and writing a book called War Baby/Love Child: Mixed Race Asian American Art; and next month at DePaul (Nov 5-6, 2010) you can join us for a national conference I’m co-organizing titled, “Emerging Paradigms in Critical Mixed Race Studies.”

Individual identity, while interesting and important, can easily fall into the realm of mere identity politics and is limited in its power to affect social change, write history, or demand representation. If this is about getting elected, we need constituents.  Perhaps my Evangelical Christian childhood years conditioned me towards a collectivized search for meaning. Art can be our wild card to get done what we need done at this moment. From the physical nature and objectness of painting, drawing, sculpture to the ephemeral and sometimes virtual nature of video, film or performance, Art's ability to recall the past, reflect the present and imagine the future equips us with the perfect tool to present our multifacited hybrid selves. Beyond an academic dissection of words, intentions, and an analysis of political shortcomings in this country, I believe that we need community. For it is through community that we can begin to answer primary questions of origin and purpose, or as the famous/infamous post-Impressionist painter Paul Gauguin asked - Where Do WE Come From? What Are WE? Where Are WE Going?
My glib comments aside, a very real question of what should be done next with these stories still lies on the table. What can and should art do? If you want to get involved or have some ideas for the Iraq History Project, contact Chuck Tucker, Executive Director, International Human Rights Law Institute.

[i] Hickey, Dave. “Art and Democracy.” DePaul Humanities Center. DePaul University Chicago, IL. 21 May 2010.