Thursday, July 18, 2019
The Power of Remembrance

Maxine Bell, an intern for the summer of 2019 who studies both Studio Art and American Studies with a focus on Asian American Studies, writes the following piece.

The Power of Remembrance

At the AAAC we have been looking through pictures from the 2014, CHINA: June 4, 1989 exhibit. Looking at images of the gallery without a crowd, the space feels loudly heavy. Click after click, images of uneasy hands, blocks of bold and bloody red, and text confront me. They ask for my eyes as they inform me of their perspectives, gifting me with insight and new understandings.

CHINA: June 4, 1989 gallery image from AAAC Flickr album, “June 4, 1989 Exhibition”

CHINA: June 4, 1989, originally exhibited in 1989 then again in 2014, crafted a space to value the voices of a diverse group of artists that submitted their work in response to the events of June 4, 1989. Response art, especially from Asian American artists, carries such strength in voice that viewers can look at and make meaning of in the context of both the artists’ present and the viewers’ present. Not only does the preservation and showcase of CHINA: June 4, 1989 in 2014 serve the art historian perspective as a piece of understanding history and how it can relate to the present, but it empowers Asian American youth.

Growing up, I never saw Asian American art in the spotlight let alone anywhere. Since I didn’t see it, I believed it didn’t exist. It’s still taking me a lot of unlearning to reclaim an Asian American art history (much of which I am researching on my own). The collected works from 1989 show me that artists of the large Asian American diaspora that I also exist in have and had so much to say. These artists resisted a time of silenced perspectives, restricted media, polar opinions, and the heightened devaluation of artists of color through their art. CHINA: June 4, 1989 also highlights how the AAAC values these artists enough to protect their art for 30 years now. The AAAC’s prolonged validation of these works embodies the power of remembrance.

We see these works as pieces of the past and the present that people can view and decide what they next want to do with this information. We understand these works as valuable mark-making moments as well as a challenge to the narrative of Asian Americans as the model minority. Contrary to the belief that we are a quiet group, we have and we continue to speak up through our voices, art, and writing. The existence of CHINA: June 4, 1989 and the foundation of the AAAC challenge the museums that strategically tuck Asian American artworks in the corners of their Asian Art halls, which erase them from the American narrative.

Lotus Do Brooks, Death's Door, door.
Recently, the AAAC has assigned many of the works from the collection to Humanitarian China (HC). We hope our values align with them in protecting these artworks and giving them the attention and care they deserve. HC plans to conduct a traveling exhibition of these works to major cities in the US and to create a June 4th museum including these artworks. With the help of HC, these works will reach a broader audience than ever before. I hope other Asian American students can see them and take away something valuable: the name of an Asian American artist to further research, the energy of a vocal community, the power of our voice as a collective or in oneself, or the power of art. Regardless, these students will yearn for more: more Asian American Art, community building, counter narratives, and/or more Asian American representation.

These artists, their works, and those who display them engage with the power of remembrance. They share diverse narratives through diverse forms of expression to resist the common narrative. We hope the AAAC remains recognized as a place that values these voices, for the AAAC has held onto these works for over 30 years, always knowing their infinite worth.

By Maxine Bell, AAAC Intern 2019

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Looking at Asian American Artists in the Tiananmen Square Exhibition

In San Francisco AAAC participated in the Chinese Cultural Foundations exhibition "Task of Remembrance" in April 2019 where our exhibition, CHINA: June 4, 1989 was featured. This raised the issue of how to look back, how to remember, but it also raised the issue of how this exhibition furthered the goal and purpose of AAAC, that is to focus on Asian American art.

If one looks at the work of Zhang Hongtu, Martin Wong, Mel Chin, Mo Bahc, Rumiko Tsuda, Kunio Izuka, Yoshiki Araki, Lotus Do Brooks, Dolly Unithan, Jerald Lee, or any of the other Asian American artists in this exhibition one can see an important artwork, a substantial work that contributes to that artist career as well as to the field of Asian American art (see images on AAAC Instagram). In addition, as Asian Americans, this exhibition has connected us back to Asia, to China, to the recent overseas Chinese American community impacted by Tiananmen Square and its international implications. Not only has AAAC has devoted many years to preserving the artworks from this major exhibition for its political content, but for the cultural value that it acquires. Looking back one can see its artistic and cultural importance is woven into the issues of that time, and still into the issues that continue to affect us.

As Asian Americans our cultural direction/s are complex. In the visual arts what needs to be done is to recognize the voices of the broad spectrum of Asian American artists and offer a context, a point of departure to help grasp what may be new before our eyes. In this sense 6.4.89 manifests for us the polar opposites which pull at us where we stand. Two political systems, two ways of perceiving, two ways of perceiving ourselves and the range of perspectives and instincts each of us may have. Do they make sense of your feelings, thoughts, and experiences? Do they help to manifest how others might feel, how other Asian Americans might feel?

Zhang Hongtu, Last Banquet, painting

Look at the artworks in the Tiananmen Square exhibition. Each image is different, each perspective has its own emphasis, of Asian and non Asian artists, they all offer us a moment, a refuge for the beings that we are. This moment may become memorable, uncover an instinct only glimpsed, one work may stand out for you, or support you in expressing how you feel. The artworks are posted in AAAC’s Flickr for you, take this moment.

With Kind Regards,
 Robert Lee
 July 2019

Mel Chin, Forgetting Tiananmen, Kent State, Tlatelolco, hydrostone, steel, organic material.

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Wednesday, July 17, 2019
Humanitarian China & the Tiananmen Square Exhibition

For the 30th Anniversary of Tiananmen Square, AAAC announces the transfer of hundreds of artworks to the California based Humanitarian China organization. The purpose of the original goal will continue. Humanitarian China (HC) is going to carry on AAAC’s goal, the task of remembrance, by exhibiting, promoting, and preserving these artworks, to educate the public, to ensure that “China, June 4, 1989” as a primary reflection of an important historical movement, will not be forgotten.

Humanitarian China, a non-profit organization incorporated in California, by Fengsuo Zhou, Zhao Jing and Gang Xu, all student leaders from the Tiananmen movement, joins together with AAAC to renew the purpose and vitality of this effort. HC is dedicated to provide humanitarian care for political prisoners and Tiananmen Mothers in China, to preserve the history of China’s democracy movement and to educate the general public. Liberty Sculpture Park near Los Angeles, has become the new home of these precious artworks.
Arrival of the CHINA: June 4,1989 exhibition to Liberty Sculpture Park near LA

In assigning its care of the CHINA: June 4, 1989 exhibition to HC, the artworks created in the grip of that moment will keep vivid what was felt and link us to what is felt in the present - the meaning of Tiananmen Square today, enabling each generation to reflect upon the diversity of perspectives from many, many artists.

These artworks will become the centerpiece of a larger collection that will gather with time and become the first permanent June 4th museum committed to preserving this history and the struggle for freedom. This museum will collect and display other artist’s historical objects and artworks opposing censorship and forced amnesia.

Our sincere appreciation goes to all of the artists – some from Europe, Japan & China - who contributed their artworks to make this endeavor possible.

AAAC’s promise in the 1990s was to enable the people of China to see this art, see the support of people elsewhere for the people of China. With passing decades this vision faded. Along with another – the vision of a soldier in a small painting holding an empty milk bottle above a crying baby, painted in the Square in 1989 - its question is now answered. China has prospered. However, the portrait of that soldier, the ugly face of political control has brought to prominence the cost, the trade off China has made for material wealth. The crushing of political dissent, the spectacle and voices of Tiananmen Square are with us, even more now given the specter of fascism growing internationally, even here in the US of A. Reminders on how deeply eugenics was to a clearly American historical outlook remind us of the dangers at risk and the vigilance required. May the people of China and America not forget Tiananmen Square as together our human voyage unfolds.

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