Thursday, July 18, 2019

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

Different Themes
Written by Lovely

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