How do you get to know your own parents?

On March 28, 2018, I sent an email to my parents detailing a new art project involving them. But before I get into that, let me take a step back to college.

In college, Nancy and I would talk about our complex relationships with our parents. She brought up wanting to one day preserve her parents’ stories by videotaping them, documentary-style. I thought that was a real cool idea given that I hardly knew anything about my parents, we had terrible conversations (read: none), and neither party knew the other very well (pretty sure my parents thought I was all “drugs, sex, and rock and roll” in high school when I was the one who literally had to be pulled away from studying on my birthday). A project like that would force us to get to know each other, because force seemed necessary at this point.

My relationship with my parents has ebbed and flowed over the years, somewhat improving because I can talk  politics with my dad and I can finally start to acknowledge and move past the flaws in both my parents. Sort of.

Then reading excerpts from an interview with Thi Bui on Vietnamese identity and telling her parents’ stories yesterday resonated with me and I just thought I should blog about my project (and also use this as an opportunity to highlight The Slant, which is like theSkimm, but for Asian American news and Pacific Islander news… aka you should subscribe right now).


Back to March 28, 2018, just a week ago. The email I sent to both of them detailed a sort of “Timeline and Talk” project that I’ve haphazardly named “Where do we come from and where do we go from here?” 

Wait – let’s go back one more day to when Trina and I were having an art date and talking about our complex relationships with our parents (it’s a timeless conversation). When I got home that night, I started writing out what I knew about my mum’s life. It was a big block of left to right, top to bottom text with arrows pointing from one thing to the next. There were a lot of gaps. When did she get her driver’s license and what was that experience like?

Then I started writing overlaying my own timeline to compare with hers. I had never thought about how our individual timelines interacted. I wrote out one for my dad and realized that while I talk with him a lot more, I hardly know anything about his life! After that, I sketched out an idea of how to present this as an art exhibit:

  1. I would work with my parents on fleshing out their timeline, then simplifying and generalizing them for public viewing. That would be the “Where we come from” part.
  2. I would display them in that big block of text, our timelines overlaid, enlarged for people to see. Visible, out in the open – so unlike my parents’ generation to be airing out our dirty laundry.
  3. There would be a secondary timeline – a fictional extrapolation of what I think our timelines could look like moving forward from this project. That would be the “Where do we go from here” part.
  4. It would be cathartic, everyone would be like, “wow talking with your parents – wild stuff,” and then they would participate in the interactive portion where they would start writing their timelines, their family timelines, their partner’s/s’ timelines, etc. I can dream.

I get it – I’m super awkward and I don’t know how to ask my parents about their lives. But I do know how to fabricate and facilitate a space wherein we can genuinely learn and share our stories with one another… and I do know how to art.

So I sent that initial proposal to my parents. One of them reacted positively to the project, but also wanted to remain anonymous.

Well, if I can’t make this into an art exhibit, then at least I will have the personal, private satisfaction of getting to know my parents.

the aZn room

You know who you should follow on Instagram? @theaznroom.

Why follow? Because it’s Trina and I building up towards our open studio tour in September, aka a weekend-long exhibit in Trina’s backyard.

Why “the aZn room”? Because that’s the space we’ve claimed to comfortably be whatever it is we define as the “Asian” part of our Asian American identities. When we confine ourselves to our room, we can explore what it is to NOT:

  • Speak our native languages
  • Understand why we can’t be just American
  • Want to be just American
  • Understand why our families did what they did
  • Be embarrassed about our smelly food or more efficient brooms
  • Compartmentalize to cope and survive

… the room is infinite, the world outside is even greater, and the space between is what we dare to tread. Of course, most of it is nonsensically poking fun at stereotypes – and we revel in it. (lol)

So obviously you should follow us.

Beyond our individual work, we’re also working on a dope series of commercials advertising for this show. Look forward to our top-of-the-charts hit single music video, a home shopping network preview of our work, and more for the limited-time-only low, low price of $Follow @theaznroom.

AUGUST: Here’s what I’m up to

Hi-Fructose exhibit at the Crocker Art Museum

I went to see it twice! It was great to finally see works in-person by James Jean, Kehinde Wiley, Audrey Kawasaki, Mark Ryden, Tara McPherson, etc.

But being there made me think about the accessibility of art focused on justice. The first time I went to the show, there were lots of people who walked into the exhibit, exclaiming things like, “Boobs,” and then walking out. I really loved seeing environmental themes throughout the show, but who was it for and what was the point?

If you create an artwork that shows how humans are destroying the planet, what is the purpose? To make a cool image? To get your frustrations out in a beautiful way? Should it inspire change? Should it include more information on what viewers can do to follow-through with your shared frustrations? Is this the low-brow/pop-surrealist visual form of academic circle jerk? Has it achieved its purpose by inspiring a blog from an angst-ridden artist falling into their role as pretentious art critic performing the ritual academic circle jerk?

The second time I went to the show, I got a better look at a digital piece (I stupidly didn’t take note of the artist’s name) that was projected onto a physical frame on the wall, set in front of a couch covered in crocheted (knit? I don’t know the difference) doilies, flowers, and a rat. The digital projection was a combination of stop motion crocheting of different pieces, unraveling and coming together again to form a variety of images, including that of Frida Kahlo. In my Studio Art major mind, this piece was amazing. It spoke to how undervalued textile work is as an art form, partly because it’s “a woman’s art.” It also spoke to how undervalued digital art is compared to traditional works. You could sit on the couch covered in the art projected onto the frame. The physical frame gave the digital work a place on a museum wall, but the work itself still splayed out beyond the edges of the frame.

But saying all of this to my History/Law major partner was just kind of pretentious and lacking context. The art world has its own history and politics. A lot of it is trivial – artists might starve, but in a different way than communities who have no access to clean water. But a lot of it is just a piece of a larger puzzle with many moving pieces. I guess you can’t really starve if you’ve got food for thought, right? :\

Anyway, this piece by Martin Wittfooth was my favorite in the show and I could sit in front of it for hours. This piece was so powerful, and I think it was one of the most accessible as far as being able to understand it without reading a description.

Co-worker Fan Fiction

My co-worker fan fiction is unfolding IRL. I don’t even have to write it. The shout outs to Twin Peaks, Smash Mouth, and Jerry Brown occur organically.

For one of our upcoming events, we just found out that one of the food vendors is gourmet cotton candy literally inspired by SHREK. There is no better fan fiction fodder. #someBODY

Health

I need to not be sick or broken all the time, so I am going to be spending a lot of time on health for the next two months, which also means I can’t afford to spend money on Hacker Lab :C Hoping to return to Hacker Lab in November so I can start using their photography studio, and maybe some other cool stuff. But in the meantime, maybe my focus can shift to healthy living and art.

Sketching

Other than that, I’ve just been dabbing and dabbling with digital sketches. I’m a slow worker and my art pal Trina knows that (we were supposed to do an Asian art zine together, but man am I slow moving with art @_@;; is what it is).

JK Still under construction

TFW WP theme support fixes something and breaks other things. Nico – u ma boy but yoooooo what even

In the meantime, here’s a fun invitation flyer I did for my bff’s birthday (real info smudged out because I can’t have people lurking my bff’s stomping grounds). Because #duckgame. Obviously.

wank

wank

Done

JK I fleshed out the rest of my website today. Lemme know what you think. It’s kind of slow on my computer, but my Sonic internet also sucks.

I’ll try to keep my website updated every now and then, but the most timely updates you’ll get from me are probably via Instagram.

Off to continue working on my sort of secret coworker fan fiction comic and learning Python before the last week of bootcamp. Shit.