curated exhibition

Queer Horizons

Queer Horizons features work by Asian diasporic artists that envisions a queer future that unsettles the past, disrupts the present, and imagines new worlds beyond the limits of the horizon.

 

We take inspiration from José Esteban Muñoz, the late queer studies scholar, and his conception of a “not yet here.” As he explains in Cruising Utopia, the “not yet here” is a phenomenon of queer futurity that “allows us to see and feel beyond the quagmire of the present.”

 

Within the last ten years in the US, we have celebrated the legal recognition of same-sex marriage, the end of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and the formal acceptance of gays in the military, and increased visibility of LGBTQ bodies and personalities in popular culture. In our present moment, however, LGBTQ rights, safety, and health care are increasingly under threat. Simultaneously, the current administration frames Asian American communities as “un-American,” the after tremors along old Yellow Peril fault lines. They are foreign, unassimilable, undocumented: Muslim “terrorists,” hordes of H1B visa techie taking over American jobs, or “model minority” students taking up too much space in classrooms.

 

However, the artists and works in Queer Horizons name a possibility beyond the "model minority”: as queer Asian American artists, they disrupt the model minority narrative defined by heteronormative notions of success. Each artist engages a non-linear temporality moving between pasts, presents, and futures, and each work gestures towards a queer history that we, as Queer Asian Americans, can excavate, (re)create, and (re)produce in our pasts, presents, and futures. For example, Greyson Hong's Costco photos, Việt Lê's productions of club scenes/ online performances, and Tina Takemoto's unconventional short film all tell of an alternative past to inform a queer alternative future. As we think of these experiences at the intersections with undocumented status, foreignness, and Islamophobia, their highly experimental and queer aesthetic in storytelling suggests further radical potential.

 

It is in this dangerous political climate that the artists in Queer Horizons insist on claiming liminal and hybrid spaces and lives, queer collectivity, and intersectional solidarity. Embracing failure, misbehavior, non-normativity, and defiant joyfulness thus becomes a radical form of resistance. This is the kind of utopian horizon that we call forward. In the spirit of artist Jeffrey Augustine Songco’s video, “Let’s Dance America!”

 

Queer Horizons appears in conjunction with the publication of Laura Kina and Jan Christian Bernabe’s book, Queering Contemporary Asian American Art (University of Washington Press, 2017). http://www.queeringcontemporaryasianamericanart.com/

 

Curated by Jan Christian Bernabe and Laura Kina

 

Curatorial Assistant: Mads Le

 

Contributors: Anida Yoeu Ali, Sita Kuratomi Bhaumik, Kim Anno, Wafaa Bilal, Greyson Hong, Kiam Marcelo Junio, Việt Lê, Maya Mackrandilal, Zavé Martohardjono, Jeffrey Augustine Songco, Tina Takemoto, and Saya Woolfalk.

 

Contributors’ works are published in staggered waves from late-June to late-July 2017, after which the whole exhibition are archived permanently on CA+T’s website.

 

Special thanks to the Andy Warhol Foundation and the California Institute of Contemporary Arts for fiscal support.

 

Summer 2017

Topaz Burn

Tina Takemoto

2009 Animated film of soy sauce drawing Duration: 1 min. (looped) Courtesy of Tina Takemoto

contributor

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Tina Takemoto

Tina Takemoto is a queer fourth-generation Japanese American artist and scholar based in the San Francisco Bay Area. She received her M.F.A. in visual art from Rutgers University and Ph.D. in Visual and Cultural Studies from the University of Rochester. She is associate professor at California College of the Arts.

Takemoto has presented artwork and performances internationally and has received grants funded by Art Matters, the Fleishhacker Foundation, the James Irvine Foundation, and the San Francisco Arts Commission. Her film Looking for Jiro (2011) received Best Experimental Film Jury Award at the Austin LGBT International Film Festival.

Her articles appear in Asian Diasporic Visual Cultures and the Americas, Afterimage, Millennium Film Journal, Art Journal, GLQ, Journal of Visual Culture, Performance Research, Radical Teacher, Theatre Survey, Women and Performance, and the anthologies Queering Asian American Art, Otherwise: Imagining Queer Feminist Art Histories and Thinking Through the Skin. Takemoto serves on the board of the Queer Cultural Center and is co-founder of Queer Conversations on Culture and the Arts.

My work explores the hidden dimensions of same-sex intimacy and queer sexuality among Japanese Americans imprisoned by the US government during World War II. Depictions of queer wartime history are rare. As a fourth-generation Japanese American, I grew up hearing family stories about camp, but no one ever mentioned same-sex intimacy in the camps. Unlike most gender-segregated prisoners, Japanese Americans were incarcerated by family unit and pressured to conform to heterosexual norms. My work adopts a playful and political approach to Japanese American identity, queer sexuality, and historical memory. Looking for Jiro is a multimedia project inspired by Jiro Onuma, a dandy gay bachelor who admired musclemen and worked in the mess hall while imprisoned at Topaz incarceration camp in Utah. This project imagines how Onuma survived the isolation, humiliation, and heternormativity of imprisonment through animated soy sauce drawings, drag king performance, experimental music video, homoerotic bread making, and the hand-crafted art of “gentleman’s gaman.”

location

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  • Born: California, USA
  • Based: San Francisco, CA, USA

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Topaz Burn (screen capture)

Tina Takemoto

2009 Screen capture of animated film Courtesy of Tina Takemoto

contributor

X

Tina Takemoto

Tina Takemoto is a queer fourth-generation Japanese American artist and scholar based in the San Francisco Bay Area. She received her M.F.A. in visual art from Rutgers University and Ph.D. in Visual and Cultural Studies from the University of Rochester. She is associate professor at California College of the Arts.

Takemoto has presented artwork and performances internationally and has received grants funded by Art Matters, the Fleishhacker Foundation, the James Irvine Foundation, and the San Francisco Arts Commission. Her film Looking for Jiro (2011) received Best Experimental Film Jury Award at the Austin LGBT International Film Festival.

Her articles appear in Asian Diasporic Visual Cultures and the Americas, Afterimage, Millennium Film Journal, Art Journal, GLQ, Journal of Visual Culture, Performance Research, Radical Teacher, Theatre Survey, Women and Performance, and the anthologies Queering Asian American Art, Otherwise: Imagining Queer Feminist Art Histories and Thinking Through the Skin. Takemoto serves on the board of the Queer Cultural Center and is co-founder of Queer Conversations on Culture and the Arts.

My work explores the hidden dimensions of same-sex intimacy and queer sexuality among Japanese Americans imprisoned by the US government during World War II. Depictions of queer wartime history are rare. As a fourth-generation Japanese American, I grew up hearing family stories about camp, but no one ever mentioned same-sex intimacy in the camps. Unlike most gender-segregated prisoners, Japanese Americans were incarcerated by family unit and pressured to conform to heterosexual norms. My work adopts a playful and political approach to Japanese American identity, queer sexuality, and historical memory. Looking for Jiro is a multimedia project inspired by Jiro Onuma, a dandy gay bachelor who admired musclemen and worked in the mess hall while imprisoned at Topaz incarceration camp in Utah. This project imagines how Onuma survived the isolation, humiliation, and heternormativity of imprisonment through animated soy sauce drawings, drag king performance, experimental music video, homoerotic bread making, and the hand-crafted art of “gentleman’s gaman.”

location

X
  • Born: California, USA
  • Based: San Francisco, CA, USA

comments

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GENERAL DYNAMICS 2.0

Zavé Martohardjono

Apr 2017 Video documentation of GENERAL DYNAMICS 2.0 performed at Gibney Dance Company Duration: 21 min. 22 sec. Courtesy of Zavé Martohardjono

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X

Zavé Martohardjono

b. 1984
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Zavé Martohardjono is an interdisciplinary artist interested in geopolitics, social justice, queer glam, and embodied healing. They were born in Canada and call New York City and Indonesia home. They received their B.A. in International Relations from Brown University (2006) and M.F.A. in Media Arts Production from the City College of New York (2009). They’ve performed at BAAD!, Boston Center for the Arts, Center for Performance Research, Gibney Dance, Issue Project Room, Leonard & Bina Ellen Art Gallery, Movement Research at Judson Church, Panoply Performance Laboratory, Recess, and the Wild Project. Zavé is currently a dance artist in residence at the Bronx Museum of the Arts through the BxMA Co-Lab residency. Previously, Zavé was a Gibney Dance Work Up 3.0 artist (2017); had residencies at The Shandaken Project at Storm King (2016), La MaMa (2016), Chez Bushwick (2015); and was a Lambda Literary Fellow (2015). They recently contributed to Dancer-Citizen Issue 4 and MXRS Commons' February 2017 Commons. When not performing, they work at the ACLU, organize with artists of color in NYC, and are a Third Wave Fund advisory board member.

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  • Born: Montreal, Quebec, Canada
  • Based: Brooklyn, NY, USA

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GENERAL DYNAMICS 2.0

Zavé Martohardjono

Apr 2017 Photodocumentation of GENERAL DYNAMICS 2.0 performed at Gibney Dance Company Courtesy of Zavé Martohardjono Photograph by Scott Shaw

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Zavé Martohardjono

b. 1984
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Zavé Martohardjono is an interdisciplinary artist interested in geopolitics, social justice, queer glam, and embodied healing. They were born in Canada and call New York City and Indonesia home. They received their B.A. in International Relations from Brown University (2006) and M.F.A. in Media Arts Production from the City College of New York (2009). They’ve performed at BAAD!, Boston Center for the Arts, Center for Performance Research, Gibney Dance, Issue Project Room, Leonard & Bina Ellen Art Gallery, Movement Research at Judson Church, Panoply Performance Laboratory, Recess, and the Wild Project. Zavé is currently a dance artist in residence at the Bronx Museum of the Arts through the BxMA Co-Lab residency. Previously, Zavé was a Gibney Dance Work Up 3.0 artist (2017); had residencies at The Shandaken Project at Storm King (2016), La MaMa (2016), Chez Bushwick (2015); and was a Lambda Literary Fellow (2015). They recently contributed to Dancer-Citizen Issue 4 and MXRS Commons' February 2017 Commons. When not performing, they work at the ACLU, organize with artists of color in NYC, and are a Third Wave Fund advisory board member.

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  • Born: Montreal, Quebec, Canada
  • Based: Brooklyn, NY, USA

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GENERAL DYNAMICS 2.0

Zavé Martohardjono

Apr 2017 Photodocumentation of GENERAL DYNAMICS 2.0 performed at Gibney Dance Company Courtesy of Zavé Martohardjono Photograph by Scott Shaw

contributor

X

Zavé Martohardjono

b. 1984
image description
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Zavé Martohardjono is an interdisciplinary artist interested in geopolitics, social justice, queer glam, and embodied healing. They were born in Canada and call New York City and Indonesia home. They received their B.A. in International Relations from Brown University (2006) and M.F.A. in Media Arts Production from the City College of New York (2009). They’ve performed at BAAD!, Boston Center for the Arts, Center for Performance Research, Gibney Dance, Issue Project Room, Leonard & Bina Ellen Art Gallery, Movement Research at Judson Church, Panoply Performance Laboratory, Recess, and the Wild Project. Zavé is currently a dance artist in residence at the Bronx Museum of the Arts through the BxMA Co-Lab residency. Previously, Zavé was a Gibney Dance Work Up 3.0 artist (2017); had residencies at The Shandaken Project at Storm King (2016), La MaMa (2016), Chez Bushwick (2015); and was a Lambda Literary Fellow (2015). They recently contributed to Dancer-Citizen Issue 4 and MXRS Commons' February 2017 Commons. When not performing, they work at the ACLU, organize with artists of color in NYC, and are a Third Wave Fund advisory board member.

location

X
  • Born: Montreal, Quebec, Canada
  • Based: Brooklyn, NY, USA

comments

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GENERAL DYNAMICS 2.0

Zavé Martohardjono

Apr 2017 Photodocumentation of GENERAL DYNAMICS 2.0 performed at Gibney Dance Company Courtesy of Zavé Martohardjono Photograph by Scott Shaw

contributor

X

Zavé Martohardjono

b. 1984
image description
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Zavé Martohardjono is an interdisciplinary artist interested in geopolitics, social justice, queer glam, and embodied healing. They were born in Canada and call New York City and Indonesia home. They received their B.A. in International Relations from Brown University (2006) and M.F.A. in Media Arts Production from the City College of New York (2009). They’ve performed at BAAD!, Boston Center for the Arts, Center for Performance Research, Gibney Dance, Issue Project Room, Leonard & Bina Ellen Art Gallery, Movement Research at Judson Church, Panoply Performance Laboratory, Recess, and the Wild Project. Zavé is currently a dance artist in residence at the Bronx Museum of the Arts through the BxMA Co-Lab residency. Previously, Zavé was a Gibney Dance Work Up 3.0 artist (2017); had residencies at The Shandaken Project at Storm King (2016), La MaMa (2016), Chez Bushwick (2015); and was a Lambda Literary Fellow (2015). They recently contributed to Dancer-Citizen Issue 4 and MXRS Commons' February 2017 Commons. When not performing, they work at the ACLU, organize with artists of color in NYC, and are a Third Wave Fund advisory board member.

location

X
  • Born: Montreal, Quebec, Canada
  • Based: Brooklyn, NY, USA

comments

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Estamos contra el muro | We are against the wall

Sita Kuratomi Bhaumik

2016 Photographic documentation Courtesy of the artist

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X

Sita Kuratomi Bhaumik

b. 1981
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Sita Kuratomi Bhaumik is conceptual artist working with craft and food to tell the stories of migration. Sita holds a B.A. in Studio Art from Scripps College, and an M.F.A. in interdisciplinary art and an M.A. in Visual and Critical Studies from California College of the Arts. Raised in Los Angeles and based in Oakland, she is Indian and Japanese Colombian American. Sita has exhibited and collaborated in the US, Holland, Ireland, Hong Kong, and Mexico. Her projects include installing curry powder in a European castle, importing artisan goods over the US-Mexico border, and leading workshops about food, migration, and memory in Hong Kong. Her most recent project, Estamos contra el muro | We are against the wall, involved the collaborative construction of a border wall made entirely of piñatas. The East Bay Express described it as "the most joyous political critique of the year."
 
Sita is also a co-founder of the People's Kitchen Collective (PKC), who were named in 2016's Yerba Buena Center for the Arts’ YBCA 100 list. They are recipients of the Center for Asian American Media’s (CAAM) Advocate Award and were awarded support by the Kenneth Rainin Foundation Open Spaces Program. PKC recently exhibited with For Freedoms, the first artist-run super PAC at Jack Shainman Gallery in New York and at the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center's Crosslines pop-up museum. The goal of The People's Kitchen is to not only fill our stomachs but also nourish our souls, feed our minds and fuel a movement.
 
 See also peopleskitchencollective.com.

Photo credit: Rachyel Magana



 

For the Love/Hate of Curry

A golden, aromatic spice blend that is prized by some and reviled by others, curry powder is a polarizing substance. Over the past five years I have used it as a dye, perfume, and pigment in my art practice. But I rarely eat the bottled stuff.

What, exactly, is curry? It is a delicious dish and an inadequate word. As food historian Thy Tran once told me, it is a word that falls short because it attempts to use the language of the colonizer to describe the many foods of the colonized. The first reference to curry powder was published in Mrs. Beeton’s Book of Household Management (1961), a book to aid British housewives in the particulars of maintaining a proper home in the colonies. I began to trace my own history through an alternative spice route. Being Indian and Japanese Colombian American, we ate curry all the time in our house. Indian cooks don’t usually use curry powder--but my mother, who is Colombian-born Japanese, made the kind that came out of a box. She mixed it with chicken, carrots and potatoes to create one of my favorite meals (coincidentally, the most popular brand of curry powder happens to be my initials, “S&B” and so I took it as a sign that I was meant to work with the material). Why does Japan’s #1 dish come from a package? Japan was introduced to curry by the British who made a roux of flour and fat with the spice blend. The Indian varieties? Those were more difficult to define. My father is from a small village outside of Kolkata. I still have no idea what is and isn’t a “curry.” Neither does my family. It’s just food in sauce – but it’s so much more.

After my first installation with curry powder in 2008, I searched the phrase “smells like curry” online. I suppose I expected to find a racist joke or two and a few recipes. Instead, I found thousands of entries referring to the way Indian people smelled. The one I will always remember was a posting on Yahoo! Answers:

Q: Help, my neighbor’s house smells like curry.
A: Call the INS.

I became obsessed with this anonymous entry. For the first time I realized that race is constructed by more than what we see.

Over the next few years I sprinkled curry powder through the streets of Oakland, opened a Curry Institute (2011) at Whitman College, where visitors could chart their own Curry Cartography, and worked with perfumer Yosh Han to create a curry perfume called Gilt (2010) just because I wanted everyone to have the right to smell like curry. Eventually the spice pieces made their way onto the walls themselves.

Although my ingredients span the globe, I always source my materials from family-owned businesses. I had been purchasing ingredients from Bombay Bazaar, a hidden grocery store that had closed and re-opened in San Francisco’s wildly gentrifying Mission district. The last time I went in to say hello, the store had disappeared. Shelves, fluorescent lighting, and all. It is with the last batch of spices purchased at this shop that I created Dear Indian Grocery Store both in the bathroom of 18 Reasons in San Francisco and at the San Jose Museum of Art in November 2013. Feeling yet another loss in a city I recognize less and less, I wrote an open letter to the grocery store. This letter always accompanies the installation. As with my previous installations, the excess curry powder collected from the installation will be used to dye napkins and tablecloths for a sliding-scale community dinner. The curry powder is reserved for the art - it is rarely used in the cooking of the meal.

Most Indian cooks would never be caught with curry powder in their kitchens - it limits the complexity and variety of a dish. This powder is India concentrate. This is the myth we expect in Indian supermarkets, restaurants, and, yes, even people. But this complicated blend has also been transformed into the unique flavors of comfort all over the world.

location

X
  • Born: Los Angeles, CA, USA
  • Based: Oakland, CA, USA

comments

X

Estamos contra el muro | We are against the wall

Sita Kuratomi Bhaumik

2016 Photographic documentation Courtesy of the artist

contributor

X

Sita Kuratomi Bhaumik

b. 1981
image description
  • See All Works
  • visit website

Sita Kuratomi Bhaumik is conceptual artist working with craft and food to tell the stories of migration. Sita holds a B.A. in Studio Art from Scripps College, and an M.F.A. in interdisciplinary art and an M.A. in Visual and Critical Studies from California College of the Arts. Raised in Los Angeles and based in Oakland, she is Indian and Japanese Colombian American. Sita has exhibited and collaborated in the US, Holland, Ireland, Hong Kong, and Mexico. Her projects include installing curry powder in a European castle, importing artisan goods over the US-Mexico border, and leading workshops about food, migration, and memory in Hong Kong. Her most recent project, Estamos contra el muro | We are against the wall, involved the collaborative construction of a border wall made entirely of piñatas. The East Bay Express described it as "the most joyous political critique of the year."
 
Sita is also a co-founder of the People's Kitchen Collective (PKC), who were named in 2016's Yerba Buena Center for the Arts’ YBCA 100 list. They are recipients of the Center for Asian American Media’s (CAAM) Advocate Award and were awarded support by the Kenneth Rainin Foundation Open Spaces Program. PKC recently exhibited with For Freedoms, the first artist-run super PAC at Jack Shainman Gallery in New York and at the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center's Crosslines pop-up museum. The goal of The People's Kitchen is to not only fill our stomachs but also nourish our souls, feed our minds and fuel a movement.
 
 See also peopleskitchencollective.com.

Photo credit: Rachyel Magana



 

For the Love/Hate of Curry

A golden, aromatic spice blend that is prized by some and reviled by others, curry powder is a polarizing substance. Over the past five years I have used it as a dye, perfume, and pigment in my art practice. But I rarely eat the bottled stuff.

What, exactly, is curry? It is a delicious dish and an inadequate word. As food historian Thy Tran once told me, it is a word that falls short because it attempts to use the language of the colonizer to describe the many foods of the colonized. The first reference to curry powder was published in Mrs. Beeton’s Book of Household Management (1961), a book to aid British housewives in the particulars of maintaining a proper home in the colonies. I began to trace my own history through an alternative spice route. Being Indian and Japanese Colombian American, we ate curry all the time in our house. Indian cooks don’t usually use curry powder--but my mother, who is Colombian-born Japanese, made the kind that came out of a box. She mixed it with chicken, carrots and potatoes to create one of my favorite meals (coincidentally, the most popular brand of curry powder happens to be my initials, “S&B” and so I took it as a sign that I was meant to work with the material). Why does Japan’s #1 dish come from a package? Japan was introduced to curry by the British who made a roux of flour and fat with the spice blend. The Indian varieties? Those were more difficult to define. My father is from a small village outside of Kolkata. I still have no idea what is and isn’t a “curry.” Neither does my family. It’s just food in sauce – but it’s so much more.

After my first installation with curry powder in 2008, I searched the phrase “smells like curry” online. I suppose I expected to find a racist joke or two and a few recipes. Instead, I found thousands of entries referring to the way Indian people smelled. The one I will always remember was a posting on Yahoo! Answers:

Q: Help, my neighbor’s house smells like curry.
A: Call the INS.

I became obsessed with this anonymous entry. For the first time I realized that race is constructed by more than what we see.

Over the next few years I sprinkled curry powder through the streets of Oakland, opened a Curry Institute (2011) at Whitman College, where visitors could chart their own Curry Cartography, and worked with perfumer Yosh Han to create a curry perfume called Gilt (2010) just because I wanted everyone to have the right to smell like curry. Eventually the spice pieces made their way onto the walls themselves.

Although my ingredients span the globe, I always source my materials from family-owned businesses. I had been purchasing ingredients from Bombay Bazaar, a hidden grocery store that had closed and re-opened in San Francisco’s wildly gentrifying Mission district. The last time I went in to say hello, the store had disappeared. Shelves, fluorescent lighting, and all. It is with the last batch of spices purchased at this shop that I created Dear Indian Grocery Store both in the bathroom of 18 Reasons in San Francisco and at the San Jose Museum of Art in November 2013. Feeling yet another loss in a city I recognize less and less, I wrote an open letter to the grocery store. This letter always accompanies the installation. As with my previous installations, the excess curry powder collected from the installation will be used to dye napkins and tablecloths for a sliding-scale community dinner. The curry powder is reserved for the art - it is rarely used in the cooking of the meal.

Most Indian cooks would never be caught with curry powder in their kitchens - it limits the complexity and variety of a dish. This powder is India concentrate. This is the myth we expect in Indian supermarkets, restaurants, and, yes, even people. But this complicated blend has also been transformed into the unique flavors of comfort all over the world.

location

X
  • Born: Los Angeles, CA, USA
  • Based: Oakland, CA, USA

comments

X

Estamos contra el muro | We are against the wall

Sita Kuratomi Bhaumik

2016 Photographic documentation Courtesy of the artist

contributor

X

Sita Kuratomi Bhaumik

b. 1981
image description
  • See All Works
  • visit website

Sita Kuratomi Bhaumik is conceptual artist working with craft and food to tell the stories of migration. Sita holds a B.A. in Studio Art from Scripps College, and an M.F.A. in interdisciplinary art and an M.A. in Visual and Critical Studies from California College of the Arts. Raised in Los Angeles and based in Oakland, she is Indian and Japanese Colombian American. Sita has exhibited and collaborated in the US, Holland, Ireland, Hong Kong, and Mexico. Her projects include installing curry powder in a European castle, importing artisan goods over the US-Mexico border, and leading workshops about food, migration, and memory in Hong Kong. Her most recent project, Estamos contra el muro | We are against the wall, involved the collaborative construction of a border wall made entirely of piñatas. The East Bay Express described it as "the most joyous political critique of the year."
 
Sita is also a co-founder of the People's Kitchen Collective (PKC), who were named in 2016's Yerba Buena Center for the Arts’ YBCA 100 list. They are recipients of the Center for Asian American Media’s (CAAM) Advocate Award and were awarded support by the Kenneth Rainin Foundation Open Spaces Program. PKC recently exhibited with For Freedoms, the first artist-run super PAC at Jack Shainman Gallery in New York and at the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center's Crosslines pop-up museum. The goal of The People's Kitchen is to not only fill our stomachs but also nourish our souls, feed our minds and fuel a movement.
 
 See also peopleskitchencollective.com.

Photo credit: Rachyel Magana



 

For the Love/Hate of Curry

A golden, aromatic spice blend that is prized by some and reviled by others, curry powder is a polarizing substance. Over the past five years I have used it as a dye, perfume, and pigment in my art practice. But I rarely eat the bottled stuff.

What, exactly, is curry? It is a delicious dish and an inadequate word. As food historian Thy Tran once told me, it is a word that falls short because it attempts to use the language of the colonizer to describe the many foods of the colonized. The first reference to curry powder was published in Mrs. Beeton’s Book of Household Management (1961), a book to aid British housewives in the particulars of maintaining a proper home in the colonies. I began to trace my own history through an alternative spice route. Being Indian and Japanese Colombian American, we ate curry all the time in our house. Indian cooks don’t usually use curry powder--but my mother, who is Colombian-born Japanese, made the kind that came out of a box. She mixed it with chicken, carrots and potatoes to create one of my favorite meals (coincidentally, the most popular brand of curry powder happens to be my initials, “S&B” and so I took it as a sign that I was meant to work with the material). Why does Japan’s #1 dish come from a package? Japan was introduced to curry by the British who made a roux of flour and fat with the spice blend. The Indian varieties? Those were more difficult to define. My father is from a small village outside of Kolkata. I still have no idea what is and isn’t a “curry.” Neither does my family. It’s just food in sauce – but it’s so much more.

After my first installation with curry powder in 2008, I searched the phrase “smells like curry” online. I suppose I expected to find a racist joke or two and a few recipes. Instead, I found thousands of entries referring to the way Indian people smelled. The one I will always remember was a posting on Yahoo! Answers:

Q: Help, my neighbor’s house smells like curry.
A: Call the INS.

I became obsessed with this anonymous entry. For the first time I realized that race is constructed by more than what we see.

Over the next few years I sprinkled curry powder through the streets of Oakland, opened a Curry Institute (2011) at Whitman College, where visitors could chart their own Curry Cartography, and worked with perfumer Yosh Han to create a curry perfume called Gilt (2010) just because I wanted everyone to have the right to smell like curry. Eventually the spice pieces made their way onto the walls themselves.

Although my ingredients span the globe, I always source my materials from family-owned businesses. I had been purchasing ingredients from Bombay Bazaar, a hidden grocery store that had closed and re-opened in San Francisco’s wildly gentrifying Mission district. The last time I went in to say hello, the store had disappeared. Shelves, fluorescent lighting, and all. It is with the last batch of spices purchased at this shop that I created Dear Indian Grocery Store both in the bathroom of 18 Reasons in San Francisco and at the San Jose Museum of Art in November 2013. Feeling yet another loss in a city I recognize less and less, I wrote an open letter to the grocery store. This letter always accompanies the installation. As with my previous installations, the excess curry powder collected from the installation will be used to dye napkins and tablecloths for a sliding-scale community dinner. The curry powder is reserved for the art - it is rarely used in the cooking of the meal.

Most Indian cooks would never be caught with curry powder in their kitchens - it limits the complexity and variety of a dish. This powder is India concentrate. This is the myth we expect in Indian supermarkets, restaurants, and, yes, even people. But this complicated blend has also been transformed into the unique flavors of comfort all over the world.

location

X
  • Born: Los Angeles, CA, USA
  • Based: Oakland, CA, USA

comments

X

contributor

X

Kiam Marcelo Junio

b. 1984
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Kiam Marcelo Junio is a Chicago-based interdisciplinary artist working across media, from dance and performance to sculpture, installation, photography, and writing. Their research and art work center around queer identity, Philippine history and the Filipino diaspora, Western imperialism, and personal and collective healing through collaborative projects and individual self-work. Kiam served seven years in the US Navy as a Hospital Corpsman. Their work has been exhibited, screened, and performed throughout Chicago at Boyfriends, Defibrillator, Links Hall, the Museum of Contemporary Art, the Bijou Theater, and the Field Museum, as well as in New York City, NY; Riverside, CA; Mexico City, Mexico; Cadiz, Spain; and Montreal, Canada. They were born in the Philippines and have lived in the US, Japan, and Spain.

The role of the artist, the magician, the prophet, and each individual, is to bring about change in the world through one's own personal transformations, revolutions, and revelations.

As an artist who is also a person of color, an Asian American, a Filipino immigrant, a US Navy veteran, gender-fluid, and decidedly queer, my work exists within these contexts but is not bound by them. I use a multidisciplinary approach in my research and art making. I develop a conceptual ecosystem in which my works function in myriad ways, informing one another. I create photos, installations, videos, and performances. I work collaboratively with local artists, dancers, musicians, and organizers. I foster relationships within my communities and relish in our blossoming. By working with others, we come to know and become more ourselves.

I look towards the future and feel its inertia - the momentum that propels us into infinite uncharted moments, carrying the past forward

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  • Born: Quezon City, Philippines
  • Based: Chicago, IL, USA

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