commissioned

New Works

As part of its mission to generate new modes of knowledge production and creative and critical lenses for understanding and transforming global conditions, CA+T invites an established or up-and-coming artist to produce new art piece in conjunction with each curated exhibition. The artist may respond to the exhibition’s theme in any manner, from the broad to the specific, or medium, from writing to visual to performance-based, that s/he chooses. The resulting work is launched alongside the new curated exhibition.

Stay in the Light

Christian Almiron of Gentei Kaijo

2014 Live Improvisational Jam Session 21m 37s Courtesy of Gentei Kaijo

contributor

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Christian Almiron of Gentei Kaijo

b. 1982

I am a Filipino American born and raised in New City, NY, in Rockland County. Like most children I was forced to play the piano. In this case I was 5 learning from a teacher who made me cry during most lessons. Needless to say, I was more interested in playing outside than practicing. I would always dread my next lesson. I eventually quit when I was 7 or so until I met my church organist at 10. He was kind and played beautifully, but most importantly, he was patient. I remember thinking “I want to do that!” I’ve always had difficulty expressing myself with words, but somehow music was a language that came easily for me to speak. As cliché as that sounds, it’s the truth. Luckily, I’ve been working professionally since. I got my Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from SUNY Purchase and moved to New York City where my real education started. Since then I’ve worked in TV, feature films, played all around the world and, more recently, composing music for commercials. You can hear me play every Sunday at “The World Famous Café Wha” and every Thursday at Arlenes Grocery for “The Lesson” on the Lower East Side. I look forward to whatever music has in store for the future and always looking for opportunities to grow. 

 

The “Lesson at Arlene’s Grocery” has garnered the reputation and respect as the ultimate live hip-hop jam on the Lower East Side, NYC. You’ve recently received wonderful press attention from The Village Voice  and OkayPlayer. Please describe the community and spirit of "The Lesson at Arlene's Grocery" and Gentei Kaijo’s role in building it.

The Lesson is a community which embraces the unknown. It's a place where people foster creativity and more importantly change.

Why did you choose this weekly jam session to create this particular song for the Typhoon anniversary?

The name of my band is called Gentei Kaijo which is a Japanese phrase meaning “limitation cancellation.” We try to cancel our own limits whether it’s getting better as musicians, learning how to coexist or facing obstacles we tend to face everyday. When we perform at The Lesson we improve, we make it up as we go. And with trust and faith, we can build something from nothing--it's magical. So when I think about that, I feel these ideas can apply to life especially those who fell victim to Typhoon Haiyan.

Who is the personnel on the song?

Christian Almiron on Keyboards, Nick Semrad on Keyboards, Lenny Reece on Drums, David Cutler on Bass, Phase One the EmCee, Jonathon Hoard on Vocals. Guest Appearance by Mike Larry.

What does the title mean?

“Stay in the Light” was the hook that John came up with in that moment. The meaning of the title is what you need it to be. 

location

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  • Born: Nyak, NY, USA
  • Based: New York, NY, USA

comments

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Confessional

Jeffrey Augustine Songco

2014 Digital print 30 in. x 12.5 in. CA+T Commissioned Work

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Jeffrey Augustine Songco

b. 1983
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Jeffrey Augustine Songco is a multi-media artist. Born and raised in New Jersey, USA, to immigrant Filipino parents, his artistic identity developed at a young age with training in classical ballet, voice, and musical theater. Today, he uses these disciplines in the performing arts to produce stories as works of visual art. He holds a B.F.A. from Carnegie Mellon University and an M.F.A. from San Francisco Art Institute. He has exhibited throughout the United States, including the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco and the Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts in Grand Rapids. His writings have appeared in Art21 Blog, Bad at Sports, The Huffington Post, and Hyperallergic. He would like to be the US representative to the 2023 Venice Biennale. He currently lives and works in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

My obsessive consumption of superficial goods translates into the production of peculiar appropriation. There’s a lot of stuff out there to play with — things (as objects) and ideas (as language) are my materials. I'm interested in physical behavior, emotional narratives, and performed identities. I believe my artwork produces an infectious feeling of anxiety that can only be alleviated by a) the acceptance of the fluidity of meaning, 2) the impossibility of fully comprehending the absurd, and d) the inability to control your own laughter.

As the commissioned artist for the Center for Art and Thought’s exhibition Queer Sites and Sounds, I created a limited edition digital print titled Confessional. This work is the third iteration in a series of photographic prints depicting my “bag head character” juxtaposed with text from a grand narrative.

In 2012, I wrote my first screenplay titled The Host. The title refers to the protagonist – a white, affluent, suburban mom who is the beloved host on a popular home-shopping television network. The title also refers to the bread that is transformed into the body of Christ and eaten during Catholic mass. Throughout the film, the woman is negotiating her identity as a devout Catholic woman and as a mom to her recently outed college-aged son. In front of a million television viewers, she goes through her own transformation, performing a role that caters to a culturally conservative America, while knowing full well that her gay son is quietly shifting her away from those values. When I wrote the screenplay, I was just a writer with a dream, but I was also an artist with a camera. I created the triptych Hosanna as a way to visually manifest the text of The Host. In Hosanna, quotations from The Host flank the solitary white figure that is performing the role of the host. “Hosanna” is a biblical word that is shouted to express joy and adoration – an old-timer word for “OMG” or a phrase a woman might say when she sees sparkling jewelry.

By dressing in all white and placing a bag on my head, I enact a queer performance of the protagonist – a beautiful and empowered heterosexual white woman with personal anxiety that looms around her as she fulfills her own performance of self. This same concept can be used with the next iteration in the series, the diptych God Bless (Miss) America. I didn’t write a screenplay, but I’ve always been transfixed by pageantry – count me in as part of the demographic obsessed with TLC’s Toddlers and Tiaras who can also tell the difference between the Miss America and Miss USA pageants. The narrative of beauty pageants is so common in American popular culture that it has become a cliché, so I chose to use a clichéd question as the text within the artwork. In front of millions of television viewers, a pageant contestant must answer a seemingly bleak question with something that caters to the pageant judges and, ultimately, the identity of the nation.

I’m currently in the process of writing a screenplay titled The Cast, a dramatic film that focuses on a cast member of a reality television show about five affluent white married women living in San Francisco. Queer Sites and Sounds is the perfect site to visually translate the text of The Cast like I had done with The Host. My new artwork is titled Confessional, which refers to the idea of the Catholic Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation. Sharing and confessing sins to a priest in a small room allows the sinner to be absolved from mortal sins and avoid Hell. Decades ago, the word “confessional” was introduced to reality television when subjects of the show were taken aside from the main activity into a small room, and asked to share and confess how they felt about the events that just occurred. Subjects broke the fourth wall and spoke directly to the camera to share all their feelings and provide a proper narrative to the plot. The confessional has aesthetically evolved into what it is today, with the confessional interview being highly stylized and elaborately produced. Bravo Television’s The Real Housewives series provides fantastic examples of stylized confessionals, with characters confessing in front of luxurious backgrounds.

I’ve always had an interest in – some would say obsession with – white people. While I shine the spotlight on an American ideal, I don’t deny the multiple references to a darker side of white America: Christian extremism, political nationalism, military torture, and white supremacy. In Confessional, I chose to display a quotation that revealed a dramatic side of the reality show – adultery. This kind of saturated American identity is the root of my bag head character, which ultimately plays the role of an anonymous white person subject to the projections of any given story.

location

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  • Born: New Jersey, USA
  • Based: Grand Rapids, MI

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Deception Pass

Kat Larson

2013 Video & performance art Variable dimensions CA+T Commissioned Work

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Kat Larson

b. 1979

Kat Larson is a Seattle-based cross-disciplinary artist. Her art practice includes printmaking, painting, small scale sculpture, performance and video. She is currently focusing on video and performative installations and exploring her body as a conduit for spiritual connections, specifically with her female ancestors whom she has tagged “BloodMuthas.” Outside of video and performance, she continues to work with striking found objects, clay, encaustics, and organic materials such as dead bees and dirt.

Photograph by Lindsay Borden.

My name is Kat Larson, and I am bi-racial woman practicing fine art in the Pacific Northwest. My current artistic focus is exploring the intersections of new media/digital technologies and performance art. Fueling my practice are the themes of identity and spirituality and investigations of collective consciousness. At the core of my artistic expressions is a reverence for human connectivities and transformations.

I envision the art that I produce affecting positively those who come into contact with my work, as it invites people to travel into the often dark corners of human experience that people dare travel to on their own. However unknown and frightening these spaces are, my work reaches out to viewers—asking them for their trust—and assuages their anxiety through meaningful interactions with questions, ideas, and concepts that are embedded in my work. My audience can feel the strength of my feminine powers. Though sometimes very raw in form and expressiveness, my work nonetheless provokes people to ask important questions about matriarchy, ancestry, sexuality, and life and death. These are topics that connect us as individuals and as part of the many communities in which we find ourselves. When we publicly engage in this type of discourse, we not only realize our connectivity but also transformative strategies for the betterment of humanity. In short, my work initiates critical and timely conversations about community.

location

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  • Born: Seattle, WA, USA
  • Based: Seattle, WA, USA

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SHAPING AND EDGING

Kimberly Alidio

2015 - 2015 Poem Courtesy of Kimberly Alidio

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Kimberly Alidio

b. 1971
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Kimberly Alidio wrote After projects the resound (Black Radish, 2016) and The Sky Forever (Writ Large/ The Accomplices, 2019). She received a doctorate from the University of Michigan, held and left a tenure-track position at the University of Texas’ History Department/ Center for Asian American Studies, and won residencies and fellowships from the National Academy of Education/ Spencer Foundation, the University of Illinois’ Asian American Studies Program, Kundiman, VONA/ Voices, Naropa’s Summer Writing Program, and the Center for Art and Thought. Most recently from East Austin, Texas, she lives and writes in Tucson, Arizona.

location

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  • Born: Baltimore, MD, USA
  • Based: Tucson, AZ, USA

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SHAPING AND EDGING

Kimberly Alidio

2015 Poetry Kimberly Alidio

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Kimberly Alidio

b. 1971
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Kimberly Alidio wrote After projects the resound (Black Radish, 2016) and The Sky Forever (Writ Large/ The Accomplices, 2019). She received a doctorate from the University of Michigan, held and left a tenure-track position at the University of Texas’ History Department/ Center for Asian American Studies, and won residencies and fellowships from the National Academy of Education/ Spencer Foundation, the University of Illinois’ Asian American Studies Program, Kundiman, VONA/ Voices, Naropa’s Summer Writing Program, and the Center for Art and Thought. Most recently from East Austin, Texas, she lives and writes in Tucson, Arizona.

location

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  • Born: Baltimore, MD, USA
  • Based: Tucson, AZ, USA

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Kristina Wong

b. 1978
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Kristina Wong is a third generation Chinese American, born in San Francisco and living in Los Angeles. Her work encompasses original solo performances, comedy, personal essays, acting, short films and textile work. She was recently featured in the New York Times’ "Off Color" series that “highlight[ed] artists of color who use humor to make smart social statements about the sometimes subtle, sometimes obvious ways that race plays out in America today.” She has created five solo shows and one ensemble play that have toured throughout the United States and the United Kingdom. Her longest running touring show, Wong Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, looked at the high rates of depression and suicide among Asian American women and toured to over 40 venues since 2006. It’s now a broadcast quality film distributed by Cinema Libre Studios. Kristina’s been a commentator for American Public Media’s Marketplace, PBS, Jezebel, xoJane, Playgirl Magazine, Huffington Post, CNN and a guest on Comedy Central’s “The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore” and FXX’s “Totally Biased with W. Kamau Bell.” Her work has been awarded with grants from Creative Capital, The Map Fund, Center for Cultural Innovation, the Durfee Foundation, National Performance Network, five Artist-in-Residence grants from the Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs, and a residency from the MacDowell Colony. Kristina has twice given the commencement speech at the University of California, Los Angeles, her alma mater. She graduated with double degrees in English and World Arts and Cultures with a minor in Asian American Studies. She is also trained as an actor at the Steven Book Studios and improvisation at the Upright Citizens Brigade. Television credits include General Hospital, Nickelodeon’s “Nicky Ricky Dicky and Dawn,” and Myx TV’s “I’m Asian American and Want Reparations for Yellow Fever.” This Fall, she is a guest professor at California Institute for the Arts in the M.F.A. Creative Writing Program. Her mail order bride site is www.bigbadchinesemama.com.

I believe that as an artist, my job is not to “fix” the wrongs of the world with easy answers, but instead, to further complicate the question by making the invisible visible, and hopefully, creating some space for public discourse. I would describe my aesthetic at its best as subversive, humorous, and endearingly inappropriate. My non-traditional, multi-disciplinary approach logically mirrors my own multi-layered identity that has been influenced by innumerous cultures, religions, political thinking, technology and post-modern performance art. My nebulous identity continues to shift within the communities I live, evolve and interact with. I see my performance work as a humorous and ephemeral response to the invisible and visible boundaries that shape my world, rather than a hermetic declaration of my identity. I’m interested in guerilla performance as culture jamming– creating performances that subvert the use of space not intended for “performance.” I experiment with interactive, improvisational performance that blurs the roles of “artist” and “audience”— recasting unsuspecting bystanders as co-stars to my performance personas -– unearthing the masks, disguises and performances hidden in the most mundane of daily life. I adore “culture jammers.” Some of my favorites are the street interventions of Michael Moore, the “identity corrections” of the Yes Men, and the feminists who crashed television beauty pageants when I was growing up. Their performances are disguised within daily life to subvert, manipulate, and explode the status quo. I also appreciate the simplicity and elegance of interactive work like Yoko Ono’s. Much of my own guerilla theater work similarly offers social commentary and bypasses theaters and galleries—staged on the internet or alternative spaces. My theater work is informed by my site specific performance sensibilities. In my theater work, I challenge my relationship as a performer to my audience. I also confront the expectations of my genre and my subject matter within the work. My stage performance work differs from the Eurocentric theater traditions of 19th and 20th Century American Realism where actors apply “realistic” emotions to pre-written scripts. I see my “characters” as archetypal extensions of my own persona. I almost always break the fourth wall and let my audiences inform the direction of the show. My creation process is very organic. Some of my shows are living ritual exercises with the audience. I find that pre-scripting my work line-by-line at my computer and then rehearsing emotion into those lines is a very confining process. I prefer to generate lists of ideas and doodles, talk them out with trusted collaborators, improvise with a mix of media during rehearsals and then string up the best moments in a logical (or illogically logical) order for public performance. Some of my scripts actually look like a set list that a stand-up comic would use.

location

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  • Born: San Francisco, CA, USA
  • Based: Los Angeles, CA, USA

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Pig Face: A Love Story (Greetings from Clark Air Base)

Sita Kuratomi Bhaumik

2014 Watercolor on paper 4 in. x 6 in. Courtesy of the artist.

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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

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

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Pig Face: A Love Story (Francisco)

Sita Kuratomi Bhaumik

2014 Watercolor on paper 9 in. x 12 in. 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

Pig Face: A Love Story (Sisig)

Sita Kuratomi Bhaumik

2014 Watercolor on paper 5 in. x 7 in. 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.

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

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Pig Face: A Love Story (1493)

Sita Kuratomi Bhaumik

2014 Watercolor on paper 6 in. x 9 in. Courtesy of the artist.

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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

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