StopDiscriminAsian (SDA) is proud to present a series of newly commissioned video works by three artists of AAPI-descent that respond to the upcoming general election: Jesse Chun, WangShui and Asif Mian. Each Monday beginning Sept 28, a new work will debut accompanied by a brief interview with the artist. SDA asked the artists to address the rise of anti-Asian racism in the age of Trump, as well as the issues they felt were particularly urgent heading into this incredibly consequential election. Immigration, LGBTQ rights, and racial discrimination are just some of the concerns these artists chose to reflect on. These short moving-image works adopt the length of a traditional TV commercial, using the tools of mass-media circulation that profoundly impact political thought and engagement.
As the fastest-growing demographic of eligible voters compared to all other major races and ethnicities, Asian Americans have a major role to play in this nation’s political future. While traditionally marked by low turnout, AAPI voters have made significant gains in recent years, jumping from 28% in 2014 to 42% in 2018. This leap in voter participation presents an opportunity for Asian Americans to engage more deeply in the political process, and to mobilize our communities towards generational change. We hope the individualized responses presented in these videos can bridge the disparate identities that make up the AAPI population by speaking to common concerns that impact all of us, while at the same time maintaining the distinctness of our many voices. We also recognize that these critical issues demand commitments to action beyond November’s elections, and require mass movements and solidarities.
I was born in Jersey City, NJ, to Pakistani immigrants. I mostly grew up in Astoria, Queens, and went to high school in a Northern Jersey suburb, which I disliked very much. I moved back to Queens right after college. My family was a sort of loner, Muslim household within American society, so this feeling of placed displacement works for me in the outer boroughs.
I am interested in behavioral science and the breakdown of personal spaces and how this relates to violence. When making video and performance, I always think about the “body at risk”—what visible/invisible boundaries are made for immigrants and hiding in plain sight, the edges of surveillance, how one’s movements create a volume, and how that volume engulfs targeted individuals. Recently, I have been working on simple science fictions using thermal cameras and cell phone cameras to make videos that react to recent events, creating visual morphs in the fabric of current events.
There are many targeted bodies under this cloud of systemic violence. It is pervasive and overarching—a mood that seeps into every issue. However, overt actions towards immigrants like the Muslim Ban have still been the most intense and impactful for me.
I've always been a practitioner of subversion by taking the tools and methods that are oppressive or violent or whatever we hate and turning them inside out and back on themselves to make something that is beautiful. Things that repulse me also have some element of attraction, so by subverting them, these repulsions feel powerful and even dangerous. As a South Asian, we have to deal with our invisibility and our nascent existence in the mainstream. Sometimes, I like to remind myself that just by existing and taking up space in the art world, making my work, and working with AAPI artists, is not expected and a step towards subversion in itself.