Asif Mian

Non, 2020

Where did you grow up, and how did you end up living where you are now?

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.

What ideas were you thinking about when you were working on this video?

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.

What issues do you feel the AAPI community will be most impacted by as a result of this election?

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.

How do you think artists of AAPI descent can have their voices heard, particularly in this moment of increased racism against Asian-Americans?

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.