Jesse Chun

a score (for unnaming), 2020.

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

According to my immigration documents, I am a South Korean from Hong Kong and a Permanent Resident of Canada based in New York—but what does that even mean? At this time, New York is where I have spent the longest portion of my life: I permanently settled in NY for my art practice: I am a first-generation immigrant to the United States.

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

I was thinking of ways to capture the interior ramifications of Anti-Asian racism—a glimpse into how it impacts the interiority of Asian personhood. In thinking about the Model Minority myth/trap and how Asian bodies have been historically conditioned into silence and meekness under white supremacy, I imagined ways to unleash my embodied, silenced anger, and Han 한 through sound, song, and the idea of a “score.”  In this video, the staff bars of a score sheet collapse and complicate a range of narratives through the usage of assembled news clippings, traditional Pansori singing, flashes of Yellow Peril archives, K-pop lyrics, white noise, glitches, word censor bleep, and found violins from Chinatown's outdoor music class during the pandemic. This project aims to portray the layers of internalized alienation, open wounds of language, and placelessness that racism makes one feel. I titled this piece "score (for unnaming)” to recognize the name of this violence and to unname its power over us through a 45-second score.

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

I believe the AAPI community's safety and health, as well as our direct relationships within and to immigration, healthcare, and structural agency will all be profoundly affected by this election. The heightened racism due to COVID-19 and the current Administration's anti-Asian rhetoric, xenophobia, and anti-immigrant policies will all be directly impacted by its aftermath. Within the last 4 years, many Asian American asylum seekers were sent into detention, and countless Southeast Asian refugees who’ve lived here for decades were deported. This election will also impact the future of various immigration policies such as the "public charge" rule, which has an immediate relationship to the immigrant community's health and ability to receive assistance for COVID-19 during the ongoing pandemic. Additionally, I think the data erasure of the AAPI community is another critical issue that can be challenged throughout and post this election: the group's diversity needs to be better represented. The AAPI community includes nearly 50 diverse racial and ethnic groups. The model minority myth fails to correctly represent political and economic disparities among the AAPI community. In New York City, I read that Asian Americans have the highest poverty rate compared to all other racial groups yet these realities are not part of our mainstream narrative. Our diverse voices must be represented and reflected in structural changes to come.

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

Personally, I've found that friendships, meals, conversations, and late night texts with my community of AAPI and BIPOC friends and fellow arts workers have been life-giving and affirming. Having communities to reflect, resonate, and amplify our voices with, is crucial not only to have our voices heard but also for our health. Some of my fellow AAPI/BIPOC artist friends and I have been creating reading groups and having conversations about how not to allow the institutionalized white gaze to reduce us into categories or models of productivity. How can we keep extending that space for our complexities and opacity? I hope that artists of AAPI descent—myself included—all feel free to give ourselves the time, context, space, and pace to make on our terms.