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Queering the Archive, Tracing One’s Historical past

Queering the Archive, Tracing One’s Historical past

Queering the Archive, Tracing One’s History

Set up view of Satrang at 25: Queer South Asian Diaspora(s) in Context at ONE Archives at USC Libraries, 2022 (picture by Alexis Bard Johnson)

LOS ANGELES — Tucked right into a small gallery in USC Library’s ONE Archives — self-described as the biggest repository of LGBTQ supplies on the earth — is the second half of a multipart exhibition: Archival Intimacies: Queering South/East Asian Diasporas, a two-venue venture curated by Aziz Sohail and Alexis Bard Johnson. Whereas Stranger Intimacies I not too long ago closed on the USC Pacific Asian Museum, Stranger Intimacies II stays on view at ONE Archives. Upstairs, viewers may also discover the exhibition: Satrang at 25: Queer South Asian Diaspora(s) in Context, which options archives regarding Satrang, the principal queer South Asian neighborhood group in Southern California. Each exhibitions at ONE are explorations in “queering” the archive, by way of propositions by modern artists and a show of queer archival materials.

Set up view of Stranger Intimacy I at USC Pacific Asia Museum, 2022 (picture by Alexis Bard Johnson)

The primary flooring gallery focuses on a sequence of hanging works by Vinhay Keo and a video set up by Prima Jalichandra-Sakuntabhai. Each artists are themselves members of the queer South Asian diaspora, and their work investigates the residue of their households’ fraught historical past of immigration from Cambodia and Thailand, respectively: Keo’s household hails from Cambodia, emigrating to the US because of the Khmer Rouge genocide within the Seventies, and Jalichandra-Sakuntabhai’s great-granduncle fled Thailand in 1949, compelled into exile, first in China, then France, after makes an attempt at forming a democracy in monarchic Thailand.

Set up view of Stranger Intimacy II at ONE Archives at USC Libraries (picture by Prima Jalichandra-Sakuntabhai, picture courtesy the artist)

Sadly, info concerning these migratory histories — a crucial framework for understanding each artists’ work, which investigates their households’ narratives of displacement instigated by the need of escape from violent regimes and inflected by the trauma of Western colonization — isn’t instantly accessible to viewers upon coming into the exhibition. Whereas a press launch is offered on-line, the gallery itself is adorned solely with a brief, elliptical wall textual content that doesn’t present the type of particular historic references needed as an entry level into the wealthy, layered nature of the artists’ tasks. Maybe this obfuscation is intentional, a queering by the use of illegibility, however the viewer is given no pointers to assist information them by way of the actual South Asian political, materials, and familial histories referenced within the artists’ work, and is left as a substitute to grapple in the dead of night for context.

Set up view of Stranger Intimacy II at ONE Archives at USC Libraries (picture by Vinhay Keo, picture courtesy the artist)

For instance, Vinhay Keo’s three embroidery works characteristic lengthy, rectangular sampot material, a Cambodian garment and image of Khmer id. The artist’s inclusion of the varied supplies of the sampot, starting from silk to cotton to cork, traces its materials and colonial historical past as a as soon as unisex garment that grew to become feminized below French colonial rule. “9” x 9” x 4”” (2021) is a cotton sampot within the type of a donut field, a reproduction of and reference to the pink donut containers of Southern California, whose donut retail business is essentially dominated by members of the Cambodian diaspora — a lot of whom arrived right here within the ‘70s to flee the Cambodian genocide below the Khmer Rouge regime. As Keo shared with me in an e mail trade, “the donut business grew to become a mannequin for financial upward mobility for Cambodian refugees and the latter generations. It’s additionally fraught with the fallacy of the American Dream narrative, the immigrant narrative of rags-to-riches.”

Vinhay Keo, “9” x 9″ x 4″” (2021), sampot, cotton, 9 x 9 x 4 inches (picture by Vinhay Keo, picture courtesy the artist)

Equally unraveling a string of references is Prima Jalichandra-Sakuntabhai’s poetic cartography of their great-grand uncle’s a number of exiles from his residence nation of Thailand. Jalichandra-Sakuntabhai’s video set up, “Ocean Community Specific”(2021), facilities on the video “Appendix A: Ocean Gazing” (2021), which narrates their great-granduncle’s migratory patterns by boat whereas in exile. These actions are positioned in dialogue with the Southern California littoral, notably the San Pedro Harbor, with its cargo ships crusing out and in — the remnants of army paraphernalia of World Warfare II, the Korean Warfare, and the Vietnam Warfare littering the shoreline, imposing defunct canons and concrete constructions {that a} voiceover reminds us had been designed to be a barrage contre le Pacifique, in reference to the Marguerite Duras novel of the identical title. The stoic voice, the artist’s personal, continues in a matter-of-fact monotone: “the Pacific Ocean is the last word barrier between the East and the West. These defenses are now not wanted: the enemy has been defeated. The Yellow Peril has been neutralized. We’re protected now.”

See Also
Kemang Wa Lehulere, Conference of the Birds, 2017–21, salvaged school desks, ceramic dogs, paper scrolls, music stands, mixed media, dimensions variable.

Prima Jalichandra-Sakuntabhai, video nonetheless of “Appendix A: Ocean Gazing” (2021), video, TRT: 15:46 minutes (picture courtesy the artist)

But in a time marked by the fanning of Asian hate fueled by harmful rhetoric that continues to model and persecute Asians as carriers of illness, it might appear that this barrage remains to be at work. Historical past, we’re informed, repeats itself. The artists showcased in Archival Intimacies remind us that the violence of our colonial histories are nonetheless with us, haunting the ancestors of those that first made the perilous journey to this nation, solely to be confronted with the fallacy of the American Dream and solid as crude stereotypes. To acknowledge these histories, to queer this archive by the use of inventive illustration, is to level to the lasting repercussions of colonial trauma on Asian-American our bodies — and to start to beat it.

Prima Jalichandra-Sakuntabhai, video nonetheless of “Appendix A: Ocean Gazing” (2021), video, TRT: 15:46 minutes (picture courtesy the artist)

Stranger Intimacies II, a part of Archival Intimacies: Queering South/East Asian Diasporas continues at ONE Archives at USC (909 West Adams Boulevard, College Park, Los Angeles) by way of Could 27. The exhibition was curated by Aziz Sohail and Alexis Bard Johnson.

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