I’m in a group show in Los Angeles which opens September 7, 2019.
Singing in the Dark: A Meditation on Migration is an exhibition reflecting on migratory displacement, refuge, exile, and belonging. For immigrants and refugees in the US, cultural adaptation and survival is a relentless negotiation between there/here and then/now/tomorrow. Longing, regret, and affirmation mix with fear and desire for what the future might hold.
The artists of Singing in the Dark offer strategies to embrace, remember, and rebuild the past through art. Their works point to shared yet often neglected histories with the goal of inspiring reflection and hope against the new normal that envelops our deeply polarized country. They mine personal and family histories reaching back across decades to negotiate identity and find ways to arrive at a tentative peace that, even if filled with contradictions and gaps in knowledge and narrative, can give root and provide a vantage point from which an ever-evolving sense of belonging can grow.
How can one begin to belong in a place where one is not from – whether one is situated in a location by choice or chance, or perhaps by force? How does one begin to survive and cultivate a viable existence in a foreign place under any of these circumstances? The impulse to find safety and stability lends itself quickly to establishing belonging, often tied to a grounding sense of place. To ensure one’s chances to survive, one must adapt and be prepared. Like inhaling and exhaling, one dedicates time, builds improvised communities of family and friends, learns new languages and customs; one begins to see oneself framed by new possibility in an adopted place. But the work of belonging is easily complicated by distance in time and geography, guilt, trauma, and haunted by memories treasured, painful, and unspoken.
This exhibition was originally conceived as a response to the previous group exhibition, called Made in Asian America, in which many of the artists presented work focused on themes of war- or migration-related trauma, loss, cultural memory, and family history. Especially dark days of late provide substantial motivation for the exhibition, too, as we bear witness to the growing casualties of hate-fueled nihilism and the expanding fascism of the state.
Artists in the exhibition are Susu Attar, Mitsuko Brooks, Yasmine Diaz, Cirilo Domine, Farsad Labbauf, Ann Le, Việt Lê, Tu Nguyen, and Fereshteh Toosi. All of the artists are themselves immigrants or refugees, or their parents are. The same is true of the curators of Art Salon Chinatown.
Featured artwork by Việt Lê