Asian American Art is a Monument
In our collective, Related Tactics (Michele Carlson, Weston Teruya, and Nathan Watson), we think a lot about the ways power is created through systems of knowledge—some of these systems are very loud and obvious while others are much more subtle, embodied, and insidious. Here we consider the space of Asian American art as a monument and offer a series of speculative interventions pulled from studio brainstorming done in the production of our 2022 project, Memories Breathe and Every Monument Deflates. This project considered themes such as collective memory, systems of knowledge, and monuments within the American landscape. With this list we ask, how might this strategic repositioning offer tools to reimagine our intersecting communities’ collaborative movements towards liberation?
- Let the monument bloom—for a while. Then cut it back so others may bloom too.
- Summon the ghosts that haunt its peripheries.
- Recognize materials that seem uncertain. This uncertainty might be someone else’s foundation.
- Remove symbols of triumphant exceptionalism. Instead, create a platform for ritual, diasporic ceremony, and practices of collective storytelling.
- Express pain through joy, love, and care—softness, impermanence, and materials unknown.
- Teach it to sing our liberation—we have spoken our own freedom for centuries, past and future.
- Monuments to mark our erasure should also mark why we were erased in the first place.
- Turn it inside out.
- Build upon it, inject new elements, nurture its unwieldy growth until it contains everything.
- Reprioritize objecthood—there is no language for our liberation in the archived objects of the institution.
- Make hundreds of platforms to acknowledge the labors of mentors, teachers, aunties and uncles, and those who do not have access to these legacies.
- Tend to each other instead of the monument—our monuments will not need shining.