A weekly magazine-style radio show featuring the voices and stories of Asians and Pacific Islanders from all corners of our community. The show is produced by a collective of media makers, deejays, and activists.
Tonight on Apex Express, Host Miko Lee speaks with Kearny Street Workshop Artistic Director Jason Bayani about their new podcast series. We preview “We Won’t Move: A Living Archive” hosted by Kazumi Chin, Dara Del Rosario, and Michelle Lin about APA artists of the past, present, and future, whose stories shape the movements and dreams of San Francisco.
Find out more information about We Won’t Move: A Living Archive here.
We also play musician Ruby Mountain’s Song Sunrise, from the album, Waves
Opening: [00:00:00] Apex express Asian Pacific expression. Unity and cultural coverage, music and calendar, new visions, and voices coming to you with Asian Pacific Islander point of view. It’s time to get on board the apex.
Miko Lee: [00:01:10] Tonight on apex express, we present our sister organization Kearny street workshop. We begin with an interview with KSWs artistic director. Jason Bayani then we get to listen to the first episode of their new podcast series “We Won’t Move: A Living Archive.” Welcome to Apex Express writer, artists and artistic director of Kearny Street Workshop. Jason Bayani.
Jason Bayani: [00:01:33] Hi.
Miko Lee: [00:01:35] we’re so glad to have you
Jason Bayani: [00:01:36] I’m glad to be here. Thank you.
Miko Lee: [00:01:38] For the very few people in the world that don’t know what Kearny Street Workshop is. Can you just give us the rundown?
Jason Bayani: [00:01:44] We are one of the longest running multi-disciplinary Asian Pacific American arts organizations in the country. We’ve been going since 1972 and started out in the storefront underneath the I hotel. We’ve been in the city producing art and promoting and developing artists since then.
Miko Lee: [00:02:05] You yourself are a writer and a theater artist. How does your personal work as an artist intersect with your work as the leader for KSW?
Jason Bayani: [00:02:15] For me when I started as an artist, I didn’t really know anyone. My way of being able to, get in and flourish and make connections was through community because there were other Filipino artists and there were other Asian American artists that I was able to meet in San Francisco that brought me in and Introduced me to folks and helped support me as an artist. That continued after college when I met people from across the country, other Asian Americans from across the country, that kind of put me on and they supported me. Now that I’m later on in years in my life I wanted to be able to make sure that these kind of places, these spaces were… I want to do my part to make those available to people who were like me coming up and I’m really glad to be here doing that. I learn more every day I do this work about being an artist about myself and this has been the best job I’ve ever had.
Miko Lee: [00:03:16] You mentioned how KSW was deeply involved in the third world movement that started at San Francisco state with a fight for ethnic studies. We’re seeing this resurgence of solidarity that’s happening right now. That seems similar to those times around KSWs founding. Can you talk about how the artwork that KSW has put forth during that time and during our time right now? Post George Floyd and Brianna Taylor and stop AAPI hate. How has that changed or how has that remained the same in terms of Kearny Street Workshops involvement in the movements?
Jason Bayani: [00:03:52] When Kearny street workshop started this was around the same time as the civil rights movement and the fight for ethnic studies. People involved with us in the beginning were also involved with that. And with KSW, we’re able to put a spotlight on artists, and, the movement was also part of who they were as people. We’re able to showcase their art. And a lot of that came through not only in the writing, but through things like screen prints, which were very prominent at the time and helped to really communicate a lot of ideas out in the community, out in the protests and those parallels to now— we think about the landscape of then. KSW was also starting at a time when Manilatown was taken over by developers and that community was pushed out and all that was left was the I hotel. It was banking then and today it’s tech kind of doing the same thing. We’re sitting at the same type of crossroads of watching the city change once again and change to the whims of some form of industry. We’re still trying to maintain our place, our voice, here, and we are trying to fight to have a place and continue to do.
Miko Lee: [00:05:06] How does the work at Kearny Street Workshop embody the social justice movement or how do you fit Asian American identity into the work of Kearny Street Workshop?
Jason Bayani: [00:05:18] One of the things that KSW tries to do, and for an organization that’s been around as long as we have is that we really put the focus on what new generations of artists are trying to talk about and really giving them the space to be able to voice what are their concerns in the moment? What are The stories and also the ways in which they are trying to respond to the world. When we look at this over generations those that need to be in solidarity with other communities that need to move against existing power structures. That’s been prevalent throughout. There’s different ways in which we talk about it that the newer generation sees as being necessary to work towards that those things evolve over time.
Miko Lee: [00:06:06] You have this exciting new podcast that KSW has developed. Can you tell us about it? Our apex audience is going to get a chance to hear it in a moment.
Jason Bayani: [00:06:16] We have this new podcast called We Won’t Move and it’s the brainchild of 3 artists that we’ve worked with a lot over the last couple of years. They’ve curated our office gallery and also KSW Presents, which is a bi-monthly reading series. Kazumi Michelle and Dara are the hosts of the podcast , they’ve really helped us shape how we look at how our organization responds to the moment, how we start to embrace the ideas of the artists that we work with and also it really helps center us in being able to connect ourselves to our past. And this idea of we won’t move that comes from this. We have a photo that hangs up in our office and it comes from the seventies, from the protests at the I hotel and it’s a picture of three manongs standing in front of a sign that says we won’t move. And that was a big rallying call during the protests and during the fight to stop the evictions at the hotel. And we’re thinking about how this statement continues to resonate to this day.
Especially when a lot of what we have had to deal with over the last couple of years, especially now that we’re in the Soma. We’ve been in the Soma probably longer than we were ever in Chinatown. You watch how that neighborhood has changed rapidly over time and that 50% of the Filipino population has been displaced from there over probably last 10 or 20 years. We talk a lot about how do we maintain and fight for our spaces. One of those ways is that we take control or take a hold of our narratives for ourselves. One of those ways is when we think about the archive, and what does the archive mean? Kazumi talks a lot about this, that this idea of the archive is not just material things that we put away in storage. It’s called We Won’t Move: A Living Archive. That’s the name of the podcast. The archive exists in people, in our stories and that it lives in, moves out in the world, that we’re not just talking about the things that are in storage, that when we’re sharing our stories with each other this is a living archive, even when we’re documenting our time to each other, through dialogue through narrative that’s the living archive.
Miko Lee: [00:08:52] Oh, that’s beautiful. So archive, isn’t a dusty old building somewhere. It is actually people’s experiences, their history, who they are and how they walk through the world.
Jason Bayani: [00:09:03] Yes.
Miko Lee: [00:09:04] I love that. And I also love what you were saying earlier about how they hosts have curated windows into artists’ minds. So the podcast is a way for us to expose even a broader audience, perhaps to different artists perspectives. Is that right?
Jason Bayani: [00:09:21] Yes. For the podcast, we get a chance to talk to several different working artists that are doing amazing things. There’s Erina C. Alejo, Thea Quiray Tagle, Estella Habal, and Lenora Lee of Lenora Lee dance. They’re all doing each doing like really amazing things at the moment. A lot of which kind of document history, tell our stories and also give new ways for us to being able to look at the idea of what does it mean to archive. What does it mean to tell a story? What does it mean? What is this thing we call Asian American art. They all present different ways of looking at it and as hosts, Kazumi, Michelle, and Dara really play this excellent role of being these curious investigators into what is happening in the moment. And when you get a chance to hear them have a dialogue together, it’s really fun. And they just bring a really cool energy to this really inquisitive, sometimes playful but it is always taken seriously. No matter how playful it gets, they’re very serious about what they do. And yeah it’s a lot of, it can be a lot of fun, but it can also, it’s really enlightening. Whenever they talk about things, I make discoveries, about the way I look at things and, that’s why I enjoy… that’s a big part of the reason why it’s been great having them around and having them be a part of what we’re doing.
Miko Lee: [00:10:59] So how did it get started? I know you said that you’re so interested in how they fought and how they helped curate the work that you’re doing, but how did the whole idea for a podcast just get started?
Jason Bayani: [00:11:10] Yeah, I think we’ve talked about it before shelter in place began. We’d be so busy doing live events that we just never really had the chance to kinda follow through with this idea. At the beginning of the pandemic we had this space where we figuring out, what can we do? One of the things that was brought back was the idea of doing the podcast. Honestly, none of us knew what we were doing at first. It took a lot of figuring out, but it happened.
Miko Lee: [00:11:46] Can you share about the monthly reading series and how our listeners can find out more about it?
Jason Bayani: [00:11:52] Yeah, we do a reading series every two months and we bring in local writers and also writers from across the country. We’ve had some really amazing writers over the last couple of years, folks like Elaine Castillo, Monica Sok, Aria Aber, like those are just some… R.O. Kwon. Those are just some of the folks that we’ve had over the past couple of years. We’ll probably be having another reading this summer. Hopefully, we’ll be able to get a chance to be able to do this in person again, soon. We all want to make sure that everything’s going to be safe. If you’re trying to figure out when we’re doing next, you can always go to our website, sign up for our email list. We’re hoping maybe July would be the next one. We also, with the readings, have a community open mic.
Miko Lee: [00:12:38] We’ll a link in the website, apex express with where people can sign up and get more information from KSW about upcoming performances and workshops, they can get involved in back to the podcast. Tell us what you want your audience to understand?
Jason Bayani: [00:12:58] I think we’re hoping for is that, you listen to this and I think we want to create new ways of for us new kind of dialogues around how we talk about Asian American art, how we talk about Asian-American art organizing and have this ability to be able to have this conversation on our own terms, cause I think that I’ve done like several different, like I’ve done several different interviews and Kind of media engagements. I can’t begin to tell you how many times I’ve heard a phrase begin “with the success of crazy rich Asians.” It’s cool. This stuff is out there happening and I know people are, like representation means a lot to them, but that’s not my concern. I think they’re more interesting and vital things we can be discussing when it comes to Asian-American art. I think I’m less concerned with representation, more so than I am being able to interrogate our experience. All of us being able to do that on our terms and us being able to name and say for ourselves, what this is and help each other shape it. I think it’s not enough just for something to be out there for me. I want to see work that really challenges and shifts us and helps us gain new ways of seeing each other. I think that what Michelle, Kazumi, and Dara are able to do with this podcast is just . Really create new dialogue and new ways of looking at the way we look at this and I’m just so really happy with what they’ve been able to and achieve with this podcast.
Miko Lee: [00:14:57] Jason Bayani thank you so much for joining us. I love the header, which is we won’t move a living archive, a project that’s about remembering our roots and building toward a liberatory future. So that is such a great mode forward. And we’re going to get a chance to listen to it today. One more thing. What is up? What’s coming up at KSW for our audience to get involved with?
Jason Bayani: [00:15:20] we have a couple of things coming up. We have exhibition that will be at arc gallery and studios in the south of market. That’s going to be happening from June 18th to about August 7th. So the exhibition will be up it’s part of this online 360 virtual like storytelling project we’ve been working on called a Pilipinx Virtual Histories. And the exhibition itself is part of it. The exhibition is called kalayaan and it’s curated by Colin Kimzey and Kimberly Arteche. It’s an art exhibition, but it’s also like a means of being able to research and become your own archivist. There’s going to be photos and ephemera, zines, all these things that you can get your hands on, things that were created in San Francisco and talk about the Asian American experience and also the San Francisco experience because with Pilipinx Virtual Histories what we did was interview a couple of different Filipino Artists who live here, or are from here. We got them to tell a couple stories. We put these stories on a map, on a virtual map. You’ll get to see 360 animation that was created with each of these like little vignettes from these interviews that we did with them. These artists are Rupert Estanislao, Mary Claire Amable, Joel Tan, and Jessica Hagadorn. We got Jessica Hagadorn to contribute to this project! You’ll be able to see that at the exhibition as well. So that’s going to be happening. And we also are having APAture coming up in November and our applications are open to be a part of the festival. It’s our yearly multidisciplinary arts festival that focuses on emerging artists. And we have this year about five showcases. So if you’re a visual artist, musician, performing artists, if you’re a writer or a filmmaker, we’d like you to submit, so just go to our website and you can see our call for submissions there.
Miko Lee: [00:17:32] Excellent. Thank you so much for all that. KSW doing some great work out in the community. Is there anything else that you’d like to add? .
Jason Bayani: [00:17:41] We are currently running a fundraiser right now to fund this second season of this podcast. And if you like what you hear and you want to hear more and you want continue to support what Kazumi, Michelle, and Dara are doing, please visit our website. We have the link to our GoFundMe me there and all of your help will go a long way. It’d be a footnote in allowing us to be able to continue this work and to continue to work of the living archive.
Miko Lee: [00:18:13] Thank you, Jason. Bayani from KSW. Next up, take a quick, listen to Ruby mountain song sunrise from the album waves.
Miko Lee: This is apex express and you just listen to Ruby mountains, sunrise. And up next is Kearny street workshops, podcast series. We won’t move a living archive, this new series by Kazumi chin Darra, Del Roseo, and Michelle Lynn focuses on APA artists of the past present and future whose stories shaped the movement and dreams of our San Francisco. Each episode is guided by research and oral histories and feature really intimate conversations with local artists about their art, their activisms. And what motivates them. Take a listen to episode one:
1.1 We Survive – with Thea Quiray Tagle
Thea Quiray Tagle: And then in March, everything shut down and everything was put on hold for close to six months because no one know what was going on or what would happen with the show, if the show would be canceled, when would it be safe to reopen, all of this. And meanwhile, right, the world’s still turning. COVID’s still raging. All the summer race rebellions and the movements for Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, all those folks are really activating another wave of Black Lives Matter protest. And so, when I got the call again in August at this point, they’re really thinking that the show was killed, in August, why we say I asked or said, right, if we wanted to open the show, could we convert it to a public facing and online show? And could we do it in two months?
Michelle Lin: Welcome to “We Won’t Move: A Living Archive”, a Kearny Street Workshop podcast series about Asian Pacific American artists of the past, present, and future whose stories shape the movements and dreams of San Francisco. I’m Michelle Lin, literary and mixed media artist.
Dara Del Rosario: I’m Dara Del Rosario, non-profit arts administrator, and curator.
Kazumi Chin: And I’m Kazumi Chin, poet, scholar, and educator.
Michelle Lin: Before we get into the episode, we wanted to take some time to introduce the podcast. “We Won’t Move: A Living Archive” will feature conversations with artists and activists from San Francisco and the Bay area. And, you know, it’s a pretty interesting and packed title, “We Won’t Move: A Living Archive”, so we’re just going to talk a little bit about what we were thinking about. Because we moved through several titles with this podcast and yeah, let’s just talk a little bit about the genesis of this and what it means to us.
Dara Del Rosario: For myself, when I think of archive I constantly think about the process of learning and discovery and how that’s so much a part of my own relationship to history as well as my own identity. Right? Like it’s not just something that exists in this static place, but it’s ever growing and evolving. And my relationship to these histories or to these archives are ever changing and evolving.
Michelle Lin: Yeah. I think we have this notion that, like, history is something that’s past and gone, but we all know that like present movements and the ways artists create work, it’s always informed by history in a way that makes it alive and continuing to move.
Dara Del Rosario: Yeah. I think with the way that we’re talking about living archive is that time is not linear. Like it’s almost like time is a knot that is constantly either growing, like we’re going forward, backwards, in the present all at once. And I think that there’s something about that that just drives away from like really traditional academic understandings of archives. And as artists, we’re constantly trying to challenge that. Like [indiscernible 03:08] ideas of time, of our relationship to the past, of our relationship to material objects, not as something that we own but as something that we can deeply connect with.
Michelle Lin: [affirmative response]. And I like how you brought up challenging because there’s also this idea of like well, who has the power of saying that this is archivable or this is the proper archive, or this is of historical significance? And in making this podcast we wanted to say we do, all of us do, and all of us are making history right now. [music] We need to talk about “We Won’t Move.”
Kazumi Chin: Okay.
Michelle Lin: Do you want to start, Kazumi?
Kazumi Chin: So, I guess the way that I would say it is that “We Won’t Move” brings into clarity a lot of the history of KSW, which has its roots in the I-Hotel, but also that it speaks a lot to the present moment. As we continue to fight against gentrification, as we continue to make our presence known, to make our stories known, we won’t move isn’t just about physically moving, but it’s about the way in which people are moved outside of history, are moved outside of being seen, are moved outside of representation. So, for us to say that we won’t move, it’s not just geographical, although it is, but it’s also about the way that the cultural informs that geography, the way the cultural informs San Francisco, and the way that when we are able to stay here and to show people that this place isn’t just a city, but that it has a kind of value for the people that live there, that is has a way of creating community with your people, that’s what we’re not moving from. Right? We’re not moving away from our art, we’re not moving away from our community, and we’re not moving away from the city as it is.
Michelle Lin: Perfect. [music]
Dara Del Rosario: That was really good.
Michelle Lin: It’s hella good. [music] For this episode, we sat down to talk with Thea Quiray Tagle who is a curator, art writer, and a system professor of ethic studies and gender and sexuality studies at the University of Massachusetts, Boston. Dara, before this interview you actually had a chance to visit Thea’s most recent curatorial project in person. Can you tell us more about “After Life (We Survived)”?
Dara Del Rosario: I would love to, Michelle. “After Life (We Survived)” is a multidisciplinary exhibition that in response to COVID-19, turns Yerba Buena Center for the Arts inside out. The art can be viewed through the windows of the ground floor and features work by Black, Indigenous, queer, and trans artists of color who ground us in legacies of resilience and joy. “After Life (We Survived)” reminds us that we have always dreamed and created worlds where we can live freely. The exhibition can be viewed online, and the link can be found in our show notes.
Michelle Lin: We’re going to leave that in. I think that’s good.
Kazumi Chin: Yeah. I think it’s good. I think it’s good. [music]
Miko Lee: You’re tuned into apex express. On 94.1 KPFA and 89.3 K PFP in Berkeley and [email protected] And you are currently listening to our sister organization Kearny Street Workshop’s podcast series We Won’t Move: A Living Archive.
Michelle Lin: And I know we saw online that the first exhibition was called “After Life (What Remains)” I believe, and it was shown at The Alice Gallery in Seattle, and then “After Life (We Survive)” is what’s at Yerba Buena right now. Can you share a little bit about the journey between these two different exhibits and the names?
Thea Quiray Tagle: So, maybe to back up a little bit, it might be helpful to know about the genesis of the show and really how it needed to change, not just for COVID, but for this ongoing political landscape, this moment that we’re moving in and moving through. When I first presented “After Life” this was after coming back from two trips. One to the Philippines, and this was 2017, so it’s after the U.S. election but it’s also after an election in the Philippines where they’ve elected an authoritarian leader who’s like banning all kinds of things, like banning cigarette smoking, which is really anti-poor; putting out a war on drugs; putting a lot of restrictions on people’s movement where you’re seeing, you know, still now folks getting killed by extrajudicial killings. So, being really affected by that and life looking like it was going on as normal, even if it’s really abnormal.
And also coming back from the Big Island of Hawaii where I was for just a week or so, and while there I came upon the so-called plastic beach, Kamilo Beach, which is its south point which looks totally deserted, right, like literally the end of the world southernmost point of the U.S. state territory on this island. And there’s plastic pieces washed up on it that are really showing again the existence of our imprint as humans on this beautiful landscape.
And those two things really prompted me to curate a show that tried to bring together Asian American, Filipino, and/or Indigenous American folks, and they were Michael Arcega who’s based in San Francisco; Rea Tajiri, the incredible Japanese American filmmaker; Leeroy New, who is based in the Philippines from the Philippines, and his “Aliens of Manila” project; Alejandro T. Acierto, a Latinx Filipinx composer and curator and artist; and then the last is Super Futures Haunt Qollective who are a collective of three, Angie Morrill, C. Ree, and Sam Jung.
When I invited those five artists or art collectives, I really was trying to focus it on thinking through different survival strategies, specifically for Asian Pacific Islanders and Indigenous folks. How we can work in relation with one another, especially in the context of the U.S. where we don’t often talk about things outside of Black Right relations. Or even in the West Coast where Asian Americans are a much bigger demographic. Kind of the divergences and differences between our communities and our relations with Indigenous folks aren’t really explored.
So, that show for me was really about trying to present works that I thought could help us articulate or think about those forms of relation differently.The first one was really reflective. I want folks to like look inwards and consider your own relationship, especially as an Asian American person to Indigenous folks. What kinds of relationships do you have in real life, in real time, and politically with Indigenous communities where you’re based?
And then for the second show, “After Life (We Survive)” at Yerba Buena Center, it felt really important especially knowing that we were going to turn it inside out and show the work in public to put forth not just reflections on where we’ve come from and how we can act and think differently and be in relation differently, but actually to present work that was already modeling different kinds of relationships and bringing forth buried archives of survival and solidarity and resilience that are so often covered over, even when we talk about revolution and what it looks like.
And that is essentially what I pitched last year to Yerba Buena Center. There was an open call, really broad, saying pitch whatever you want on the second floor of Yerba Buena with like zero parameters of like how many artists or whatever. And I pitched this show, but more expanded to think about the San Francisco context.
And bringing in some of my earlier research and thinking about specifically Filipino American artists and the Bay area who’s work I really think help us imagine alternative futures. Michael Arcega, for example, who was in the first show. And, you know, other Bay area artists who I thought could really help activate the Yerba Buena space in particular, right, to help us think about not only, you know, maybe more global, whatever that means, forms of violence, but really things that were close to home. Really specific to the Bay area around the violence of displacement, the violence of evictions, right, the violence of food insecurity, and other kind — policing, right, things that are really still prevalent here.
Michelle Lin: [affirmative response]. I think that’s what I also — we really loved about. We also read your essay in Yerba Buena Zine on this exhibit and we particularly love how you talked about — I think the quote was, “We have been living in the After Life for a long time.” So, even with the context of this exhibit is going up now in this pandemic, that there’s like misconception in spaces that don’t, like, center Black, Indigenous, Asian American folks, that like things aren’t particularly bad just right now because of the current administration or pandemic. And like in ways they are, but also that does erase this long history of movement, organizing work that people have been doing for a long time and continue to do.
And so, like, we really like that part in the essay, thinking about how that there have always been queer, Brown, Black, and Indigenous folks who’ve never stopped fighting. I’m quoting you now, “to preserve our collective humanity in this quite broken world.” And just thinking about how these different violences and also the different, like, radical ways in which we survive are all very much connected to each other. And I think one thing that you mentioned is like what good is art at a time like this? And I’m wondering if you could like maybe just share a little more about that and like what you’ve been thinking about. Maybe if anything’s changed now that exhibit up, too. You know? Might be interesting to share.
Thea Quiray Tagle: So, thank you. Thank you for having engaged and having read it. You know, one thing that I’ve really been thinking about and have for a really long time is there’s this really overquoted Toni Cade Bambara quote, right, that says that “the role of the artist is to make revolution irresistible.” And it’s such a powerful quote and I want to agree with it with my whole heart, and also, I have such trouble with it. You know, for a long time, and the reason why I went to grad school, is because I was really troubled and thinking about this question of yeah, like, how do artists serve the movement? And what kinds of movements do we serve? You know, art is incredible as propaganda and incredible as movement work.
And thinking back to Kearny Street Workshop, like when I started my dissertation, I didn’t know everything or really much of anything about folks like Al Robles or Carlos Villa, and folks that I ended up writing about. Or contemporary artists at all. I came to it because of the posters, right? The Kearny Street Workshop posters and Nancy Hom and those incredible like prints and pieces that said we won’t move and how important that was to articulating solidarity. Real, you know, transnational, multigenerational solidarity for a shared cause. And in that way, you know, I always think the artist’s so central to movements.
And at the same time, as someone who, at different moments in my life, has been part of so-called radical or leftist or feminist organizations. Like I’ve had to leave many places that I thought of as my political home because of the ways that, right, women or queer folks like myself who were leadership even were so marginalized for a kind of flattened narrative of what the space was about or what our movement was for. And that’s not unique. And so, from having those experiences, it’s also this thing of like art should also be used to put pressure on that. Art should also be used not just to uplift the great work that movements are doing and amplify the slogans, but art can also be used to make revolution, you know, to point out the fact that revolutions can be ugly and can hid the existence of queer folks in our communities and other spaces. I think that all of the work is kind of trying to play with that, to play with that question a little bit. And I don’t think I’ve answered your original question. So, maybe you can restate it.
Michelle Lin: I mean, in a way I think you have because, like, a lot of that, like, what good is art during this time? The question that continues to transform itself. I think as artists one of the responsibility is to constantly be holding that question and thinking it through because it needs to adapt because that’s where possibility and transformation happens is like continuing to return to it.
Kazumi Chin: Yeah. And I think — I guess the problem with revolution as a genre of thinking, of action, is when it becomes known and it becomes a particular thing that doesn’t include others who have a different vision of that revolution. And so, the goal of art is to make revolution irresistible. It really does matter what revolution, whose revolution, what are the things that this revolution is even doing? Right? And does that revolution include the kind of work that marginalized people within the movement even are thinking through and trying to accomplish. And I think something that you were talking about is queer dreams and thinking about dreaming queerly in these exhibitions and I think that maybe can help us expand on this idea of revolution in maybe a different kind of imagining.
Thea Quiray Tagle: Yeah. And thank you. [indiscernible 16:08] both of you are like really great distillations, right, of these thoughts and ideas. And, you know, with this show in particular there’s some artists — I mean, all of them, to me, are radical in their own ways even if it’s more quiet than in others, but all of them I think actually articulate a kind of queer desire for us to relate to one another differently, whether we’re thinking about overthrowing capitalism and having, right, radical social transformation in that way, to really radically shifting how we interact with each other, like on a really day-to-day interpersonal basis.
I was drawn to all of the particular projects in this show, but also to these artists because of the ways that we shaped and continue to shape, right, what the project looks like. So, you know, there’s a couple of pieces that I can point out that I think help, right, maybe illuminate what kind of like queer dreaming or queer speculation can look like when, you know, maybe overtly is Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s, “Tomorrow We Inherit the Earth.” And I think he has done stuff with Kearny Street Workshop before. Right? Everyone knows and love Zulfikar in the Bay, which is amazing.
Zulfikar’s whole project is about taking up this figure, this really contentious figure, at least in the West, of the martyr, the Islamic martyr, and having us rethink really what they died for and what they’re living for. Right? I mean, Zulfikar’s whole project is about resurrecting. Sufi and other kind of mystical traditions. He plays a lot with numerology and he presents this initial with a multicolored, hyper-colored world that’s both really identifiably Muslim and also really identifiably queer. Right? And he doesn’t see these two things as somehow in contradiction, but as things that can live together and has possibilities for folks that can live together in ways that I think are popular, imaginary of who queer people are as not religious as well as who Muslims are, which isn’t queer. Don’t allow for. He’s actually giving us that world.
Queer dreaming, and again in terms of what can art do at this time, right, and how can we see the political even in smaller or quieter moments. I’m really thinking about the work of Art 25 and they’re a collective of two. And for this project in this show, “Future Ancestors,” Lisa Jarrett and the poet Lehua Taitano collaborated with Jocelyn Kapumealani Ng who, you know, is based in Honolulu and is Kanaka Maoli.
And the three of them, you know, this is, to me, is maybe the most radical project in that it’s 11 larger than life portraits of three fem presenting folks in radial embrace, binding and holding and caring for each other, you know, with their bodies exposed or covered in different moments in ways that are really hard to define if you’re looking at them. You don’t know what that relationship is, if it’s mother-daughter, if it’s lover. What’s happening there?
And their whole project is about holding, right, holding one another and caring for one another in a way that the state will never care for us, that mainstream society will never love us like we can love each other. And that, to me, is really profound. And to be able to show that again publicly, I think, is something that, for me, demonstrates the power of art. Right? To make you stop and be like what the heck am I looking at, in this arresting way that maybe even a more overt protest flyer or something wouldn’t make you stop.
Dara Del Rosario: With that work in particular, just even the title, “Future Ancestors,” I think about what we are going to pass on for people to come. Right? Like what is the state of the world in which we hope to create that they can inherit, that they can live and thrive with? And I also think about, like, the inheritance of intergenerational trauma in [indiscernible 20:14] DNA or intergenerational hope and how this moment is really impacting, like — or like it’s opening up ruptures, right?
I think that’s something that we’ve talked about, the three of us, of how this exhibition is really about, like, what are the multiple ruptures that are happening and what is growing from these ruptures? And like the big thing that came up for me was just like relationships are coming out of these ruptures, that love is coming out of these ruptures, because these are things that we’ve been taught for so long that we have to capitalize off of, that we have to find — that we have to have some type of marketable value with, but like, what does it mean to love and care for each other authentically to create a future in which there is [indiscernible 21:00]?
Thea Quiray Tagle: Yeah. And thank you for saying that because one of the things that’s been kind of weird about this show, in this version of it, is in all of the writing I’ve had to do, every time I write a draft of something, like whether it was the text that was on the outside of the building, or that opens it up online, or the longer essay, I wrote it and then I was like oh, my god, this sounds so corny. Like what? Why do I sound so corny? And, you know, the astro part is I’m Capricorn with Leo moon. Like putting emotions out on blast and like leaning into love and relationship is not something publicly that I do as like a way of being.
But at the same time, like over the course — and this, I think, is something that’s very different about curating than perhaps art writing or scholarly writing, which is sometimes a really solo pursuit, is that curating and putting out shows are really about that relationship at its core. And for me, curating this show and working with these artists who, again, had two and a half months to really turn things inside out to put this show out really tested, you know, all of our relations and reminded me why I loved their projects to begin with because of what they are about in terms of the content of it, but also the people behind it. Like I really care for them and the work that they’re making.
And as a curator who takes the care part seriously, the Latin cognate of curation, all of this show, the way it was put together, really is this radical exercise in trust. Right? How can we actually hold each other in terms of me holding the integrity of their work and, you know, them trusting that I wouldn’t exploit them to an institution to have this show, them trusting in a larger vision because many of them couldn’t be here at all and still can’t be here to see the work or have any hands in installing the work, trusting that the institution wouldn’t just put their images up and not their words and the intention behind it. All of that, I think, is all really — I don’t want to, you know, make it sound like I’m so radical, but I think it’s a radical act, right, of caring that we were all part of it, and that’s been actually, for me, the most profound part of this project. [music]
Michelle Lin: Hey, everyone. It’s Michelle here. We hope you’re enjoying our first episode so far. We’re taking a quick break for the following announcements. Submissions are now open for our interdisciplinary writers’ lab presented by KSW and the Asian Art Museum. IWL is a three-month multi-genre master class for BIPOC writers in poetry, fiction, and comics. This year’s faculty includes Devi S. Laskar, Trinidad Escobar, and Monica Sok. Amazing people. You don’t want to miss out. Please submit your work by March 15th. And we’re very excited to read them.
And on Friday, March 19th, 6:00 p.m. Pacific Standard Time, KSW presents “Spirit Houses,” a poetry reading featuring Maw Shein Win and Khaty Xiong. This event is a celebration of Maw’s newest book, congratulations, Maw, titled, “Storage Unit for the Spirit House” from Omnidawn, and is a celebration of both poets’ powerful work performing rituals of grief, pain, and the life after it and with it.
Also, if you’re a writer of color writing about similar things we’re actually accepting submissions for readers to open the event. So, you can visit our website, kearnystreet.org, to submit. That’s also where you can buy a ticket, sponsor a ticket, or for those in need, claim one of those sponsored tickets. So, we hope to hear from you soon. And, you know, let’s get back into this episode, because I’m excited to dive right back in. Thank you for listening. [music] I really appreciate you bringing that up because on one end like I totally recognize that it is very radical, and on the other end I’m just like this is what curation work should be. So, thanks for sharing that.
Thea Quiray Tagle: Yeah. And, you know, again, Kearny Street, I’m really happy that you’re all putting together this podcast and just extending that work too, because for a long time, you know, Kearny Street was a model and is a model for what different kinds of relationship could look like and boost up, especially within different Asian American communities that don’t often come together or work together or have like intergenerational beef. Right? I think that’s rad.
Michelle Lin: I also just love the term intergenerational beef. Like, can that be, like, our tagline for this podcast? But, I mean, yeah, it’s definitely been a huge honor and gift for, like, all of us to be like part of KSW to continue working in this like long lineage. And that’s one of the hopes we have for this podcast. We’ve been calling it a living archive because we’re thinking so much about how we want to be in conversation with artists and organizers from KSW’s past but also people who are carrying on that work today and thinking about the future generations.
And something that really drew us to, like, really wanting to bring you on is also in just reading your writings about the exhibit and also this exhibit itself. Just like these artists are documenting ways of surviving, like radically surviving and loving and being in relationship with each other. I mean, like, this is possible. It is so possible. And you can do it, too, in the future. So, yeah. And you can do more because it’s like when you — people were laying down this groundwork and, like, can you imagine what more queer dreaming, you know, can happen?
Thea Quiray Tagle: Absolutely. And just hearing you talk made me think about — and I’m not a word person. To the extent, like, I never remember, like, other people’s quotes. Right? Like I have to write them down. Like, and have them because I can’t just pull it out of a hat. But this whole question of archiving and why we archive, there’s this — you know, he’s now passed on, he’s an ancestor, but you know, the queer Latinx performance study scholar Jose Munoz has this incredible book on critical utopia, and he talks about the work of critical utopia as a kind of archiving. And, you know, he says, and this is a quote from him, that “the present must be known in relation to the alternative temporal and spatial maps provided by a perception of past and future affective worlds. It’s an act of calling on the past to animate it, understand that the past has a performative nature, which is to say rather than being static and fixed, the past does things.” And that’s an end quote. And I think about that a lot. How, at every moment, when — you know, with this show and in other projects that I’ve curated, like how can we bring together work of artists that I think do an amazing job of archiving the past in a different way? And again, presenting alternative futures that we all can live in and, you know, bringing up these ancestors that so many of us forget are ours.
Like, you know, Alejandro Acierto’s piece in the show has a sound clip from Sylvia Rivera where she stormed the stage at a Christopher Street Gay Right’s rally in 1973 and was already calling them out, right, for whitewashing the movement, for pushing trans women of color out of the movement. And it’s, you know, Alejandro resurrects, right, this angry and fierce TRANScestor to remind us, right, of the ongoing resilience and survivance of trans women of color in all movements, not just mainstream lesbian and gay, right, liberation movements.
But also, does it in a way, because it’s activated the video by LGBTQ as a hashtag. So, it’s also archiving for us what people are doing right now, even on the internet, to organize. And that’s super rad because that’s showing us that, like, LGBTQ organizing also involves organizing for DACA and organizing for Black Lives Matter and all of the intersectional social justice movements. And I love that. I love that it’s an archive of the past but also one of this present. Right? Archiving this moment of, again, intergenerational, multiracial solidarity.
Dara Del Rosario: Honestly, I feel like I’ve just been learning and listening a lot from this conversation, too, and like say I know that — like, I’ve talked to you about curation before and, like, it’s something I’m so passionate about learning about. And so, for me, like knowing that there are curators with this in practice, it definitely makes me feel less isolated. Right? Which I also think is really powerful. And so, I really appreciate you coming onto this podcast for this interview. So, I just want to extend my gratitude.
Thea Quiray Tagle: Thank you. But I should say I learn from you all of the time. I mean, see you and, like, PJ Policarpio and like Kim [indiscernible 30:27] and the way that you all collaborate and work with each other has been super informative. Like even if it’s mostly on Facebook and like Insta that I see that relation, I think that, like, I learn a lot from that, too.
Kazumi Chin: I think maybe we can start wrapping up. I have one last question about world making. You wrote about world making and [indiscernible 30:50], we look at the exhibit and we do see these worlds that are being made even as you walk past this museum turned inside out and you see these images and how arresting they are, and I feel like that is an instance of world making in a very small moment. And I think also where you’re speaking to, in the essay and in the curation, is, you know, like an expansion of that idea of world making. And so, I would like to know, I guess, as we close up here, like, what do you envision the world that you’re making with this exhibition to be?
Thea Quiray Tagle: I don’t know if this is answering your question at all. But I see kind of — I’ve been seeing some things as I’ve been walking past the exhibition, because I kind of go by there several times a week to take folks through, right, or just to check up on stuff. And two things I notice in terms of always present there, because right, like everything else, YBCA is shut down on the inside and it really depends on time of day, you know, if anyone’s around or if less people are around.
But two things that have always been present, or more recently have been present, are Filipino men have continued to play chess and card games. They’ve never left, right, and they’re wearing masks which is good. But they’re there. Right? They’re arguing with each other and playing chess every single day and right in front of the window and doing their thing, getting takeout or whatever. And then more recently, and maybe I shouldn’t say, but it’s there, in one of the exhibitions there’s seeds, because the project is about plant life and plant making as like forms of witchcraft, and in the installation a little mouse has been coming to visit to eat, to take the seeds. You know? And the artists love it and I do, too. I don’t think the institution loves it, but they haven’t gotten rid of it yet. And I think both of those things are actually part of the exhibit now in terms of modeling life and resilience in the midst of, right, like a really challenging time. Our communities have continued, right, to show up and to be there and to live. [music]
Michelle Lin: “We Won’t Move: A Living Archive” is a program by Kearny Street Workshop. For this first season we’d like to shout out some of the donors who helped make this podcast happen. These are just some of the folks who gave during our 2020 yearend fundraiser. So, so much love to Adrienne Sancho, Alex Brown, Alexandra Naumova, Alfred Wong, Alle Hsu, Alvin David, Amanda Chaudhary, Amira Samaha, Amy Lam, An Bui, Andrew Yeung, Angie Lou, Anna Bunting, Anne Schukat, Anne Okahara, Antmen Pimentel Mendoza, Arhm Choi Wild, Atsushi Murase, Audee Kochiyama-Holman, Audrey Brown, Barnali Ghosh, Beatrice Dong, Benny Hom, Brahmavar Amrutha, Cara Nguyen, Charles Higueras, Chen Chen, Choppy Oshiro, Christine Joy Ferrer, Christine Santos, Christine Wong Yap, Claire Light, Clarize Yale Revadavia, and Sourmouth Sweetheart. Thank you so much for your love and support. We will continue to shout out our supporters in future episodes and if you would like to make a donation to help sustain this podcast and other KSW programs, you can visit kearnystreet.org. Stay updated on our events by following us on Instagram, @kearnystreet. We hope you take good care of yourselves and we’ll see you very, very soon for episode two. Bye. [music]
Miko Lee: [00:56:59] Please check out our website, kpfa.org to find out more about how you can take direct action. We thank all of you listeners out there. Keep resisting, keep organizing. Keep creating and sharing your visions with the world. Your voices are important. Apex express is produced by Preti Mangala-Shekar, Tracy Nguyen, Miko Lee, Jalena Keane-Lee and Jessica Antonio. Tonight’s show was produced by your hosts, Miko Lee, and Jalena Keane-Lee. Thanks to KPFA staff for their support and have a great night.