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communic

ASIANS spring 2006

ART IN THE
API COMMUNITY

How Asian American artists preserve traditions


and challenge perceptions
communicASIANS
spring 2006, v.v, issue no.2

cover graphic by Cecilia Yang

FEATURE communicASIANS is published quarterly


by the Asian American Activities
Art in the API Community............................................................................3

6
Center (A³C). Views expressed in
communicASIANS are those of the
Unexpected Directions.......................................................................4 writers and do not necessarily represent
What does a middle-aged, straight Taiwanese man, know about gay cowboys? the opinions of the A³C. communicASIANS
welcomes all signed letters of opinion,
Rediscovering 19th Century Asian American Artists.........................6 which are subject to editing for length,
The Asian American Art project at Stanford accuracy and grammar.
No Artists in My Family.......................................................................8 Asian American Activities Center
The search for Asian American artists 545 Lomita Drive
Stanford, CA 94305-3064
Far*East Movement.........................................................................11

11
Revolutionizing the Asian image in music
STAFF
Stories for the Dead........................................................................12
Stan Lai, playwright and director, challenges students in creativity and acting EDITOR-IN-CHIEF
Social & the Aesthetic......................................................................14 JULIE KIM
Exploring the world of traditional Filipino American music & dance in the Bay Area COPY EDITORS
KYLE BRUCK
THE NEWS STEPHANIE NGUYEN
LAYOUT EDITOR
Tremors in the Himalayas.........................................................................15 CHRISTINE CHUNG

15
Earthquakes strike South Asia and Stanford and the world responds
CONTRIBUTORS
Avian Flu...................................................................................................16 YI-REN CHEN
What you should know LARISSA CO
API Heritage Month..................................................................................18 WILL GUTIERREZ
Asian Pacific Islander Heritage Month originates from a bill
LIMIN LAM
LINDA LEE
MARK LIU
VOICES KIMI NARITA
Mark Liu & Linda Lee: Spencer’s Gift & the Return of Racist T-Shirts.....19 FRANCIE NEUKOM

24
STEPHANIE NGUYEN
Kimi Narita: Finding What I’ve Got............................................................20 SOLINA TITH
Linda Lee: Beyond the Painted Smile......................................................22 JESSICA WANG
JILLIAN WONG
Stephanie Nguyen: Of Goodbye and Clippy the Paperclip........................24 REID YOKOYAMA
JAZIB ZAHIR
EDITOR’S LETTER A3C STAFF
Over the years, CommunicASIANS has written about many API issues DIRECTOR
ranging from politics to sexuality. But you may have wondered as you CINDY NG
picked up the magazine and saw the cover of this issue, why art? Why
have an issue devoted to art when there are other seemingly more ASSISTANT DIRECTOR
important API issues? Questions like these are the reason why art SHELLEY TADAKI
should be discussed. Art surrounds us daily in so many forms that we
AIM COORDINATOR
often forget to stop and really think about the different perspectives
MARC RILLERA
behind the art. The articles in this feature examine these perspectives
and ask questions. How does being Asian American influence an ASIAN AMERICAN STUDIES
artist? What is being done to preserve this rich yet underrepresented LINDA LEE
history?
“Why art?” CAMPUS AND ALUMNI RELATIONS
Because art is not a topic of general discussion in the API community,
I was worried that it would be difficult to find writers. The strong LINDA TRAN
response of writers who were interested in contributing to the feature
COMMUNICASIANS
on art and Asian Americans pleasantly surprised me. The enthusiastic
STEPHANIE NGUYEN
and varied responses reinforced that students are interested in the arts
and how Asian Americans are involved in preserving the traditions yet COMMUNITY BUILDING
challenging stereotypes. JEN LAU
My goal as CommuncASIANS’s new editor-in-chief is to find new
ideas and perspectives that make you want to read this magazine. COMPUTER SERVICES
The purpose of CommunicASIANS is to explore issues affecting the STEVE NGUYEN
API community. The issues are diverse: ranging from art, politics,
stereotypes, social challenges, and more. My hope is that you are CULTURAL PROGRAMMING
able to learn something new, to challenge social norms and or just to YANG LOR
get you thinking in a different light and to inspire the readers to enact BEIJIA MA
change in our society or in your personal lives. FACILITIES COORDINATOR
As editor-in-chief, I can also tell you how hard many people worked JULIE KIM
to create this product. I hope that these efforts are apparent in the
quality of this magazine. My heartfelt thanks goes out to all the writers FROSH INTERNS
and the editors and their long hours of writing, editing, layout, and CHRISTINE CHUNG
everything in between. CHRISTIAN DALIT
And to you, the readers. You did not have to open the magazine. ALEXANDER DAO
But you did. I hope that a question piqued your interest and that you CECILIA LEE
will continue on to read the articles and view the photos. I hope that JASON LEE
new questions will arise and you will start to wonder about the future MARCIA LEE
issues of the API community. While the ink on these pages has just
dried, I am already looking forward to the next issue and the ideas you GRAD STUDENT PROGRAMMING
have. I highly encourage you to take any thoughts you might have ALICE SIU
and develop them into an article for CommunicASIANS. E-mail me at
MAJOR EVENTS COORIDNATOR
jekim@stanford.edu if you are interested in writing an article, have
CYNTHIA LEE
comments or criticisms, or just want to say hello.
MAJOR EVENTS ASSISTANT
RATUL NARAIN
ENJOY,
SPEAKER SERIES
TAMMY PHAN

JULIE KIM, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF WEBMASTER


AMY YU

2 communicasians
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feature

rtin
the
A
API T he modes of art among Asian
American artists are as diverse
as their intentions. A film
director strives to make great movies
by infusing his personal experiences
and fresh perspective into the scenes.

community
Student artists face the challenge of
resolving their own passion for art with
the pressure for a practical career.
Hip hop musicians live their dreams
of making music while in the process
improving Asian American representation
in the music industry and dealing with
issues like the “model minority.” A
playwright uses his experience to guide
student actors as they explore their
own feelings and perceptions. These
are just a sampling of the wide range of
artists and their stories. But the broader
story does not end here. Others strive
to preserve the works and histories of
Asian American art of the past, while
some work to understand the art of the
present. Whether one is making the
art or understanding the art, one fact
is apparent: art is thriving in the API
community. Within the following pages,
delve into this exciting world of art. ■

“Light Hearted” by Anh Tran


communicasians 3
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Unexpected
of the Brokeback screenplay, also saw Lee’s
foreign outlook as an advantage. “One of the
things that Ang brings to all of his projects
is his deep sense of being a double exile, an
outsider’s outsider,” McMurtry told the San
Francisco Chronicle. “It allows him to con-

Directions
nect with, to find his way to, other exiles and
outsiders.”
Even critics have found his foreign status
a benefit for the film overall.
“He knows how to handle the subtle in-
ner feelings in an Eastern way while retain-
ing the American way of telling the story,”
movie critic Liang Liang told the Associated
Press. “In this way, the emotions presented
What does Ang Lee, a middle-aged, straight have transcended the levels of a gay story
and become universal.”
Taiwanese man, know about gay cowboys? Lee feels that his Asian background has
had a deep affect on his filming career.
by Francie Neukom “Who I am, how I was brought up, I use

I
that a lot in my work,” he said, “I feel that
t may seem as if the last person that could traditional Chinese film. Although he had deep inside of me, there’s a mistrust of de-
direct a movie about two young gay cow- lived in New York City for 25 years, he still pending on things. Everything changes. It’s
boys and their love affair on the open claimed not to quite understand American kind of Taoist. At a certain age, every Chi-
range would be a middle-aged, straight Tai- culture. But he saw this as an advantage in nese person thinks that way.”
wanese man. But Ang Lee is not your aver- making Broke- Various Stanford
age director. Ever since he first read the sto- back. students have not
ry of Brokeback Mountain by Annie Proulx “I love ex- found Lee’s cultural
four and a half years ago, he was determined ploring authentic background to be dis-
to make the book into a film. “When I first American terri- tracting from the over-
read the story, it gripped me,” he told the tory: Civil War whelmingly Western
New York Times. “I had tears in my eyes at fighters, comic story either.
the end.” book heroes, cow- “[Lee] brings an
But first there were obstacles to over- boys,” he said in a element of beauty
come. recent interview as that doesn’t exist in
“I was on my way to do ‘The Hulk,’ so I part of a press jun- American Westerns,
went ahead doing that,” said Lee to the Hol- ket. “I know all of the story being a fo-
lywood Reporter. “But the whole two years these are cultural cus on nature rather
those 30 pages of Brokeback Mountain kept icons, but I feel than merely the set-
haunting me. I just couldn’t forget it. It re- like when I look ting being in nature,”
fused to leave my mind.” at them, I see the said sophomore Dawn
After Lee finished The Hulk, he asked ‘other side of the Maxey, who saw the


the original screenwriter movie a week before
if Brokeback had been ac- it opened. “Had the
quired by a producer yet. director been typi-
To his delight, he found I just dive in. And that makes cally American, I think the focal point of the

’’
movie would have been elsewhere.”
that it had not and quickly
obtained the rights to pro- my perspective rare and fresh Sophomore John Maas, who has seen it
duce the film adaptation. twice, hesitated to characterize it as a West-
Many critics were skep- ern.
tical of Lee’s abilities to di- “I wouldn’t call it a Western at all,” he
rect such a Western story, especially since he moon’—the side that nobody sees. I didn’t said. “Of course it happens to take place in
had just finished directing The Hulk, a flop in grow up here, so I don’t know the metaphors, the West, and its visual language is that of the
the box office. The only movie he had made the subtleties. I just dive in. And that makes West, but in the end, that matters less than
that garnered American critical acclaim was my perspective rare and fresh.” Larry Mc- the love story. Calling it a Western is like
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000), a Murtry, award-winning author and co-writer calling You’ve Got Mail a techno-thriller—it

4 communicasians
[Art ]
misses the point. Proulx’s story, after all,
is not really a Western story—it’s a love
story. Love is universal and accessible
to every culture.”
Sophomore Tiffany Morris, who saw
the film two weeks ago, agreed with
Maas’s assertion.
“Ang Lee seemed to want to capture
both the beauty and undeniability of love
between two people and also the tragedy
of a world that tries to thwart it,” she
said. “What made the movie good was
not its ‘cowboy’ quality but the ability of
the director to show the conflict between
pure love and society. Perhaps with this
movie Ang Lee is broadening the defini-
tion of a Western by forcing viewers to
see the common links between his and
other Western films.”
And Lee has tried to link his own per-
sonal experiences with the setting of the
film. Although the story’s setting in rural
Wyoming may seem drastically different
from Lee’s Chinese homeland, he found
commonalities.
“I think the American West really at-
photos courtesy of futurefilmfestival.org, impawards.com, mvps.org, and eclipse.org tracts me because it’s romantic,” he said.
“The desert, the empty space, the drama.
Same with China.”
His home country has lauded him as
“the glory of Taiwan,” and he received a
hero’s welcome last month after Broke-
back received four Golden Globes, in-
cluding Best Drama. However, his mov-
ie was quite controversial when it first
opened in China.
“They had never seen men kiss be-
fore,” he said. “That was the first one,
and you could hear the collective gasp
from a thousand people, and then they
settled down and watched the movie.
They loved it.”

Credits
Although Lee enjoys making tradi-
Brokeback Mountain (2005)
tional Chinese films, he has appreciated
Hulk (2003)
this break from directing them.
Director’s

The Hire: Chosen (2001) “Chinese films exhaust me,” he said.


Crouching Tiger, “Psychologically, it’s a burden because
Hidden Dragon (2000) I’m Chinese, and you spend a lot of en-
Ride with the Devil (1999) ergy in the production, making things
The Ice Storm (1997) happen. There’s no question that Ameri-
Sense and Sensibility (1995) can actors are the most comfortable with
Eat Drink Man Woman (1994) the cameras.”
The Wedding Banquet (1993) Nevertheless, Lee has hinted that his
next project will be “something Chi-
Tui Shou (1992)
nese.” ■

communicasians 5
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feature

Rediscovering 19th Century


Asian American Artists
The Asian American Art project at Stanford has been neglected by Art History and Asian
American Studies, either because researchers
by Reid Yokoyama have felt it’s too hard to study or not impor-

T
tant.”
he Asian American Art project at Stan- sources cannot. One of the most poignant It may be shocking to realize that the first
ford University seeks to recognize the examples is found in the work produced by exhibit of Asian American art was show-
achievements of Asian American artists Japanese American artists during WWII. In cased only eleven years ago in October 1995.
who were active from the mid-19th century the oil painting Untitled, Jack Yamasaki uses The exhibit at San Francisco State Univer-
to 1965. sharp structural angles and a lack of color to sity was called, “With New Eyes: Toward an
From the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 reflect the desolation and hardship of life at Asian American Art History in the West.” It
limiting Chinese immigration into the Unit- the Heart Mountain, Wyoming internment featured approximately 100 objects, a small
ed States to Executive Order 9066 intern- camp. Asian American art, with its expres- sampling of the breath of art produced by
ing Japanese Americans during World War sive cultural meanings, contextualizes his- Asian American artists.
II, the political and social history of Asian torical moments for a clearer understanding The exhibit was a catalyst for a larger
Americans has been painful and bleak. Re- of the past. scale study of Asian American art. As a re-
discovering the work of the Asian American “The work of Asian American artists is sult of the exhibit’s success, Mark Johnson,
artists’ that lived through these challenges significant, perhaps one of the most signifi- Director of the Art Gallery at San Francisco
defies the myth that creativity played no part cant cultural contributions by Asian Ameri- State University, and Sharon Spain, the Asian
in their lives. Their art expresses emotions cans to this country” said Gordon Chang, American Art Project Manager, received a
and feelings of this history in ways other Professor of History. “This field of research grant from the National Endowment for the

6 communicasians
[Art ]
(Left) Jack Yamasaki, Untitled, 1942,
oil, from Ayumi: a Japanese American
anthology (San Francisco: Japanese
American Anthology Committee,
1980) p. 284. (Center) Teikichi
Hikoyama, Pines of the Shore, ca.
1922, woodcut, private collection,
San Francisco. (Right) Chiura Obata,
Setting Sun, Sacramento Valley,
1927/1928, color woodcut on paper,
printed by Tadeo Takamigawa, Tokyo,
private collection, San Francisco.
(Below) Professor Gordon Chang,
from “A Personal Journey,” Stanford
Today Online, Nov/Dec 1996.

artists in California between 1890 and


1960. The project also has an interna-
tional scope and will feature an essay
by Kao Mayching, Professor at the
Open University of Hong Kong. His
piece is entitled, “Chinese Artists in
the United States: A Chinese Perspec-
tive.” In addition to essays, the book
will include biographies of 160 Cali-
fornian artists, serving as a directory
of their education and exhibitions. It
is complete with a timeline of the his-
Humanities to begin studying Asian Ameri- The fruits of this project will culminate in tory of Asian American art juxtaposed with
can artists in California from the 1860s to the publication of the novel, Asian American major events in Asian American history.
1965. Upon the discovery that Asian Ameri- Art: Starting from Here along with an exhibi- The project has been assisted by curators
can artists were also active in major cities tion at the De Young Museum in San Fran- at the Smithsonian Institution Archives of
outside of California, such as Seattle and cisco to open in Fall, 2007. American Art, San Francisco State Univer-
New York, the project has broadened to be- “Asian American Art: Starting From sity, UCLA, and Stanford. Perhaps, more
come the most comprehensive study and in- Here” will include essays from ten writers ap- important to the project’s success is the work
terpretation of the American history of visual proaching Asian American art from different of many undergraduate students of these
art created by individuals of Asian ancestry. regions and disciplines. For instance, Karin schools. “Student input in the book has been
Now in its tenth year, the project is near- Higa, Senior Curator of Art at the Japanese significant,” Professor Chang says. “They
ing completion. Four years ago, the project American National Museum in Los Angeles, have interviewed families, artists, and tracked
moved to Stanford with down sources.” Over the last
assistance from the Stan- decade, more than fifty stu-
ford Humanities Lab and dent interns, many of them
Professor Chang. The “The work of Asian American artists Stanford students, have con-
archives of original files tributed to the success of the
are the largest of its kind
is significant, perhaps one of the most
project. Spain adds that, “the
anywhere, stacking over significant cultural contributions by project would not be where it
twenty feet high. Accord- Asian Americans to this country.” is today without this impor-
ing to Spain, “the artist -Professor Gordon Chang tant student involvement.”
files include a variety of Professor Chang hopes
materials: artist inter- that student interest in Asian
views, newspaper articles, American art will spark fu-
records for exhibitions, examples of artwork, writes about Japanese artists in Little Tokyo, ture uses for the project. He envisions use
photos of the artists…basically anything we Los Angeles during the interwar period. Val- of the archives in future Asian American art
can get our hands on that relates to a particu- erie Matsumoto, Associate Professor of His- courses and research at Stanford. Thus, this
lar artist.” Over one hundred Asian Ameri- tory at University of California, Los Angeles, project will ensure that the legacy of Asian
can artists are detailed in the archives. covers the history of female Asian American American art will continue. ■

communicasians 7
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No
“Self Portrait”
Anh Tran

rtists
A in My
Family
The Search for Asian
American Artists
by Larissa Co and Jillian Wong

C
hinatown: a mixture of Eastern and Western influences spring
up in these neighborhoods in cities across the United States.
The culture that is created at these intersections is vibrant and
distinct. The art that grows from this culture is just as rich and tex-
tured. However, one may ask: when one considers the depth of the
culture, why are there not more Asian American artists who pursue art
as a living? We interviewed two Asian American artists from Stan-
ford to find out what has hindered an Asian artistic Renaissance.
Anh Tran is a junior studying Architecture. Although she origi-
nally planned to pursue a Biological Sciences major, she eventually
realized that art is an important part of her identity. Anh sketches,
paints and does photography—hobbies she has had since she was
young. However, she wanted to obtain a science degree because she
thought it was the more practical thing to do. After reflecting on all of
“Dancing” her options, Anh finally decided that Architecture would allow her to
Anh Tran be creative and still have a stable career.

8 communicasians
The Artists [Art ]

Amy Lee Anh Tran


Senior Junior
Art major Architecture major

Practicality was something that Amy Lee, a senior, was also con- derstand why I was giving up biology. To them, it just didn’t make
sidering when she first came to Stanford. Because she always knew sense”, she says. Ahn doesn’t blame them for their point of view;
that she was interested in art, she wanted to major in Product Design. she sees it as a cultural norm for Asians, who are expected to study
Amy believed that this major would allow her to use her creativity hard and pursue engineering, math or science. Similarly, Amy is still
to create commercial products for other people. Eventually, she real- struggling to convince her parents that art is the path that she wants to
ized that she had deeper themes in her art that could not be conveyed take. Her parents live in China, and still hold very traditional values.
through mainstream design. Her interests led her to become an Art She acknowledges that many Asian parents still do not view art as a
major, where she has been able to explore varying media from paint- legitimate profession since it does not assure success and stability.
ing and filmmaking to installation art among other projects. Both artists say that familial pressure and strict Asian values con-
Ahn and Amy experienced similar hesitation to major in an art- tribute to the lack of Asian American artists today. Ahn thinks that
related field. They both agree that practicality is a strong Asian value most Chinese families, like hers, believe that “art is something you do
that played into their decisions. Ahn says that even though her par- for yourself instead of a profession.” At the same time, Asian artists
ents are not as conservative as some Asian families, she still sensed like Ahn and Amy draw from their rich culture in some of their work.
their resistance to her becoming an artist. “My family couldn’t un- When Amy travels to Beijing to visit her parents, she goes to the art

“Thousand Legs”
Anh Tran

“Lips”
Anh Tran

communicasians 9
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galleries there. The first time she art to always have been a mix of identities. The term “Asian Ameri-
went to an exhibit was the first can artist” leads to different interpretations by the two artists. “I feel
time in her life she appreciated like I’d owe it to the Asian American community to call myself an
Chinese paintings. Ahn adds that Asian American artist,” Amy says as she points out that there are not
most of her Asian-inspired paint- enough of them out there. At the same time, she clarifies that she is
ings are food or family related, not doing identity work, or creating art with the sole value of em-
because these are two things she phasizing her Asian identity. Ahn, on the other hand, says that Asian
associates the most with her cul- influence does not have a huge impact on her art. Growing up in a
ture. For instance, she made a suburban neighborhood, she feels that she didn’t have much exposure
photo series on Lion’s supermar- to Asian artwork. She wants to explore this side of her culture, but
ket, an Asian grocery store which she just has not had the chance to.
she says is an appropriate icon Clearly, there is more to Asian American art than just being Asian.
for her own personal culture. To Amy, her Asian roots exert a less obvious, deeper influence in the
Living in the United States, fluidity of her paintings, just as her culture is a mix of Western ideas
Asian American artists like Ahn on the surface and more subdued Eastern values. Will art eventually
“Light Hearted” and Amy, are exposed to a mix of serve as a medium for describing the uniqueness of Asian American
Anh Tran Western and Eastern values that culture? Ahn thinks so. She says that hopefully, as each generation
affect their artistic influences and is exposed to other cultures, Asian American parents will allow their
so do not see themselves as purely traditional Asian artists. Amy says children to become professional artists. Artists like Ahn and Amy are
that growing up and living in both Asia and the West has caused her definitely going to lead the way. ■

Amy Lee

10 communicasians
[Art ]
teners around the world.
Aware of their broad audience range,
Far*East Movement’s lyrics have multiple
missions. Inspired by “the current state of
our people and [Asian American] dreams
and aspirations,” Roh asserts that their music
is very much based on emotions and real is-
sues. Using their lyrics not only as a form of
musical expression, Far*East Movement also
writes about issues and struggles pertinent to
Asian Americans. Infused in their music are
messages dispelling the “model minority”
myth and other lesser known concerns about
being Asian American. “Everything,” says

photo courtesy of LiMin Lam


Roh, “is an inspiration.”
At the end of the day, what drives the boys
of Far*East Movement is their genuine in-
terest and passion for their music. However,

Revolutionizing the Asian Image in Music


by LiMin Lam music wasn’t something they always serious-
EAST
Movement

M
ly considered as future careers. For instance,
eet Far*East Movement: smart, tal- like many other second generation Asian
ented, connoisseurs of hip-hop and Americans, Roh’s parents dreamed that their
R&B, and Asian American. Form- son would become a lawyer. Recalling his
ing the dynamic hip-hip trio, the emcees Kev first year in law school, Roh disclosed that
Nish (Kevin Nishimura), Prohgress (James “as every semester passed […], I realized
Roh), and J-Splif (Jae Choung) share a com- this was not what I wanted to do.” While his
mon passion for lyrical composition and fellow law students “lived and breathed” law,
new-age rhythm. Undeterred by the low rep- Roh realized that his heart was with Far*East
resentation of Asian Americans in the music Movement and his co-emcees.
industry, Far*East Movement joins other Given Far*East Movement’s determina-
Asian American artists such as Vienna Teng, tion and breadth of talent, it will only be a
Ken Oak, and Kai in forging a new image for matter of time before they make it big in the
Asians in music media. music industry. Their previous collabora-
*
However, being Asian American pioneers tions with Ruff Ryders’ Jin the Emcee, TQ,
in the hip-hop scene is not an easy task. “It’s and Ken Oak, have earned them a reputa-
hard […] because people don’t take you se- tion for being stylistically true and lyrically
riously. People always ask what language brilliant. Defying common Asian American
we rap in,” says James Roh. However, Roh stereotypes, Far*East Movement’s unique
FAR

is an optimist. He is still confident that the style has made them an internationally re-
time has arrived for Asian Americans to be nown and popular L.A. underground hip-hop
heard. “People are curious about the Asian group. Their politically infused messages
experience these days,” says Roh, “So it’s and bona fide lyrics have set the stage for a
only a matter of time before our music gets new generation of Asian Americans in hip-
heard.” Already their audience is expanding hop and music.
as Far*East Movement has been featured in And, for the record, all of the songs on
magazines such as URBAN and Hapa Maga- Far*East Movement’s self-titled debut al-
zine and has performed at both national and bum are in English. ■
international shows. Furthermore, streamed
via the internet, their videos and songs con- For more information, visit their website at
tinue to reach thousands of fans and new lis- http://www.fareastmovement.com.

communicasians 11
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feature

tories
S theDead
for
by Solina Tith

S tan Lai, or in Chinese Lai Sheng-chuan, is


one of the most renowned and influential
playwright/directors in Asia. To date, he has
created 24 original plays. Lai’s most famous
work, The Peach Blossom Land (1986), was
made into an award-winning full motion pic-
ture in 1992 and has been performed world-
wide, including 50 productions in Beijing
alone. Furthermore, he revived the lost art
of “crosstalk,” in his work That Evening, We
Performed Xiangsheng. In addition to creat-
ing critically acclaimed plays and films, Lai
Stan Lai, renowned playwright and director, also has experience as an arts educator and
scenic designer and often helps conceptual-
challenges students in creativity and acting ize set designs in his own plays.
Most recently, his epic seven-hour play, A
Dream Like a Dream received top awards at
the 2003 Hong Kong Drama Awards and is
described as a “play within a play” because
“the story [beginning] with one character and
leading into another” (Taipei Times). Mul-
tiple actors play the role of Gu Shiang-Lan, a
prostitute in Shanghai during the 1930s who
is diagnosed with an incurable disease. As
she confronts her impending death, Shiang-
Lan revisits the diverse roles of her life, in-
cluding her role as a wife, painter, and survi-
vor of the Cultural Revolution. In addition
to the interesting subject matter, two unique
qualities make the play especially engaging.
First, new characters are constantly intro-
duced throughout the play. Second, multiple
scenes take place simultaneously as a 360-
degree stage surrounds the audience. More-
over, the seats rotate so that the audience can
see the actors in any direction.
Lai acquires inspiration for his plays from
many different sources. For instance, he
integrated the following experience that a
friend vividly described to him into A Dream
Like a Dream:
One morning, I woke up and went to the
kitchen to make breakfast. I cracked an
egg over a pan and immediately found my-
self back in bed again. I went to the kitchen
again to make breakfast. After cracking an
egg, I immediately found myself back in bed
again. This happened six times. The seventh
day I cracked the egg and the egg cooked.
Since that day, I have lived my life. I wonder
what if the egg had cooked on the 5th day?
This story about cooking the egg demon-
Stan Lai at the National strates how Lai is not a stranger to integrat-
Theatre in Taipei, Taiwan
photo by Michael Ting
12 communicasians
[Art ]
photos courtesy of Solina Tith
pants and I developed our
own concepts of the “in-
between” by incorporating
our unique perspective as
students growing up in the
United States.
Lai also primarily uses
improvisational techniques
to create his plays. With
Lai’s direction, we used
improvisation to freely in-
tegrate our own personal
feelings, experiences, and
Stan Lai during a workshop sponsored by the Stan Lai and the students in his IDA workshop perceptions into scenes.
Institute for Diversity in the Arts at Stanford develop the play Stories for the Dead The product was a play
about the challenges of
ing surreal elements in his theatrical work. Working with Lai has taught me much growing up in the United States of Amer-
Lai seamlessly blends both imaginary and about theme development and creativity. For ica, addressing issues such as American
realistic aspects of personal experiences in instance, Bardo, meaning “in-between” death family dynamic, parent-child relationships,
his work. and rebirth in Tibetan Buddhism, was chosen violence, individuals’ interactions with the
Lai brought his talent as director and as the underlying theme. However, work- community, socioeconomic divides, and iso-
playwright to guide students in a workshop ing with Lai, I realized that the Bardo theme lation.
sponsored by the Institute for Diversity in the was simply meant to guide our creativity and Stories for the Dead asks the question: to


Arts at Stanford (IDA). IDA was started what extent are Americans aware of the
in 2001 as a way to support students, fac- unique challenges they face as a society?
ulty, and artists by fostering an environ- ...art is a window through Thus, by integrating surreal elements in

’’
ment of cultural awareness at Stanford which communities can a thought-provoking, witty and entertain-
and its surrounding communities. IDA ing manner, the play forces the audience
hopes to increase the opportunities for become more aware... to challenge their perceptions of true re-
students to study non-western artistic ality in America. From this experience I
practices. To date, sixteen artists have have learned that art is a window through
been invited to teach workshops in a variety would be applied very loosely to the devel- which communities can become more aware
of art forms, with an emphasis on race and opment of the play. In fact, we were initially of serious social issues and is a way of inspir-
diversity issues. As a participant in Lai’s unsure if the play would even include scenes ing social change. ■
IDA workshop, I worked alongside other stu- of death or rebirth. Instead, Lai placed more
dents and Lai to develop a play, Stories for emphasis on how our own personal experi- For more information about the Institute for
the Dead, which was performed at Stanford ences of Bardo could be incorporated into the Diversity in the Arts at Stanford, visit:
from March 15 to 17. play. As a result, the other workshop partici- http://www.stanford.edu/dept/ida/.
Scene Shots

A Dream Like A Dream The Peach Blossom Land


photo by River Wang photo courtesy of Performance Workshop

communicasians 13
A
feature
[Art ]

Social
&
PiNoisepop is an annual
Asian/Filipino American
music festival that takes
place in San Francisco.

the
Aesthetic
Aesthetic
Exploring the world of traditional
Filipino American music
and dance in the Bay Area
by Will Gutierrez Kulintang, a traditional

T
Filipino percussion instrument,
he stage is completely dark. A piece of Performance as a concept has always fas- consists of eight tuned gongs.
music starts filtering through the speak- cinated me. This summer, I worked at a Fili-
ers, filling a university auditorium with pino community center in San Francisco and
music played on gongs. Lights direct our at- was approached by one of our partner La-
tention both to a man in a pre-colonial getup tino organizations. They asked if our center
with a scimitar sword and to his kneeling could help diversify the ethnic entertainment
female counterpart. Neither one is smiling. of an interethnic neighborhood fair they were
Pots of varying sizes are scattered around organizing, which included lion dancers and
the stage. Throughout the dance, the man danza azteca. Our offering was a group of
struts around the stage, gathering pots to be local youth dancing to the American pop art-
stacked atop the woman’s head culminating ist Gwen Stefani.
in a tower of earthenware. The man contin- Recently I learned that there were plans
ues to strut as the gongs build to a droning floating around for a multimillion dollar op-
climax and the stage goes completely dark. era-style Filipino arts space in the South of
Applause. “That gong music,” my sister Market neighborhood of San Francisco. I
asks me after the show, “sounded kind of found this to be an interesting development,
like Missy Elliott’s ‘Get UR Freak On,’ didn’t considering the sizable low income Fili-
it?” pino population in that area and the recent
This is my most prominent memory from struggles they have had securing affordable
a show that I saw during my childhood. It housing. In light of this obvious clash, I
was a showcase of historical Philippine dance wondered: how do communities choose to
styles. A troupe of about twenty perform- present themselves onstage and how do these
ers danced short portrayals of various types choices conflict with social needs?
of Filipinos: unsmiling Filipino Muslims, I am currently completing honors research
grim and indigenous Filipinos, lively peas- on this subject in Comparative Studies in
ant Filipinos. Since that night, I have been Race and Ethnicity (CSRE). In the process,
interested in how traditional-seeming perfor- I am constantly confronting this conflict be-
mances, such as the one from my childhood, tween social forces and aesthetic forces in
can have such undeniable force in the Fili- the Filipino community. The question that’s
pino community. Are these dances popular driving my work is simple but hard to an-
because they remind us of historical bodies swer: how are dancing bodies entangled with
or because they are compelling fiction? bodies offstage? ■
photos courtesy of Will Guiterrez

14 communicasians
A
the news

(Left and below) After the earthquakes hit


South Asia, many countries assisted by pledg-
ing donations and other aid. Here, people in
need of aid wait for helicopter relief. (Bot-
tom) The state of Kashmir suffered the most
from the earthquakes. 100,000 people are
estimated to be dead.

Tremors

photos courtesy of Jazib Zahir


in the Himalayas
Earthquakes strike South Asia and Stanford and the world responds
by Jazib Zahir at Stanford. With support from the Muslim Student Awareness Net-

B
work and Sanskriti, they prepared special presentations and flyers to
arely had the world recovered from a devastating tsunami create awareness about the tragedy on campus. According to their
and hurricanes when South Asia suffered a massive earth- website, $19,318 has been successfully raised by the campus for this
quake in the early hours of October 8th 2005. The rumble cause. Senior Maham Mela, an active member of Pakistanis at Stan-
registered a powerful 7.6 on the Richter Scale ranking it among the ford, points out that, “though the response was understandably less
largest earthquakes on record. While gentle tremors and aftershocks than that to the tsunami and Katrina, the efforts were commendable
rippled across the entire region, significant damage was confined to because this was the first time
the northern territories, most notably to the sections of the disputed Pakistanis at Stanford was able
state of Kashmir currently administered by Pakistan where nearly a to coordinate a project with off
100,000 people are feared dead. The aftermath of the earthquake and campus relief groups as well as
relief efforts dominated the region’s news, thoughts and actions for organizations directly involved
months. in Pakistan.”
Entire buildings collapsed in and around Muzaffarabad in Kash- It is heartening to see how
mir. The occupants of many homes and schools were killed instan- people have demonstrated
taneously while many others were left buried in the rubble only to be compassion through their mon-
discovered days and even weeks later, barely clinging to life. The etary contributions and support
Pakistan Army spearheaded relief efforts by mobilizing troops in the of the relief efforts. Hope-
area to clear the rubble and flying in supplies via airlifts. The nation fully, the government will use
was united in its efforts to collect funds and basic commodities to be the funds to strengthen the in-
distributed among the victims. Thousands of working professionals frastructure and guard against
and students in the country cast aside their daily routines to lend a future possibilities of damage.
helping hand in the relief efforts. Unfortunately, all endeavors were It is also notable that Pakistan
impeded by the onset of a bitter Himalayan winter. and India agreed to open the Line of Control – the disputed boundary
The response of the world to this tragedy has been heart-warm- line - at five points to facilitate the movements of relief workers in
ing. Several countries pledged billions of dollars of aid to Pakistan. the region. Perhaps the most important lesson for the region is how
Special mention must also be made of the student group Pakistanis political boundaries cease to exist in times of need. ■

communicasians 15
AVIAN
A
the news

by Yi-Ren Chen

A
vian Influenza, commonly known as
bird flu, is an infectious disease caused
by a class of viruses that normally in-
fect birds and sometimes pigs. Avian flu vi-
ruses are highly species-specific, but have,
on rare occasions, crossed the species bar-
rier to infect humans. Bird flu harmlessly
infects wild birds but can infect unprotected
domestic birds through contact with infected
bird saliva and secretions. Recent outbreaks
in domestic birds and some humans in con-
tact with these birds began in Southeast Asia
around mid-2003 and are the largest number
of infections on record: never have so many
countries been simultaneously affected, re-
sulting in the loss of many birds.
The pathogen, the H5N1 virus, has proved
to be especially resilient. Despite the death
or termination of an estimated 160 million
birds, the virus is now considered endemic
in many parts of the world. Control of the
disease in poultry has proven to be extremely
difficult due to this extreme virulence.
From mid-December 2003 until early
February 2006, outbreaks in poultry have
been reported in South Korea, Vietnam, Ja-
pan, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Indonesia,


China, Malaysia, Russia, Kazakhstan, Mon-
golia, Turkey, and Romania. Only Japan,
South Korea, and Malaysia have announced Despite an advance warning that has lasted almost t
control of their poultry outbreaks and are
now considered free of the disease. In the
the world is ill-prepared to defend itself against a p
other affected areas, outbreaks are continu-
ing with varying degrees of severity. and death in humans. Victims’ health rapidly outbreak comparable to that of the 1918 avi-
The prevalence of H5N1 in poultry poses deteriorates, resulting in multi-organ failure an flu outbreak that was caused by the H1N1
two main risks for human health. The first and ultimately death. Most cases have oc- flu virus and killed between 20 million and
is the direct infection of humans from poul- curred in healthy children and young adults, 50 million people.
try, resulting in severe symptoms. Although and over half of those infected have died. Human cases have been reported in sever-
there are many forms of the avian flu virus, The second and even greater risk is the pos- al countries, including Cambodia, Indonesia,
of the few avian flu viruses that have crossed sibility of mutations in the viral genome that Thailand, Vietnam, China, Iraq, and Turkey.
the species barrier, H5N1 has caused the will allow transmission from person to per- The risk of pandemic flu is serious, as each
largest number of cases of severe disease son. Such a change could result in a global additional human case gives the virus an op-

16 communicasians
N FLU
A
the news

What You
Should
Know ral drugs, Tamiflu and Relenza can reduce the
severity and duration of illness caused by flu.
However, efficacy depends on early adminis-
tration, usually within 48 hours of symptom
onset. Another substantial constraint to wide
usage is the limited production capacity and
price of the drugs in most countries. It would
take a decade to produce enough Tamiflu to
treat 20% of the world’s population.
Fortunately, the World Health Organiza-
tion (WHO) and many nations are taking
steps to prepare for a pandemic. Follow-
ing a donation by industry, WHO will have
a stockpile of antiviral drugs sufficient for 3
million people by early 2006. These drugs
can be used near the start of a pandemic in
the geographic region of outbreak to reduce
the number of human infections. Many na-
tions have also proceeded to vaccinate its
poultry and reduce the number of diseased
birds. For instance, China has recently em-
barked on an ambitious plan to vaccinate all
of its poultry with 5.2 billion flu shots. These
preventive measures will hopefully decrease
the likelihood of a pandemic.
For now, it is safe to continue eating
poultry, as there is no evidence that prop-
erly cooked poultry or eggs can be a source
of infection for avian influenza viruses. The
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
photos courtesy of Yi-Ren Chen

(CDC) does not recommend any travel re-


two years,

’’
strictions to affected countries at this time.
pandemic. However, it is advisable for travelers to af-
fected countries to avoid poultry farms, con-
tact with animals in live food markets, and to
portunity to improve its transmissibility in the vaccine needs to match the pandemic vi- avoid any surfaces that appear to be contami-
humans. rus, large scale production cannot start until nated with poultry secretions. ■
Despite an advance warning that has last- the pandemic viral form has emerged. Un-
ed almost two years, the world is ill-prepared fortunately, flu vaccines are produced using Information obtained from the World Health Or-
to defend itself against a pandemic. Al- chicken eggs and take time to incubate, mak- ganization, the Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention, and Dr. Wayne F. Peate, M.D., M.P.H,
though a vaccine against the H5N1 virus is ing it difficult to quickly respond to an out-
associate professor of public health at the Col-
under development in several countries, due break. Current global production capacity lege of Public Health and of clinical family and
to the high mutation rate, no H5N1 vaccine is falls pitifully short of the projected demand community medicine at the College of Medicine,
ready for commercial production. Because that a pandemic would require. Two antivi- University of Arizona.

communicasians 17
A
the news

API Month
Asian
Pacific Islander
Heritage Month
Originates
from a Bill
by Jessica Wang

M
ay marks Asian Pacific Islander
Month, which is celebrated all across
the United States. At Stanford, Asian
Pacific Islanders currently constitute 24 per-
cent of the undergraduate student population
and 11 percent of the faculty. This year, sev-
eral Asian American groups on campus have
planned activities to celebrate the month.
In June 1977, Representatives Frank Hor-
ton of New York and Norman Y. Mineta of
California introduced a House resolution
that called upon President Jimmy Carter to
proclaim the first ten days of May as Asian
Pacific Islander (API) Heritage Week. The photo courtesy of imagesoftheworld.org/thailand
following month, senators Daniel Inouye and
Spark Matsunaga introduced a similar bill in eign ancestry or to celebrate their experience charity fundraiser in which the proceeds go to
the Senate. Both bills were passed. On Oc- in America? It seems to be a catch-all for an Asian American organization that works on
tober 5, 1978, President Jimmy Carter signed anything Asian.” pressing issues in our Asian American com-
a Joint Resolution designating the annual cel- The month is typically celebrated in a vari- munities, particularly that of sweatshop labor
ebration. ety of ways, ranging from indulging in Asian in the garment industry. Asian Images is a
In May 1990, the holiday was expanded food and culture to discussions and confer- panel event of guest speakers that explores
when President George H.W. Bush desig- ences on current issues related to Asian Pa- the topic of Asian Americans in the media.”
nated May to be API Heritage Month. He cific Islanders. Yet the primary focus of the Senior Brian Nguyen said that he felt that
chose May in order to commemorate the im- Month is ambiguous. According to Chang, having a month devoted specifically to Asian
migration of the first Japanese to the United “It’s unclear if API Month is meant to be kept Pacific Islanders may be counterproductive
States on May 7, 1843. The month of May is inoffensive or if it is something to highlight to promoting their culture “I don’t really no-
also significant because it marks the anniver- more political issues, the struggles Asian tice if it’s Black History Month or Women’s
sary of the completion of the transcontinental Americans face today for greater inclusion.” Month, all the months are the same to me.
railroad – which was built primarily by Chi- At Stanford, several student groups are Different groups shouldn’t be limited to spe-
nese immigrants – on May 10, 1869. Dif- organizing events to celebrate the month and cific months to celebrate their culture. People
ferent events and struggles that Asian Pacific promote cultural awareness on campus about should just respect each other and try to learn
Islanders faced through history contribute to API history and issues. about different cultures. Because once API
the importance of the month. “As for AASA events, this year we are Heritage Month is over, does that mean you
History Professor Gordon Chang dis- planning our annual events such as AASA should stop learning about Asian people?”
cussed the tension that exists in the concept Fashion Show and Asian Images,” said Asian Junior Judy Wang echoed similar thoughts,
of API Heritage Month: “Is the month for American Students Association co-president saying, “API Heritage Month shouldn’t be


Asian Pacific Islanders to celebrate their for- Linda Tran. “The AASA Fashion Show is a just a month, it should be all year.” ■

According to [history professor Gordon] Chang, ‘It’s unclear if API Month is


meant to be kept offensive or if it is something to highlight more political is-
sues, the struggles Asian Americans face today for greater inclusion.’

18 communicasians
A
voices

all photos courtesy of both Lee and Liu


Spencer’s Gifts Hosts the Return
of the Racist T-Shirt and Sparks
Asian American Student Activism
by Mark Liu and Linda Lee The appearance of these same moronic t-
(Above right) The first t-shirt design to spark

M
shirts after the A&F controversy begs a few
controversy. (Below) Two featured t-shirts on
ore than three and a half years af- answers. Why did these t-shirts appear again?
open display at a local Spencer’s Gifts bou-
ter Abercrombie and Fitch (A&F) The campaign against A&F was successful
tique.
thought it was hip and marketable to in getting the t-shirts removed and receiv-
print racist images of Asians onto t-shirts, an- ing a lukewarm apology from the company,
other company, Spencer’s Gifts, is at it again. but there were no institutional changes. Few
This time the shirts have explicit sexual made the connection between the sale of rac-
overtones. One shirt reads “Hang Out With ist merchandise and the institutional and in-
Your Wang Out” with the same caricature of cidental racism within US history. Although
a buck-toothed, slanty-eyed Asian wearing a Spencer’s Gifts issued an apology and pulled
conical hat as its A&F predecessor. the offensive shirts from stores, images that
Although not as large as A&F, Spencer’s demean and defame Asians/Asian Americans
Gifts still has a large reach with over 600 will (re)appear in the media, unless and until
mall locations in the United States and Can- society addresses racism in the fullest sense.
ada. When the A&F shirts hit the shelves, This controversy raises another funda-
within a day, Stanford students met to plan mental question. Why do college students
what to do about the t-shirts. A nationwide react so quickly against racist t-shirts but
campaign started and students inundated do not take a stand against the sweatshops
A&F with phone calls, e-mails, and picket- that exploit Asian workers to produce the t-
ers. Much like the campaign against A&F, shirts? Oftentimes, our anger and activism is
the movement against the Spencer’s Gifts limited to only what we think directly affects
t-shirts started with college students. Van- us. Ultimately, the degradation that we feel
essa Au, a graduate student in the Bay Area, when racist shirts are made is linked to the
brought the controversy to the community’s degradation a worker feels when her rights
attention through her blog. Word of the cam- are violated and her humanity denied. We
paign then spread through e-mail, and people share a common struggle with the rest of the
responded by calling Spencer’s Gifts and world against oppression in all its forms. ■
signing an online petition, which collected
over 1500 signatures. Because of people’s For more information on this issue, please
efforts, Spencer’s Gifts has issued an apol- visit the web site: http://www.wearing
ogy and the t-shirts were pulled. racism.blogspot.com.
communicasians 19
A
voices

One
Student’s
Quest to
Discover
Beauty
Beyond
Female

Finding Wh
Idealism

During spring of neath it all, I was hoping no one was looking


my freshman year, at me and wondering why I was there. In ret-
I watched from the rospect, it all seems silly. But at the time, as I
audience as girls looked around and saw attractive, thin Asian
moved their bodies girls, I could not help but feel inadequate.
sexily to the ad- What gave me confidence was dancing.
dictive rhythm of After much hip-hop experience, I knew I
Britney Spears’s had rhythm and could “shake it.” One of our
“Toxic.” So this choreographers created an amazing all-girls
Kimi Narita was AASA Fashion routine to Ciara’s “1-2-Step.” We practiced
Show? It looked hard every Friday afternoon to get the moves
amazing, and I love to dance. Soon after, I right. Our knees were bruised from going
found out that I had gotten in. I was thrilled! down on them so often on hardwood floors,
And then it hit me. What was I think- but I had so much fun. I forgot about my
ing? I am not model material. I am 5’5” body size at these practices because I was so
and a size 12…not a size 2. Self-doubt wrapped up in dancing.
and misgivings about my body image However, the feeling of inadequacy
plagued my thoughts during the first few sprung up again when the Fashion Show
Fashion Show practices. clothes arrived. Aside from modeling in the
Instead of squaring with my insecuri- sets I was dancing in and the finale, I found
ties, I faked confidence. During practices, out I would not be modeling in any other
I smiled and oozed self-assurance. Under- sets. The clothes were too small.

20 communicasians
A
voices

photos courtesy of Kimi Narita


hat I’ve Got
I cracked. That afternoon I cried to my
friend who was participating in the Fashion
at me when I modeled. Instead, they
cheered loudly. And when I was on stage,
Show as well. I cried about how insufficient with the bright lights and blaring music, I
I felt compared to stereotypical Asian female felt sexy for the first time in my life. I felt
body images. I am not small like how Asian sexy when I danced, and I felt sexy when
girls should be. I am not thin like how Asian I modeled.
girls should be. I am not dainty like how It took me a long time to realize some-
Asian girls should be. thing very simple: fitting into stereotypes
After that good cry, I knew I could no is severely overrated. No, I do not have
longer fake confidence. I wasn’t happy. In- the body of a stereotypical Asian woman.
stead, I turned to what made me confident-- But now it doesn’t matter as much to me.
dancing. When I dance, all that body image Confidence isn’t found through trying
junk melts away until all that is left is the to fit into those stereotypes but by mak-
beat of the music and the movements of the ing the most of what you’ve got. I know
dance. With modeling, there were no flashy this is easier said than done. I am still
dance moves to cover up what I looked like. self-conscious about my body. Feelings
This was a frightening thought until I real- of inadequacy spring up more often than
all photos courtesy of Kimi Narita

ized something. I would like, but I get over them easier


It was all in my head. No one in Fash- after having this experience. In the end,
ion Show ever made me feel like I did not being in Fashion Show was a journey
belong. Instead, I made lasting friends. No that made me feel…good. I could not
one in the audience ever laughed or sneered have asked for more. ■

communicasians 21
A
voices

Beyond the
Painted Smile all photos courtesy of Linda Lee
sexualized
resistance ofthe
artful
All of a sudden ev- been a powerfully evocative icon of Japan and a source
erywhere I turn, it’s of fascination around the world since the late nineteenth
all about the geisha. century.” Undeniably, the geisha has indeed fascinated
Especially with the people throughout the world and continues to do so. Un-
recent release of fortunately, perceptions of the geisha often serve to rein-
Steven Spielberg’s force notions of Asian American women as submissive
Memoirs of a Gei- sexual objects.
sha (2005), the cin- Although many, myself included, do not know what
ematic rendition of a geisha is, what she does, or who she is supposed to be,
Linda Lee Arthur Golden’s there do exist some negative perceptions of the geisha
1997 bestseller of as a prostitute and highly sexualized woman. These im-
the same name, images of the geisha seem ages of the geisha as beautiful, sexualized, and subservi-
to be appearing everywhere. Preceding ent have in some cases been projected onto Asian and
the release of this film, the San Francisco Asian American women. Within film and other media
Asian Art Museum featured a popular ex- forms, Asian American women have been typecast into
hibit titled: “Geisha: Beyond the Painted two contradictory roles – the overly sexualized dragon
Smile” from June until September 2004. lady and the docile servant. The “exotic” Asian Ameri-

geisha
All over San Francisco, pictures of the gei- can woman is expected to be both docile and kind while
sha were pasted onto billboards, buses, and keeping her sexual secrets hidden. While the recent re-
taxicabs. It was rare that you could escape lease of Memoirs of a Geisha has re-sparked notions of
her “painted smile.” According to a press Asian American female exoticism and sexual objectiv-
release put out by the museum, “geisha have ity, some Asian Americans continue to resist these ste-
22 communicasians
reotyped images.
A
voices

Centered on the Geisha art exhibit at the Asian Art


Museum in San Francisco, Scott Tadashi Tsuchitani,
a 3rd generation Japanese American artist, attempts
to contest negative images of Asian American wom-
en by reappropriating the Asian Art Museum posters
of the geisha. In an interview with the San Fran-
cisco Chronicle in December 2004, Tsuchitani says,
“When I first saw those images throughout the city,
it annoyed me. It kept bugging me, and at a certain
point, I realized I can stop getting upset about it and
make art out of it.” Tsuchitani’s art consisted of a
spoof of the postcards and flyers used to publicize the
art exhibit. His postcards consisted of an image of
Tsuchitani himself dressed as a geisha whose face is
partially hidden by a fan and plastic-framed glasses
and a line reading, “Orientalist Dream Come True:
GEISHA – perpetuating the Fetish.”
Here Tsuchitani is using his art to comment and
criticize the way Asian/Asian American women have
historically been viewed as a fetish, or highly de-
sired. Although the Asian Art Museum argues that
their show concerning the geisha was an attempt to
contest the popular ideas that the geisha was or is a
prostitute, as opposed to a highly trained and edu-
cated entertainer and partner, Tsuchitani argues that
the plastering of images of the geisha all over San
Francisco simply fed the public curiosity and never
completely demolishes stereotypes attached to the
geisha. For Tsuchitani, other Asian American activ-
ists, and many Asian American women, who might
not identify as activists, the image of the geisha is not
a flattering one, but one that reduces Asian American

photos courtesy of Linda Lee


female identity to that of a sex object.

In attempt to resist such Tsuchitani does is not simply meant to be


simplification of the Asian consumed by art connoisseurs, but are piec-
American female, Tsuchitani, es meant to provoke and destabilize one’s
although he is a man, reinter- perception of dominant, normative culture.
prets the image of the geisha Art is not just for the viewing pleasure but
used by the Asian Art Museum can also have a very particular political
by making it his own and pok- function.
ing fun at the delicacy an im- Therefore, in thinking about more recent
age of the geisha is supposed images of the geisha, such as in the recently
to provoke. Furthermore, released Memoirs of a Geisha, one must
Tsuchitani does not just make rethink and examine closely the ways in
art but tries to share his art with which these characters are portrayed. The
people. Tsuchitani reminisces, Asian community must openly discuss and
“On the closing weekend of question these social norms. It is then that
the “Geisha” show, my friend we can truly appreciate the work of Scott
S. and I plastered Japantown Tsuchitani and the way art is used to resist
[in San Francisco] with doz- Orientalism and other forms of social ste-
ens of mini-posters, and then reotypes. ■
proceeded to plant five dozen For more information about Scott Tsuchi-
glossy inserts in the informa- tani’s work, see his blog Memoirs of a Sansei
tion booth inside the Asian Art Geisha: Snapshots of Cultural Resistance at
Museum itself.” The work that http://www.geishacrossing.blogspot.com.
communicasians 23
A
voices

all photos courtesy of Stephanie Nguyen

For the past week, experience?


I have postponed In total des-
all social meetings, peration, I even
school work, and succumbed to
measures of personal asking for help
hygiene in order to from Clippy, the
write an awe-inspir- annoying paper
ing, revolutionary clip in the lower right hand corner of my MS 2. Going to Castro St. at 2 O’clock in the
farewell to the Class Word program. morning for a late-night “Pho Run.”
Stephanie Nguyen of 2006. But now Clippy: What would you like to do? 3. Watching the ASAA Fashion show for
that the end of the Me: Discover what is the Stanford Uni- the first time and being blown away at the
week has arrived and I am starting to receive versity experience. amazing dance, choreography, and design
threatening e-mails from my TAs demand- Clippy: (Blinks twice.) Do you mean: talent at Stanford.
ing my reasons for missing mandatory sec- “College graduate resume” template? “Re- 4. Turning 21 only to be carded the next
tions, I have come to the sad realization that quest for graduate school recommendation” day at a rated “R” movie. (I guess they are
I spent most of my week either staring at template? right when they say Asians look young.)
a completely white screen or occasionally Me: (Bangs my head on keyboard.) 5. Getting literally “screwed” for Screw
checking thefacebook.com. And by occa- And so, for lack of better direction from Your Sib and then being able to exact revenge
sionally, I mean every five minutes. Clippy and in order to economize my 500 a year later. =)
But please understand my difficulty. How word limit, I have decided to make a list of To the Underclassmen: Don’t worry if
could I possibly begin to sum up the last four my top five memories in the Stanford Asian you have not yet had similar experiences–
years of my life into a single page? How do American community: you still have time create your own Stanford
I even begin to describe all of the amazing 1. Watching so many different commu- memories. Stanford has so many resources
Stanford traditions I have experienced, the nities at Stanford come together to support and surprises waiting for you, so go out and
articulate and passionate people I have met, a greater cause, whether it be the Tsunami make your own memories.
or the knowledge I have learned both inside relief effort in Southern Asia or the Bone To the Seniors: I hope that these were
and outside of the classroom? In other words, Marrow Typing Drive in honor of Professor some of your favorite memories too. Unfor-


how do I describe the Stanford University Gordon Chang’s daughter, Chloe Chang. tunately, we only have the next two months
left together. Listen to some wise advice I
heard from an elder: Life is like a roll of toi-
Take advantage of all the opportunities that Stan-


let paper. The closer it gets to the end, the
faster it goes. So, take advantage of all the
ford can offer while we have them. You have the opportunities that Stanford can offer while

rest of your life to worry about ‘the real world.’ we have them. You have the rest of your life
to worry about “the real world.” See you at
the next Senior Pub Night! ■
24 communicasians
communicASIANS spring 2006 Non Profit Org.
U.S. Postage Paid
Palo Alto, CA
Permit No. 187

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Published by the Asian American Activities Center, 545 Lomita Drive, Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305-3064
(650) 723-3681 http://a3c.stanford.edu