**What does POC solidarity mean to you?**
VISIONS, SOMOS Latino Literary Magazine, and OBSIDIAN Magazine—Brown/RISD’s literary and visual art magazines centered on people of color and their experiences— want to start a conversation on solidarity among communities of color. We are creating a collaborative zine to start what we hope will be the first of many discussions on this topic.
Share your writing and visual art engaging with the topic of solidarity in POC communities. Email submissions in 300dpi .jpg, .doc, .docx, and .pdf formats to the Brown Publications of Color Collective at BrownPOC@gmail.com by March 15, 2015.
[event poster credits to Alex Karim at OBSIDIAN]
Facebook event here!
VISIONS is officially accepting submissions for our Spring 2015 issue!
We publish work of all genres and mediums ranging across poetry, painting, translation, photography, non-fiction and sculpture.
We ask you to provoke our notions of identity and culture. To challenge the idea of a single Asian or Asian American experience.
Please send your art and writing to firstname.lastname@example.org by Thursday, February 26. Images must be 300 dpi or higher. We look forward to reviewing your work!
This essay was initially slated to appear in the Fall 2014 issue. However, our print vendor is based in the People’s Republic of China, and as we found out at the very last minute of production, PrintNinja is subject to Chinese censorship laws. Thus, they could not print the magazine if it included this documentation of the Hong Kong protests.
In order to receive the magazine in time for our biannual release event, we were unfortunately forced to pull Larry’s essay from the print issue. We printed it domestically as an insert that will appear in 300 select copies.
We were angered and disappointed by yet another case of censorship. In retrospect, perhaps we should have foreseen the implications of outsourcing our printing to China. But more importantly, this incident served to remind us of the privileges that we often take for granted, of the absolute necessity and right to freedom of speech and press we all deserve. It reminded us of our position as university students in America and of our privilege to publish in a forum such as VISIONS. We must remember that injustice anywhere impacts us all, and continue to draw attention to the ongoing struggle for universal suffrage and democracy outside the United States.
A Visual History of the #UmbrellaMovement
photo essay by Larry Au
Perhaps more out of luck and habit than anything else, I happened to be able to watch events develop in Hong Kong this summer until the eruption of the so-called “Umbrella Movement” at the end of September. After graduation, I returned to Hong Kong, where I witnessed the annual July 1st March, a tradition since 2003, when half a million took to the streets to protest the implementation of national security legislation perceived to curtail civil liberties. This year’s march was the biggest since it began. What would otherwise be a thirty-minute walk from Causeway Bay to Central took over six hours to complete. In the tropical summer heat and sudden downpours, the call from those gathered was clear and simple: “Let us have a genuine choice for our 2017 elections”.
When the National People’s Congress handed down their decision on August 31, very few had expected it to be as restrictive as it was. Even pro-establishment and pro-Beijing politicians were caught by surprise.
On a Saturday afternoon, seventeen students of Brown University filed into the Faunce Memorial room to a long table where they began to take out their notebooks and pens. Mia and I were there already, placing snacks on the bench next to the window, as participants recognized each other, filling the airspace with greetings and laughter. Then, the hosts of the event, the poets Paul Tran and Zainab Syed, came to sit at the long table, and the workshop began.
The day was October 18th, and VISIONS was hosting its first writing workshop, produced with the help of the Asian American Heritage Series (AAHS), which is a series of events at Brown University focused around themes relating to Asia America. VISIONS is a literary publication that acts to artistically reflect the voices of the Asian and Asian American community on the Brown and RISD campuses. For years, we remained committed to that goal, and we have produced spectacular magazines showcasing beautiful art and literary pieces dealing with issues concerning Asian America. Yet Mia and I were interested in producing an event outside of the pages, physically bringing together artists and writers in a way we had never tried before. We wanted to create a real community utilizing an interest in art and literature as its basic foundation.
Coincidentally, we found out that Paul Tran and Zainab Syed would be coming to campus soon to perform at AAHS’s “Beats of Resistance,” a showcasing of Asian American spoken word poetry that also featured the poet, Jamaica Osorio. Paul and Zainab were both former students and poets of Brown, as well as former contributors to VISIONS magazine, and Mia and I seized the opportunity to ask them weeks before if they would like to host a poetry workshop before their main event.
Paul and Zainab agreed and collaborated to create a beautiful lesson plan. They began by asking all the participants why they were here. All of the students were using up a Saturday afternoon by sitting with a roomful of strangers. We could hear the sounds of laughter and conversation over a warm Main Green drifting in through the windows. Why were they here? One participant said he wanted to explore his half Asian identity, and another claimed she wanted to “forge spoken word to reflect what [she] feels”. Some had a fear of speaking aloud and wanted to overcome it; others wanted to explore how writing poetry could become a process of healing.
Together, Zainab and Paul explained that the spoken word was borne out of sacrifice, out of putting shattered pieces back together to create something that was bigger than one’s self. Their own journeys as poets seemed to reflect this; Paul came from a family in which he was the first to speak English and the first to go to college.
Following our short discussion on poetry, we then looked at a poem by Paul’s friend and fellow poet, Cathy Linh Che. It was called, “My Mother upon Hearing News of Her Mother’s Death,” and it was pulled from her new chapbook, Split. The participants read the poem aloud three times and then they discussed which parts particularly struck them. They talked about the language of the poem, and the visceral nature of the subject matter, which was about seeing a loved one lose a personal relative. Paul ventured a few questions for the participants to think about:
How is this poem racially marked?
Would you have wanted the poet to translate the certain words that were in a different language, so that it could become more accessible?
Participants accepted the untranslated words as the figurative reflections of the poet’s experience and her history. Following this analysis of the poem, Paul and Zainab asked everyone to pick a certain image from the poem and write their own poem using it. Remember, Zainab said, that every word in your poem is meant to be. After forty minutes, these young writers read their raw and unrefined poems aloud. Many had never read their material before strangers, and some performed visibly shaking. But their unsteady voices grew louder, and their words resonated in the large room, filling it with a sense of empowerment and life. Everyone seemed to lean in, concentrating on each other’s words, sighing or snapping or ‘yes’-ing in agreement or recognition of a shared experience.
At last, it was over. Time was up. In the hour and half of the workshop, it seemed as if the participants had changed; or if not, they had at least begun the process of transformation. This moment, Paul and Zainab said, was part of the process of writing poetry and opening up to a community. Our poetry workshop was meant to be a part of this living process, a first step to building and providing a community on campus. As we move forward, VISIONS will continue to build upon this momentum, hopefully creating a tradition of writing workshops and other safe spaces for the unheard voices of Brown University.
My Mother upon Hearing News of Her Mother’s Death
She opened her mouth and a moose came out, a donkey and an ox, out of her mouth, years of animal grief, I lead her to the bed, she held my hand and followed, she said, Chết rồi, and like that, the cord was cut, the thread snapped, and the cable that tied my mother to her mother broke, and now her eyes red as a market fish, and now, she dropped like laundry on the bed.
The furniture moved toward her, the kitchen knives and spoons, the vibrating spoons, her mouth a sinkhole, she wanted all of it, the house and the car too, with the AC and wood paneling, and the flowers she planted, narcissus and hoa mai which cracked open each spring—the sky, she brought it low, until the air was hot and wet and broke into a rain—
the torrents like iron ropes you could climb up, only I couldn’t, I was drowning, I was swirled in, I leapt into her mouth, her throat, her gut, and stayed inside with the remnants of my former life. I ate the food she ate and drank the milk she drank. I crowded the furnishing, her swollen heart. I grew up and out so large until I became a woman wearing my mother’s skin.
From Split, Alice James Books, 2014
Amanda Ross-Ho is an artist quickly becoming harder to miss. And it’s not just due to the physical presence of her work, which often generously fills the spaces of large exhibition rooms—or in the case of The Character and Shape of Illuminated Things, a handful square meters of a busy street front (shown above and below). Instead, I’ve found that the forcefulness of her art results from the contrasting display, in all of her pieces, of both Ross-Ho’s understanding and skepticism of her own unique identity.
In questions of identity—both of her own and, more interestingly, that of the greater population of Asian-American artists—Ross-Ho is as involved in the discussion as they come. And, not just through art, but also through literature. She is, for instance, featured in War Baby / Love Child a book edited by Laura Kina and Wei Ming Dariotis, which the University of Washington Press describes as an examination of the “hybrid Asian American identity […] at the intersection of critical mixed race studies and contemporary art.”
Hence, while her biography on The Saatchi Gallery identifies Ross-Ho’s inspiration as in “detritus: the clutter and remnants of daily existence, and the ‘negative space’ of things over looked” and “the subtle beauty of coincidence and anomaly,” these themes, seemingly detached from explorations of identity, when truly considered in the context of Ross-Ho’s life story, become so clearly intertwined with the experience of Asian-American artists. After all, it is in a lack of understanding of such cultural contexts that a person’s role and importance in society may be undervalued or disregarded and it is in face of the unfamiliar that people classify the unconventional as an oddity.
Through her participation in the literary examination of Asian-American artist identity, the impact of Ross-Ho’s work therefore extends far beyond her larger-than-life installations and assemblages. She is affecting an entire community, promoting its further acceptance and campaigning for its celebration. She’s not simply an artist but a dynamic individual to watch.
Most people doodle weird, fantastical drawings into the margins of their notebooks during math class boredom. Tokyo-based artist, Pinpin Co., however, uses skin as her choice of canvas. These incredible photographs are the products of hours of drawing onto the faces of her subjects, moving along the contours of their faces and bodies to create something surreal. Pinpin Co.’s tool is humble. She uses just a simple pen to shape and sculpt their faces into masks. The products then are temporary, ephemeral–washed or smudged off with water or a finger. And in that sense, they are beautiful.
Pinpin Co.’s dedication to ink on skin has extended beyond photographs. She’s done performance art, drawing on dancers with her pen as they performed, changing them from dancers into fluid drawings.
Yayoi Kusama is back at it again. Almost seventy years into her artistic career, Kusama is as prolific as ever. Coming out of her recent collaboration with Marc Jacobs and Louis Vuitton, Kusama brings out her more free-style and poetic paintings for her solo exhibition, “I Who Have Arrived in Heaven” at the David Zwirner Gallery in NYC. These twenty seven large scale paintings celebrate more vibrant tones from bright oranges to deep cerulean blues and periwinkle purples. In addition, two of Kusama’s infinity rooms are on display along with a video installation, Manhattan Suicide Addict, based off Kusama’s first semi-biographical novel. The exhibition opened just ten days ago, and will be up for public viewing until December 21.
Critically acclaimed Japanese writer Haruki Murakami, author of 1Q84 and Norwegian Wood, has recently published a short fiction piece in The New Yorker about an unidentified creature that one day wakes up in the body of a human. Strange as it may seem, “Samsa in Love” brilliantly showcases the best-selling author’s trademark Kafkaesque surrealism and imaginative descriptions. Whether you love him, hate him, or have never heard of him, Murakami’s “Samsa in Love” is definitely worth a read. If you’re still not convinced, the opening paragraphs, reproduced below, will give you a good feel for the piece. Check it out!