It’s only been a few years since I started to pursue art full time, and it’s been an incredible journey that’s taken me across the world, across cultures and helped me find my life’s purpose—to follow in the creative footsteps of my ancient Corean ancestors rich with spiritual resilience, art and stories that help give me an indigenous cultural foundation within the global colonial and racial violence of our times. And now, with this pandemic—is society fundamentally changing? For better or worse? And what say do we have in this?
My friend told me we’re all nothing and everything—not in a cryptic way—but I think in the contrasting-duality-of-our-unintelligible-lives-that-are-overly/(ill)logically-analyzed kinda way. On one hand, this pandemic has brought me back to my core beliefs and they haven’t really changed: Buddhism, Taoism and Shamanism from Corea, symbolized by the Corean flag (originally the same flag for both North and South until powers that be said they can’t be at war and have the same flag, lol). On the other hand, everything is changing—some for better and some for worse.
Starting with the bad, many artists and cultural workers are not only hurting financially from pursuing art (shots fired!), but the quarantine has shut most ways creative folks can collect some crummy coins falling from the coffers of the system and those that serve it. Scared and selfish people are even more scared and more selfish (Google “toilet paper 2020” every year from now on, lol). I was on a group call with Dow Constantine and he said they have literally spent all of King County’s money, and in a few months they won’t’ be able to fund vital programs unless the state or federal government gives aid (social welfare?—shots fired!). Friends in the community are organizing to support undocumented workers who don’t qualify for federal aid despite paying taxes, providing food to all our families, and working in conditions that nobody in America will do (zing!)! Other friends are organizing around prisoners and their families who are facing another level of challenges besides the racist prison industrial complex, a fancy name for modern slavery. Unreported domestic abuse is on the rise and for many children of color, they do not have a school, hot meals and a social life. Black and brown folks are dying at racist rates, per usual in America, and Asians are targeted for being connected to the virus, the fall of America (as understood to be the rise of Asia), a typical scapegoat move by mass media and American politics. With all these atrocities—what are we to do? Besides getting a very unequitable distribution of a $2 trillion welfare check, many unessential folks are living their best lives! And we should too.
The good! Earth is doing great! From Seattle’s version of Facebook, you can see mountains and the sky from downtown Los Angeles, there are dolphins swimming in European canals, and people are spending more time with their families and home cooking that they neglect due to demands of capitalistic survival—people are realizing we’re actually all connected and that maybe the government and corporations should do more for social infrastructure and programs since it is not only literally their foundation, but also their responsibility for the violence created by extracting so much wealth from the masses and the Earth.
Lifetime activists and organizers have noted that a pandemic has achieved more in XX weeks than their entire life’s work! This is the power of collective action.
I’m so proud of folks in our community stepping up to support restaurants and small businesses owned by families in our community, supporting other races/groups of folks because at the end of the day, those social identities are made up by racists, for racists (BRFR, lol), and creative folks—we’re sensitive—using this time to heal, grow, create if we can, support where we can, even if it means just our own sanity and well-being, and maybe checking in on friends and family.
Pre-US covid, I was working at an exciting new position coming from a starving-but-eat-gourmet artist lifestyle as the Special Projects Curator at the Seattle Asian Art Museum—a 16-month contract to create public art programing centering Asian and Pacific Islander lives and perspectives—a first for the museum! I thought, wow—2020—my vision is clear, going to build these authentic relations between diverse communities and larger public institutions through Future Ancient public art that values our cultural heritage in a future-forward, socially transformative way based on our experiences.
The City of Seattle’s Office of Art & Culture (love y’all!), which is funding this work has taken incredible steps to support the artists and cultural workers and organizations in this City, and they informed me that some contracts and public art funding had been cancelled and redirected to support relief efforts but since my project was really designed to uplift and empower the community, I could continue my project in a way that made sense during these difficult times. Super grateful for this opportunity, our team of 30+ artists of mostly Asian and Pacific Islander descent and other artists of color has pivoted and are developing a locally produced, network television style, art and culture variety show featuring incredible live-broadcasted artist interviews with an inside look into their lives, live performance and a cultural cooking segment. The Future Ancient presents—“The Channel”—where we channel our creative spirits live onto your screens! We’ll launch our public face of the show in mid-may and start our live-broadcast of The Channel Season 1: Cultures without Boarders weekly all July and August!
So—how about that Covid? With all the information and contradictions I see, I really don’t know. My heart goes out to those who are suffering while I try my best to balance my own center—family, art and culture—and see what’s in my power to help where I can. I have been reflecting more and find myself in so many impossibilities—like trying to meaningfully address complex forms of lateral and vertical oppression without reproducing any more while learning what is even really going on, haha. In that spirit, I hope that if there is anyone out there that feels hurt by me or that I owe them something—please reach out to me and I will do my best to make things right—whatever that may be in order to move forward together as a community in community.
I hope folks are staying positive, healthy and supported. I feel like folks are more generous and understanding than ever—so calling out for help is not only a way to get help, but can also strengthen bonds as we learn to feel comfortable working together, actually depending on each other. I pray that this pandemic awakens the hearts and minds of the people and we can actualize our collective power to be the change our society desperately needs. We do not want a diseased and trauma-filled future, a racist future, a colonized future, a future where we fear to have children because of the trauma we know this world and our bodies carry. May we work toward an indigenous future that values our cultural heritage, our relations to the natural world and each other as one family of people. Peace and love y’all.