Allison Masangkay (DJ Phenohype) is a sick and disabled queer Filipino femme artist in Seattle with an upcoming book entitled Do Androids Dream in Color? She/They describes her book project thusly.
“My upcoming multimedia book is called Do Androids Dream in Color? and covers several of my experiences and reflections on my identities through essays, speculative fiction, theory, sounds and visual art. It urges readers to reimagine themselves and their relationships to emerging technologies, in order to manifest better futures outside of white supremacy and racial capitalism.,” said Masangkay. “This book is an example to fellow non-Black Filipino/a/x Americans and other Asians and Pacific Islanders in Turtle Island (the U.S.) on how to deeply reflect on our power and privileges, especially in a moment where our solidarity in social justice movements is becoming more urgent, and even mainstream.”
IE writer Robert Francis Flor recently sat down with the author for an interview.
IE: How would you describe your creative process between writing and being DJ Phenohype? Frankly, what is a phenohype?
Allison Masangkay: I believe that everyone embodies and carries knowledge that could fill tons of books or help create a lot of different art. For me, writing, music, visual art and other creative media are directly linked to healing via self-reflection, sharing parts of myself with others, and developing community.
“Phenohype” is a play on the biology term “phenotype” and the word “hype.” It’s my own concept describing all of the context that surrounds my work as a sick and disabled Filipinx femme artist. The official definition I developed for phenohype is “the set of observable characteristics of non-binary code interacting with its environment”—where I’m the source of the non-binary code, interacting with my environment.
IE: “Phenohype is a Cyborg “ is also 65 songs on Spotify. Do you recommend that readers play the Spotify as they read your book? Was your work inspired by the songs?
AM: That Spotify playlist actually served as inspiration for my “Phenohype Is A Cyborg” merch photoshoot with Sonia Xu (photographer), Lea Ono (makeup artist), Jinji Amen, Moonyeka, and Kunle Akinlosotu (models), and some of the photos are included in the book as well as my website, allisonmasangkay.com. The playlist and photoshoot have more apocalyptic themes, serving as precursors to the book. One question the book answers is, “What do you do as a racialized being in an apocalyptic world?,” which I believe we’re currently in. I recommend that readers listen to the sound art in the book itself (linked in the book via QR codes and available on my YouTube channel, username “Allison Masangkay”) and then potentially listen to the playlist separately.
IE: Your book takes the reader on a journey via essays, poetry, images and photos. What are the threads woven between the essays, poetry, images and photos?
I don’t want to give too much away, but some major themes throughout the book are embodiment, Filipinx identity and the roles of Filipinx art(ists), empathy and emotions and relationships. The inclusion of visual art, photography and sound art alongside essays and other writing is my way of challenging what’s considered “text” or “educational,” based on my experiences of academic research within predominantly white institutions. All of the book’s content advances the storytelling, education and art. Overall, I imagine Do Androids Dream In Color? as a gauge for someone’s empathy and relationships to power, within oneself and among collective humanity, which echoes the themes from the sci-fi novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick, which inspired the title of my book.
IE: Audiences enjoy giving books as gifts. Describe the audience your work was intended for and who would enjoy receiving your book as a gift.
AM: I hope that other disabled folks, Filipinxs, and QTPOC (queer, transgender people of color) feel seen and validated by the book. Though, it’s first intended for fellow Filipino/a/x scholars, educators, and artists. My vision for Do Androids Dream In Color? is to disrupt the current Filipino/a/x American literary canon and research paradigm. I’d love for the book to be in ethnic studies and other social science (I studied anthropology in college) classes. I want artists to take the book as an opportunity to reflect on all the implications of our work—how art reflects who we are as people and is always political.
IE: I was drawn to your essay that included your reaction to the “tongue click or teeth sucking” by your parents when they disapproved. I recall my father doing this and it seemed like a common Filipino behavior. Was this intended to incorporate that as a reflection on culture?
AM: I’m glad you picked up on those things! I definitely reference some Filipino non-verbal communication, like tongue clicks, teeth sucking, and pointing with your lips in “Androids Dream,” which is a personal essay. I’m offering personal commentary on the ways Filipino/a/x’s do and don’t confront their emotions, essentially concluding that unresolved or suppressed emotions may be connected to Filipino cultural norms like bahala na or “saving face,” which leads us to avoid self-reflecting and then projecting our emotions onto others in different forms. I try to illustrate these things not only through mental health and specific social-cultural situations, but how these unresolved emotions become embodied, prolonging all types of harm individually, across generations, across communities, etc.
I also think that some emotional avoidance patterns can be attributed to colonial mentality (i.e. internalized self-hatred or self-denial; favoring Spanish, Chinese, U.S. or other colonizers’ values). “In Color” is 1000% my favorite piece in the book. It’s about my experience of grief, which combines humor with “serious” topics in a way that may feel weird; the complexities and ironies of grief are central to the story, and I’m interested in how readers will navigate all of those feelings.
IE: Your goal was to publish this book for your 25th birthday. What are your next projects for your next birthday or are in the works?
AM: I have a Google Drive “Unfinished Writing” folder with dozens of drafts, and most of them are about aswang (evil shape-shifting beings from Philippine folklore). I’m developing short stories, short films, and visual art that portray aswang with softer aesthetics, take aswang outside the horror genre, and complicate people’s ideas of what’s actually “evil”—partly based on my personal experiences.
I want this work to challenge today’s Western ideas of gender, which forces beings and bodies into fixed identities; many QT2BIPOC (queer, trans, and Two-Spirit Black, Indigenous, and people of color) including myself don’t experience our bodies or express ourselves in this way, and I think more gender-expansive stories, especially from Black people and Indigenous people and people of color, welcomes more possibilities for everyone.
My lifelong projects are healing, being a good friend, and bringing all the many forms of collective liberation to the present moment.