Brightly colored posters, murals and displays appeared at bus stops, subway stations and on iconic New York City buildings in spring 2021, in a project commissioned by the Commission of human rights in the city entitled “I Still Believe In This City”. , featuring works by Ms. Phingbodhipakkiya, the Commission’s Artist-in-Residence.
“They elevate us as guardians”
Ms. Phingbodhipakkiya, an American neuroscientist-turned-artist, born in Atlanta to Thai and Indonesian immigrants, has long had a high profile in the art world, and her explorations of feminism, science, and community have often gone above and beyond. galleries and the media, for demonstrations and gatherings, as well as on buildings and road tunnels.
But his artistic response to the rise of anti-Asian hatred since the COVID-19[feminine la pandémie lui a apporté un public beaucoup plus large: “I Still Believe In This City” a été couvert par une multitude de grands médias, y compris la couverture du célèbre magazine Time, reflétant une nouvelle prise de conscience de la colère et de la violence dirigées contre les Américains d’origine asiatique .
Alors que les œuvres, qui présentent des images de personnes d’origine asiatique et insulaire du Pacifique, communiquent la positivité et une perspective optimiste, le texte d’accompagnement donne au spectateur une perspective différente, contenant des informations sur le contexte plus sombre qui a inspiré ces pièces, telles que “C’est notre chez moi aussi », « Je ne suis pas ton bouc émissaire » et « Je ne t’ai pas rendu malade », ce dernier slogan reflétant le ciblage des personnes d’origine asiatique, au motif infondé qu’elles sont principalement responsables de la propagation du COVID-19.
Mme Phingbodhipakkiya dit que les personnages représentés sur les affiches et les peintures murales représentent « des gardiens résilients et pleins d’espoir face à ces horribles attaques contre notre communauté. Ils nous élèvent en tant que gardiens, nous protègent, nous encouragent à défendre nos droits ».
Art and human rights
The public art exhibit was praised by UN Minority Human Rights Specialist Derrick León Washington, a New York-based cultural anthropologist, dancer and curator, who believes that art is crucial to promoting human rights: “Art like Amanda’s is an important way to start difficult conversations. It is linked to lived experiences and helps us reach out and touch different communities. »
The artwork, says Mr. Washington, “demonstrates the defiance of Asian Americans in the face of anti-Asian violence. However, this is not just a story from New York or the United States, and the UN Secretary General has expressed his “deep concern” at the increase in similar attacks around the world”.
“Racism against Asians and Pacific Islanders is not a new phenomenon,” says Carmelyn Malalis, chair of the New York City Commission on Human Rights. “We all have stories of youth, but it’s true that last year was particularly bad, because of the pandemic.”
Ms. Malalis points out that increased levels of anti-Asian hatred have taken place against the backdrop of a rise in all forms of racism, in New York and beyond. “Over the past year, the Black Lives Matter movement has fought against anti-Black, and now anti-Asian, anti-Semitic and other forms of xenophobia. It’s a very diverse city and we want to see solidarity between all of our different communities.”
May we know our own strength
At the same time that the artworks “I Still Believe in This City” were exhibited in New York, Ms. Phingbodhipakkiya launched another darker piece, also in collaboration with the NYC Commission on Human Rights, titled “May we know our own strength.” This grew out of his reaction to a mass shooting in March 2021, which resulted in the deaths of eight people, including six Asian women.
“This facility slowly grew from shared stories of violence against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI), but was open to anyone going through something difficult; it was a space where they could lay down their burden”.
Survivors of assaults and other forms of abuse anonymously posted their stories, often deeply personal and poignant, to an online submission form. Each submission activated a printer in the window, which relayed the stories on ribbons of paper, while activating an incandescent light bulb. Ms. Phingbodhipakkiya then wove the stories into intricate hanging sculptures.
The artist says she hopes the exhibit has helped transform the pain and loss of each story into “a new path for peace and sweetness, and a new way forward.”
“So often, she adds, when we see atrocious acts, we turn away. But, by closing the door to others, we close the door to our own humanity. Art can bring it back.