We want art that builds and sustains a world of our own making. An art that allows us to live in such a world, if only in one place, at a given time, temporarily. If only for a moment. Knowing that we could still carry this moment, even as we go. Knowing that we are training our bodies for the work of freedom. That such temporary passages can still persist in us. Can redirect us. Can change the relationship our bodies have with the freedom that is constantly denied to us.
Or, quite simply: we want an art that is a repetition of freedom. Repetition: not the performance itself, but before. No singularity, but process. Because we know the impossibility of such freedom. We are not naive. And so: we want an art that arises from this impossibility.
We want art that articulates what language can’t, what theory can’t, what our bodies can’t. The impossibility also of freeing oneself from capitalist violence, colonial violence, patriarchal violence. We want art to grow out of that. Because we know the impossible is simply the bitches of the here and now. Is simply the wall of this world that we have not yet undone. Because we know there is another world beyond.
It’s not an easy job, we know that too. To create a new world from the impossible first requires that we find the traces of such a world in the here and now, a world that nevertheless resides in the impossible. Giving birth to another world requires taking care of the archives of this one, and building our own archives alongside it. As such, we want art dedicated to this discovery, to this building. As such, we want an art that knows the difficulty of dealing with such things.
We want art dedicated to an archive capable of naming what is not. An art capable of making absence a presence. Critical, yes, by naming our impossibilities. But beyond that: we want art that responds to our dreams of freedom. We want an aesthetic based on such attention. Knowing our aesthetic cannot free us. And try anyway. We have finished recognizing such impossibilities.
My process with Heesoo Kwon
A few weeks ago, Susette Min asked me the question: “What do we want, as Asian American artists? In an attempt to answer this question, I spent time at 41 Ross Street Gallery in San Francisco with artist Heesoo Kwon, who since 2017 has been deeply engaged in his artistic practice, Leymusoom. Leymusoom, however, it is also more than an artistic practice: it is what Kwon calls an “autobiographical feminist religion”. Leymusoom, as an art practice and religion, is an “evolving exploration of family histories and feminist liberation” accessible as a digital sanctuary, as well as through physical manifestations in gallery spaces like 41 Ross Street , where Kwon’s vision of a “digital feminist utopia” meets the physical realm of San Francisco’s Chinatown. Indeed, all Kwon Leymusoom work bridges this space between the physical and the digital, to create new spaces for Kwon to share her life with both her female ancestors and her local community. In doing so, Kwon finds ways to design new forms of relating to community, ancestry, and history, and finds new ways to share her findings on a deeply immersive and active level.
To date, more than 100 people have converted to Leymusoom religion. What does conversion mean? While I’m not sure I can claim a full conversion at this time, I appreciate the gesture of what the conversion might entail. Conversion, for me, means holding both the “autobiographical” and the “feminist” of Leymusoom immediately. The writing above emerges from this space. About what it means to me to conceive of a feminist and autobiographical Asian-American art form. And, in addition, to design a language that can contain all those I love at the same time. This is a love letter to Kwon, and to all of my friends and loved ones, and to all of us engaged in this work of art as diasporic subjects residing in this place we call America.