NCOMMON TRAITS: RE/LOCATING ASIA is a multi-site project including gallery exhibitions and installations, satellite exhibitions, public art projects, with publication and educational components exploring the critical and cultural boundaries of Asian/American and Asian/Canadian experience and its attendant cultural resonances in the artists' country of origin. CEPA, due to its location, is particularly interested in the variant viewpoints of Asian artists living in the United States and Canada.
The artists involved in this project work in photo-related media and bring a diversity of cultural backgrounds and artistic sensibilities to this project. This project features existing and new works created for this event. The strategy of presenting multiple exhibitions in various arenas throughout CEPA's 1997/98 season is designed to cultivate a more comprehensive investigation than can be realized in a single exhibition.
This project is unique by virtue of the consulting process which creates a dialectical situation among the curatorial advisors, the artists, the community, and CEPA within the conceptual umbrella of Transmigrating Cultures. CEPA has drawn upon the experiences of the artists, permitting their ideas to shape the "context" by which their work is situated, inviting each artist to present an in-depth investigation. This strategy acknowledges the divergent voices and viewpoints against the appearance of a homogenous field of "Asian/ness"- fracturing the containing walls of racial stereotyping. Themes include how Asian American and Asian Canadian identities are constructed and embodied in the orientalized and racialized "containment field" of North America and to what extent this shapes and/or reconfigures their concepts of self and ethnic/racial identifications.
The artworks engage North American notions of Orientalism and Occidentalism, examining how Asians have been represented by the West, how photography has participated in that process, and how the medium can be used to critique and/or subvert Orientalism. Issues of multiple migration, from or through one of many Asian diasporic communities, are addressed to challenge perceptions of Asian American history, which has often been framed as a narrative of migration from originary points in Asia. This contributes towards a discourse about transnational identities, showing how permutations of identity can occur.
The project presents the artists' concepts of homeland, nation, and national identity, based on their experiences of separation and displacement as Asians, Asian Americans, or Asian Canadians. The exhibition provides a multifaceted environment for Asian artists to expand the boundaries of cultural identity, fostering an understanding of their contributions to a larger cultural landscape - negotiating concepts of Asian/ness within an increasingly complex geopolitical arena.
This project has been developed by CEPA Gallery in cooperation with three outside curatorial consultants. They helped steer the research and development, identified artists whose work expands the boundaries of cultural identity, and wrote critical essays for the CEPA Journal. Each of the three parts of the Uncommon Traits: Re/Locating Asia project will be accompanied by a special issue of the CEPA Journal containing a different essay by each of the three curatorial advisors. We at CEPA Gallery are greatly indebted to the expertise and generosity of Monica Chau (Curator/Artist - NYC), Marilyn Jung (Curator/Cultural Activist - Toronto, Ontario), and Margo Machida (Curator/Scholar - NYC) who have helped CEPA develop and realize this endeavor.
-Robert Hirsch, Executive Director/Curator
-Lawrence Brose, Director of Public Art/Film