Monthly Archives: January 2013

Week 4: Othering

Khaalidah Sidney

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O’Brien

31st January 2013

 

In Margo Machida’s Unsettled Visions Chapter two entitled: Othering discussed three important facts regarding the West and Asians and Asian Americans in visual art. These three things include primitivism, orientalism, and stereotyping. She also explores several artists such as Allan deSouza and Pipo. Machida also explains how those three things can play into art through a Western like narrative. For instance, she suggest that Westerners view Asian Americans with orientalism and primitive nature throughout historically and these ideas still are predominate in Art.

Orient

The Orient can be considered the oldest master narrative of racialized othering, it is a system used to represent others who do not fit the western norms. The Orient is not just something defined a geographical space opposing the west, but also the blurred line of cultural spheres and where they end and begin. This idea is needed to give western countries such as North America a sense of national security and superiority. In Art, westerns like to play with the idea of racialized othering and constantly exoticize their culture, physical features and mental capacity. I believe the images of an Artist depicted in class who left his life as an successful American, to visit a region in Asia. It depicted not only a primitive nature of Asians but an othering as well.

Primitive

In this topic she discusses how Asians and Asian Americans are always seen as culturally and intellectually backwards in comparison to Europeans and Americans. Machida uses words such as Asia as a “zone of barbarism”, “Culturally inferior” and “Uncivilized”. This is emphasized in her definition provided for Primitive as something that is a part of a premodern culture. Establishing that the west is modernize and others, such as people of the Orient is not. In the art word there has been many depictions of Asians being barbaric such as rat eaters, dirty, unclean and opium addicts.

Stereotypes

It talks about Asian Americans being seen as both barbaric but also intelligent, and this shifting view is harmful to Asian Americans.        She mentions two categories for Asian American stereotypes. Those that targets their assimilability and un-assimilability. Stereotypes that depicts them as respectful, helpful are able to assimilate and cunning, evil, deceitful are inassimilable. Either or, these views are damaging. 

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Western Orientalism

Evelyn Pei

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Since the time of colonialism, the West has always held a fascination for the Orient.  The Orient, a seemingly mystical place with its people shrouded in mystery, seemed so exotic and so foreign compared to the world of the Westerners.   Its people possessed different ways of life, and the West, unable to accept that different people lead different lives, labeled the Orient as the ‘Other’.  Westerners painted their own image of Asia and its people through the lens of orientalism and primitivism.  Primitivism was the notion that non-Western societies were completely uncivilized and barbaric in comparison to the civilized, high society of the West.  On the other hand, there was also orientalism, which characterized non-Western states as not entirely uncivilized and wild, but still not as advanced and diligent as Western societies.  Through the ideas of orientalism and primitivism, stereotypes of Asians and Asian Americans began to form and would continue to be common thought within American society to this day.

The ideas of orientalism and primitivism permeated through every inch of Western society, even artists and the media began to view the East through this highly distorted view.    Modern art was one area that began to see a large influence from orientalism and primitivism.  Famous and well renowned artists all depicted the East and Middle East with the stereotypes formulated from these exaggerated notions.  Artists, such as Paul Gaugin, Eugene Delacroix, and even Pablo Picasso, portrayed their Oriental subjects as a morally decrepit and uncivilized society.  These stereotypes of the mystical Orient were so prevalent and so heavily portrayed within the media that not only did the non-Asian Americans begin to believe it, even the Asian Americans themselves started to.

How can Asian Americans begin to change the way other Americans view them when these stereotypes and this discrimination are on the institutional level?  When everyone, an entire nation and all its inhabitants, believes that Asian Americans are different, how can Asian Americans not start to believe that they are indeed different also?  How can we even begin to correct this as a nation?  When the foundation of our nation’s structure is built upon discrimination and stereotypes, where can we start?  Educating the nation and making people aware of these disparities are the only ways we can.  Many Asian American artists have begun to counter the ideal Western image society holds.  Artists, like Marlon Fuentes, Allan deSouza, Pipo, and Tomie Arai, strive to disrupt the static notions of Orientalism and primitivism of Asians and Asian Americans through their work.  Though they indeed have made a slight impact on societal views, America still has a long way to go before the veil can be lifted.

The Ultimate Love-Hate Relationship: Mass Media and Propaganda

Melody Erhuy | 47409393

Whether we would like to admit it or not, some form of media has influenced the way we think. Television shows, commercials, news articles, music videos, cinema, creative writing, Facebook, Twitter – pick your poison. In general, the media has been charged with creating and reinforcing stereotypes through a simplified depiction and unbiased opinion on any matter that presents itself. “For example, Japanese soldiers were depicted both as relentless, brutal, almost superhuman foes and as gun-toting apes and bucktoothed, near-blind pygmies jabbering away in pidgin English.” (Machida, 61) Media has and will remain consistent in its black-and-white mentalities – either something (or someone) is good or they are bad. Yet the lines that divide unbiased opinion and slander blur in the “bad” coverage – many historic campaigns and advertisements are masquerading as decent media while they originated as negatively fueled propaganda, like the plight of the Yellow Peril on American media.

The fear of Oriental competition cultivated the essence of the Yellow Peril. Think Gossip Girl’s Blair Waldorf’s obsessively competitive spirit to be Queen of Constance High School. People love to feel important, and Blair is no exception. When anyone even slightly threatens Blair, her guard goes up as her claws come out – she will never give up her power without a fight. And Blair’s usual weapon of choice? Slander. 

Western psyche followed the same patterns in the case of excluding the “others” – except their slander was not a simple Gossip Girl blast. “The Yellow Peril finds one of its most enduring and evocative expressions in the character of the evil Chinese genius Fu Manchu, created in 1913 by the British author Sax Rohmer one year after China threw off centuries of feudal rule and declared itself a republic.” (61) A man that is pure evil, Fu Manchu is a product of the multiple fears of the Orient and is comprised of many Asian American stereotypes of the early 1900s. Image

I do not know how people would feel if a mystical potion master were serving as mayor – and that was the whole point. In fear of losing their jobs and place in society, American mass media depicted Asian Americans as violent and uncivilized, a deceitful people that are the spawn of evil. Advertising Orientals as heathens? Blair would be proud.

The propaganda surrounding Asian Americans stemmed further into WWII as Japanese Americans were shot down (quite literally) in their own homes.

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Sadly, this type of abuse towards the “others” still continues to this day. The line between mass media and propaganda still has never been clearly defined; stereotypes still remain prevalent in many forms of social media.

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However much we want to blame the media, we are the ones listening. But do we even have a choice to tune out? Whatever your opinion may be, the status updates you read, the emails you open and even this blog post are all influencing you in some way.

In the end, can’t we all just learn to love each other?Image

WESTERN IMAGINATION

WESTERN IMAGINATION

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Daisuke Tohyama

            We learned Orientalism which refers to sort of stereotypes such as inferiority and, strangeness, barbarism, primitivism, exoticism, and decadence. Because this is the first time for me to analyze arts through the Oriental perspective, it was surprising for me that even famous painters such as Pablo Picasso and Paul Gauguin had sort of Orientalism within their works. Although we can make sure whether the image of Thahiti or Africa in these painting is true or not on the Internet, I can easily imagine that earlier people may have believed that was true.  

            What caught my interests was that because Orientalism or Eastern in Western is very complicated and well-incorporated or internalized by local people in Asia, even local people cannot easily recognize what the ideas look like. Machida mentions that “Despite Fuentes artificially made up Filipino culture, numerous viewers including fellow Filipinos were unable to apprehend the intellectual motivation behind its subtly mocking premise and instead believed the story in his work to be factual.”(Machida 75) That means that although he tried to imply that Filipino culture, which he made up is created by Orientalism, viewers did not notice that the culture was sort of image of Oriental Filipino culture. Machida also states that “Colonial settings became channels for mutual cultural exchange. Indian culture puts Western popular images to its own uses as well.”(Machida 83) That means whereas Western people see Indian as oriental culture, Indian culture incorporate Western culture such as Bollywood. Then who knows which one is influenced by Orientalism, Indian culture or British Indian culture? Even local people in India could not recognize which culture is what.

            Machida also mentions that “people of Asian descent continue to find themselves enmeshed, to differing degrees, in these interrelated discourses of primitivism and Orientalism that have been so elaborated in the Western imagination”(Machida 63). That implies that Asian decent face many type of identity and suffer from imagination of Asia by Western even though they were not born in Asian countries.

            Although I already mentioned that we can make sure whether the image of Asian countries by Western imagination is true or not on the Internet, nowadays even local people could not exactly recognize which one is Western imagination. But I believe that knowing about Orientalism through arts helps us analyze our heritage culture critically and find out why I am more likely to be attached to certain culture or to what culture I seem attached.

 

 

Week 4: I cannot be Creative :(

Michael Saechao

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The racial categorization and treatment towards Asian Americans has been a problem since the early times of the United States. Immigration laws has always subjugated Asians into being seen as vile people and uncivilized creatures, which in our perspective (the Asian American view) we do not see ourselves in that way. The Asian is always seen as submissive and always a savage or non-humane. As seen in class by the painter who painted the Two Tahitian Women, the women are shown as very shy or submissive and her boobs were showing, as if she we seen as a savage.

When speaking about Chapter 2, we started to view the different types of paintings there were in the era of different people. We can see that there were starting to become more of an Asian presence in some of the photos, such as Pipo’s where he put himself within the frame of the image. These ways shows that Asians are equal within context of other artists. Equality and images are one way in which people can exert their own personality within the art they are trying to convey towards the world.  Asian stereotypes are always seen and depicted in films which is a source of art. The stereotypes that asians know martial arts is a common stereotype still seen today, because it makes the character more of orient descent.
When seeing things in class about the yellow peril, it made me feel sad to think about how Asians were viewed. We were viewed as creatures that were evil and devil like. For people to think that we are here to take their women and what not represents injustice, but that is the mind set of what many consider the melting pot of the United Staes. To spread propaganda in the United States and ostracize Asians in a whole different level is cruel. To think that we are considered people who are demons, savages, and have magical powers is an incorrect image of who Asians are in a whole. It shows that it is very ignorant, because they are not being very civil about the situation and bringing about ignorance.

Orientalism, Art, & Media

Howard Diep | 10209864

Today in class we went over and discussed the influence of media and propaganda in portraying Asians and Asian Americans. We covered the notion of being “Orient” and “Oriental”, a term that conveys a person belonging to a far away mysterious land, filled with wonders and magic, and other times inhospitable and savage. We were able to examine in depth through Margo Machida’s Unsettled Visions Chapter two, she exemplifies multiple artists and how their works disrupts the general norm of how art or different aspects of life are perceived. For example, I really enjoyed Madonna and the Child and how this was the respective artists attempt in recreating something Western to something that is Asian by using an Asian body within the fame to disrupt the “norm” of art. We also screened a view clips and mediums that depicted what Orientals were supposed to look like. In my opinion what they were supposed to look like was quite ridiculous when they were portrayed to general public through mass media. Such exaggeration of Asian and Asian Americans mutate what and who Asians and Asian Americans really are and because of this, still carry the negative stigmas that exist today.

A moment in class that really upset me was the depiction of Fu Manchu with the image of the Buddha (portrayed twice). This was very frustrating to me because the representation of Fu Manchu is of an individual who is an Oriental person and possesses evil mystical powers or black magic, hurts other people and ruins everyone’s lives by stealing your jobs, etc. Something that is negatively constructed in so many wrongful ways is positioned next to the image of the Buddha, someone who has attained enlightenment, and no longer possesses wrong views and misperceptions. This was kind of pathetic because I took it as human ignorance and not having the right understanding of what the Buddha is supposed to represent and mean. Western creativity of distorting what is real and what is imaginary is quite awe striking when you really examine it and relate it back to something personal, but even then it’s just amazing how racism, fear, propaganda, and ignorance can poison and hi-jack people and their minds. It resonated with me for the rest of the night how much it bothered me for some reason and how learning and touching up on different topics in class touches me in an intimate level of developing knowledge and wisdom and reflecting on my growth.

On another note of fear and propaganda, one note that I took from lecture and discussion that resonated with me was how media is a platform for the expansion of ignorance. I think mass media and communication can be a instrumental tool in transforming and shifting our way of thinking and ignorance into one of mindfulness and understanding. However, it can be a tool to spread ignorance as well. I believe though as a collective we have made progress in reaching equality (somewhat) and solidarity, but there is still room for improvement. Mass Media and the Internet however show us the work that still needs to continue to be done in order to prevent ignorance, racism, and wrongful views.

Orientalism and Reframing the Idea of the Other

Alyse Blachly

Western dependence on “The Orient” and “The Other,” described by Machida as “a mirror against which the West envisioned and reinforced its collective sense of self” (57) is similar to Hegel’s description of self-consciousness. His idea is that self-consciousness cannot exist in a vacuum, but rather you need someone else to confirm and shine back your own identity and sense of self. For example, a doctor’s sense of authority and self-worth is very much based in the fact that the patient exists. In the Hegelian master-slave relationship, the master cannot exist without the slave. While the slave is subordinated, one could argue that he is more powerful since he controls the self-consciousness of the master.  The very identity of the other, in any context, is essential in how we view ourselves. This is a natural human response. Where the problem lies is when we tear down someone else’s identity in order to build up our own. This is where orientalism and primitism come into play.

When we take this idea of the other shaping our identity and apply it to groups of people who identify with each other based on a uniting factor, idealism and cultural context plays a big role. While Machida talks about how the Orient does not consist of a single geographical area, but is only based on changing Western perceptions, we must also realize that the idea of “The West” is also loosely based on these perceptions. When the West claims something as part of its culture or identifying values, it no longer becomes exotic or primitive and at the same time cannot be claimed by the East/Orient. When the West does not identify with something it is exotic, primitive, or childlike, belonging to the Orient.

Historically, Western art has been highly Anglicized, Christianized, while at the same time de-humanized “the other.” Four Asian artists, discussed in Chapter 2 of Machida’s Unsettled Visions, create work that challenges and re-contextualizes the notion of the other and the Orient. They take Western perception and representation of Asians and employ a form of dramatic irony or “talking back.” Allan deSouza’s Coconut Chutney series, for example, I found especially effective. His theory is that one must “directly confront the mechanisms of representation by which Orientalism is produced” (78). With this in mind, he uses certain visual characteristics that are commonly associated with “Indianess” in the West. Turbans, bright colors, the Taj Mahal, elephants, Aladin, and carnivalesque images fill his prints, playing off the fantasy and spectacle of the perception the West has of Indians and the Orient. While it would seem to an unsuspecting viewer of his work that he is perpetuating this representation of India, he is actually being ironic—using doubleness to unite people who understand his message of irony, while striking back at those who simply accept this representation as truth. Fuentes does something similar with Bontoc Eulogy, mocking and analyzing the ways in which ethological studies and anthropological spectacle of “the other” were taken as scientific fact. Pipo and Arai use a slightly different technique. They choose to give a face to Asians to combat the uniform or dehumanizing way in which they are viewed. While Asians are viewed in a certain framework of pop-cultural references, politics and war, they choose to re-frame this identity. In Pipo’s case he does this by inserting himself directly into classic Biblical, popular western works, while Arai contrasts the actual Chinese and Japanese individuals with a mass stereotypical image/media representation. By doing this, these artists not only challenge the representations of Asians in dominant Western culture, but challenge the fact that such rigid classifications of West/European and Orient/East exist.

Shattering Stereotypes in Asian American Art

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By: Kaitlin Wright

The other day, someone on a blog I was reading quoted an Asian American poet from Fresno named Andre Yang. Yang said, “Many have told me to just ‘forget the past and look at the things the future has to offer’, but it’s hard to do when so much of my people’s future has to do with its history.” I think this quote speaks to the Asian American artists’ purpose and inspiration that was discussed in chapter two of Unsettled Visions. The works that these Asian American artists create are associated with their heritage and its relation to their present and future identity. These artists use various mediums to display their Asian heritage, but also to reveal their place in Western society. Machida quotes artist Dinh Q Le, saying that Asians who migrate to America are “always going back and forth between the two [Asia and America]” (Machida 117).  

The artists talk about having to combat the Asian stereotypes that hold such a strong grip on the American imagination. We see it on a regular basis when someone makes a joke in a movie, or even in daily conversation; things like knowing martial arts, eating with chopsticks, wearing rice paddy hats, and growing Fu Manchu mustaches. Even if these stereotypes do not apply to all ethnicities, the uninformed idea of Asian culture lends to the thinking that “Asians [are] all of a piece, homogeneous, and therefore fundamentally alike, both in body and mind” (Machida 59). Tomie Arai, in her piece, Framing an American Identity simultaneously represents American and Japanese cultures through her personal art. She juxtaposes stereotypical images of Asians with nice, normal photos of Asian Americans. This piece presents images silk-screened onto pieces of wood. The photos alternate between real depictions of people and stereotypes. The wooden boards that display the photos of the real people are also decorated with a bamboo shade. It looks like the shade is pulled up to reveal the face underneath, so as to perhaps say that this is how Asians look without the veil of stereotypical ignorance. They are human, not wearing a mask or disguise of any kind. The photos are placed superior to the smaller, stereotypical images as another way to assert that the top image is preferred over the other. Aria says that she was “trying to humanize the work or the image so that people can connect” as opposed to stereotypes which unfairly lump people together (Machida 111). 

This talk about stereotypes made me think about the blending that happens in these Asian American works of art.  Blending occurs because pieces of the creator are infused in the art– there is a dual representation of both Asian and American identity. I think there is a blending that occurs between artist and viewer as well. That is the point of art anyway, right? To communicate. Whether an artist is combating stereotypes, or refiguring famous European art with an Asian body, the thoughts that the artists present begin to mix with the thoughts that the viewer has. Whether or not the opinions agree is not primarily important. These works open up a space of consideration for a different experience  and point of view illustrating that opinions aren’t necessarily fixed in time. There is room for change in thought and action and there is room to be both Asian and American. The image of the “other” will hopefully fade if replaced with other images that familiarize and promote the Asian American identity within the general American menagerie.  

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Asian Americans Rising Above toward Self-Recognition

Dana Roy

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After being introduced to a few artists’ works in last week’s discussion, I grew more interested in the process of how Asian Americans have found their identity through art. The subject of art, as a means of expressing, got me to thinking about the particular techniques that these artists use in their craft.  However, this week’s readings gave me more than just an insight on the artists’ inspirations; I found that I opened up to the idea of art as a social practice.

By reading about the four artists mentioned in Chapter 2 of Machida’s Unsettled Visions, I became more aware of artists’ reactions to stereotypes of Asian Americans. I felt inspired by how they have chosen to use their art to challenge the way Asians are seen in the West. More specifically, I found that their knowledge of not only their culture’s history, but the history of the West, gave them more leverage to create art that reflects memoirs of their personal past, and connect that with the social environment of the present. Using techniques such as mimicry, masquerade, and self-portrait, I found that these creative ways of being bold about one’s own identity enables society to become more aware that Asian American artists are not just expressing “victimhood” in their art, but are being deliberate in their intent to be social agents of their own culture within a dominant culture.

One quote that I enjoyed from Chapter 2 that was told by Allan deSouza was, “…There was always a sense I could function with more anonymity in a way, I wasn’t immediately marked, I wasn’t overdetermined” (Machida, 84). I felt that this quote resonated with me because I find that when one is searching for their identity, there lies a feeling of comfort in standing outside the boundaries of being labeled or stereotyped. Having “anonymity” may make one feel less captive to a dominant culture, and therefore allow one to explore without being stigmatized.

Another idea I find interesting is to build community as a reality through art. In Arai’s reflection of art in New York she described,” I am interested in the ways that creating these images of community help to reinforce one’s sense of it, whereas very often without any visible evidence you really don’t believe it exist” (Machida 112). This quote made me think about society’s sense of community, and in what ways we make an effort to create community outside of our imagination.  How does art build community? What can our generation contribute to create artwork that builds community in our particular social environment?

The Western View on Orientalism

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Aaron Kim

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AsAm 115

The Western View on Orientalism

The term orient, derives from the view of the ‘Occidental’ (Western), which serves to depict anything East past the West. In a sense, it is grasped to be a geological term for locating Asia. However, it can also be interchangeably used to a word an Asian, and express a sense of pro-Western ideology. Orientalism is basically the cause of Western ideals to be seen as superior over the inferior ‘Otherness’ or in this case the Orient. 

In Margo Machida’s Unsettled Visions Chapter 2, Dr. Said establishes that the Orient was always seen by the white populous in the Occident as inferior, but not seen through the lens of primitiveness. Unlike Africa and even the new world of America (Native Americans), the Occident viewed the Oriental Asians as more like rivals rather than an inferior savagery beast. The Africans of the time were seen to be barbarians, but only barbaric to a certain point. This notion eventually led the common view that even the barbaric can, within assimilation and time, be civilized. The whites saw the physical advantages that the Africans had, but they also saw that their knowledge and even ability to defeat the Occidental purpose was flawed. To a certain extent, the whites also saw the Orient as one that had both physicality and mentality. In other words, they were fearful of what the Orients can do with their ability. Certainly, the West saw many advancements of civilization away from primitiveness and saw their resemblances. Through this, the sense of Orient vs Occident was formed, and in a sense the ‘grander’ rivalry established.

Take for example, the present day China and USA. The two are deemed possibly the most powerful countries of the world. Yet we can see their rivalry for that greater purpose to be the strongest. 
Said, demonstrated that the Orient set a motivational boundary only applicable to the Occidentals, and in a way paved a way towards competitive bounds. We can also see this in modern day: the economic stagnation between USA and China. In a way, Orientalism does not show any grotesque representation towards Asians, but rather it shows that mutual respect for them. Said gives a significant example of this ‘respect’ when the American propaganda depicted Japanese soldiers both as super-human fearless warriors, and as ape-like gypsies (Machida, 61). 

The highly egotistical Occident’s outlook towards the Orient only shows their destructive nature. In a way, it shows white people as the best humans and that nothing outside of it matters (Otherness). They do admit however, in context of Asia and Orient, that the Orient is capable of defeating the Western cause. In contrast, the whites saw the Natives and Africans as mere barbarians that can be assimilated to be ‘like’ white men. Asians however are viewed already as civilized but because of their traditions, ideals, and different set of beliefs, they are generally seen to be ‘aliens’ and not ‘like’ white men, in which the Occident strives for everyone to be.

This notion not only alienates me for being Asian and of Orient-descent, but also shows the dirty ignorance that the Occident has, and how that ignorance eventually motivated its people to stick up a rivalry against the Orient. In reality, the Orient, Asia and its countries, are just countries trying to live in peace, countries that try its best to maintain stability, and  countries that are living life. Who can say one country or one ideology is the superior? To an extent, it only mitigates my respect for the Western civilization, but majuscules my heritage to be one without such ignorance.

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