Trauma, Social Memory, and Art

Howard Diep | 10209864

In this weeks readings of Margo Machida’s Unsettled Visions Chapter 3 “Trauma, Social Memory, and Art”, I read about the purpose of art and Machida’s intriguing connectedness of art through the example of three amazing Asian American artists Kristine Aono, Yung Soon Min, and Hanh Thi Pham. I found this week’s reading really enjoyable because the ideas she was conveying through the artists were centralized and it was s relatively easy for me to read and understand the significance of each artist and their works and their interconnectedness. I found it helpful how Machida discusses for example the notion of memories and elaborates on it through specific real world examples that are historically significant. From the text, I have a better understanding of how memories are an active and convoluted process that is influenced by social environment and historical events, as well as communities and experiences. It’s interesting to note that memories also confer the intimate safeguard against times passage and ultimately death. I also liked her correlation of United States imperialism in Asian back to the Boxer Rebellion where I remember learning about and it’s connection to Sun Yat-Sen the “Father of Modern China”. I also like her explanations and her notion of racial melancholia and abjection. I have heard of abjection before but not raical melancholia.

One aspect that I made a connection to was in the section of “Social Trauma and Collective Memory”. Machida States that mass trauma where group members often suppress social memory or individual memory, yet the magnitude of the public anguish caused by mass unrest and large scale conflicts by the consequences of damaging life conditions. I made a connection where there was social upheaval and protest in the 80’s and 90’s in Little Saigon after a local storeowner decided to hang up a portrait of Ho Chi Minh in his shop. This caused many of the community members to reflect and have negative traumatic memories of the Vietnam War and in turn organized and protested against his action. It was also nice to learn about the different works and arts that the three artists featured in Machida’s text create. I thought that Aono’s sculpting is a good outlet in creating stories and depiction of life in the Japanese Interment camps. Min’s Conceptualization of the Demilitarized War Zone was interesting too especially the image of the women with “DMZ” on your head. And Pham’s work and photography in order to support herself, her family, and come to terms with the memories of a violent era and help the personal and community.

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