Memories from despair

Aaron Kim


AsAm 115

In this week’s reading, we read Chapter 3 Trauma, Social memory, and art of Margo Machida’s Unsettled Visions: Contemporary Asian American artists and the social imaginary.
This chapter talked about the affect of war to the Asian people and how the many arts made by those afflicted incorporate feelings, emotion, and remorse from their experiences. 

When I read the historical backgrounds of the Asian war, I saw one key concept: America (Occident) was involved in most if not all of them. Take for example, the Korean War, an excuse for America to get a good footstool in the Asian countries, especially the growing Orient China. Surely, the reason for their involvement was indeed for political needs such as containment to prevent the growth of a “Other” ideology from that of Socialism/Communism championed by China. But their involvement led to untrue views about Asians, sponsored by the soldiers and American people. As Margo Machida emphasized in the last chapter, the many soldiers and American propaganda figured Asians are ‘monkeys’, buck-tooth beasts. This sort of discrimination if not racism led to many Asians hoping for the departure of America and its influences, but continually even to this day, their influence still prospers. Margo even demonstrates how the Lucky Strikes cigarette packs were originated through the U.S involvement in several Asian soils. 

Margo Machida in Chapter 3, emphasizes how Asian American artists that experienced the trauma of the war, incorporates their pain, loss, experiences, as key elements of interpreting their works of art. I personally enjoyed reading each artist’s story and analysis of their work, but what intrigued me the most would probably be Young Soon Min. Min incorporated a sense of unity through his works that involves the DMZ (Dead Man Zone), and their loss or separation from their homes as refugees. This art appealed to not just only Koreans, but also to other Asian countries involved in war such as Vietnam, Cambodia, Hmongs, and more. The DMZ represented the trauma of the people leaving their homes and seeking outside refugee and the Asian Diaspora. It shows the cultural and political boundaries that Asians had to face during the time. I personally liked Min’s work “Talking Herstory”. The title in itself is unique because of HERstory and not HIStory. The painting depicts a kid that can be represented as Atlas the holder of the worlds. He is spewing out flames or roots of his homeland and traditional heritage that was destroyed by the war.

It was really interesting reading how the Asian American artist depict and interpret their work. In a way, we can see that the Asians wants to expose their story, and to break down the barrier of racism and stereotypes. In a way, its through their works that the Asian awareness is in play, and in reality, is the creators of history as means to have people understand the truth.




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