Social Memory and Art

Julie Huynh | 46376331

Machida’s third chapter on Trauma, Social Memory, and Art brought to mind my perspective on the preservation of cultural histories, especially once the ethnic group has already been displaced and relocated to another place (in this case, America).

The chapter is about ways in which Asian American artists preserve stories of their people by capturing it in their art. These works of art were created from the gathering of primary sources (oral histories, for example) and they immortalize these events, experiences, and most importantly, memories, within their art.

One of the artists featured in this chapter is Hanh Thi Pham, who creates art in order to express her experience as a Vietnamese immigrant and more. She uses her art as a voice for her racial identity, as well as her sexual and political identities. In our previous lecture about minorities finding agency, this is exactly Hanh Thi Pham’s agency. Her experiences with the American immigration system and racial discrimination speaks through the channels that are her photographs and writing.

The way I can best relate to the concept of living history and art as a communication of such is knowing that organizations such as VAALA (Vietnamese American Arts and Letters Association) exist for that very purpose and the Vietnamese American Oral History Project at UCI, which preserves oral histories by interviewing Vietnamese Americans in SoCal. I have heard artists using spoken word to verbally express their emotions, while I’ve also seen a great number of documentaries and shorts that serve to inform people of critical events in history that isn’t filtered or whittled down through the American mainstream.


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