belonging

Belonging Project: Germination

A quick update about what I’ve been up to:

Mostly I’ve been working on outreach—contacting organizations and individuals about the different ways they can get involved.

I’m planting seeds and hoping that they’ll grow, but I don’t know if they will. I feel like I’m in that moment of just staring at the soil where the seeds are. I’ll sigh with relief when the sprouts finally emerge.

As with the earlier Belonging project in Albuquerque, it’s a challenge to get the word out and align with organizations’ program schedules. The heart of the project is the stories. The quality of the stories and the authenticity of the voices represented gives the project  salience and integrity. I can only invite people to contribute to the inputs. I can make the outputs as well-crafted and well-made as I can, but ultimately, the reader or viewer is connecting through the stories.

If you can, please submit a story.
(It would mean so much to me!)

I am currently here in the Bay Area, with one week left in my five-week stay. (I did the entire project in Albuquerque, from the outreach to sign painting and installation, and zine release, in a five-week stay.) I’ll come back in January to install certificates and print bandanas). I figured December 20 or so, until January 1, wouldn’t be productive for outreach. But I’m already learning the hard way that these first two weeks of December are challenging too, too. College semesters CBO programs are already wrapping up for the year.

I approached the project in Albuquerque with more of a sense that it was an experiment—I’m not from Albuquerque, and the project was inherently limited by the shorter residency duration. With this project, the Bay Area is huge, I’m hoping to represent the nine-counties, and I lived here 30+ years. I have five months to do this project. We’re planning to print 1,500 books (10x the Albuquerque zine edition). There’s the irony about mapmaking: maps convey comprehensiveness, though, by nature, are abstractions and limited representations.

 

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The Belonging Project aspires to represent voices from the nine-county Bay Area: San Francisco, Alameda, Contra Costa, Solano, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Sonoma, Napa, Marin. Anyone with a meaningful connection is invited to submit a story!

 

This project will be the culmination of many collaborations. I will literally have mil gracias (thousand thanks) to say by the end. Right now, I especially want to thank the Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society; Evan Bissell for all his support coordinating the residency, advising, assisting, and encouraging me; Elizabeth Travelslight for inviting me to do a workshop with her SFAI class; Jaime Austin, Bryndis Hafthorsdottir at CCA Exhibitions for coordinating and/or facilitating workshops with students at CCA and Live Oak School, whose stories will feed into the Haas project; Ben Gucciardi for inviting me to do a workshop at the Soccer Without Borders program at Castlemont High; Carrie Donovan for spreading the word and organizing a Brown Bag lunch at the UC Berkeley Public Service Center; Abby Chen, Hoi Leung, and Yuanyuan Zhu from the Chinese Culture Foundation of San Francisco for jumping in 100% and organizing a bilingual workshop at the Union City Library as well as future possibilities; and the many college professors who have shared the project with their students, including Alicia Caballero-Christensen and Dana Hemenway who invited me to introduce the project in their classrooms at Laney College and UC Berkeley; Binh Danh and Mel Day, whose SJSU students are volunteering; and especially Kevin B. Chen and Kathy Aoki, who went above and beyond in rallying their students at SFSU and Santa Clara University to volunteer to conduct interviews with their families. 

I am here in the Bay Area one more week. If you’d like to meet, discuss, workshop, volunteer, coffee, high five, etc., let me know!

 


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belonging

Making a Letterpress Print, Step-by-Step

The steps I follow to make a letterpress print.

In my current project exploring belonging in the Bay Area, I’m asking the public to share their story about belonging. If they nominate a place where they feel belonging, I will commemorate that place with a letterpress-printed certificate.

Letterpress printing is an obsolete technology. It was used for proof-printing newspapers in the olden days, but these days it’s great for artist’s projects like mine.

Here are photos showing my process, using a combination poster-postcard-map marker I made for an project about Belonging that was recently exhibited in Take Action at the California College of the Arts.

Draw and Design the Artwork

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I use a calligraphy marker to do quick thumbnail sketches/doodles.

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Next, I draw a pencil sketch with my final composition.

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The next step is inking. I layer a clean sheet of paper over the pencil sketch on top of a light box, and copy the composition using a calligraphy marker.

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Then I scan the inked drawing, and clean it up in Photoshop.

Make Polymer Plates

You can make polymer plates yourself, or just order them. Because I didn’t have access to a printmaking studio at the time, I ordered them from Boxcar Press. When I print the certificates, I’ll make my own plates at Kala Art Institute in Berkeley.

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If you’re making your own plates, you’ll need to output a film positive, like I did with this previous project at Kala Art Institute.

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I bought special plates with photo-sensitive emulsion, and exposed the plate with my film in a plate maker. Then I washed out unwanted emulsion and hardened the remaining emulsion with more light exposure. This left the artwork in emulsion that is raised a few millimeters, sort of like a rubber stamp.

Printing

When you have your plates and paper ready, you’re ready to print.

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The first step is to mix ink. I brought paint swatches and paper samples to color match with a Pantone formula guide.

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Apply the ink to the rollers. The coolest thing about this type of press (a Vandercook) is that the press has a motor and it distributes the ink on rollers and and inks the plate for you. (The downside is there’s a lot of rollers to clean.) You can see one of the polymer plates on the press bed in the bottom of the image.

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You can only print one color and one sheet at a time. This shows the stack of 200 sheets I printed. The design used two colors, so I had to operate 400 cranks through the press. Printing—from setting up the press, mixing the ink, making sure everything was aligned properly, actually printing, and clean-up—took me most of one day.

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This is from a different project, but it helps to explain layering colors. In the upper left, you can see the first color, yellow ochre, was already printed. Then the second color, purple, is being printed on top, resulting in the finished print in the upper right. Because the purple is layered on top of the yellow ochre, it results in a brown.

Finishing

For this project, I needed to perforate the sections: the top is a poster, the bottom parts are a postcard and map marker.

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I perforated in the short direction using a rotary paper cutter outfitted with a perforation blade.

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These 17″ long sheets won’t fit in the rotary cutter lengthwise, so I use a hand tool to perforate between the postcard and the map marker. To save time, I set up a jig on a cutting mat to align the paper and ruler that was acting as a guide.

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The finished print.

 


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belonging, Citizenship

Belonging: Points of Reference on Othering and Justice

 

Some points of references about why belonging is urgent.

I haven’t shared these references in discussing belonging much. I don’t want my own perspectives to overly influence the stories of belonging that participants share with me. But these are some of the references I think about…


Audra D. S. Burch, “He Became a Hate Crime Victim. She Became a Widow.” NY Times, July 8, 2017

This is a true story at a tragic nexus of islamophobia, xenophobia, white fear, gun violence, love, and grief.

In some ways, what one man shouted in anger and one woman uttered in grief capture one of America’s most troubling intersections.

“Get out of my country!” the gunman would yell, before opening fire on the two Indian men he later said he believed were from Iran.

“Do we belong here?” the widow would ask in a Facebook post six days after the shooting.

The assailant approached the friends. Witnesses recall him wearing a white T-shirt with military-style pins, his head wrapped in a white scarf. He was intent on finding out one thing: Did the men at the table belong in the country?

Adam W. Purinton, a white Navy veteran, turned to the two brown-complexioned men, both living in the United States for years, and demanded to know their immigration status.

Mr. Madasani said he and Mr. Kuchibhotla had decided to leave, but were stopped as other patrons apologized and assured them they were welcome. One guy paid their tab; the bar manager gave them another round of beer and fried pickles, a favorite of Mr. Kuchibhotla. “Everybody kept coming up to us saying this is not what we represent, you guys belong here,” he said.

If you can, read the whole article.


Yes, he was mine and now I sing his song. But he was also no different from so many other refugees who have to leave their homes, people with names that some make little effort to pronounce who continue to build America. Nor am I any different from the millions of people who fell in love and made family here….

And in the story of Ficre is the lesson that we are impoverished if we remain strangers to one another and that what makes this country unique is that the world is in it.


Every Right Is a Hard Fought Win

When I came across Fred Barbash’s “Birthright citizenship: A Trump-inspired history lesson on the 14th Amendment” (Washington Post, October 30, 2018, H/T Asian Americans Advancing Justice), it reminded me how the rights we’ve gained weren’t just handed over.

Immigrants have helped America fulfill its professed principles of equality by fighting for our survival and rights through lawsuits, advocacy, activism, wiles,  people power. See: 

Ronald Takaki, Strangers From a Different Shore, Little Brown & Company, 1998.


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belonging

Belonging: Process and Research Notes / A Fresh Start

This is the first in a series of posts revealing my process and research notes exploring belonging. 

I’m pleased to share that I will be the artist in residence at the Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society at UC Berkeley.

I’ll develop a participatory project to commemorate places of belonging in the Bay Area. I’ll also create an atlas of belonging. I’ll post more about this soon—including how you can participate, and how you can help.

In the meantime, one of my goals is to make my process transparent. I’ll try by posting regularly here.

Background

Last year, I developed a site-specific, participatory project about belonging during a five-week artist’s residency at Sanitary Tortilla Factory in Albuquerque, New Mexico. After conducting workshops and holding an open call, I hand-painted signs to commemorate 13 places of belonging, and produced a 24-page zine with maps and excerpts of the contributors’ own words.

Sign reads, "A place of belonging #1, We all belong here. When this block feels thriving, welcoming, and supportive of artists and creators, I feel more empowered and whole-nourished. JL BelongingABQ.com." Salmon colored sign on a post on a sidewalk with trees and parked cars in the background.

Christine Wong Yap with contributors, Belonging Sign #1: 2nd Street SW, Nominated by Jessamyn Lovell. 2017, handlettered paint on pine, 18 x 11 x 0.75 inches each.

That experience reinforced my passion for belonging. Belonging relates to social and political identities, and also reflects deep emotional intelligence and self-actualization. It can mean you relate to a group or a place, and also are connected with a deep, authentic self. This initial project also boosted my confidence, and underscored the importance of artists helping artists, patience, openness, and listening. I’ll carry these lessons learned moving forward.

Residency Dates

I’ll be the Bay Area from mid-November to mid-February.

[Though Haas has described the residency as “yearlong,” the residency dates are November 1 to May 1. In my interview, I was forthcoming about my availability. I’m explaining all of this because I know how important it is to make the most of a competitive opportunity. But I know that I can get a lot done in a short time, making up for less time with more focus and attention.]

Coinciding Belonging Projects

It just so happens that I’m currently exhibiting a project on belonging in San Francisco. It’s part of Take Action, an exhibition at CCA’s Hubbell Street Galleries in San Francisco, and is a collaboration with For Freedoms. It’s on view through November 16.

Participants can mark their places of belonging on a map of the Bay Area, make their own poster to commemorate that place, and send a postcard to someone about belonging.

Wall painted with map of bay area in salmon colored paint, with the text "Where do you feel belonging?" There's cards on the map with yarn and pins to different locations. There's a pink shelf with yard, scissors and pins. A visitor is close, reading the cards.

Christine Wong Yap, Belonging, 2018, mixed media: participatory installation with letterpress-printed activity sheet, dimensions variable.

But first, I ask people to complete the questionnaires, in order to deepen self-reflection about belonging. Gallery assistants are collecting the questionnaires, and will share them with me.

I already collected some questionnaires. Some were completed by CCA students in workshops I led, some were completed during the opening. I’m astounded by the hope, earnestness, and unique life stories and perspectives revealed in them. There’s a young Russian immigrant who struggled to find her place here, and she came to forge lifelong bonds in a co-organized life drawing group. She encourages others to initiate their own places of belonging. I was moved to hear one young man described what belonging feels like in the negative, as “not being intrusive or bothersome.”

I hope to inform the Haas project with these stories, as well as feedback I got during the workshops. Thanks to everyone who’s participated so far.

If you visit Take Action and participate in my project, please consider entering your name and email address so I can ask follow up questions or invite you to public feedback sessions or celebrations. I won’t add you to any mailing lists. This is just so I can follow up about the project to be accountable to you and your contributions to this project.

The Bay Area

Though I’ve lived in NYC for the past eight years, I’ve lived in the Bay Area for 33. I’ve lived in the East Bay, North Bay, and on the peninsula. When I visit the Bay, I sleep in the same bedroom where I was during the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake.

I’m looking forward to spending more time in the Bay Area. I hope to develop a project that reflects the best of the Bay: thoughtfulness, experimentation, accessibility, diversity, and inclusion.

 


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