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Crossing borders

In their global search for work, Filipinos cross borders both literal and figurative: moving from one country to another, they move across less tangible but no less real lines of social class, race, and national belonging; from “foreign” and “other” into the intimate spaces of homes and hospitals; and, often, from legal citizen to undocumented worker.


As American studies scholar Allan Punzalan Isaac notes in American Tropics: Articulating Filipino America (University of Minnesota Press, 2006), “[T]he concept of immigration (a dominant concern in Asian American studies) is historically and conceptually problematic in reference to Filipinos, who did not necessarily move through borders, but rather, borders continually enfolded them” (38). Further complicating the notion of borders, Filipinos have crossed, with varying ease, the borders of the Spain, Japan and the US under a succession of imperial flags. As national laws respond to global labor flows, Filipinos again find those borders enfolding and ejecting them in a continuous flux of legal and illegal belonging.

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Clare Counihan

b. 1977
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Clare Counihan earned her M.A. and Ph.D. in English Language and Literature from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, and her B.A. in English Literature from Duke University. Her research focuses on contemporary southern African experimental literature and the relationship between narrative form and national belonging for unbeloved subjects. She is also deeply interested in food: eating it, cooking it, understanding the ways it reflects and mediates our identities and interactions.

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Sarita Echavez See

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Sarita Echavez See was born in New York City but raised as an "embassy brat" moving from city to city around the world. She received her B.A. from the University of California, Berkeley, where she first became involved with U.S. women of color politics, especially the arts and culture movement. She obtained her Ph.D. in English and Comparative Literature at Columbia University. While studying in New York City, she met the Filipino American artists and writers who inspired and continue to inspire her teaching and scholarship. In 2013, she joined the faculty of the University of California, Riverside, where she is an associate professor of Media and Cultural Studies. She previously taught at Williams College, the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, and the University of California, Davis. Her research and teaching interests include Asian American and Filipino American cultural critique, postcolonial and empire studies, narrative, and theories of gender and sexuality. She is the author of the book-length study The Decolonized Eye: Filipino American Art and Performance (University of Minnesota Press, 2009), in which she argues that contemporary Filipino American forms of aesthetic and performative abstraction powerfully expose and indict the history of American imperialism as itself a form of abstraction. She is at work on the book-length project “Against Accumulation,” which is a study of the politics of accumulation in the American museum and university and of the politics of anti-accumulation in Filipino American theatre, writing, and visual art. She was one of the core organizers of the 2011 conference "Critical Ethnic Studies and the Future of Genocide" held at the University of California, Riverside, and she has served as a member of the working board of the Critical Ethnic Studies Association. In her work with the Center for Art and Thought and its focus on the contemporary medium of the digital, she envisions CA+T to be a transnational venue for more meaningful, reciprocal encounters between artists and scholars, and she is committed to fostering new forms of literacy, rather than tutelage, and to the transformation, rather than the mere transmission and replication, of knowledge.

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  • Born: New York, NY, USA
  • Based: Los Angeles, CA, USA

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And In a Moment We're Almost Pure (lava rock garden suite)

Wawi Navarroza

2011 Archival pigment print 40 in. x 60 in. Editions of 5 + 2 AP From the Dominion series

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Wawi Navarroza

b. 1979
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Wawi Navarroza is a photographer/multi-disciplinary artist from Manila, Philippines. She graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree from De La Salle University, Manila and attended continuing education at the International Center of Photography, New York. Recently, Navarroza completed her scholarship at the Istituto Europeo di Design, Madrid under the program European Master of Fine Art Photography.

Her work with contemporary photography has taken shape in highly-stylized symbolic mise-en-scène and tableau vivants, shifting to her more recent interest in landscape, constructed still life, and installation. Her landscape photographs propose a familiar 'other place' that opens up to fabricated emotional space that seems to be carved out by both personal and collective memory and amnesia.

Navarroza has exhibited widely in the Philippines and internationally. She has participated at the 2012 Tokyo Month of Photography, presented by Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography; the Asian Art Biennale, in Taichung, Taiwan (2011); the annual touring exhibition "CUT: New Photography from South East Asia," by Valentine Willie Fine Art (VWFA) Kuala Lumpur; ASEAN-Korea’s "Emerging Wave" Asian Contemporary Photography Exhibition in Seoul, Korea (2010); and "Verso Manila: contemporary art from the Philippines" in Turin, Italy (2009). She has also been shown at Angkor Photography Festival Cambodia, Noorderlicht Photography Festival Holland, and PhotoIreland.

Recent solo exhibits include "ULTRAMAR, Pt.1: Gathered Throng, Falling Into Place" (2012) and "Dominion" (2011), at Silverlens Gallery, Manila, and "On Landscapes and Some Dislocations" at Galería Patrick Domken, Cadaqués, Spain. She has received a number of awards, such as the Cultural Center of the Philippines' Thirteen Artists Awards Triennial (2012), Lumi Photographic Art Awards, Helsinki (2011), and she was a finalist for the prestigious Sovereign Asian Art Prize (2011) and Singapore Museum Signature Art Prize (2011). Other awards include International Photography Awards (2010), Portfolio Preis (2010, Germany), and Prix de la Photographie Paris (2009). She has staged two award-winning solo exhibitions: “POLYSACCHARIDE: The Dollhouse Drama” (2005) and “SATURNINE: A Collection of Portraits, Creatures, Glass, and Shadow” (2007), which was cited Winner at the Ateneo Art Awards 2007, Philippines. In 2009, Navarroza was awarded the first Asian Cultural Council-Silverlens Fellowship Grant to further her research and practice in New York City.

Her work has been shown in institutions such as the National Museum of the Philippines, Metropolitan Museum of Manila, Mongolian National Modern Art Gallery, Hangaram Museum, Korea, National Museum of Fine Arts, Taichung, Taiwan, and Fries Museum of Contemporary Art, Netherlands.

Navarroza has also worked as a lecturer of photography at De La Salle University and as an independent curator. She also sings for a post-punk rock band called The Late Isabel. In the past few years she has based herself in Madrid, Barcelona and Cadaqués, Spain. Currently, Navarroza is working and living in Manila, Philippines.

Photograph by Gabby Cantero.

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  • Born: Manila, Philippines
  • Based: Manila, Philippines

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Baby (Medium for Intercultural Navigation)

Michael Arcega

2011 Hand-made collapsible Pacific outrigger canoe and commemorative plates 13' x 6' x 16' (assembled)

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Michael Arcega

Michael Arcega is an interdisciplinary artist working primarily in sculpture and installation. Though visual, his art revolves largely around language. Directly informed by historic events, material significance, and the format of jokes, his subject matter deals with sociopolitical circumstances where power relations are unbalanced.

Michael has a B.F.A. from the San Francisco Art Institute and an M.F.A. from Stanford University. His work has been exhibited at venues including the Museum of Contemporary Art in San Diego, the de Young Museum in San Francisco, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, the Orange County Museum of Art, the Contemporary Museum in Honolulu, the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, the Cue Arts Foundation, and the Asia Society in New York among many others. He was recently awarded a 2012 Guggenheim Fellowship in Fine Arts. Michael is currently a Resident Fellow at Bemis Center for Contemporary Art in Omaha, Nebraska.

As an interdisciplinary artist working in sculpture and installation, my work revolves largely around language and research. Directly informed by Historic events, material significance, and the format of jokes, my subject matter deals with sociopolitical circumstances where power relations are unbalanced.

I seek out cultural and historic markers embedded in objects, food, architecture, visual lexicons, and vernacular languages. For instance, vernacular Tagalog is infused with Spanish and English words, lending itself to verbal mutation. This malleability results in wordplay and jokes that transform words like Persuading to First Wedding, Tenacious to Tennis Shoes, and Masturbation to Mass Starvation. As a "Naturalized American," my practice draws from the sensibility of the insider and outsider-- making work from a constantly shifting position.

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  • Born: Manila, Philippines
  • Based: San Francisco, CA, USA

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Baby (Medium for Intercultural Navigation)

Michael Arcega

2011 Wood, PVC fabric, aluminum, and mixed media 13' x 6' x 16' (assembled) Photo taken at Lake Amistad, TX on the border of the United States and Mexico.

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Michael Arcega

Michael Arcega is an interdisciplinary artist working primarily in sculpture and installation. Though visual, his art revolves largely around language. Directly informed by historic events, material significance, and the format of jokes, his subject matter deals with sociopolitical circumstances where power relations are unbalanced.

Michael has a B.F.A. from the San Francisco Art Institute and an M.F.A. from Stanford University. His work has been exhibited at venues including the Museum of Contemporary Art in San Diego, the de Young Museum in San Francisco, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, the Orange County Museum of Art, the Contemporary Museum in Honolulu, the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, the Cue Arts Foundation, and the Asia Society in New York among many others. He was recently awarded a 2012 Guggenheim Fellowship in Fine Arts. Michael is currently a Resident Fellow at Bemis Center for Contemporary Art in Omaha, Nebraska.

As an interdisciplinary artist working in sculpture and installation, my work revolves largely around language and research. Directly informed by Historic events, material significance, and the format of jokes, my subject matter deals with sociopolitical circumstances where power relations are unbalanced.

I seek out cultural and historic markers embedded in objects, food, architecture, visual lexicons, and vernacular languages. For instance, vernacular Tagalog is infused with Spanish and English words, lending itself to verbal mutation. This malleability results in wordplay and jokes that transform words like Persuading to First Wedding, Tenacious to Tennis Shoes, and Masturbation to Mass Starvation. As a "Naturalized American," my practice draws from the sensibility of the insider and outsider-- making work from a constantly shifting position.

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  • Born: Manila, Philippines
  • Based: San Francisco, CA, USA

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Baby (Medium for Intercultural Navigation)

Michael Arcega

2011 Wood, PVC fabric, aluminum, and mixed media 13' x 6' x 16' (assembled) Photo taken in Bayou St. John in Louisiana.

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Michael Arcega

Michael Arcega is an interdisciplinary artist working primarily in sculpture and installation. Though visual, his art revolves largely around language. Directly informed by historic events, material significance, and the format of jokes, his subject matter deals with sociopolitical circumstances where power relations are unbalanced.

Michael has a B.F.A. from the San Francisco Art Institute and an M.F.A. from Stanford University. His work has been exhibited at venues including the Museum of Contemporary Art in San Diego, the de Young Museum in San Francisco, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, the Orange County Museum of Art, the Contemporary Museum in Honolulu, the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, the Cue Arts Foundation, and the Asia Society in New York among many others. He was recently awarded a 2012 Guggenheim Fellowship in Fine Arts. Michael is currently a Resident Fellow at Bemis Center for Contemporary Art in Omaha, Nebraska.

As an interdisciplinary artist working in sculpture and installation, my work revolves largely around language and research. Directly informed by Historic events, material significance, and the format of jokes, my subject matter deals with sociopolitical circumstances where power relations are unbalanced.

I seek out cultural and historic markers embedded in objects, food, architecture, visual lexicons, and vernacular languages. For instance, vernacular Tagalog is infused with Spanish and English words, lending itself to verbal mutation. This malleability results in wordplay and jokes that transform words like Persuading to First Wedding, Tenacious to Tennis Shoes, and Masturbation to Mass Starvation. As a "Naturalized American," my practice draws from the sensibility of the insider and outsider-- making work from a constantly shifting position.

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  • Born: Manila, Philippines
  • Based: San Francisco, CA, USA

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Baby (Medium for Intercultural Navigation)

Michael Arcega

2011 Wood, PVC fabric, aluminum, and mixed media 13' x 6' x 16' (assembled)

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Michael Arcega

Michael Arcega is an interdisciplinary artist working primarily in sculpture and installation. Though visual, his art revolves largely around language. Directly informed by historic events, material significance, and the format of jokes, his subject matter deals with sociopolitical circumstances where power relations are unbalanced.

Michael has a B.F.A. from the San Francisco Art Institute and an M.F.A. from Stanford University. His work has been exhibited at venues including the Museum of Contemporary Art in San Diego, the de Young Museum in San Francisco, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, the Orange County Museum of Art, the Contemporary Museum in Honolulu, the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, the Cue Arts Foundation, and the Asia Society in New York among many others. He was recently awarded a 2012 Guggenheim Fellowship in Fine Arts. Michael is currently a Resident Fellow at Bemis Center for Contemporary Art in Omaha, Nebraska.

As an interdisciplinary artist working in sculpture and installation, my work revolves largely around language and research. Directly informed by Historic events, material significance, and the format of jokes, my subject matter deals with sociopolitical circumstances where power relations are unbalanced.

I seek out cultural and historic markers embedded in objects, food, architecture, visual lexicons, and vernacular languages. For instance, vernacular Tagalog is infused with Spanish and English words, lending itself to verbal mutation. This malleability results in wordplay and jokes that transform words like Persuading to First Wedding, Tenacious to Tennis Shoes, and Masturbation to Mass Starvation. As a "Naturalized American," my practice draws from the sensibility of the insider and outsider-- making work from a constantly shifting position.

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  • Born: Manila, Philippines
  • Based: San Francisco, CA, USA

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Between the Letter and Spirit of the Law: Ethnic Chinese and Philippine Citizenship by Jus Soli, 1899-1947

Filomeno V. Aguilar

2011 Criticism 32 pages. Courtesy of CSAS-Kyoto. For more, please see Southeast Asian Studies and Tonan Ajia Kenkyu.

Southeast Asian Studies 49. 3 (December 2011): 431-463.

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Filomeno V. Aguilar

Filomeno V. Aguilar, Jr. is Professor in the Department of History and Dean of the School of Social Sciences, Ateneo de Manila University. He is the Chief Editor of Philippine Studies: Historical and Ethnographic Viewpoints. He is also the current President of the Philippine Sociological Society (2011–2013). He has served as President of the International Association of Historians of Asia (2005–2006) and as Chair of the Philippine Social Science Council (2006–2008). He is on the editorial advisory boards of Inter-Asia Cultural Studies, Journal of Agrarian Change, Journal of Current Southeast Asian Affairs, and Southeast Asian Studies.

After obtaining his Ph.D. from Cornell University in 1992, he taught in the Department of Sociology, National University of Singapore, and then in the Department of History and Politics, James Cook University in north Queensland, Australia. After teaching for ten years overseas, he returned to the Philippines in 2003.

He is the author of Clash of Spirits: The History of Power and Sugar Planter Hegemony on a Visayan Island (University of Hawai'i Press and Ateneo de Manila University Press, 1998) and Maalwang Buhay: Family, Overseas Migration, and Cultures of Relatedness in Barangay Paraiso (Ateneo de Manila University Press, 2009). He is the editor of Filipinos in Global Migrations: At Home in the World? (Philippine Migration Research Network and the Philippine Social Science Council, 2002). His most recent book is Migration Revolution: Philippine Nationhood and Class Relations in a Globalized Age (University of Hawai'i Press, 2014). 

His research interests have been broadly interdisciplinary: nationalism and its intersections with race and ethnicity, especially in the early period of Filipino nationalism; the history and dynamics of Philippine global and transnational migrations, citizenship, and the family; Philippine popular political culture; the social histories of sugar and rice in the Philippines; the historical formation of class relations and cultures; contemporary religious movements; and magical worldview and social and historical change.

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  • Born: The Philippines
  • Based: Manila, Philippines

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Bibingka

Kay Cuajunco

2014 Video 10m 30s Courtesy of the artist.

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Kay Cuajunco

b. 1986
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Kay Cuajunco is a queer pinay activist, educator, and filmmaker. She was born in Guam and is currently based in Oakland, CA. As a granddaughter of Filipino farmers, she reclaims her connection to land through her work organizing for food justice, and she finds healing and creative inspiration cooking for cultural survival. Her first film Roots of Struggle, an anti-imperialist love story revealing the intimate violence of the military-industrial-complex on queer youth, premiered at the Queer Women of Color Film Festival in San Francisco, screened at the Allied Media Conference in Detroit and the Assata Will Rise showcase at the Eastside Arts Alliance, and was awarded best short at the Oakland Pride Film Festival in 2013. She holds a Bachelor of Arts from the University of California, Santa Barbara and a Master of Arts from San Francisco State University where she wrote her thesis on critical pedagogy and farmworker solidarity movements, focusing on the ideas on Paulo Freire and the Coalition of Immokalee Workers.

Bibingka is a short film that explores how recipes tell stories of migration and cultural survival through the lens of Filipino foods. Behind every recipe there are countless memories of celebration, ritual, and comfort that allow us to reclaim our connection to the land, family, and home. Bibingka is one of the first Filipino desserts I learned how to cook with my mom and the smell of which always reminds me of home. Throughout the silent journey of making this dessert from looking through the aisles for ingredients to putting it into the oven, you can hear stories about Filipino food to narrate the feelings and memories of love, care, absence, and frustration that come up while cooking. Featuring voices from the Filipino diaspora, Bibingka awakens our senses to the urgency to keep the legacy of our traditional foods alive.

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  • Born: Agana, Guam
  • Based: Oakland, CA, USA

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Daniel Miller

b. 1954

Daniel Miller was born in London in 1954. He is currently based at the Department of Anthropology with University College, London. He is the author or editor of thirty-five books dealing with different aspects of the anthropology of consumption, material culture and new media.

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Mirca Madianou

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Mirca Madianou is Senior Lecturer in the Department of Media and Communication, University of Leicester. From 2004 to 2011, she was Newton Trust Lecturer in Sociology at the University of Cambridge and Fellow of Lucy Cavendish College. She holds a Ph.D. from the London School of Economics. She has published extensively on the social consequences of new media and mediation especially in relation to processes of migration, transnational relationships and networks. She is the author of Mediating the Nation: News, Audiences and the Politics of Identity (Routledge, 2005) and Migration and New Media (with Daniel Miller, Routledge, 2011) and co-editor of Ethics of Media (with Nick Couldry and Amit Pinchevski, 2013). Between 2007 and 2011, she was Principal Investigator on the Economic and Social Research Council-funded project "Migration, ICTS and transnational families," a comparative ethnographic study of Filipino and Caribbean transnational families and their uses of new communication technologies. She continues to work on Philippine migration and the role of digital media in transforming migrant networks.

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  • Based: Leicester, England, UK

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Dear Indian Grocery Store under the Freeway

Sita Kuratomi Bhaumik

2013 Turmeric and cardamom on paper, mehendi stencils, paint, text. Variable dimensions. Courtesy of the artist.

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Sita Kuratomi Bhaumik

b. 1981
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Sita Kuratomi Bhaumik is conceptual artist working with craft and food to tell the stories of migration. Sita holds a B.A. in Studio Art from Scripps College, and an M.F.A. in interdisciplinary art and an M.A. in Visual and Critical Studies from California College of the Arts. Raised in Los Angeles and based in Oakland, she is Indian and Japanese Colombian American. Sita has exhibited and collaborated in the US, Holland, Ireland, Hong Kong, and Mexico. Her projects include installing curry powder in a European castle, importing artisan goods over the US-Mexico border, and leading workshops about food, migration, and memory in Hong Kong. Her most recent project, Estamos contra el muro | We are against the wall, involved the collaborative construction of a border wall made entirely of piñatas. The East Bay Express described it as "the most joyous political critique of the year."
 
Sita is also a co-founder of the People's Kitchen Collective (PKC), who were named in 2016's Yerba Buena Center for the Arts’ YBCA 100 list. They are recipients of the Center for Asian American Media’s (CAAM) Advocate Award and were awarded support by the Kenneth Rainin Foundation Open Spaces Program. PKC recently exhibited with For Freedoms, the first artist-run super PAC at Jack Shainman Gallery in New York and at the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center's Crosslines pop-up museum. The goal of The People's Kitchen is to not only fill our stomachs but also nourish our souls, feed our minds and fuel a movement.
 
See also peopleskitchencollective.com.

Photo credit: Rachyel Magana



 

For the Love/Hate of Curry

A golden, aromatic spice blend that is prized by some and reviled by others, curry powder is a polarizing substance. Over the past five years I have used it as a dye, perfume, and pigment in my art practice. But I rarely eat the bottled stuff.

What, exactly, is curry? It is a delicious dish and an inadequate word. As food historian Thy Tran once told me, it is a word that falls short because it attempts to use the language of the colonizer to describe the many foods of the colonized. The first reference to curry powder was published in Mrs. Beeton’s Book of Household Management (1961), a book to aid British housewives in the particulars of maintaining a proper home in the colonies. I began to trace my own history through an alternative spice route. Being Indian and Japanese Colombian American, we ate curry all the time in our house. Indian cooks don’t usually use curry powder--but my mother, who is Colombian-born Japanese, made the kind that came out of a box. She mixed it with chicken, carrots and potatoes to create one of my favorite meals (coincidentally, the most popular brand of curry powder happens to be my initials, “S&B” and so I took it as a sign that I was meant to work with the material). Why does Japan’s #1 dish come from a package? Japan was introduced to curry by the British who made a roux of flour and fat with the spice blend. The Indian varieties? Those were more difficult to define. My father is from a small village outside of Kolkata. I still have no idea what is and isn’t a “curry.” Neither does my family. It’s just food in sauce – but it’s so much more.

After my first installation with curry powder in 2008, I searched the phrase “smells like curry” online. I suppose I expected to find a racist joke or two and a few recipes. Instead, I found thousands of entries referring to the way Indian people smelled. The one I will always remember was a posting on Yahoo! Answers:

Q: Help, my neighbor’s house smells like curry.
A: Call the INS.

I became obsessed with this anonymous entry. For the first time I realized that race is constructed by more than what we see.

Over the next few years I sprinkled curry powder through the streets of Oakland, opened a Curry Institute (2011) at Whitman College, where visitors could chart their own Curry Cartography, and worked with perfumer Yosh Han to create a curry perfume called Gilt (2010) just because I wanted everyone to have the right to smell like curry. Eventually the spice pieces made their way onto the walls themselves.

Although my ingredients span the globe, I always source my materials from family-owned businesses. I had been purchasing ingredients from Bombay Bazaar, a hidden grocery store that had closed and re-opened in San Francisco’s wildly gentrifying Mission district. The last time I went in to say hello, the store had disappeared. Shelves, fluorescent lighting, and all. It is with the last batch of spices purchased at this shop that I created Dear Indian Grocery Store both in the bathroom of 18 Reasons in San Francisco and at the San Jose Museum of Art in November 2013. Feeling yet another loss in a city I recognize less and less, I wrote an open letter to the grocery store. This letter always accompanies the installation. As with my previous installations, the excess curry powder collected from the installation will be used to dye napkins and tablecloths for a sliding-scale community dinner. The curry powder is reserved for the art - it is rarely used in the cooking of the meal.

Most Indian cooks would never be caught with curry powder in their kitchens - it limits the complexity and variety of a dish. This powder is India concentrate. This is the myth we expect in Indian supermarkets, restaurants, and, yes, even people. But this complicated blend has also been transformed into the unique flavors of comfort all over the world.

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  • Born: Los Angeles, CA, USA
  • Based: Oakland, CA, USA

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