Mar 16, 2016
Dear friends and family,
I am building an installation in my art studio in Noodleworks this June/July, and part of the content involves input from my community. The subject is the American Family, and I am seeking to gather a social history of America starting from my own network outward.
1) Talk to your parents, family elders, and friends to delve into your history in America.
2) Collect old photographs, written stories, email correspondence, documents, letters, or other artifacts that tell your family's experience in America,
3) Provide the information to me by May 1st, 2016.
If any information is sensitive, you or I can redact (black out) the information. Also if you are the first generation in the US, I am happy to include your photo and story about your experience.
Your materials will not be published online, but included in print on transparency for the installation.
Part of the purpose of this piece is to get us talking and sharing our historical selves with the people that we are personally close to at school, jobs, facebook, etc. Another hopeful outcome is that we may all get to know ourselves better through exploring and engaging in our own histories and families. And finally, I hope that this may lead me to a conversation with you someday about this subject that I am becoming increasing passionate about.
I have included examples of my own family's artifacts in America below to start off the sharing.
Please reach me with questions or input at devonmidorihale(at)gmail.com
Devon Midori Hale
Sep 16, 2015
From an interview by Stephen Dubner with Drew Faust, the first female president of Harvard [Freakonomics Radio, 9/3/15]
I stopped everything when I heard this question and its answer on this podcast. I love this description of bridging individual accounts, diaries, personal experience, family history with the broader historical narrative.
DUBNER: And I know you’ve written that history is inherently tricky in that we rely so often now and then on individual stories, and yet individual stories can be nothing more that anecdotes that might be anomalous. So the job of a historian is to square those stories with the aggregate. I’m curious how you would apply that to the modern world these days. You know, you’re one person, I’m one person, everybody listening here is one person with their own sets of opinions and perhaps biases and so on. And yet we need to kind of think through our own prism, but toward the greater population. Do you think that problem that you identified as an historian is a big problem in kind of public civic life today and why there’s so much sort of…
FAUST: That’s such an interesting question. That’s such an intriguing question, which suggests its own answer, I believe. Part of why I love history is it takes it outside ourselves and at its best enables us to look through other people’s eyes. And that enables us to understand what’s contingent about our choices and our existence. And we need to do that in our own time as well. We need to bridge beyond ourselves and take advantage of stories to serve as a road to other people, as a pathway to being able to look at the world through their eyes and to understand where they’re coming from, why they might differ with us on matters of policies, or practice, and have the stories empower us to be more than simply locked within our own selves. So that seems to me an important part of what stories can do for us now.
May 12, 2015
As gentrification and skyrocketing rents change the landscape of my hometown, I am faced with many emotions. I feel overwhelming nostalgia, sometimes anger and frustration, hopelessness, and emptiness. It feels like my home is disappearing from right beneath my feet. I feel righteousness to my place here, and I declare my authenticity: My parents, brother, and I were all born in the same hospital on Capitol Hill. My grandparents and great-grandparents also lived in Seattle. I’ll see your fifteen years here, and raise you four generations and more than one hundred years.
At the same time, I talk myself through these changes. I remind myself that although I feel deeply rooted here, the Seattle I know is only 28 years old. The city has gone through many transformations, and I can only imagine how it must have look two hundred years ago under the guardianship of the Duwamish people. This series is my take on Hokusai's 36-views of Mt. Fuji. I use Mt. Rainier as a constant of this area, a metaphor for immortality. The images I overlay are places around the city that are a part of my own psychogeography, places that have become ingrained in my mind from years and decades of repeatedly walking past them. I also use source images of these places from before my time, such as a photo of University of Washington from the years my grandmother attended, found in my great-uncle’s photo album.
I have lots of strong opinions about the gentrification and displacement of the people and businesses in my area, particularly the Central District, Chinatown-ID, and Capitol Hill. I have had my share of rants, but there is nothing productive about finger pointing and self-pity. I haven’t really figured out what I can do that would have an impact, or if these gentrifying forces are even possible to stop. For now, I will continue to lament the loss of my idea of home while I try to also recognize that this place doesn't belong to me.
///p.s. What else? This series is painted on recycled cardboard, cereal boxes actually. I chose this to tie in the emphemeral, so that Mt. Rainier represents immortality while painted on a temporary material. Furthermore, Reduce-Reuse-Recycle is a well-practiced ritual in the Pacific Northwest, one that I can't help but follow.
May 5, 2014
I have started to play with imagery from the Japanese internment camps. I plan to reinterview members of my family that were relocated during WWII. The generation that experienced this is currently in their 80s and above, and I feel that my proximity to that primary source shouldn't be wasted.
When I was in middle school, I interviewed my stepgrandmother [I call her Grandma Nobie, but not to be confused with my mom's biological mother who killed herself as a young adult] about living in the internment camp when she was high school age. The cassette tape was turned into my teacher, and I got an A+ on the project, but unfortunately we lost track of the tape at one point. The story I can still remember is about a time in the mess hall. Grandma Nobie put some mustard on a baked potato in her bowl and found herself surrounded by the others who mistakenly thought it was an egg, and wondered where she'd gotten the scarce, protien-rich egg.
You can expect my next ceramic slip-cast to have a painting of a dollop of yellow mustard on some grey lumps in the bowl's interior. I hope to make more objects to represent these little narratives as I find them in my research.
Jan 3, 2014
"I have the right not to be responsible for people's discomfort with my physical ambiguity." Racial ambiguity is scary because humans, as pack creatures, want to have the comfort of putting each person they meet into the appropriate position of power in relation to themselves and others they know the place of. To deny someone the knowledge of your ambiguous race is an act of resistance, not toward the individual but to the system that created and perpetuates the delusion of race, "a status quo that perpetuates race wars and violates civil rights."
"I have the right to identify myself differently than how strangers expect me to identify." Recently, after being asked what I am and responding that I am mixed Asian and White, I got the follow up, "Yeah, but that's so vague. Come on, what kind of Asian?" followed by the assertion, "I'm Mexican." I complied and gave my full breakdown, as Root says, "fragment[ing] myself and others." When I give in to this line of questioning it is a concession at the point when I've run out of energy and just want to give people what they want so that they'll move on and leave me alone. I hope it was as unsatisfying for them to learn as it was for me to share. [This differs from a personal conversation about race/identity/whatever where race comes up. This is about being approached in this way by people who I do not know.]
"I have the right to freely choose whom I befriend and love." Have you ever had the thought or fear that if you had children with a white person, that your children would be white? Does the fact that I've had this thought offend you? It's certainly not a fear I want to live by or chose my partner by, I'm just saying I've had this thought, and I know I'm not the only one who has feared it. Freedom is complicated.
Root breaks down her thoughts and further explains each of the declarations:
Root, Maria. "A Bill of Rights for Racially Mixed People." Readings for Diversity and Social Justice. Ed. Maurianne Adams, Warren J. Blumenfeld, et. al. New York and London: Routledge, pp. 120-126.
Aug 23, 2013
Crayongießen is a partipatory installation piece where participants read their fortunes from the dropped casts of melted crayons. The idea is based on a German New Years tradition called Bleigießen, where people melt a small amount of lead, drop it in a bowl of water, and then read their fortune from the shape. The piece is set up with a candle, a metal spoon, broken crayon pieces, basin of water, and the symbol reference guide. To make a crayon casting, draw 2 crayon pieces at random from the box, hold the crayons in a spoon over a candle flame until melted, dump the wax into a bowl of water, and then interpret the shape using the guidebook to determine a fortune.
Apr 14, 2013
Uprooted Tree - Big life change
Seed Pod - Fertility, Growth, New beginnings, pregnancy
Flowers - New friends
Apr 6, 2013
Imitation Raku Bowl
made from a ceramic slip cast
of a plastic Instant Ramen Soup bowl
Apr 3, 2013
Excerpt from The Woman Warrior by Maxine Hong Kingston:
"Don't tell anyone you had an aunt. Your father does not want to hear her name. She has never been born." I have believed that sex was unspeakable and words so strong and fathers so frail that "aunt" would do my father mysterious harm. I have thought that my family, having settled among immigrants who had also been their neighbors in the ancestral land, needed to clean their name, and a wrong word would incite the kinspeople even here. But there is more to this silence: they want me to participate in her punishment. And I have.
In the twenty years since I heard this story I have not asked for details nor said my aunt's name; I do not know it. People who can comfort the dead can also chase after them to hurt them further-a reverse ancestor worship. The real punishment was not the raid swiftly inflicted by the villagers, but the family's deliberately forgetting her. Her betrayal so maddened them, they saw to it that she would sufFer forever, even after death. Always hungry, always needing, she would have to beg food from other ghosts, snatch and steal it from those whose living descendants give them gifts. She would have to fight the ghosts massed at crossroads for the buns a few thoughtful citizens leave to decoy her away from village and home so that the ancestral spirits could feast unharassed. At peace, they could act like gods, not ghosts, their descent lines providing them with paper suits and dresses, spirit money, paper houses, paper automobiles, chicken, meat, and rice into eternity essences delivered up in smoke and flames, steam and incense rising from each rice bowl. In an attempt to make the Chinese care for people outside the family, Chairman Mao encourages us now to give our paper replicas to the spirits of outstanding soldiers and workers, no matter whose ancestors they may be. My aunt remains forever hungry. Goods are not distributed evenly among the dead.
My aunt haunts me-her ghost drawn to me because now, after fifty years of neglect, I alone devote pages of paper to her, though not origamied into houses and clothes. I do not think she always means me well. I am telling on her, and she was a spite suicide, drowning herself in the drinking water. The Chinese are always very frightened of the drowned one, whose weeping ghost, wet hair hanging and skin bloated, waits silently by the water to pull down a substitute.
Jan 9, 2013
Researching and brainstorming for a potential outdoor piece that references rock art:
"People do not often realize that some marks on rock were created not only by people, but by supernatural and divine forces, too. Rock art in the Americas is often located at sacred sites, points of emergence, crossroads, or were placed at the time of some extraordinary event. The images served as reminders for humanity of valuable lessons given to them by divine means."
"Being a part of the primary source by lineage, we see "She-Who-Watches" [petrograph in Horse Theif Lake, WA] as a mnemonic artifact that marks and provides a connection to both ancient and personal history." Through oral history and lineage, the petrograph serves as a connection between ancient and personal histories, functioning both in the past and actively in the present.
"Many heirlooms found in family collections serve a similar purpose. The design and markings are a form of writing. And, while it is often said there was no widespread use of a written language in the pre-contact epochs of Native civilizations, this is simply not true, especially if one looks to petroglyphs throughout the land, site landmarks, the elaborate designs in wampum belts of the Haudensaunee people and the wood back books of the Lanape in the Eastern Woodlands... Navajo weavers use patterns to help the person remember a sequence of songs, prayers for protection, or a significant event. The weavers wove little bits of shell or feathers into the designs and referred to myths that would aid and protect the owner."
Excerpts from "The Story as Primary Source: Educating the Gaze" by Joe Feddersen and Elizabeth Woody
Woody, Elizabeth and Joe Feddersen, "The Story as Primary Source: Educating the Gaze," in Jackson Rushing [ed] Native American Art in the Twentieth Century. London and New York: Routledge; 1999: 174-177.