Spring 2017 Fellow
Fellow: Chinatown Art Brigade
The Chinatown Art Brigade (CAB) is a collective of Asian American artists, media makers and activists based in Chinatown, NY, whose work is driven by the belief that collaboration with and accountability to communities directly impacted by racial, social and economic inequities must be central to their cultural, art, or media making process.
CAB facilitates community led responses to gentrification and displacement, in partnership with the Chinatown Tenants Union, a program of CAAAV Organizing Asian Communities, a grassroots non-profit that organizes low-income pan-Asian communities around tenant rights, fighting evictions and displacement. CAB's work includes large scale mobile public projection projects, workshops, place-keeping walks, films, exhibitions, public panels, protests, and convenings with galleries concerned about their role as gentrifiers.
As the new policies of the Trump administration take affect, CAB contributed to the city-wide and national response to the racist, anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim agenda. Responding to this crisis, CAB will expanded their ongoing work around displacement and gentrification to include a series of outdoor public projections that will actively oppose Trump’s Executive Order blocking refugees and restricting immigration from Muslim countries. The Brigade staged a series of projections throughout the city and held conversations with artists, artist collectives and Chinatown residents to talk about what these new policies meant for the community.
News and Updates
In Spring 2018, CAB guest-edited Issue 6 of PUSH/PULL our online journal. The issue was dual-language (Mandarin/English) and was released to coincide with Chinese New Year. Read more about the issue here.
On October 15th, 2017 CAB, in solidarity with Decolonize This Place, protested Omer Fast's installation , August, at James Cohan Gallery in Chinatown, for his racist depiction of Chinatown as a neighborhood of blighted, unclean and derelict spaces. As part of a localized movement of community activists, artists, organizations, and residents, CAB demonstrated to send a message to the artist and the 100+ galleries that have opened in Chinatown in recent years that racist art has no business in the neighborhood.
MESSAGE FROM CHINATOWN ART BRIGADE:
We must expose gentrifiers like the James Cohan Gallery who are using ‘racism disguised as art’ to demean the neighborhood and justify their presence in the Chinatown community. Omer Fast’s August exhibition reinforces racist narratives of uncleanliness, otherness and blight that have historically been projected onto Chinatown. This show is a racist aggression towards the community of Chinatown that James Cohan Gallery is currently gentrifying and demonstrates yet another example of how gentrifying institutions appropriate histories of violent oppression to garner clout. This is a hostile act towards communities on the front lines fighting gentrification, tenant harassment, displacement and cultural erasure.
James Cohan Gallery symbolizes the gentrifying force that has spread throughout Chinatown. Omer Fast’s exhibition only further cements the blatant disrespect and disregard that commercial galleries have shown for our community. This gallery and its apologizers would have us believe that we are engaging in censorship - but we know this is a cheap attempt to shift the discussion away from these urgent issues.
Galleries and luxury condos have a direct hand in raising rents and displacing low income rent-subsidized tenants. More than 130 galleries have opened in Chinatown in the last ten years, replacing small businesses and organizations that have served the Chinatown community for generations. These days, real estate developers and landlords are likely to keep storefronts unoccupied for months on end, waiting to rent to the next gallery, hipster bar or high-end restaurant that comes along. Some landlords will now only rent exclusively to galleries. These spaces are often the Trojan horses needed to raise the value of property and neighborhood.
We know this is not unique to Chinatown and it’s happening all over New York City - in Bushwick, Harlem, and the South Bronx to name a few. We know this is a national and global fight.
Galleries must be held accountable for their complicit role in gentrifying Chinatown! Join us!
past relevant work
Their ongoing Here to Stay project is a series of large-scale outdoor mobile projections that address themes of gentrification, displacement and community resilience in NYC's Chinatown. Artwork based on oral histories and photography and video created in community-led workshops are incorporated into photo and video montages that are projected onto buildings and public landmarks in Chinatown and the Lower East Side.
Check out their website to learn more about the project and the other work they have done.
Tomie Arai is a public artist who collaborates with writers, architects, historians, curators, and local communities to create work that explores the rich cultural diversity of the Americas. The stories of displaced and dislocated communities across the globe form the basis for Arai's collaborations with activists and cultural organizations. These collaborations use public art, prints and installations as forms to address Arai's cultural specificity as an Asian American and broader issues of race, gender and cultural equity. Her collaboration with the Museum of Chinese in America, “Archeology of Change: Tales of Gentrification in NY Chinatown” was funded by the AWGC in 2010 and in 2012. She has designed permanent public works of art for the NYC Percent for Art Program, The San Francisco Arts Commission, the MTA Arts for Transit Program, the NYC Board of Education and the US General Services Administration Art in Architecture Program. Her latest public commission will be an architectural glass mural for the new Central Subway Station in San Francisco Chinatown, sponsored by the SFMTA.
ManSee Kong pursued video and film as an organizing tool and means to share the struggles and stories of marginalized communities. She explores themes of migration, loss, and displacement in relation to issues of gentrification, immigration, and social and economic inequities. She continually seeks to evolve her filmmaking skills with interactive, collaborative, and community-driven multimedia methods to share stories that disrupt conventional narratives in support of social movements. Current directorial projects include a feature documentary about Pvt. Danny Chen, a 19 year-old who died after being racially and physically hazed by fellow soldiers during his deployment in Afghanistan, and “Chinatown Tenant Stories”, a video series about gentrification and displacement through the voices of low-income immigrant residents of Manhattan Chinatown.
Betty Yu is a multimedia artist, filmmaker, educator and activist raised in Sunset Park, Brooklyn to Chinese immigrant parents. Ms. Yu's documentary “Resilience” about her garment worker mother fighting sweatshop conditions, screened at national and international film festivals including the Margaret Mead Film and Video Festival. Yu’s multi-media installation, “The Garment Worker” was featured at Tribeca Film Institute’s Interactive. She worked with housing activists and artists to co-create "Monument to Anti-Displacement Organizing" that was featured in the Agitprop! show at Brooklyn Museum. Betty was a 2012 Public Artist-in-Resident and received the 2016 SOAPBOX Artist Award from Laundromat Project. Betty recently won the 2017 Aronson Journalism for Social Justice Documentary Award for her film, "Three Tours" Ms. Yu holds a BFA from NYU's Tisch School of the Arts and a MFA in Integrated Media Arts from Hunter College. Betty is also an adjunct professor at various colleges, teaching new media, art and video production. In addition Betty Yu sits on the boards of Third World Newsreel and Working Films, two progressive documentary film organizations.
Liz Moy is an artist and activist from Chinatown, New York. She holds a BFA in Studio Art from NYU Steinhardt and is passionate about the intersection of gentrification and cultural production.
Anna Ozbek is a filmmaker, multimedia journalist, educator, projectionist, and activist based in New York City. She is currently working on a project that explores the relationship between cultural memory and revolutionary activism through the lives of a group of Marxist student organizers in late 1970s Turkey. Her video work has appeared on CNN, Global Post, National Geographic, and Democracy Now!. She holds a BA from the University of Washington and is currently completing her MFA at Hunter College.