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Margo Machida Invited Talk on Trans-Pacific Visions in Asian American Art

Margo Machida gave a lecture at Bard College on contemporary artists in and from Hawai’i and the Asia Pacific region that is co-sponsored by the departments of Art History, American Studies, Asian Studies, and Religion. Her talk  on October 28, 2015 was organized by Professor Tom Wolf, art historian and leading Kuniyoshi scholar who recently curated the exhibition, “The Artistic Journey of Yasuo Kuniyoshi” for the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, DC.

Entitled “Trans-Pacific Visions in Asian American Art” Professor Machida’s talk focuses on the Asia Pacific region and selected works by contemporary U.S.-based Asian American artists that engage themes of trans-Pacific circulation and global systems of cross-cultural exchange. These remarks reflect the profound impact of the turn toward transnationalism and critical regionalism in repositioning Asian American art and cultural criticism in the post-1965 era. These developments placed Asian American art in dynamic conversation with art and ideas emerging from Asian nations, the Pacific, and global overseas Asian communities. Referencing discourses of diaspora, transnationality, and globalization, the featured artworks provide insights into the formation of multi-sited points of attachment as contemporary artists cross and recross borders — physical, temporal, and psychic.

Machida’s talk is based on her current research in Hawai’i and also draws attention to islands as a generative framework to analyze and to compare art in the Asia Pacific region and the Americas. The Pacific, with more islands than the world’s other oceans combined, is above all an island realm. Accordingly, islands and associated oceanic imaginaries exert a powerful hold on works by artists who trace their ancestral origins to coastal East and Southeast Asia and Oceania. These artists’ endeavors not only underscore the idea of islands as multi-located historic and affective subjects but also provide a pivot to engage larger shared themes of trans-Pacific journeys, intercultural convergence, and the intersections between Asian diasporic and indigenous groups.

Alexander Lee's 2008 The Great Fish Changing Skies as the Vast Marae of the World artworkAn example of these works is Alexander Lee’s (pictured) The Great Fish Changing Skies as the Vast Marae of the World / RECITATIONS FROM THE GREAT FISH CHANGING SKIES, 2008 [volcanic sand, coal slag, silicon carbide, glass, aluminum, epoxy, mineral pigments, wood, acrylic, polyurethane / dimensions variable]. Lee simultaneously references French and U.S. atomic testing in the South Pacific, and the creation story of Tahiti. Alexander Lee is a Chinese American artist born in California and currently works in Tahiti, French Polynesia.

Margo Machida is Professor of Art History and Asian American Studies at the University of Connecticut. Born and raised in Hawai’i, she is a scholar, independent curator, and cultural critic specializing in Asian American art and visual culture. Her most recent book, Unsettled Visions: Contemporary Asian American Artists and the Social Imaginary (Duke University Press, 2009) received the Cultural Studies Book Award from the Association for Asian American Studies. She is co-editor of the volume Fresh Talk/Daring Gazes: Conversations on Asian American Art (University of California Press, 2003). Dr. Machida is an Associate Editor for the Asian Diasporic Visual Cultures and the Americas journal (Brill). Recent publications include: “Trans-Pacific Sitings: The Roving Imagery of Lynne Yamamoto” (Third Text, Spring 2014); “Devouring Hawai’i: Food, Consumption, and Contemporary Art” in Eating Asian America: A Food Studies Reader (New York University Press, 2013); and “Convergent Conversations – The Nexus of Asian American Art” in A Companion to Asian Art and Architecture (Wiley-Blackwell, 2011). More about Margo Machida at www.asianamerican.uconn.edu/faculty/core/margo/.