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Astria Suparak: Asian Futures, Without Asians

June 10, 2021 @ 5:00 pm - 6:30 pm PDT

Image of an older white man wearing many layers of robes, making up a kimono. His mouth is open in speech, and captions below the image read "Allow me to explain."

“If the war is the continuation of politics by other means, then media images are the continuation of war by other means. Immersed in the machinery, part of the special effect, no critical distance.”
– Surname Viet Given Name Nam (1989) by Trinh T. Minh-ha

A samurai sword on the wall of an evil mastermind’s office. A home decorated with Buddha statues. A blonde woman in a cheongsam. A speculative cityscape punctuated with prominent signage in Arabic. What does it mean when so many white filmmakers envision futures inflected by Asian culture, but devoid of actual Asian people?

Astria Suparak discusses the implications of not only borrowing heavily from Asian culture, but decontextualizing and misrepresenting it, while Asian contributors are simultaneously excluded. Her lecture is interspersed with visual examples from popular American science fiction movies and TV shows, from the 1970s through today.

This talk is a launch event for Why are they so afraid of the lotus?, the second book in an annual series of readers titled A Series of Open Questions, published by the Wattis and Sternberg Press, and distributed by the MIT Press, Art Data, and Les presses du réel. Each reader includes newly commissioned texts and an edited selection of perspectives, images, and references related to the Wattis’s year-long research seasons. The title of each book comes in the form of a question.

Why are they so afraid of the lotus? takes the work of Trinh T. Minh-ha as its point of departure and explores cultural hybridization and fluidity of identity, digital and migratory aesthetics, memory and landscape, decentered realities, feminist approaches to storytelling, meditations on death and myth, post-coloniality and decolonization, and women’s work as related to cultural politics.

Astria Suparak is an independent curator and artist based in Oakland, California. She has curated exhibitions, screenings, performances, and live music events for art institutions and festivals across ten countries, including The Liverpool Biennial, Museo Rufino Tamayo, MoMA PS1, Eyebeam, The Kitchen, Expo Chicago, and Kadist, as well as for unconventional spaces such as roller-skating rinks, ferry boats, sports bars, and rock clubs. Suparak’s cross-disciplinary projects often address urgent political issues and have been widely acclaimed for their high level concepts made accessible through a popular culture lens. Suparak is the former director and curator of Carnegie Mellon’s Miller Gallery; The Warehouse, Syracuse University’s first contemporary art gallery; and the Pratt Institute Film Series.


June 10, 2021
5:00 pm - 6:30 pm PDT
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CCA Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts
415 355 9670
View Organizer Website


BIPOC artist(s), Women artist(s)
Event Type
Gallery, Lectures & Panels
Pandemic Info
Online Only