Transcription: Salon with the Institute of (Im)Possible Subjects – Silhouettes: Migration, (Un)Documented, and Pedagogies [English]
- Crystal Baik (California)
- Dalida Maria Benfield (Massachussetts)
- Ruby Chacon (California/Utah)
- Jose Manuel Cortez (Utah)
- Cindy Cruz (California)
- Annie Isabel Fukushima (Utah)
- Sarita Gaytan (Utah)
- Juan Herrera (California)
October 17, 2017
Annie: Alright folks, we are actually going to go around because I think some folks don’t know each other in this space so I want to make sure we all know who’s here, but first of all I just want to thank you all and welcome you to our salon. And, so I’m part of the Institute of Impossible Subjects and every once in a while we organize what we call these salons where we just bring together a small group of folks who have an intimate dialogue around something that is related to Migratory Times, themes that are related to Migratory Times. The Institute of Impossible Subjects is a feminist collective and we do pedagogical events, research, as well as we are working on publications and so we are almost there with publishing our website which will be a multi-media and interactive platform and we will invite all of you back because you participated in our different activities. We want to invite you back to participate in the website. For today though, we are doing the salon with the Institute of Impossible Subjects which is called Silhouettes – migration, undocumented and pedagogies. And here we have in this group we have Crystal Baik, Dalida Maria Benfield joining in by phone and will be joining by video soon, we also have Ruby Chacon, Jose Manuel Cortez, Cindy Cruz, myself Annie Isabel Fukushima, Sarita Gaytan, Juan Herrera. And so I’m actually going to just have us before we get officially started with the reading and the discussion together, is I would love if we could just go around and introduce ourselves, and so we will start with the folks who are on camera so we will go Cindy, Ruby, Crystal, Juan and then and then I’ll direct who’s next and I won’t forget the phone person Dalida, but (laughs) Cindy, Ruby, Crystal Baik. And so if Crystal and Juan if you can just introduce yourself. Say where you are coming from and then if there’s anything you know that you want to say about why immigration matters to you we’d love to hear about that. And so we are just going to do a quick go around.
Ruby: Hi everybody, it so great to meet and see new faces. My name is Ruby Chacon. I am originally from Salt Lake City, Utah and I live in Sacramento. I am an artist and a muralist. I am co-founder of Mestizo for Cultural Arts in Salt Lake City, in which I still sit on the board for. And a lot of my work I guess stems from cultural issues, social justice, and creating visible kind of representing marginalized communities. Just through my own life experience the reason why immigration matters is because racism and discrimination is a repeated pattern, which I see in my own family and is today with current immigrants. And so I like to use a lot of rehousing and reshaping stories through images, murals and painting. I guess that’s kind of been in that shell what I who I am (laughs).
14:10 Crystal: Okay, hi everyone it’s so nice to meet and see all of your beautiful faces this morning. I’m actually calling in from Los Angeles. I teach at UC Riverside and commute there from LA. So I want to thank Annie for organizing this. I’m always so inspired by all of the activities that she is organizing in the Institute so really thankful for this space. So I think there are a lot of reasons why immigration and this discussion is so important to me besides the personal experiences. I work with a lot of immigrant students so for folks who don’t know the demographics of UC Riverside, let’s say 70 to 80 students, 70% to 80% of the students are first gen, a lot of students of color, a lot of undocumented students as well. All of my classes I’ve taught, I’ve always had a handful of undocumented students in that classroom and we’ve always had sort of these discussions around on one hand how do we sort of mobilize the current tools that are available to us: political, cultural, and so forth on, in regards to maintaining safety for themselves and their families. But also thinking about some of the more radical critiques around the nation state and the notion of citizenship, thinking about those issues have been really important to me. I also work pretty closely to the Cambodian community here in LA, especially in Long Beach. I’m a board member of Khmer in action so it’s a good way it’s a community that has really helped and been impacted obviously by different kind of intersecting immigration issues so yeah so really excited to be participating in what I hope will be the beginning point of different kinds of conversations that we might be having.
16:11 Juan: Hi everyone, I also live in Los Angeles and hope. I teach at UCLA and my personal connection to migration is that I immigrated myself and so it’s something that touches myself and my family and just basically everything, every aspect of me. I do research with undocumented immigrants. One of our projects is with undocumented day laborers. But I just am always really interested in having these kind of discussions to think critically about the role of academics in issues of immigration. And how we can support students but also the community that we work with.
Dalida: Hi everyone and thanks to Annie for organizing this salon and it’s really great to hear your voices. I am Dalida Maria Benfield, I’m an artist and an ethnic studies scholar. And my research and writing is on contemporary artists who engage spaces of migration and displacement as actually the place from which new forms expression new forms of visual languages and epistemologies or ways of knowing emerges. And with Annie I’ve been working through this platform the idea of the Institute of (Im)possible Subjects. In which the Impossible Subjects is the title of Mae Ngai’s book that traces the shifting lines of political subjectivity experienced by Asian Americans over the 20th century. And so this idea of the impossible subject is really at the core of what the Institute is focused on which is creating spaces in which you know, all of us, who are impossible subjects can share our experiences and also create opportunity for people outside of academic institutions to engage in knowledge projection and sharing together, collectively. So anyways I’ll stop there and I’m just really excited for this discussion.
19:30 Cindy: I’m an associate professor at UC Santa Cruz in the Department of Education. I work with youth, homeless, queer youth in Los Angeles California. I’ve only recently begun to think about migration or movement with the subjects, now in UC Santa Cruz it’s a big deal, 43% first generation Latino students here and so migration and movement and mobility it’s just like these things emerging in this new data that I’ve collected so the part that I want to rethink homeless has forced migration. I want to think about migration that happens after young people cross multiple borders to come back to the US after deportation. And I’ve wanted to think about with others that feel like crazy town and I wanted to think about the role of technology and these kinds of I think about Lugones she talks about survival and all these kinds of technologies that young people are accessing in order to make it, to survive in Los Angeles. And so that I kind of think, I want to think about migration as movements but maybe a forced movement and even the forced movement within certain communities of California within Los Angeles and so that’s kind of where I am right now. I have lots of questions and would love to talk to people. Thank you for inviting me.
Sarita: Hi Sarita Gaytan University of Utah Department of Sociology and Gender Studies. I would say kind of on a personal level as the daughter of immigrants who had two very different immigration stories. One from South America and the other from Europe. I feel very much in a kind of at the crossroads of knowing the different types of politics that play out on people’s lived experiences in the United States. Having a father who came undocumented and a mother who arrived with documentation just being part of that lived experience I think is kind of really, I don’t know, really just kind of fueled the way I see the world and understand and try to relate to my students, you know many of whom at the University of Utah are both first generation also born to immigrant parents and a great deal of whom are undocumented today. I would say with regard to my research, I am very much interested in questions around the nation and more so less regard to people’s experiences but more in terms of objects and things and how ideas around illegality travel through commodities and my first project was around the travels of tequila through the United States and Mexico beginning through the project of colonialization and it’s kind of border crossings into the American imaginary. Some new projects are thinking about these through the new passage of Mescal into the United States this kind of baby of craft imaginaries in the this kind of optic of whiteness this kind of reclaiming of a different type of kind of consumption of Mexican identity and how this really does kind of get depoliticized from how people understand Mexican experience in the United States but also in Mexico and this kind of fetishization of poverty. So thinking again through the movement of commodities as migratory objects.
24:00 Jose: Hi my name is Jose Cortez, I’m a first year assistant professor here at the University of Utah so thank you to Annie and the rest of you for having me, I’m so excited to join you. I’m very happy and look forward to continuing this interdisciplinary collaboration. I’m interested in migration personally because I am the son of a migrant, first generation Mexican American and I’ve always been interested in the concept of impossibility because I had asked my parents growing up why we really never had any written documentation in terms of genealogy and I think when there’s this idea of forced migration being floated around that when folks flee that is not something that that’s not a that’s not a technological privilege that follows forced migration sometimes. So I’ve always been interested in the possibilities for signification and or maybe the impossibilities for signification in migratory experiences. And professionally I’m interested in looking impossibility as a concept for thinking the limits of critical thought in tracking migratory patterns. So I’m just interested in looking at some non-fiction accounts at the moment like Luis Alberto Urrea, the Devils Highway, and another non-fiction book called The Beast in which we are asking critical questions about what are the possibilities for folks who maybe completely politically unintelligible to tell stories and to signify and what that what that tells us as academics who and allows us to question our role in telling our stories and collaborating with these folks and the impossibilities they’re in. And whether or not it is possible for us to not continue to reproduce the conditions that you know in critical thought that establish the patterns for these forced migrations. So what are the possibilities for acting outside of these patterns of capital and globalization that could think about migration otherwise, if that makes sense. So thank you.
Annie: Thank you. And I’ll introduce myself too. My name is Annie Isabel Fukushima and I know actually I think I know everyone in different contexts here, but to introduce myself too my work I look at Asian and Latino migrants that are trafficked in the United States. And so I’ve been deeply interested in how we witness violence and migration and in particular how we unsettle witnessing, because the forms of witnessing that currently dominate the ways that we see, experience around legality, citizenship and victimhood, have been defined by these normative frames. And so that’s something I’ve been working on for quite some time. I also have been interested in theories of social death and so I am presenting a paper on zombie pedagogies which I’m really excited about (laughs) and so yay. I’m just I’m just so excited to see you all here and we’re going to go ahead and get started with a reading and listening to a poem together. Have a conversation around that and then Ruby is going to walk us through her work in which we will then look at her work and then have conversation around that. And then if we want to have conversations around other things we can, but we will definitely need to wrap up at at noon our time which I can’t remember what time that is for you all, but we’ll be I’ll try to make sure to be very mindful of people’s times. So you probably can see my screen right now and here we have we’ve already introduced ourselves and now we are going to listen to Sonia Guiñansaca’s poem, Bursting of Photographs After Trying to Squeeze Out Old Memories. And she herself is an undocumented individual. She might have received documentation in the past couple of years, but when she, when I first saw her article it was in 2015 in which she is Ecuadorian who lives in Harlem and she’s a poet and so I thought it would lovely to start with sound and poetry together so we could have something that would be [unknown words] together. And that’s not working so good thing I already have it open here too. So let’s see. There we go. (large pause as something gets set up)
29:18 Sonia Guiñansaca’s: Bursting of Photographs After Trying to Squeeze Out Old Memories.
They don’t tell you this when you migrate:
Old Polaroid’s are never enough
You are left tracing the silhouette of your grandparents
Or whatever is left
How many years has it been,
5,10, or 20?
It’s been 20
In those 20 years you have been asked
To hide your accent
Sow your tongue
So that no more Rrrr’s roll out
So that white Jesus accepts you
So that the lawyer helps you
Dig out the roots
Of your home
From underneath your nails
Cut your trenza
Pledge allegiance to the flag
And when you cannot,
Each thread will cut through
Every inch of you
To teach you, your kind was not meant
For this country
Dad told you that they will measure your success based on how smart you could be
So, you tried to be smart
Books after books you chased vocabulary for value
Legislation to give you meaning
Yes, sir. I am a skilled worker
Yes, sir. I can contribute
No, sir. I haven’t committed any crimes
Pinned. Against One. Another
You remember that your mother almost didn’t make it through the Border
Or any legislation, this time around
She won’t make it into health care packages
She won’t be remembered during press conferences
She will be dissected, and researched and researched and researched and researched and researched
How much she doesn’t belong will be published
They don’t tell you this when you migrate
Annie: Sorry about that, so now I’d love if we just could open up for conversation around the poem. We will just spend some time thinking about this poem together and so I just wanted to invite anybody who would love to respond to Sonia’s work.
Crystal: I mean I really loved how the poem, I was listening to it earlier this morning too, in terms of… it’s a conversation that I have had with a lot of my students about you know what is the meaning of documentation. I mean what does that mean in terms of both the kind of, and Annie you were gesturing to this in your intro too, this it’s really more officials or nation state or documentation and alternative forms of documentation in terms of you know I think about documents about like you know, traces or some sorts some sort of evidential traits. And I think the poem really reminds me of the necessity sort of think about alternative forms of documentation in terms of lived experiences. You know, I love sort of sonic traits of the poem which I thought was really powerful and also thinking about like the [unknown word] she sort of gestures to images and I think like photography. So it’s something I’ve been thinking a lot about with my students and also in terms of even kind of objectly you know, how do we sort of create different pathways for students to think about alternative forms of documentation, right, as both an imaginative act but also as kind of a testament to their own experiences, right, and how it doesn’t align with sort of how the nation state thinks about documentation. So I’ve been thinking more about that and that was truly powerful for me.
Sarita: Hmm. I really liked that, that resonated with me as well. I think that part of, you know, part of the promise of the American, the American fantasy of national process progress, I don’t know, the fantasy of the American national belonging is that the nation will accept you. I think part of what happens and part of what is becoming more and more I think has been evident for a lot of people for a long time is this moment of realization that the nation does not want to accept you and what do you do at that moment? Like you dad will tell you, right, your dad will tell you where is it, in this poem…
Annie: At the top…
Sarita: Dad told you that they will measure your success based on how smart you could be so you tried to be smart, like even when your dad is going to bring you the American promise and hold that the goodness that there is a moment of rupture. There is a moment of rupture for some people where they realize they never are going to belong. There is no point to assimilation. There is no point of carry over where the national symbolic is going to incorporate them and they are going to be part of this American success story. And I’m going to leave it at that. (Various voices say “yeah” in agreement)
Jose: The moment in the poem where she is saying “yes sir I’m a skilled worker, yes sir I can contribute, no sir I haven’t committed any crimes” making me think about this idea that you know that what if we were to consider the border as a threshold not designed to keep people out, but to force people through as specific kinds of subjects, as waged laborers, as a form of production, and then in then end a specific kind of value that the border produces. (various voices say “hmm” in consideration) In this form of belonging that doesn’t belong. So we want the good migrant, we don’t want the bad migrant, but there’s some kind of tension there that I haven’t really teased out that is pointing me to in this belonging but not belonging and being forced through the border. So I don’t know.
37:00 Annie: Yeah. Yeah. Other thoughts? (pause to let others respond) I think for me, it makes me what you were just saying Jose, makes me think about something that I’ve been thinking through which is the how migrants are bound to be seen. And not just migrants, all of us, right, we are bound to being seen in these dualities around citizenship, which then means noncitizenship, legality, which then reifies illegality, victims and criminals. And we are always bound to seeing migrants in this way, and I think that this poem is really speaking to that and I also resonated with the research part because then I think that as a scholar when she was researched echoing that, Cindy, when you were emphasizing that, I think for me, it makes me think about what is our responsibility? I identify as a scholar, activists. And so being a scholar and activist, how do I continue to participate in forms of witnessing that don’t then reproduce this person who feels like they are always going to be an object of study. But that there can be things… what can, and so in a way it can be, it can feel paralyzing right? And so, so there’s huge responsibility to the kind of research that we do that she she’s calling us out on, right, saying, and I think it’s an important thing to think about, especially being here in the institution. I’m sitting in the University of Utah, you know, I’m sitting in an institution that researches migrants, says they, that Utah is welcoming to migrants, and yet there’s this contradiction around these centers that come up. We have different centers that come that study migrants, but we also have mass deportation happening, we also have incarcerations happening. And so then, yeah, I really, this poem spoke to me as well.
39:05 Crystal: And I think that the, you know, in this space and hopefully in other conversation that will be had, I mean I’m really interested in thinking about that Annie, in terms of what you just said what others were echoing in terms of research and scholarship and I think all of us have sort of personal ties to migration or immigration. But also, our fairly privileged, you know, positions, right? So, thinking about different ways of strategizing together of how to really support as teachers, undocumented students, not just as sort of objects of study, right, obviously. (unknown voice says “mm hmm” in agreement) But also in terms of what are different ways of really supporting the [unknown words] there in research, right? And through finding different venues and different strategies in doing that, I mean something that I’ve been thinking about a lot with my grad students as well. I would love to just sort of think and you know hear about because I just kind of [unknown words] sort of in that in that vein too.
40:15 Cindy: You know, when you said that, well in principle I would think it’s how I would I can’t wait to play the [unknown words] in my class and talk about DACA, you know, and immigration and you know. I teach education classes and sometimes they feel kind of far away from these issues. Like you know, once you’re, well I’m just thinking about how important it was to bring the art into our classes. And I know it’s at UC Santa Cruz, I don’t think students get enough of the arts, things are so siloed off that they’re not able to kind of [unknown words] we don’t even really [unknown words] the arts department until like after then. But I think that, like to bring in Ruby’s paintings to show undergraduates while I’m thinking about DACA students. Bring in, like at the start of class, poems. You know, to kind of adapt pedagogically. Because so much research isn’t going to get at this, this assimilationable kind of body or this feeling or research, research, research. You know, and, and I think how important for us to do this kind of interdisciplinary kinds of teaching and to draw from these, especially artists. I feel like artists have been foreclosed, in particular in California. [unknown words] you don’t get any art and then you’re at the UC unless you’re an art student you’re not really going to get any art either or poetry or anything visual. Unless you go to a small, private, liberal arts college where you’re lucky to have a couple of faculty color. And you know, and so when I think about like the importance of this kind of, I don’t know, creative work, this is, I think, like cutting [unknown word]. This is where, I think, like, maybe this is the place for those kind of really kind of interesting and engaging discussions can happen with our students. Last year I, I had taught an advanced foundation class for my Ph.D. students and I entered the classes, it was really intense. And I started class with Tim Z. Hernandez “All they will call you.” And so I started this class with the [unknown words] so when he does respond with that [unknown words] and it was really moving because it reminded me of like, why are we here doing this Ph.D. and to remind students like the urgency of the kind of work that so many of them are doing each year at UC Santa Cruz looking at migrant families, looking migrant students, looking at the process. Half the students are doing projects like that and so like, you know, entering the class with Tim Z Hernandez book was like “oh” like what a breath of fresh air to kind of bring the arts in to the to the, I have to say kind of dry social science, social science kind of classes. And to give that to them, you know, to, you know, to expand their worlds. Because like our research doesn’t really get at that, but literature does and poetry does and art does, especially paintings like yours Ruby. You know I’ve always admired your work since I heard about it years ago. And I have to give it to my grad students and to my undergrad, to get them to move in each other circles. Maybe they’re not so [unknown words], you know, used to that that well [unknown words] like. We have to bridge that pedagogically. It’s so nice to hear that poem. You forget, you know.
Annie: Did Juan or Dalida, who is on phone still, or actually it looks like she might be joining by video, but Juan or Dalida want to say anything, or?
44:17 Juan: Yeah, I just wanted to echo what people have been saying just because I I feel like as a dry social scientist I sometimes forget about the arts, right (various voices laugh) In my own life, just because I, I’m not really into poetry (various voices laugh) [unknown words] so I love hearing you all like [unknown words]. And yeah, I just, I realized how important, especially like not just like pedagogically, to get at different kinds of media that I’ve used, but also just like to keep people entertained, especially undergrads, right? I always forget that part of this teaching process is also about making learning fun, right? And making learning engaging for like 18, 19, 20 year olds, right? And so, yes of course, how powerful poetry is and other forms of art. And it’s just a reminder to me to incorporate it much more.
Annie: There you are, hi Maria. Maria is Dalida too, sorry. Same person. Yeah. Oh we can’t hear you. We can’t hear you.
Dalida: Okay, there…
Annie: Okay, great, perfect…
Dalida: Okay great. Yay. Yeah it’s great to see you it’s nice to see everyone’s faces and it’s been really nice to listen to you through the phone also. And yeah I, I want to say two things about the poem. One is just the idea of silhouettes or the image of silhouettes is so, it’s just so powerful and I feel like it opens up so many different pathways for thinking together about visibility and invisibility. And you know, how we, also in the image you know, the idea too of the shadow is really powerful. And I think on a, one of the things I’ve been thinking a lot about is the idea of ancestralities and how we claim our ancestral ways. How we claim our an ancestors. How we how we support each other or create situations create social conditions in which we can claim our ancestors. And so, yeah, and then another thing I just want to echo what everyone is saying about the power of diverse forms of communication. I am so, you know I think the arts is one way to say that and maybe another way to say it is just that you know, we have many, many ways that we can communicate with each other. And that kind of academic forms of the book and of you know, writing, you know these are forms that have exercised a coloniality. The colonizing of our sense of what is official knowledge. And so, for me, one of the, you know ways of thinking about a decolonial sociality is to also think about a diversity of forms of communication. Which also are just, you know they open so many, like ways of feeling, and which are very nourishing, you know for us and for our imaginations, so.
Annie: Wow, did anyone, no go ahead, no go ahead, oh I was like did anyone else want to say anything? I, I’m sorry, I’m checking time because, it’s, I want to make sure we get to Ruby’s work and I don’t want us to run out of time and not see visuals together. So did anyone, we, before we get to Ruby’s work, did you want to add anything else? Do you feel like there is something that has not been placed on the table? Yeah Ruby would you like to say something?
49:25 Ruby?: I would like to say something small because I, my, I had problems with my headphones. I got booted off the phone call and I was trying to repeat that [unknown words] and I couldn’t, I didn’t hear the poem. I remember I listened to it when you first sent it, so I’m trying to grasp on to what has been said through you all, what you all are saying. One thing that I remember, I don’t remember the details of the call, but what I do remember after I listened to that poem when you sent it the first time was how it resonated with me was that grasping of memories of self and who you are and not exactly what, Dalida talked about being colonized, and trying to decolonize through these memories, grasping on to these memories and I think I remember there was a part, was there a part where she lost photos?
Annie: Yes, yeah..
50:27 Ruby?: Okay…
Ruby?: Okay so this is, I’m grasping from the first sentence, and I just, that resonated with me and my own work and grasping on to my own identity as facing this harsh reality of assimilation. And assimilation can feel so violent and colonizing. And it feels like it’s a process to erase your identity and you your identity of your parents and your grandparents and these photos that, and the memories that she talked about with this poem, just, it resonated a lot with me and my own work and what I’m trying to grasps on to and trying to hold on to and preserve and reshape re0shape away from away from what work’s supposed to be which through assimilation. I really appreciated this poem and also what you all are saying about all forms of communication, including the arts. Yeah I can grasp on to things that that maybe other circles or other ways of knowing can’t, but I think that they work together and the intersect with each other and the communicate with each other what we are doing in academia at the universities. I think I learn a lot from, through just my own friends who are in those places and it is it inspires me to buy work, it actually gives me a language sometimes that what I’m actually doin because sometimes I don’t even know it, I’m just feeling it in my body and I don’t even know and why I’m doing what I’m doing until I you know, I hear conversations like these, or talk with people I know who are part of institutions and they have to frame it in the language that is understandable to the institution, right? But it also can feel language so I really appreciate that in this discussion based around [unknown words] work of each and every one of your work intersect with that world, art would be a creative part of that world.
Annie: Yeah, thank you. And thanks for a you know, I think it’s nice to kind of come back to the title of the event which is Silhouettes and so imaging what are those shadows that migration casts, you know, and that’s being cast in the poem, that’s in our lives in our memories. And I would love to use this as an opportunity since you were talking about your own sort of inspirations Ruby, if folks are okay, are we okay to move on to Ruby’s work? (various voices say “yeah”) Okay let’s move on to Ruby’s work. So, I need to just have a moment where I do something with the computer, sorry.
Ruby if you can, you’ve introduced yourself a little bit, but if you if you want to say anything more before start looking at your images, then just guide me and I will go back and forth between the images.
54:15 Ruby: Thank you for actually taking the time to look at the images. I appreciate everyone’s time and effort to share them with me. I kind of have a hard time describing which images, I have a lot, so I get kind of staggered from the time frame so we’ll work on it and we will look at, Annie actually sent two different batches, five and six. They stem from an earlier time frame, I think they are pretty chronological the way we kind of going to look at them and so they, you know they kind of hit on different time frames and experiences that were going on with me and in in connection to what was going on in the surrounding in community, yeah, depending on when I painted them so I guess that’s it. I guess we can look at them now if you would like. We have them in order right?
Annie: Yep, so I’m going to go ahead and there we go.
Ruby: Okay. So okay so this one is this part this is “self as undocumented.” So this piece I did in 2006 and I started out by, when I started out as an artist, I thought I was an immigrant. Until I graduated from college I have some really some really tragic event which happened to my family in which I had a nephew that was murdered and the papers wrote all this… This, this is my family. Other extended family would come over and say we should go, the media is going to say what they want and I didn’t really understand it until it actually happened. And so I was just about to graduate, I’m the first in my family to graduate from high school and the first to graduate from college so at that point I kind of made the decision that I had to use my arts for something. And so, I went to find out, first I wanted to find out where I came from, where in Mexico we came from. And then when I went to go speak with my grandfather. I asked him where we came from in Mexico and he said we didn’t. He pretty much told me that the border cross [unknown word] and so I learned a little bit about our history and about it impacted my family down there, how segregation impacted my father and my aunt and you know, all that stuff that we all know about I didn’t know that was my family’s history and then what I, what occurred to me is also I was a part Utah history that was erased from the history books because there were a lot a lot of amazing things that happened. And so when I painted this piece I, it was kind of during the time when you know, Arizona bill was passed. all those (pause).
Ruby: Okay, so and so you know it was really impactful for me because I felt like a lot of the people who were being discriminated against, to me, they are my family. You know, they were my community too, and the guy with the hat [unknown words] said “aha” [unknown words]. That same treatment, even though segregation is now against the law, the way my family was treated. We’re now creating laws for new, for a new demographic, which was the only thing that made us really different was the borders that we’re being placed to divide us. And so, I created this piece as a, kind of an internal way of the way I felt. The way I felt in connection to the way people were being harmed around me, with my own history of feeling what happens when you become, when you are, for me it was a play on the word itself undocumented. That my history was undocumented therefore because my history was undocumented, I didn’t find out until I was 27 years old that that I that I had history here longer than the Mormon pioneers. Although they had piles of stuff. I always felt like a second class citizen growing up in Utah. So because of that change, because I didn’t know, I, my family acted accordingly and so we were pushed out of schools and you know, I became the first to graduate and so that’s my personal connection to it. And it also reflects history, what was happening in the communities around me. And so I painted it in a way where I felt kind of like invisible. Or like felt like I was like the walking dead amongst the living. It was kind of the way we see it, I mean that’s kind of how I tried to reflect how it felt inside to be from an invisible community. Although, I recognize that I do have privileges that a lot of undocumented communities don’t have. This was kind of my expression of the pain that [unknown words] have on our communities so that’s it. (laughs) (long pause)
1:00:07 Ruby: Okay, so, also, this piece is actually a piece I did for MALCS. When it was in Utah. I was part of the organizing committee and these are all the women that were on that organizing committee also. And so my work also, my work reflects a lot of pain of what I see outside of me and inside of me. But it’s also it’s tools that I use to create a counter narrative to that pain and to injustices and so this this painting, or this drawing is actually designed for a painting. And that despite [unknown words] what you see in front of you, creating spaces of belonging and also what MALCs is all about. And so you have the women as a tree, pulling up pulling up the little world, creating a pathway toward the next generation.
1:01:12 Ruby: (laughs) Okay so this one is a little bit more recent. This is, this is a public utilities office design here in Sacramento. And a lot of my pieces, when I use public art, I try to do a lot of stuff that reflects the surrounding communities. And each of these, each of these are different side. They are laid out flat as one but they are, they are each one side, there are four sides. And each of them face a different direction. One representing elders. One representing women. One children. And one men. And then you have a butterfly and so I titled this one “Immigration is Beautiful” with the butterfly coming in and out of their hands and their feet and the movement that they that they create and how they are linked by the butterfly. And so, so what I do stuff with public art I always try to do something that is [unknown words] (various voices murmur) When stuff with the public I try to do stuff that is very representative of them and but in a in a positive and beautiful way, if that makes sense. I don’t know how, I can’t, I don’t have the language for what I’m trying to say but…
Annie: That totally, that sounds great…
Ruby: To the next one?
1:02:48 Ruby: Okay so these the very last two images that I’ve done for my latest series. And this one I am collaborating with the research of Dr Sonia Aleman and [unknown name] who have done a piece, which I should have written in front of me. It’s, well it’s research around a student paper called Venceremos and that went, that started I believe in 1993 and then went into hiatus for a little while. And then resurfaced in 2007. And there were all these editors from that point were Chicana women. And so they were the first Chicana women for that paper. And so their research centers around that and they found what, how that, how what move that paper [unknown word] was Aztec goddess Ītzpāpālōtl who is a jaguar butterfly. And, so I collaborated with them and their research. Flor is also a photographer so she did photoshoots with all these women and then I created pieces based on the articles that they wrote, this one is based on colorism. And so you see, you can see the different shades in her face. And also have a personal touch to the editor to her to this subject in the painting in that it is represented by the pink roses and the and the saint, which I forgot her name. I should have wrote, written it down. I have it written down somewhere, because I spoke with her. But her mom has cancer and so she prays to the saint and she also loves butterflies. So that’s kind of a personal touch to this to this person that I’ve painted. And also images that represent some part of the article so that she had she had written and also she’s an attorney so I thought it very important to include something that represents justice which was the statue of liberty. And so, and also in a kind of like, representation in each of the paintings I have representations of Ītzpāpālōtl and you see the butterfly and the jaguar incorporated into the and the crown kind of a representation and also on the left side of her those are also symbols of Ītzpāpālōtl. And some she is somebody who gives them, she gives them, she the force that gives you strength to keep doing [unknown word] in what we’re doing. And so that’s why that those symbols are in there as well. So it’s kind of a little in there. And then the next one is also part of the same series, this the model here is a this is this is a teacher and she was interested in writing and in social justice books so I have collaged a lot the titles of books right here. And also I wanted to put in, yeah, if you can look a little bit to your right. A Is For Activist is a is a children’s book. And then I have actually children. Activists [unknown name] teaches children. So it’s kind of kind of it’s kind of a representation of her and she didn’t do an article. She does poetry. So this one is more of a representation of just a person. And then I also have I have parts of each Ītzpāpālōtl that are kind of within in the painting also. So there’s that one.
1:07:02 Annie: Great. Did folks, Ruby provided us five more paintings, photos, pictures of her paintings. But maybe did anyone have questions? Maybe we can use this as an opportunity to ask questions or if you wanted to go back to an image?
Sarita: I actually would like to go back to that previous image..
Annie: Mm hmm, yeah. Okay so Sarita is interested in this one?
Sarita: And Ruby you mentioned colorism, I was wondering if you could say a little more about that? So referring to the shades.
Ruby: She’s a light skinned, she’s a light skinned Latina, but she did an article on how people depending on how, depending on the color of your skin, on how when you move to different spaces, how you’re treated within your own community and within the white community and that experience. And so kind of that is what this is about. I represented it with the different shades within her face. I guess that’s as simple [unknown words] this is what, I have her article somewhere if you want to read it, I can send it later.
Sarita: Very cool. I mean those are, I mean I feel like those are, that’s a big conversation that in at least in the Latino community. I mean I feel like I only see it happening on Facebook blurbs. It’s nice to see that kind of visually represented in that art. And I’m just wondering, like, if that were to be you know published in an article, I was wondering if even that subtlety would be able to be captured like in a black and white article, right? Just thinking about, I don’t know, just as, even as metaphor on many different levels. I think that’s really, really beautiful.
1:08:54 Ruby: Thank you. And I can, this is, these two last paintings I think are a good example on how, how important it is to kind of go back to our ancestral knowledges [unknown word] communal and collaboration. And so I don’t, I couldn’t, I don’t think I could do, could have done any of these pieces without the photographs with Flor and also the knowledge that was behind the research and also the knowledge that was behind the articles that each and every one of the women shared and that I had read of theirs. So I had a lot of information before I start each of the pieces and I have to figure out how each and every one part. Not all of the information, but the most important parts of all that information should be reflected in each of these pieces and so a lot of times there is a lot and sometimes I have to simplify it, but then also even though even though right now it looks a little simplified, there’s a lot of layers that came to create this painting. If that makes sense.
Annie: Any other questions, I can’t see you so…
Ruby: [unknown words]
Annie: Oh no, it’s wonderful, thank you so much. Any other questions or comments?
1:10:32 Juan: I was going to say thank… The images, I love, we were just talking about [unknown words]. I love layers or the different layers of meaning that you have in your in your work, especially, the, one of the last images that we just saw, I loved the seeing the details. I’m seeing a lot of little pieces of it. Especially, the woman the portrait, and sort of like all of the tiny details it it’s amazing.
Ruby: Thank you. In my very first piece too, I have “Self as undocumented.” We didn’t, we didn’t go close to it, we didn’t stand close. I don’t know what’s wrong with me, but I’m really tongue twisted today. We will get it up close, but you have a lot of circular yeah circles. And I don’t know what it is with that. But sometimes, when you are in the process of creating, some of this stuff comes out intuitively. But there is something to do like for me this pattern starting coming out after I went to Mexico for the first time and I went to the different sites and would see a lot of the circular patterns. And for me it kind of feels like it kind of feels like the circle is kind of like a completion or like a whole, like a cycle, like a. It feels like a something a symbol that means something to the ancestors and to myself. It like transfers onto me, but I don’t have language around it. But it feels like it it’s a symbol that needs to be part of the painting. Like there are little cycles or completions. Or like I’m not going to get it right. But, something [unknown word]. It it’s like circles kind of called to me when I when I once I create some of the pieces, not all of them, but some of them. And I don’t really know why, I just kind of like listen to it and I just kind of add it in there.
1:13:15 Cindy: Okay Ruby.. I..
Other unknown voice: Sorry [unknown words]
Ruby: Go ahead Cindy, ask it
Cindy: I think it’s really [unknown words, someone else says “I didn’t even notice that”]
Ruby: This one in particular piece]. I don’t have it anymore, but it is it’s kind of yeah, this one is kind of big. I guess, I can’t remember. I should have I should have brought I should have put the the dimensions. I’ve done so many pieces that I don’t remember the dimensions. (laughs) I should remember more the current ones. The current one is 24 by 24. I yeah. Yeah those are those are to me those are probably medium sized, right. And so the other ones that have been documented are larger than this one. I think it’s 36 by 36. I’m not sure. I can’t remember. I’ll have to look.
Cindy: Thank you
1:14:20 Crystal: Well Ruby I’d just like to ask you well first of all thank you so much for sharing your work, I really loved hearing you talk about it. And I actually want to go back to the portrait the “self as undocumented” and I think short of your description of this circles, sort of the intuitive sort of your intuition to use circles was really interesting and I’m wondering if you could talk about, you know, you’re describing this piece, you’re also talking about your family’s history in relation to Utah’s history. These histories of erasures. So thinking a lot about this notion of documentation and sort of for you are there ways that this particular painting and sort of your other work, you know, what are the, how are the ways, what are the different ways that this painting thinks through this notion of documentation? Both through your family, through your own experience, and do you think that your paintings and your work, you know, are sort of alternative ways of documentation? Especially when you’re thinking about sort of these more formal histories that have been erased.
1:15:33 Ruby: I started this piece in particular, this piece in particular is more of a healing painting for me. And I think this pieces that follow, when I try to when I create a counter-narrative… What I learned is my identity was informed by somebody else’s story about me. And I saw how that happened in my family and how it forced them apart and how they didn’t make it through school systems. Because they believed that they were criminals, or that they believed that they were just you know they were, you know, they that they didn’t belong in higher education. I didn’t believe that I belonged in higher education. I didn’t even think that I could graduate high school because I didn’t see that in my life. Like I didn’t see anybody that looked like me who could graduate high school. And the only reason why I did graduate was because my younger sister dropped out after 8th grade and so my brother made me go to school like he sat me down and was like “you’re the last one”. And I was stopped at, I kept going, but I thought I wouldn’t graduate because I had a high school counselor that consistently told me and I found out later many students of color that we wouldn’t graduate school, what she told me “why are you graduating, I mean why are you why are you still here, you’re not graduate anyway”. And she would tell me that on a consistent basis and so I would every time she’d call me into her office I would find ways to block her voice out and because I didn’t want to disappoint my family. But when I saw my name on the on the list of seniors who were going to graduate, I thought they made a mistake and I didn’t want to tell my counselor because I really believed her, I thought I wasn’t graduating. I just kept going because my family counted on me. And so the only reason I went to college is because when I graduated high school I moved to live with my, one of my best friends who had the same counselor and she is also Latina and I found out years later that she told her the same thing. And I went I went and moved to Santa Barbara with her and was the first time I had a Chicano counselor. And I just remember I was terrified of counselors and I did not want to go to them and I just remember sitting down in his office and he was going to try to help me with my FAFSA application. And he called me and he did all that, I kept waiting for him to tell me I couldn’t do anything I couldn’t do it so why am I trying. I kept waiting for that to happen and then he called me in the middle of the semester and I thought, okay here it comes he is going to tell me. And he is like I checked up on you you’ve got two jobs and I was going to school full time and so I thought he was going to tell me that’s too much you are not going to be able to do it. And so he sat me down, he’s like “I’ve checked on your classes, you’re doing really well and I’m really proud of you.” And I remember just feeling just surprised. And then I thought I saw students of color on campus and that was the first time where I realized that images are really important. What I saw impacted me. On so many levels. That it really sent me on a path to actually get a degree. I mean so yes, I think that images are really important form in telling your story and making things and your making your story visible. I don’t necessarily do a lot of… I do, I do like to do kind of like a juxtaposition of social justice issues with like with the counter narrative to injustices. Because, you can’t just have the injustices. You have to have a vision for justice, you know? So that’s why I do a lot of my public art with images that are uplifting and about the community that they reflect.
Annie: Yeah that was so beautiful. Thank you. Thank you for sharing. Go ahead. No? Okay. Thanks Ruby.
1:20:02 Dalida: I just wanted to share, oh…
Annie: Go ahead…
Dalida: Okay, yeah thanks so much Ruby, this is so wonderful to see this work. And each piece is so different too sort of so much to talk about and to think through. But one thing I was thinking about just looking at the self as undocumented piece is how the, it’s just like the labor of the circles. I mean I just look at this and I just think about so much work. You know, so muc hours, you know, that you’ve put in to you making these making the circles and then layering it and like just to get the light like that. I mean to just kind of like pull this shape together.
Ruby: [unknown words] (laughter)
Dalida: I’m sorry, I missed what you said.
Ruby: Oh I said do you know when you’re creating time doesn’t exist.
Dalida: Right. Yeah, yeah and I mean and I feel like that’s also that’s … yeah, that actually gets right to what I was thinking. Because it’s like, you know, the labor of creating the painting, it’s like that’s a total distinction or like a contrary statement to the idea of being documented. It’s just like, it’s like the document the un you know the idea of documentation seems so meaningless or just like trite. You know, in comparison to this like very elemental and beautiful labor of the image and also of existence. Of your existence like the statement your existence is so much bigger and so much more meaningful than the idea of being documented. So, yeah, it’s really powerful.
1:22:58 Ruby: (laughs) Well, I think what I hoped was people get something when they see my work is that they have sense of belonging. When they see my work and they look at it, they think, yes I belong here this image is almost what, is creating an environment that makes me feel like this is my space too. It’s creating space for me it creates space for myself. I already do that for myself. But, I wanted to create space for other people that in that feels that looks more like what love is. Creating space and probably other spaces, but I’m not, I don’t have the right experiences of other places. But redefining and reshaping space so people feel like they are a part of rather than feeling like they are living in the margins all the time, if that makes sense.
Cindy: I loved the piece self as undocumented. I was curious about the lines that go across the face. [unknown words], you know maybe… it’s a map.
Ruby: The way I was doing it was [unknown words]. However you interpret it, I think every interpretation is right, you know, because everybody comes with their own experiences. But the way I was doing it was the feeling of being invisible and dead like the walking dead, like dead. like and so it’s like a cracked skull or [unknown words] you know. That’s kind of what I was thinking at the time. But it’s not a map. We can reshape it into (laughs).
1:24:59 Cindy: I love the story you tell about your family has been here in Utah, you know, before it was Utah. You know our family has a similar history like we’ve been in Los Angeles since before LA was LA, you know. And I loved like I loved looking at like when you walk around Los Angeles in downtown LA you bump into all these little pieces of humble start. I think it was it’s called the Power of Place, and I’m trying to remember if it was, who wrote about, I cannot remember her name, but I felt like I felt like the public art has given me like this map of LA you know. I feel like when I see your work there is also similar kind of mapping of things and I totally appreciate that. Like I love the work of that. Like the image of the teacher with all the books behind her [unknown words]. And I loved that image too, you know, and thought well here is some mapping of someone who is working with little kids. You know in the background there’s the Malcomb X, right. there’s the and I was looking at some of the books [unknown words] and I just love that because here’s the here’s these little kids who you know save DACA you know like [unknown words]. Like it isn’t about this kind of, you practice, right, and so I feel like I’m watching your paintings turn into that. You know, it it’s kind of reflecting a [praxis. And your praxis is about like your family history you know our political era…
Ruby: Okay, can I comment on that? Okay so imagine, imagine walking to LA and none of those murals are there anymore. Imagine none of these books are there. Imagine a world where it’s all absent. How does that, how does that impact you? How did that impact you? That’s what I was trying, this is what I’m trying to do with my work because like I said, when I was growing up I didn’t see people like me graduating high school. I mean it seems so simple. I didn’t see people run for office. I mean there are people now, it’s changed a lot from when I was growing up. I didn’t see, I didn’t have any teachers of color or I only had one Chicano, the University of Utah had one Chicano studies class, so I had one person of color in college. But it has changed a lot now, but nothing [unknown words] they are all white you know just all every image that you see does not reflect you. Every story that you read about does not reflect you. Every teacher and every person in every professional skill does not reflect you. What does that tell you? So that’s why, this is kind of my resistance, my counter narrative to that. How do I carve a space for people who feel like they are who feel like the self as undocumented painting? And create some space to say you do belong here, this is your space, this is you know, our community. We do exist and we do belong. It’s about creating spaces of belonging for me.
Cindy: I love that.
1:28:36 Cindy: I guess I am really taken by public art. When I was in Mexico City, my partner and I were in Cuernavaca I go to see the big mural and I was thinking about the pedagogical kind of power of providing an alternative you know history. The only foundation you ever think of is this is in art or murals. And so it’s just I just feel a kind of very similar to your work like I would love like looking at these alternative things that when reading the literature you know teachers who are doing something much different then what the common course that [unknown word] and what other kinds of eventual kind of standards of what is kind of considered violence and what is so I’d like to buy [unknown words]. (laughs)
Ruby: Are we making a deal right here online? (laughs)
Annie: (laughs) Yeah I know, we will have it recorded. So I’m wondering Ruby, did you, sorry, Ruby, did you want to show the next five?
Ruby: It’s up to the group really, if they want to see them…
Annie: Did you want to keep looking at more of her works? She has five more images that she shared so I’d love to make sure we get to those. Yeah, so let’s get to the next one, yeah.
1:30:14 Ruby: Okay so I have the pieces also in chronological order, then this is this is an early 2003 painting and it is called “Self as Mestiza.” And again there’s circular patterns. And I’m trying to figure out why I guess I wonder the time frame was when I was trying to figure out my identity or who I was or I think from. And so, this is also an intuitive way, of kind of the circles the way they kind of mix a little bit is kind of represents that mixed heritage.
We can do the next one.
Okay, oh okay, so this is around the same time frame as “self as undocumented.” You can tell that I was really pissed. And so this is also [unknown words] anger. And what is happening was the world was being is being repeated kind of [unknown word]. You know, this racing thoughts, these things that happened to my family and what it did to my family over generations is now being repeated to a new group. And so, this is what this is what is felt, I was painting what it felt like to be in the US. And so this is what we have, this brown woman as the statue of liberty because she is supposed to represent all immigrants and all people and then but she’s [unknown words] by barbed wire and she’s she has all these wounds that are like they are like piercing her and she she’s crying and her and right in her throat her voice is being you know that’s kind of representing like her voice is being I don’t know the words.. being muted. And so it’s just that whole feeling of what it felt like for me and that’s just [unknown word] a lot of people. Okay next one.
Annie: It’s this middle one. It’s somos, we are. This middle one, it says somos we are.
Ruby: Oh, okay, can you see it, can you see it okay?
Annie: So so I’ll zoom in. So this one says somos we are and then just yeah I’ll zoom in.
Ruby: It, this is this is a this a year-old design and I collected this one because I knew it was about, this one is just a design. I didn’t do a mural. I was a finalist for the for the Metro in Boyle Heights and it went to a different artist. But this is all everything that is happening there and it is happening everywhere and it’s about gentrification and then. So you see the background the back drop you know the buildings in gray and black and white and [unknown words]. To people what matters in these neighborhoods is the people and the identity of the neighborhood. And the so you can see at the very bottom of the back it spells out somos. Can you go back a little bit? It spells somos. The other side spells out we are. So I wanted to focus on the past, present, and then the other side, this one does past and the middle is present and the last is the future. And the future is pretty much like organizing and you know the man signing a petition to better the neighborhood. And this is the present. Then you might have to go really big just kind of and then the woman here is kind of like holding the [unknown word] hope of the future. [unknown word] side is the represents a little bit the past as well, the history of Boyle Heights. And then you have the butterfly that represents immigration… And that’s kind of the design of that with it and I thought it was relevant to what were talking about today even though this one it is really not of the public not in the public space, I did create this design. And if you look closer too you have patterns you have patterns marked by triangular shapes. And I always think of like, native pottery and Native American pottery. When I do a lot of these little shapes that kind of like create an image, I think it’s those symbols that kind of reflect my identity. It’s very intuitive, it’s not exact, but it comes from that it it’s inspired by a lot of that symbols that I see on other art forms.
Yeah. You can go to the next one.
This one is a mural in an alternative school in Salt Lake City, Utah called [unknown name] and it’s called “Pursuit of dream(ers).” Well it’s it’s a play on students’ dreams and it’s a high school, young moms, well they have a day care for teen moms. Adult education, ESL, a mix of demographics for [unknown word] students and teachers. Each of the students and people in the the school are in the mural in one way, shape or form. They are students. There’s the students that are on the dreamcatcher, in the background those are students that I worked with on this mural. And I asked them what they wanted to be, like what what’s the stepping stone, how’s, what’s under the stepping stone, where do you see yourself? And so they told, one person looked from right to left, [unknown words] from the very far wanted to be a doctor, the one next to her she’s from Africa and she said she wants to be an African princess, a counselor, a judge, a boxer and a nurse. So I painted them on the dreamcatcher what they wanted to do after they graduated that school. And then everyone else, they are some way, shape or form part of the school. Okay, we can go to the next one. Oh, wait but, wait, before you before you do, I’m sorry. I talked about my sister that dropped out of school. She went to school until the eighth grade she went to the school, it was called it was called [unknown words] and she was pregnant with her daughter and they wanted, they remembered my brother and sister who had both went there. My brother is now deceased. But the principal wanted me to paint my sister. And if you scroll in, that’s my sister at the time she was going to the school with her pregnant with my niece.
Annie: Which one?
Ruby: Oh, the one, the pregnant one in the middle, kind of the middle.
Annie: This one?
Ruby: Oh no that’s that one is the last one, sorry. Yeah (laughs) this is part of that series that I talked about before the other in the other batch. And you can scroll in to see some of the images. This one speaks, her article for more where for more identity. And so I have images that represent where she’s from. And then also organizing like for ethnic studies. So, and this image is kind of pretty straight forward this one.
And there is another one.
So this last one I kind of feel like I chose this one because it kind of talks about migration on a global level and also the impacts of water. I actually did a few. The woman on the very far left I did an individual piece, this is the design for it. Let me just backtrack, this is a design for this and there are four different sides. And it’s about water it’s called Water is Life. I did this first image of the woman, like I created that after going to Standing Rock last year. And, so I created this image and I wanted to I always wanted to do a public art piece with it and then this opportunity came to design it. And so I decided to make this piece about water and using children in the piece. They are all people from Sacramento, except for the models for the pregnant woman with the glow on the left. That’s loosely me, because I didn’t want it to look like me, I used myself as a reference and I’m not pregnant, but yeah. So that’s this piece.
Annie: Great. So these are Ruby’s work. Thank you so much. We have about 10 minutes left and so if there’s any other comments or things that people want to look at, this is really powerful, or any questions or things you want to say? I’m going to, did anyone want to go back to anything in particular from this second set? Because otherwise I’m going to just show, I I would love to see each other again, if that’s okay, it would be nice to see each other. I’m going to turn the share screen off and then yeah. So that was really powerful and yeah it was just amazing. I don’t know, I’m a little emotional by seeing and hearing your stories and the poem and hearing your thoughts about the poem. I’m not sure if we want to, just in the last 10 minutes, just kind of leave anything in this space or share anything with each other before we all go. I don’t want to keep people longer and so yeah.
1:42:19 Jose If I could say something, I would. I was just kind of struck by your painting, Ruby, of the statue of liberty and it made me think that what you were talking about, you’d said something about all. And the statue of liberty is supposed to represent, you know, all people and this idea of justice for all and the, you know, that that sort of foundational discourse that constitute the nation state here. But, it struck me that that actually it doesn’t mean all, but it originally meant white landowning men. And it just brought up this tension in between in that’s kind of like packed into that discourse that all doesn’t mean all and that it brought up a very, kind of very unsettling to use that kind of a pun, right, an unsettling kind of idea that I think I’m going to carry forward that, how is it that we can like live day to day with some of these ideas that like we have justice for all when it actually doesn’t mean all, and how do we sit with that tension, and how do we get students to look at that tension, and how do we how does it become productive, and what are the kind of like really weird logics encompassed within that that again drive the day to day? So I just wanted to share that observation with you, thank you very much it was very, again unsettling in a very productive kind of way, reaction that I had to it, thank you.
Crystal: Yeah I really appreciate that comment actually, because I think that resonated with me as well. And I, you know, I think a lot about I teach intro to Asian Am intro course at Riverside that’s like 200 students and I will say that like 90% of students identify as being like Asian American or being refugees or immigrants. And we have this lecture early on where we talk about national mythologies, right, and one of them being sort of [unknown word] and sort of what is it mean to think about this whole notion of melting pot and sort of deconstructing that. And then, you know, later on in the course, I find it difficult, it’s a mythology that gets so deeply embodied in people’s experiences. There’s students talking about their parents experiences as immigrating, having nothing and then being able to sort of build a whole life to give their kids these opportunities, right, and no matter how many type of decrypting or critiquing or deconstructing that, it it’s an experience that’s so deeply embodied. So I think Ruby’s work and sort of thinking about the ways of making really use the creative form of different artists to sort of unpack that too, right? So I just want to say that I did really appreciate that comment [unknown words].
Annie: Great. Yeah. (long pause)
Juan: I felt really grateful both for your narrative of all the work that feel like that I that don’t get that sort of pairing of seeing the work and then hearing the narrative through the artist. But that’s something that really struck me was when you said actually this piece could be interpreted in whatever way, right, because it’s the viewer that interprets it. And I felt I felt that there was so much power in that, right, that I hadn’t that I, had I understood that before. But to have you as the artist tell us that, right, that gives us that sort of license that sort of. And then it’s just, it made me think about how impactful it can be, right, for someone to do that act of interpreting and how it can allow for not just reflection about the piece, but also personal reflection, right. And I think that’s what we are all doing right now, so thank you so much that was excellent.
Annie: Cindy? Dalida? Sarita?
Sarita: I just want to say that, you know this, I mean even the theme of impossible subjects, I think that you know Ruby’s work is just an example of possibility. And a possibility that, you know, stays with us as an art form, I mean, again I’m just thinking about the statue of liberty piece that, you know, hangs from one of our friends’ houses that we have here in Salt Lake or one image of it and it’s, you know, that’s here forever, like it’s interrupting this grand narrative, right, it’s part of the, you know, it it’s it interrupts the hegemony of the American dream, right, like you are a counter balance, you are a making new possibilities available for people, like my students always want to return to, and yet everything is okay. And I think Crystal, I heard you maybe kind of hint that some of your students want to return to what my parents were able to do it right, like there is this kind of force and I see within my life, you know students too, like this wanting to return to this kind of American dream narrative and I always tell my students, there’s this other, there are other dreams, why must we always return to this one this one story, right? I think that Ruby, again that that opening of the possibility, I think it’s something that I feel really grateful for and so thank you and I’m going to, that’s enough from me.
Cindy: I, I like that we just said that here’s a possibility of moving young people away from attaching themselves to that narrative of nation building and American dream, you know, that I feel like is what Ruby is offering here, is like these alternative, and I think I think it’s hard for young, I think it’s hard for people to get like, it’s so easy to say, thinking of that story of pulling yourself, doing some [unknown words] oh I forget how it goes, but you know like this bootstrap kind of mentality. And I think I think it’s so nice to see and hear stories behind these [unknown words]. So thank you Juan for bringing that up, but the but the health people find another alternative understanding of the experience in the US, that’s so important [unknown words]. Maybe that’s a possibility, like a pedagogical possibility that that you work off of. So thank you for that Ruby.
1:49:33 Ruby: Thank you. I I’d like to reflect that back onto everyone here and say that all your work and your students’ stories, your stories, I think stories also offer equally what the work that I do offers. I think we all have our own strengths and aspects and I think that we all all contribute to this change these ways of change that we are trying to create. And so, and also this format that you’re you’ve invited us all to discuss in Annie, I really appreciate it, so now we can get a better understanding of what we all do and we all all of our work reflects in subjects so, but we do our work in different ways and it’s all meaningful and important. So I want to thank you all also, so and it did take a lot of time too and that’s all I’m going to say (laughs)
Annie: That’s fine. Dalida?
Dalida: Yeah, well I just wanted to, yeah thank you again Ruby and Annie for organizing and for everyone to to be part of the discussion and maybe something I’m leaving with as as a question and it’s an ongoing question, but it is about how do we how do we create spaces of belonging, but that also are not spaces that are spaces of occupation in the sense of colonial occupation? And maybe it’s just, you know, it’s this tension between you when communities become exclusionary and so, you know, what does that mean? And I’m thinking about, you know, the public artwork that’s so important in terms of place making, but that which is also now becoming a tool of gentrification and, you know, it’s these really [unknown word] complicated questions, yeah. And maybe in other ways I think about it as just, you know, how do we create communities of belonging that are themselves acknowledging the realities of of displacements and, you know, the fact that we are in transit in a sense, you know? So yeah I’m just [unknown word] follow all of these really rich questions and I look forward to talking more with all of you and also learning more about the questions in pedagogy and how people are kind of addressing this moment, you know, in your classrooms, so thank you so much, really wonderful.
Annie: Yeah, yeah. Yeah thank you. And this is really wonderful. I feel like this was a pedagogical activity for us to participate in. We were, I was, I felt like I was learning a lot from all of you and I just I just want to, I’m going to close up now because I did promise we would end on time and so this is just to say that this event is part of what we’ve called Migratory Times with the Institute of Impossible Subjects and so you will all be invited back. You, there was no requirements, so I know you’re all busy, but we will invite you back when the website is live to annotate so I’ll have this conversation transcribed and then if you want to add layers of resources or make comments or add whatever it is that you want to add to give life to this conversation. We will create a silhouette of a conversation and so and so you’ll all be invited back for that, but know that we recognize you are busy and so it’s an invitation and I hope that we will continue to stay connected. I know I will stay connected with all of you, but I hope these new connections, we can we can you know foster it if folks are meeting each other for the first time and want to continue to stay connected, please do and if you, you all have each other’s emails and then I think I want to before we all go, because documentation is important, is I want to take a screenshot of us. And so look at your camera, don’t look down, just look at your camera and I will say “one, two, three” sweet so alright, are we good, okay. “One, two, three” oh no that didn’t work. “One, two” oh. Okay wait I think it’s because I have to do this, okay one more time. “One, two, three” yay. Okay, I’ll do one, just one more just in case. “One, two, three” alright okay well thank you everyone. Thank you Ruby for sharing.
(everyone says thank you and goodbye)