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Deconstructing Diaspora, Assimilation and Imperialism with Amy Yoshitsu- Part II

Part two of our interview with the amazing artist, Amy Yoshitsu.

Episode: 14

So today we have the second part of the interview with  Amy Yoshitsu, she is an incredible artist and we talk about the art scene, and how she manages her time between her many different projects, we bust some myths around the artist's career and Amy shares some tips to artists to further your practice. It's gonna be fun, stick around.

Artist Statement:

I am a sculptor, designer, and socially engaged artist deconstructing the interconnections between power, economics, labor, and race to illuminate their foundational impact on personal schemas and interpersonal relationships.  

My art practice is driven by my journey to heal—and help others heal—from lineages of trauma and anger. I seek to build a culture of self-compassion and awareness by reframing experiences and conditions within historical, political, financial, and colonial contexts. I interrogate my perspective, circumstances and heritage—defined by multi-generational struggle and isolation incurred from ambitious striving within gas-lighting white supremacist patriarchal capitalism—in relationship to systemic patterns, myths and power. As an Asian-American contending with inherited, conflicting duties and narratives of care-giving and achievement, I am especially interested in the conscious and unconscious positions and conditions of those whose lineages are entangled with diaspora, assimilation and imperialism.

Infrastructure—encompassing the act of supporting, the undergirding for creation, and the workforce maintaining our unsustainable global practices—informs the concepts, imagery and materials of my work. The objects I make embody that systemic forces, driven by the constellation of economic and emotional incentives in power structures, play greater than acknowledged roles in our individual material, cognitive and emotional conditions. The intersecting histories and consequences of omnipresent apparatuses—from taxation to electrical grids to the maintenance of racecraft (Fields and Fields)—are foundational to the tapestry of human existence. I employ sewing and textiles as methods and materials to interweave the effects that our entrenched systems have on the body, the delicate, the intimate. In the US especially, government, corporate and social norms are deeply influenced by technocracy, the interplay between private and public power and the cycles of consumption. To surface and visualize these complex layers, my creations amalgamate industrial and refuse materials and are built from layers of manual and digital approaches. 

In 2020, I co-founded Converge Collaborative, a BIPOC and art-led workers coop and creative collective. I have always recognized that so many knowledgeable and capable creatives do not have the economic, psychological, emotional or environmental resources to fully cultivate their talents and artistic dreams. In working for many years in jobs to support my art and my family and having grown up with artist parents, I intimately know the challenges of economic insecurity, time scarcity, being marginalized and racialized, and the resources required to facilitate the creative process. At Converge, we are dedicated to creating a labor environment in which we can meet our financial needs, maintain our autonomy as artists, and actively support each other's well-being. One of our creative pursuits is Bring Your Full Self, a podcast in which we invite laborers and artists of color to safely step away from the myth of professionalism and embrace the reality that all of our experiences, learnings and challenges intertwine, merge and make us the multitudes that we are. Converge allows me to socially and materially address the conditions of creativity, labor, economics, and emotions for other people. 


Genius/Genus Bar

Genius/Genus Bar by Amy Yoshitsu. Image courtesy of Amy Yoshitsu.

"Genius/Genus Bar highlights ‘genius’ as a superficial language unit that legitimizes resource investment into people, entities and practices which have gained attention and desirability via historic, inherited and obfuscated means. It is the first in a series of soap-on-a-rope sculptures in the shape of words which I view as being applied so broadly and weaponized so frequently that their meanings have not only evaporated but have become equivalent to toxic gasses harming human potential.  ‘Genus’—adding context that the state of being elevated can only exist within hierarchy—is a rank within biological taxonomy, whose 18th century origins include the concept of four “varieties” of humans, thus playing a foundational role in the creation of race. 

The color and material (soap with glutathione which is the main ingredient in skin-whitening products) have been chosen to reinforce the racial and hierarchical aspects entangled in every capitalist embodiment—the “conjoined twins,” Ibram X. Kendi’s description of the relationship between capitalism and racism. As a person of Asian descent, I am both intimately familiar with the colonialist and assimilationist-driven ideals of femininity and cleanliness, while, at the same time, have had many run-ins with the pedestal of smart, which often equates to high status, high salary, and ultimately safety into old age."


20XX by Amy Yoshitsu. Image courtesy of Amy Yoshitsu.

"Since 2015 I have been working on 20XX, a series of sculptures, and their resulting images, that contort our shared, built environments, which are embedded with histories of society-building through cycles of demolition and consumption. These 3D collages—built through sewing photographs I took in locations in which I lived and visited— visualize the variances in the materials, aesthetics and definitions of shelter; corrosion and states of disrepair; office buildings, factories and mom-and-pop storefronts as markers of personal means of survival and the shells of capitalism's many engines/victims. For many years, I then photograph these sculptures in (mostly) public locations in my hometown area, and thus, create my own psychogeographic maps that synthesize and literally locate my advantages and concerns within our mazes of power structures."

What’s on your mind?

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