Took a while, but after giving a casual and not well practiced/prepared portfolio share on Zoom yesterday, I was motivated to finish configuring a new reference repository as it’s a really nice way to document interests and thoughts. I included a screenshot from this 2018 entry:
This is still true.
I start this repository with that as a reminder of non-linearity.
Currently I am in a Display Type class through Type@Cooper. The class is usually in person in NYC, but due to the pandemic it’s online. And because racial injustice has come back to the fore, the instructor was successfully able to fundraise multiple scholarships for BIPOC. So there I am as a non-binary Vietnamese recent first-gen grad sometimes-freelancer grocery store worker from Bentonville, Arkansas who currently lives in Minneapolis.
I am grappling with what this all means. What is my identity? What does it mean to be who I am and to have been enabled to go to a prestigious school via needs-based scholarship and to jump into the design school sans portfolio? To have immigrant conservative parents from the rural South Vietnam, a mother who stopped school at middle school and a father who went through to high school, still chasing the so called American dream, their goals largely influenced by their privileged white Southern customers in their former nail salon? Wherein the strongest genuine tie I have to whatever my perspective of Vietnamese culture is through food? Does it really make sense to mine the visual culture of Vietnam, contemporary and historical, when I am not really part of it? When I was not taught written Vietnamese? When I was naturally drawn to the aesthetics of modernism since youth, ignorant of the manifestos, capitalism, industrialism, colonialism behind it all?
Part of the struggle is how different every Asian American is. And how new Asian America is. There is a history, but do I come from it? Rather I became a part of it the moment I was born. Is it valid to just create and to shape that history now? To not look back since I don’t really come from any of it?
Maybe that all sounds super ignorant. Bentonville, Arkansas is not Vietnamese-American populated like Texas or Cali. The Vietnamese restaurants in NW Arkansas end up assimilating to the tastes of Ozarkians: cabin themed, gentrified outdoorsmanship. But what say of me given my education and draw to the modernist works of Europeans? I am not just as white-washed? But what else would I be? The best I can say is that I am just Vanna. An accumulation. Representative of what?
Is existing enough? Must everything be argued? I cannot rationalize the entirety of the self. “I think therefore I am” is a privileged statement.
I was momentarily is a short-term Visual Criticism & Theory class (until realizing I overloaded myself with work, more work, and school), but one of the first exercises we did was writing down how we are privileged and not privileged. It’s not so easily categorized, but dependent on context and who we are in proximity to given the moment. Largely I exist in the middle space, which means a certain level of empathy but also power. I am figuring out how to make the best of that to give leverage to others. So often in the past I simply lead by example, somewhat alone. Asking questions but unsure if anyone else truly pondered them too. I don’t know if continuing to do as that is enough, if sharing is enough. One of my biggest weaknesses is collaboration. Why is that? I also rely on the nicety of others to spread the word about me. I do not assert or market myself really. As I don’t really want to scale or submit myself. I guess a large part of that is that I am super isolated and not part of a community. Without that there is no horizontality but an insidious amount of individuality.
Well this is what happens when I put off a reference repository. A dam breaks.