We are living in disturbing times. While the current economic, social, biological, and political precarity of the moment is not new; and visible and pervasive violent white supremacy has been the architecture of this nation since its founding, we are facing the darkness of our present juncture with unclouded eyes.
The timing of this project is urgent in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic and the Black Lives Matter uprising. It arrives at this critical moment, shaped by conjuncted crises, with a long-term vision for creating a sustained conversation about race and a visible and accessible trace for the histories (and futures) that have informed who we are and the work that we do.
The Black Lives Matter Uprising of 2020 is born of a long legacy of brave resistance but has been fostered specifically in this moment by the outrage of yet another, and another, and another brutal killing of a Black person at the hands of the police. Experiencing a deadly pandemic under murderous capitalism, racism, and state violence, all of which disproportionately affect Black communities, what we have always known to be a condition of our reality is that we are the most expendable. Fighting against this reality, We Listen Nearby is an invitation, a provocation, an act: of care, collectivity, and becoming.
Centering the relationship between speaking and listening by interrogating the dual power to name or be silent, we will talk to each other. Over the phone, through sound and storytelling, this project considers genealogies and how we might conceptualize cultural heritages that transgress dogmatic definitions and borderlines and resists false singularities. Compelled by the multi-faceted work of Trinh T. Minh-ha, and in response to the virulent anti-Asian racism of the pandemic crisis and the urgency of the BLM uprising, We Listen Nearby brings together an intergenerational group of artists, activists, writers, and scholars to articulate the power and problematics of legacy and to think through the impact of our histories as migrants, immigrants, refugees, strangers, and friends and contend with the conditions of entangled biologized, enculturated racial politics.
The project pivots around overlapping pairs and trios of speakers and listeners who will be in conversation with each other, until a collective constellation of voices interlock and interweave to hold a mirror up to itself. We Listen Nearby offers the voice as testimony and material which visualizes sound, language as survival, and listening as a potential moment of collective transition and transformation. When we can’t be together physically, let’s allow our voices and our listening to be an intimate point of contact: witness to our collective survival.
We Listen Nearby has been well over a decade in the making. Over the last twenty years, I have had many conversations with dear BIPOC friends – activists, artists, scholars – who have helped me grow as an anti-racist through struggles on the streets, in the workplace, and in the classroom. I have been fortunate to have learned and worked with these artists and activists, including my long-time collaborator Hương Ngô, NC based activists ngọc loan trần and Nadeen Bir, artists Jina Valentine and Heather Hart, co-founders of Black Lunch Table, and many others. I have longed for a way to gather up those whose work and lives have made a deep impact on me and others in order to forge a collectivity that resists historical amnesia, allows us to continue to grow, and to keep each other accountable to the political truths we hold close.
This is a project for us. It is a space for us to speak for each other and with each other in a way that is not about a constant translation for white audiences, and without an overshadowing institutional white gaze.
This is a project about genealogy. It is a project about our political, intellectual, and personal histories and their interconnectedness. It is a space for us to speak about our shared legacies and knowledges in terms as critical and precise as we can speak.
This is a project to name our collectivity. It is a space that situates power within a collective understanding of existence and lived experiences.
This is a project about listening and storytelling. It is a space where, between listening and speaking, we can hopefully become more with each other.
I am thankful to the Wattis Institute at CCA for supporting this initial phase of the project through the Capp Street Project Artist Residency. Diego Villalobos, Jeanne Gerrity, and Zachary Ngin from the Wattis have provided much needed guidance and help along the way. Thank you to Lexi Visco and Calvin Rocchio of Companion-Platform for their patience and their vision in turning this project into something tangible. I am especially grateful to have been able to work with the brilliant Kim Nguyen at the Wattis. Our sustained conversations over the last year have inspired me, challenged me and critically shaped the development of this project, which grew out of our shared love and respect for the work of Trinh T. Minh-ha, and who was the focus of the Wattis’ research season during my COVID-eclipsed residency. She has been a dream collaborator on this project.
Finally, I am so grateful to all the participants who have allowed us to listen in on their stories.
In solidarity and trust,
is an artist who uses photography, video, and sound to explore immigrant, refugee, and decolonial narratives and subjectivities. She was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship in Fine Art in 2019 and was the Capp St. Artist in Residence at the Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts in 2020. Hồng-Ân lives in Durham, North Carolina where she is an activist and a teacher. She is Associate Professor of Art at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
(née Michelle Dizon) is a visual artist, theorist, and Associate Professor of Media and Cultural Studies at the University of California, Riverside. Her work summons sites of memory and resistance in the wake of historical dispossession, migration, and diaspora. Latipa's projects include Gaza Before the Law, a film about the failure of the US legal system in matters of justice for Palestine, The Archive's Fold, a multi-image slide installation that explores the violence of the US colonial archive by reading its images through past and future ancestors, and White Gaze (with Việt Lê), an artist's book and photographic installation that poses a decolonial counterpoint to National Geographic and its legacy of imperialist visuality. Latipa has founded and developed grassroots initiatives to build and nurture communities such as at land's edge (2015-18) an autonomous pedagogical platform based in South and East Los Angeles and the Memory and Resistance Laboratory (2019–present) which partners with grassroots organizations to create media based in social movements. Latipa lives in Riverside, California.
Gina Osterloh's photography, film, video and performance works depict mark-making and her own body traversing, tracing, puncturing – in search for the unknown and the desire to create new contexts for being. Osterloh cites her experience of growing up mixed-race in Ohio as a set of formative experiences that led her to photography and larger questions of how a viewer perceives difference. Reviews of her work have been featured in The New Yorker Magazine, Art in America, Art Asia Pacific, Artforum Critics Pick, Art Practical, and KCET Artbound Los Angeles. Her work is represented by Higher Pictures Generation (New York) and Silverlens (Manila). Gina Osterloh is Assistant Professor in the Department of Art at The Ohio State University and lives in Columbus, Ohio.
is a multimedia artist, photographer, filmmaker and activist born and raised in NYC to Chinese immigrant parents. Her work integrates documentary film, new media platforms, and community-infused approaches. She is a co-founder of Chinatown Art Brigade, a cultural collective using art to advance anti-gentrification organizing in NYC. She has been awarded artist residencies and fellowships from the Laundromat Project, International Studio & Curatorial Program, Intercultural Leadership Institute, and Santa Fe Art Institute. Her work has been presented at the Brooklyn Museum, Margaret Mead Film and Video Festival, Tribeca Film Festival's Interactive Showcase, and the Queens Museum. She teaches video, social practice, art and activism throughout NYC and has over 20 years of community, media justice, and labor organizing experience. She sits on the boards of Third World Newsreel and Working Films.
is a PhD candidate in Geography at the Graduate Center, CUNY. Her dissertation looks at the poetics and politics of land practices in the Black Radical movement of the 1960s and 1970s. denisse is also a curator, organizer, and educator, teaching across disciplines in institutional and non-institutional settings and throughout the CUNY system, and more recently at Pratt Institute. She is currently co-producing a digital publication addressing new ways of looking at the radical histories of the 1960s called Return to the Source. She was a Scholar-in-Residence at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in 2018-2019, and a 2019-2020 fellow with the Center for Place, Culture, and Politics at CUNY. denisse was born in Colombia, raised in various places in Latin America, and lives in New York City.
is a first generation Malaysian-Chinese artist, writer, and educator from the American South. Her work operates at the intersection of ancestry, healing, and mythology, and explores memory, race, and the political and historical heritage of the landscape and its natural elements. Working across disciplines, she often uses video projection, archival photography, and multimedia works on paper. She is a graduate of the New York Foundation of Arts Immigrant Artist program, and is the current Assistant Curator at the California Institute for Integral Studies. She is a teaching artist for the Performing Arts Workshop and is involved with curating for other local art organizations like Kearny Street Workshop and CTRL+SHFT Collective, where she is a member. Kristiana is based in the Bay Area.
Michelle Phương Ting
is a poet and curator, born to Vietnamese refugees in San Jose, California, and currently based in New Haven, CT. Her writing most recently appeared in Apogee, Wildness, and Tupelo Quarterly. A graduate of Yale University, she has received fellowships and support from Tinhouse, Kenyon Writers Workshop, Kearny Street Workshop, Brooklyn Poets, Omnidawn, Fine Arts Work Center, and Lighthouse Writers Workshop. In 2019, she co-curated Kearny Street Workshop’s APAture Festival featuring Asian American and Pacific Islander artists. She is currently a Curatorial Fellow at NXTHVN, a member of The Racial Imaginary Institute, and an MFA candidate in poetry at New York University.
Dinh Q. Lê
was born in Hà-Tiên, Việt Nam. He received his BA at UC Santa Barbara and his MFA at The School of Visual Arts in New York City. In 1994, Lê returned to Việt Nam and in 1997 settled down full time in Hồ Chí Minh City. Lê’s artistic practice consistently challenges how our memories are recalled with context in contemporary life. Lê’s work has exhibited worldwide. His solo exhibitions include Memory for Tomorrow at Mori Art Museum, Tokyo and Project 93: Dinh Q. Lê at Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York. In Hồ Chí Minh City he co-founded Vietnam Art Foundation-VNFA in 2005, an organization that supports Vietnamese artists and promotes artistic exchange between cultural workers from Việt Nam and around the world. He also co-founded the not for profit Sàn Art in 2007. Lê was awarded the 2010 Visual Art Laureate from the Prince Claus Fund, Amsterdam, and in 2014 he was a Rockefeller Foundation’s Bellagio Creative Arts Fellow.
is an artist, writer, and curator. His visual projects include three overlapping film projects that trace a transnational, time-traveling, trilingual trans-love triangle: eclipse, lovebang! and heART/break! He has exhibited internationally, including at Nhà Sàn Collective Hà Nội, Kellogg University Art Gallery in Los Angeles, H Gallery in Bangkok, the Shanghai Biennial, and the Hammer Museum at UCLA. As a writer and curator, he has written extensively on contemporary art, politics, visual culture, race, and the traumas of war for various publications, including American Quarterly; Amerasia Journal; Art Journal; and the anthologies Writing from the Perfume River; and Modern and Contemporary Southeast Asian Art; among others. He has been awarded grants and residencies at the Fine Arts Work Center, Art Matters Foundation, Carmago Foundation, and PEN Center. He is Associate Professor in Visual Studies at California College of Arts in San Francisco.
has developed a body of work which positions itself within the overlapping intersections of art and the cinema screen. He believes that the composition of mass media has become a new historical site of the domination of human behavior. Bruce has been honored with numerous awards and grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, the American Film Institute, and the Maya Deren Award for Experimental Film and Video. His installations, photographs and sculptures have been featured in major one-person shows at the ICC in Tokyo, the ICA Philadelphia, and the Kemper Museum in Kansas City. A retrospective of work by Bruce and his brother Norman was exhibited at the Japanese American National Museum Los Angeles in 1999. His work was featured in Los Angeles 1955-85 at the Pompidou Center, Paris, the Generali Foundation, Vienna, the Gwangju Biennial, Korea, Pacific Standard Time, Getty Museum, a retrospective at the Hong Gah Museum in Taiwan, a survey show of work he produced in South America at the Luckman Gallery in LA, a solo show at the JACCC Los Angeles and a retrospective at the Tate Modern London. Bruce is Professor of Art at the University of California Irvine.