The USC Pacific Asia Museum announced Tuesday that it plans to “decolonize” its collections and challenge ideas about the Orient in its exhibitions and programming over the next year.
“If we are to grapple with the legacies of colonialism that exist within our museum, the Orient has to be a focus,” the museum said in a statement. “As the leading university art museum dedicated to the arts and cultures of Asia and the Pacific Islands, USC PAM is aware that historically museums played a key role in constructing Orientalism and we must play an equally key role in deconstructing it.”
The Pasadena museum has a series of calendared exhibitions, programs and initiatives to illuminate how its plan will be executed through the fall of 2021, including enlisting researchers, scholars, critics, community members and artists to help the museum understand how to “restore the voices, identities and stories rendered invisible by Orientalism.”
Planned exhibitions and programs include:
— “We Are Here: Contemporary Art and Asian Voices in L.A.,” which will run through spring 2021 and feature seven female artists of diverse Asian heritages;
— “ALLOS: The Story of Carlos Bulosan,” a play about the Filipino-American poet, novelist and union organizer who fought for migrant workers’ rights, to be presented live on Zoom on Oct. 3;
— “Debunking the Model Minority Myth,” an online exhibition set to debut Oct. 13, assembled by USC’s Asian Pacific American Student Services to collect personal accounts of Asian Pacific Islander students;
— an Oct. 17 conversation with artist Phung Huynh and L.A.’s “Donut Princess” Mayly Tao as they explore the history of Cambodian immigrants in Los Angeles, refugee trauma and legacies of building community and identity;
— “Stronger Together: Black Liberation and Asian Solidarity,” a Nov. 19 discussion that will include Melina Abdullah, co-founder of Black Lives Matter Los Angeles, and Warren T. Furutani, a former assemblyman and co-founder of the Manzanar Committee;
— “Southeast Asian Refugee Narratives,” a Dec. 5 discussion between Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Viet Thanh Nguyen and artists Ann Le and Phung Huynh about the lasting impact of war trauma and “outsider trauma” on subsequent generations of Asian-Americans whose families came to the United States as refugees;
— “Mapping L.A.: Asian American Migration Experiences,” an April 23 immersive event in which USC animation students will create a projection-mapping experience exploring the histories of diverse neighborhoods such as Chinatown, Little Tokyo and Koreatown;
— “Crossroads: Exploring the Silk Road” in the summer of 2021, in which the sights and sounds of Dunhuang will come to life through stories and music, dress-up, tactile objects, an interactive discovery map and highlights from the museum’s collection; and
— “Intervention: Perspectives for a New PAM” in the fall of 2021, in conjunction with the museum’s 50th anniversary next year. Museum officials said the exhibition will amplify the voices of invited Asian-American artists and scholars who will create artworks, essays, public lectures and performances that engage the museum’s collection and history and generate transformative dialogue.
The museum is billed as one of the few U.S. institutions dedicated to the arts and culture of Asian and the Pacific Islands serving the city of Los Angeles and the greater Southern California area.