Chandan Reddy on Astria Suparak’s touring multimedia performance “Asian futures, without Asians,” from a post-performance conversation between Reddy and Suparak at Jacob Lawrence Gallery, University of Washington, Seattle, Nov. 30, 2021:
“It’s so important that we see the work that you’re doing right now, and particularly the way you contextualize it in relationship to COVID, also in relationship to the Atlanta shooting. Because I think that this is the kind of work that reveals how quickly “Asian” goes from reviled limit of the human to erotic object of desire whose potency as an object of desire is the cause of violence against it.
What I disliked about some of the language around “anti-Asian hate” in the Atlanta shooting is it actually didn’t acknowledge that it wasn’t hate. It was a kind of gruesome fetishistic desire that drove it. And your work is really showing that these two things can be — as contradictory as they are, to be like, you are the animalistic limit of the human and you are the apex of erotic desire—they seem to actually situate themselves simultaneously in American consciousness. […]
Your piece shows that anti-Asian racism, or American Orientalism—maybe that’s a better way of putting it because it’s not always anti-Asian, it’s liking Asians too much—and the violence that it covers over has oftentimes really been not about extinguishing Asia or Asians in the way that, for example, the American pastoral was about getting rid of Native Americans—extinguishing them, excising them. But it’s really about turning everything that is Asia into a bounded object that can be consumed in some way. And that was so powerful in your work and I’m just so moved by that observation. [..] And you show how long this kind of trope is in the cinematic apparatus.
I want to appreciate how important this work is in this moment. In addition to the sense of the violence that’s happening against Asians and Asian immigrants in the U.S., as well as the ongoing counterinsurgency of U.S. empire, we’re all being interacted and mediated by screens now because of COVID. […] I feel like your work is really this attempt to have us think a little bit about what it means to have intimacy through the screen, and the kind of histories of the screen that precede us and will probably organize us before we have a chance to organize ourselves. As much as I’ve always felt a kind of weirdness about the screen as an intimacy, I feel like something in your work is helping me get a sense, too, that there’s a danger with the screen as an intimate medium, if you will, or as an intimate opportunity. So that “Shoji Screen” section [in your presentation] was very interesting to me in that way.”