The show starts with five drawings that depict the killing of Latasha Harlins, a fifteen-year-old African-American girl who was shot in the head by Soon Ja Du, a Korean-American store owner at Du’s store, Empire Liquor in South Los Angeles on March 16, 1991. On the morning of the shooting, Du observed Harlins putting a bottle of orange juice in her backpack and did not see the money she held in her hand, concluding Harlins was attempting to steal. Harlins’ death came two weeks after the beating of Rodney King. Du was fined $500 and sentenced to five years of probation but no prison time. It is considered as one of the causes of the 1992 Los Angeles uprising.
I am particularly interested in the fact that the uprising, commonly understood as a white-black conflict, was also a boiling point for tensions in the Latino and Asian communities. The residents of disadvantaged and marginalized, mostly working/merchant class neighborhood, Koreatown and South Central in Los Angeles, didn’t have much access to outside of this affordable area and the uprising became a cataclysm of growing discontent among them.
For the past year, I have been exploring the possibilities of drawing as a thinking machine and embodiment of histories. The project employs similar strategies of previous works—removal of the human body to re-render figureless tableaux in graphite prior to adopting various methods of display: framed drawings and photo light boxes on wall installations, tapestry, and neon works.
Images in the show co-opt the work of photojournalists taken during the LA uprising in 1992 and continue to implicate the subjectivities of human bodies through graphic depictions of violence, perpetuating the stereotypes of racialized figures. My removal of the bodies is aimed to challenge the popular representation and invite a movement towards the radical emancipation of otherness. At the same time I am hoping to instill a solemnity for the lives and memories lost and injured and communities destroyed in commemoration of the 25th anniversary of the uprising.
The graffiti proclaimed on the lone wall standing after flames gutted during the uprising calls up alternative readings and meanings of the resistance. A neon piece traced from the graffiti along with other neon works – “revolution” in Korean and Arabic, is created as an invitation to a hopeful future with imaginative possibilities that may not come in the form we already know.
“We must all change the things that are fucked up and change cannot come in the form that we think of as “revolutionary” – not as a masculinist surge or an armed confrontation. Revolution will come in a form we cannot yet imagine.”
Jack Halberstam in “The wild Beyond: With and for the Undercommons”, foreword for The Undercommons by Stefano Harvey & Fred Moten