The Real Deal New York

Exhibits exploring Chinatown on their final days

April 12, 2014 10:00AM

Two exhibits exploring the connection between Chinatown and its residents are open through Sunday at The Museum of Chinese in America on 215 Centre Street.

MOCA curator Herb Tam said that the exhibits are part of the project “Chinatown: Beyond the Streets,” which attempts to “look beyond the streets into the interior life of Chinatown, its domestic spaces and collective memory.”

One exhibit, “A Floating Population,” features more than 80 photographs by Annie Ling. According to MOCA’s website, Ling’s photographs enable viewers to access the “internal, private worlds” of the residents of Chinatown.

“A Floating Population” is composed of four sections: “81 Bowery,” “Shut-Ins,” “Tenements” and “A Floating Population.”

In the other exhibit, “Portraits of New York Chinatown,” artist Tomie Arai explores the issues of gentrification and displacement. Her portrait of Chinatown features a mix of oral history, screen-printing and personal artifacts selected by the artist and her subjects.

Arai’s installation will present a story of a neighborhood experiencing gentrification wholly. [WSJ] —TRD

  • nothing is free not even pity

    It’s interesting that this Chinatown actually does have a Japanese connection from Tomie Arai’s presence to the co-founding of Asian Americans for Equality. I think there is even a Japanese board member presently at the latter organization. That post-internment generation really glommed onto the Chinese Americans and the Civil Rights movement having no idea that the pliant kevlar of their mixed marriages would hinder arguing against the Comfort Women Statues throughout America in the present day.

    No one expected the American Comfort Women statues.

    I wish Safe Horizons was involved in housing because they understand what people are going through and when I see mention that 83 year old widow in grief and depressed, I think that there is a disconnect between agencies and advocacy expertise. It’s not about affordable housing sometimes but I wish she could get airlifted into something better maybe the tenant advocates will hook her up now that she is in the spotlight.

    I think there was a shift in how Chinese immigrants held their trauma from the 1990s onward. My Dad was very peppy about living in a bunk bed on Pell Street until out of solidarity, he moved out when his bunkmate lost his job and was insulted by the tenant of record. I remember the old timers who were not criminals, raised perfect children and didn’t have an extra penny to their name. But they survived only or didn’t go through the first round of Mainland reeducation so the authentic prewar Traditional China was in their marrow. How they viewed things and how they would behave in situations reported today would be very different and it has nothing with being victimized by awful “racist” America that stopped evil in Asia with their lives.

    I hope that the demographic featured in these photographs don’t feel that the discussion is above their heads though they may disagree with the direction that it will go in unlike in China where you can really talk about your own status without shame or feel that public discussion is reserved for “real Americans” because in China, there wouldn’t be a concern that a particular group is being framed a certain way or going to be perceived a certain way so that the subjects or worse, the children of such subjects feel that they have to walk a particular walk and make certain claims because this is my category.

    It’s not a category. It’s a situation.

    Hint: Never see political correctness as a sign of weakness by the person employing it or that you are empowered by being the recipient of it.

    The flip side of that is how comments slam the Chinese hotel developers for not having good taste or for once again, developing a hotel.

    • genyosha

      My grandfather never got over being steered away from enrolling in Beijing and Shanghai universities after the May Fourth movement because his father felt there was something wrong on campus. I didn’t know that the student groups were infiltrated.

      It also really shifts the message in Wong Kar Wai’s Grandmaster.

      One of the primary targets of the Gen’yōsha were the many Chinese secret societies, some of which were very hostile to Japan. However, the Chinese secret societies had a shared goal with the Gen’yōsha in wanting the overthrow of the Qing dynasty.[6] In 1881, Mitsuru Toyama
      sent over 100 men into China to gather information and to infiltrate
      these secret societies. One of the first and most detailed histories of
      the secret societies was written by Gen’yōsha member Hiraya Amane, who assisted in the establishment of the Gen’yōsha’s Chinese headquarters in Hangzhou. The Gen’yōsha
      not only provided funds and weapons to the secret societies, but also
      arranged for refuge in Japan for leaders exposed by the Qing government.
      The Gen’yosha established a large network of brothels across
      China (and later throughout Southeast Asia) to provide meeting
      locations, and also to gather information. In addition to being a
      profitable side-business, the brothels provided opportunities to gather
      useful information for the later blackmail
      or subversion of patrons. However, although blackmail and bribery were
      often resorted to, more often information was obtained by employing
      prostitutes highly skilled in extracting information for their clients.
      The Gen’yōsha even established a training school for such agents in Sapporo in Hokkaidō.

      Another sphere of Gen’yōsha activity was Korea. The Gen’yōsha established a task force to prepare detailed topographical survey maps of Korea in secret, in anticipation of a future Japanese invasion. The Gen’yōsha also actively supported the Donghak Movement, knowing that the uprising was likely to draw China and Japan into a war. The assassination of Queen Min of Korea in 1895 is believed to have been conducted by Gen’yosha members, at the instigation of the Japanese Minister in Seoul, Miura Goro.[7]

      • thank you wikipedia

        I’m glad that an outside popular source like Wikipedia supports the message in pretty much ALL of To Kei Fung’s films. All those echoes of the enemy in Young and Dangerous, the infiltration of Hong Kong in the Infernal Affairs – never made me ashamed to be Chinese – but also still kept us in isolation with what we know to be true and the outside world without the received wisdom of eyewitness ancestors would be prone to reject any advisement (it’s too frightening and painful if it’s true, right?)

        My mother never stopped bringing up the wokou. So what if it was often a Japanese/Chinese joint venture. Criminals are criminals.

  • Don’t trust frenemies

    I think we need an exhibit about the war fundraising movements in every Overseas Chinese community and though it may not be welcome publicity, the fact that there were many Chinese Americans who served in the American armed forces. We don’t have to name their names for privacy’s sake, but it is a fact that appropriately is not singled out along with all the other ethnicities who served as well none as laudably as genuinely injured African Americans and Native Americans so how COULD Chinese Americans be anything but appropriately low key about their contribution?

    But it is a fact and I think it will become very important that we document that it wasn’t just Sun Yat Sen who benefited from exposure to American culture and morals. Many very old fashioned Chinese dug into their pockets and sent money home not to individual family members but had those family member make do with less so that weapons could be purchased to protect China. The Flying Tigers were paid for their service and maybe some of the Overseas Chinese donations went to them, but let’s face it, the truth is that the foreign Flying Tigers didn’t fight for China as mercenaries. That was just their cover story.

    I think we have to be very careful to not be HELPED by interested third parties to become Chinese as lame duck outsiders in our own country when other Asian American minorities are not seeing this kind of corralling.

    If it looks too easy, don’t take a bite of the apple. The person offering it might not be your friend at all.

    Just remember the Chinese may have “helped build America” just like every other immigrant regardless of the bias attacks some resulting in murders but we all know what Black people and Native Americans got taken away from them to BUILD AMERICA. Think about what you do in the context of how these groups would see us if we were being inappropriate and disrespectful because someone wanted us to be unpopular.

  • what is omitted

    I think the Village Voice article on 81 Bowery should have been attached to the exhibit because it is very cynical Chinatown and museum patrons deserved to know the background of some of the pictures.

  • en garde