[ORIGINALLY WRITTEN JUNE 2015]
Remember Fluency.Flow, the show I wrote about a few months ago? Well, I got to talk to two members of I A M A P A R T, the group behind it.
Kotone Deguchi and Zhuxin Wang met me at Lamplighter Roasting Company on a boiling hot day.
What is I A M A P A R T? I asked.
“It’s an art collective,” Deguchi started. “It’s main thing is that it is a group of people who feel othered, in terms of white-supremacy and stuff like that. Not just as far as being seen as un-white, but being seen as un-American in any kind of way.”
“That includes people who are international students, immigrants, children of immigrants,” Deguchi continued. “Or even if they’ve been here for generations, because of racial assumptions they get that otherness cast upon them.”
Tell me about your shows, I said.
“Our shows are loosely themed. Our first show was just us getting together to do a show. And because we had so many ideas of what we wanted to do, we decided to form a collective and keep going.” Deguchi explained. “Our second show was Dumpling Fest. Kind of about the fact that dumplings as a term can mean so many different kinds of foods and that monolith is very much like other people who are made into these general groups or assumptions in America.”
“That was also about food as a healing activity,” Wang added. “It’s something collective. Regardless of culture, it’s something people do. It’s a very primary condition that everybody’s in.”
“Yeah, one of the foods that I brought in for Dumpling Fest that I thought was important, to keep it grounded and to keep it from becoming an exotic zoo, likeshare your culture!kind of a thing, I made chicken and dumplings which is from my step-father’s side–Appalachian, very white American.” Deguchi said. “It’s totally different from what I think of as dumplings because I usually, being Japanese, think of gyoza as being dumplings, which is totally different than what other people consider their own dumplings. Gyoza and chicken and dumplings both being called dumplings is important to me.”
What exactly was the overall theme of Fluency.Flow? I ask.
“Language.We met and discussed what we wanted to do and our own experiences. We talked about times we’ve struggled with language, or funny mis-translations.” Deguchi explained. “Some of the members struggle with English, others, like Lucia (Lucia Liu) and myself, it’s ways we are kind of losing our heritage language and those gaps in understanding.”
“We also extended to not just verbal language, but also language in general. Language as a vehicle in communication. As this signal or designed symbols for human connection.’ Wang said. “I did something about traffic language. Transportation signs and the status when someone is driving. That consistent information coming into you and other people around you. So there’s this memorable language going on when you drive, and there’s also this muscle-memory sort of language that you adapt and perform in order to keep this orderly system and be okay with everybody around you.”
Kotone, can you tell me more about your performance art? I really enjoyed it, I request.
“My performance was called The Sea is the Surface and it was something of an epic poem. It goes through many different memories and dreams and things I’ve been trying to figure out for a long time.” Deguchi began. “A lot of that has to do with my existentialism about the difference between something actually existing and something being an image or projection or something that you’re just thinking about. That’s something I have so much trouble with.”
“ It was kind of a rambling, a flow through all these different thoughts that I have, which are pretty much the same things just rehashed over and over again, and these cycles that I put myself through and the ways that has turned against me. I get told a lot of times that I’m very self-aware and self-actualized because I just go over and over and over again on my own thoughts and I become very attuned to the different nuances of it. It has been kind of terrifying at times when I get lost and I lose any kind of grounding or base in my reality. It has a lot to do with that and my constant state of displacement and derealization.”
“So I asked questions that were all kind of on the same plane. Will you stretch thin and become the sky? The listener will think, oh, well, I can’t do that, it’s a rhetorical question. And then saying will you put this pebble under your tongue? and having the pebbles there, it becomes available to be actually put in your mouth and potentially swallowed or whatever. Those two questions are the same because to me, the ability to just leave your body…like why can’t I do that? I know that I can already do that. And then it’s like, is the thought of putting a pebble under your tongue the same as actually doing it? Are those two the same? The miscommunications, the new thoughts that you already had, come out when things are mixed up and rehashed. Those thoughts were already there, there’s nothing new there, but in rehashing them you realize a completely different aspect of it.”
What are I A M A P A R T’s plans for the future? I implored.
“We are hoping to keep going.” Deguchi said.
“We are also hoping to be collaborating with other groups as well, so we can do a dual exhibition in the future.” Wang added.
“We definitely want new members, because right now it’s mostly just friends who were talking to each other about like, oh this would be cool. Because of that it is kind of East Asian heavy.” Deguchi explained. “We are trying to have it available for more members to be able come and join. We are trying to figure out what we are, where we stand, how we operate, how we fit in, as a group and as individuals.”
I personally can’t wait to see what I A M A P A R T does in the future! If you are interested in learning more or possibly joining, here is the link to their facebook group:https://www.facebook.com/groups/399402360219927/