Kevin B. Chen
Scott Tsuchitani
Memoirs of a Sansei Geisha: Snapshots of Cultural Resistance, 2004-05
Mixed media

"Throughout the summer of 2004, San Francisco's visual landscape was blanketed with advertisements for the Asian Art Museum's Geisha: Beyond the Painted Smile exhibit, images which, in my reading, only seemed to cater to Orientalist fantasy of exoticized Asian mystique. So I pirated their poster image, turning it into my own in response. On the closing weekend of the Geisha show, my friend S. and I plastered Japantown with posters, and then proceeded to plant dozens of flyers in the information booth inside the Asian Art Museum itself. Various sources noted the wide-ranging impact of the small, simple action: in Japantown, inside the museum, on academic discourse, and on public consciousness through the media. The San Francisco Chronicle devoted nearly a full page, giving last word to a U.C. art history professor: "To the extent that museums assert authority to speak for culture, they open themselves up for critique, and they should engage that critique." - Scott Tsuchitani

Tsuchitani’s socially engaged interventions have been recognized by scholars from a range of disciplines around the U.S., and have demonstrated impact on academic discourse on four continents. He combines poignant narrative with unexpected humor and latent stereotype to expose how structures of power and dominance have created an atmosphere of societal conditioning. He presents work and documentation from two projects that utilized image appropriation and parody to critique recent exhibitions presented at the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco, CA: Geisha: Beyond the Painted Smile in 2004 and Lords of the Samurai in 2009.  Appropriating the imagery and graphic design used in the marketing campaigns for both exhibitions, Tsuchitani created his own posters and flyers that subtly subverted the original message as a means of providing an institutional critique to the exhibitions and the marketing of these exhibitions.  He posted his versions of posters and flyers throughout the city, which received a fair amount of media attention, including large articles in The San Francisco Chronicle.

Determining Domain

November 7, 2012 – January 19, 2013
Intersection for the Arts
San Francisco, CA
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