Thursday, February 19, 2009

Pecha Kucha Night at Fred's

Deepali Dewan on a different occasion

I attended WAM Chatter: a pecha kucha event at the Weisman this evening. A pecha kucha format allows each speaker twenty slides, with each slide appearing for twenty seconds. So each speaker narrates her six minute forty second slide show, and then--at this particular pecha kucha--the panel sat down and took questions for another ninety minutes or so. Our starting point: “Does the work of Asian women artists matter?” The event was an offshoot of the current exhibit Changing Identity: Recent Works by Women Artists from Vietnam.

The Q&A was moderated by Jigna Desai; the panel was Deepali Dewan (the evening's mesmerizer), Joan Kee and Miwako Tezuka. Deepali Dewan's presentation had the most impact, as she flipped through slides showing works by Zarina Bhimji, Rachel Kalpana James and others. Alone among this evening's panelists--Dewan offered a gutsy [albeit lightly yes-hedged] 'No' in answer to the question. Dewan and Kee both rejected the 'Asian woman artist' idea as containing dumb essentialism, with Dewan arguing that the concepts of history and art contain the inescapable 'silent referent' of Eurocentrism.

So both 'Asian artist' and 'woman artist' were dismissed as being self-subordinating, racist [though I didn't hear that word used] or sexist [nor that]--persuasively, to this listener--with a bit of time left over for dissecting work and matter too. About fifty people attended. Quite lively.

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