Check out the opening of “Dirty Knees” tonight at Untitled Art Space. The socially charged art exhibit aims to explore what it means to be of half-Asian descent in North America. Featuring work by local tattoo artists Nomi Chi, Shannon Elliott, Katie So, Mandy Tsung, and Lauren YS, the show explores themes like internalized racism and complex struggles of self-identity. From the official word:
“Dirty Knees” loosely refers to the crass playground rhyme, “Chinese/ Japanese/ Dirty knees/ Look at these!” – the phrase ‘Dirty Knees” ostensibly referring to migrant labourers often working on their knees. Many of us have, as children, participated in reciting this rhyme, regardless of our racial makeup. This presence and ubiquity of internalized racism is a complex issue for those with mixed-Asian backgrounds, leading to stratified and tangled issues with blood relatives, with ideas of tradition and sense of selfhood. In Dirty Knees, the artists are encouraged to unpack these ideas in reference their own upbringings and and observations. As examples, Katie So will be making proclamations of dissent against how she is often perceived; Lauren YS will be ruminating on the complexity of an identity that is inherently stratified, and has reached out online to survey half-asian volunteers to inform her work. Themes of otherness, sameness, and fetishization will be some of many motifs explored. The artists are also encouraged to make works outside of their respective practices to convey their messages, yet stay faithful to their particular visions and styles. With representative illustration being a pivotal element in all of their work, the figure will be a familiar subject in this exhibition. The aim is ultimately to establish and consolidate a sense of community for Mixed-race people and people of colour, as well as to add important voices to discussions regarding race and identity politics within the discourse of contemporary visual arts.
It might challenge you. It might invigorate you. Either way you’ll get something out of, possibly even a greater understanding of the ways we engage with racial heritage. It certainly sounds fascinating!
Friday, August 12 (runs until August 22) | 8pm – late | Untitled Art Space | 436 Columbia St. | Free