Godzilla’s From the Basement to Godzilla: The Legacy of Asian American Activism
November 2, 2021
7:00 pm – 9:00 pm
155 Freeman St.
Introduced by Howie Chen and Presented with Primary Information
From the Basement to Godzilla: The Legacy of Asian American Activism (selections), Godzilla: Asian American Art Network, 1998, digital projection, 67 mins
In conjunction with the publication of Godzilla: Asian American Arts Network 1990-2001, edited by Howie Chen, Light Industry presents From the Basement to Godzilla: The Legacy of Asian American Activism. Consisting of interviews with Asian American artists, curators, and activists spanning three decades of organizing, the video was originally screened in the 1998 exhibition Urban Encountersat the New Museum, which featured collectives that shaped the trajectory of activist art in the Lower East Side. Godzilla’s installation appeared alongside the Guerrilla Girls, ABC No Rio, REPOhistory, Bullet Space, and World War III.
For their contribution to the show, Godzilla produced materials that mapped its roots to the West Coast’s Asian American movement of the late 1960s. The video interviews, conducted with key participants, serve as an oral history that connects Godzilla’s efforts to the activism of Basement Workshop, considered the first pan-Asian arts and politics organization on the East Coast. These conversations, rarely seen for the past twenty years, provide a unique insight into the long arc and continual evolution of the Asian American Art Movement.
The collective known as Godzilla: Asian American Art Network was formed in 1990 to support critical discourse around Asian American art and increase the visibility of Asian American artists, curators, and writers, who were negotiating an exclusionary society and art world. Founded by Ken Chu, Bing Lee, and Margo Machida, Godzilla made exhibitions, publications, and community collaborations that sought to stimulate social change. Expanding into a nationwide network, the group confronted, among other issues, institutional racism, Western imperialism, anti-Asian violence, the AIDS crisis, and Asian sexuality and gender representation. “Through the lens of Godzilla’s history,” Chen notes in his preface, “I gained a parallax view on the unrelenting present.”
This selection of From the Basement to Godzilla will include conversations with curators Barbara Hunt, Robert Lee, Amy Sadao, and Eugenie Tsai; artists Tomie Arai, Todd Ayoung, Rina Banerjee, Fay Chiang, Arlan Huang, and Michi Itami; and Godzilla founders Ken Chu and Margo Machida.