see me don’t see me is an online program of films organised by the artist Maya Jeffereis in conjunction with her 2021–2022 A.I.R. Fellowship. The program brings Jeffereis’s Silhouettes Remain together with the work of Joiri Minaya, Rhea Storr, and Astria Suparak, who all address the hypervisibility and simultaneous invisibility of bodies of colour.
The title see me don’t see me borrows a line from Storr’s film Madness Remixed (2021), which resists the fetishization of Josephine Baker’s body through data moshing analogue film to create intentional glitching, abstraction, and opacity. In Siboney (2014), Joiri Minaya confronts Spanish artist Jose Vela Zanetti’s painting of an exoticized mulatta dancer by returning her own gaze in a performance of erasure. Relatedly, Jeffereis’s Silhouettes Remain (2022) examines the history of misrepresenting Asian women in Orientalist art and film and speculates on new ways of looking.
While the first three films reimagine the past, Astria Suparak’s video essay Virtually Asian (2021) critiques science fiction films that visualise future worlds in which Asian culture and aesthetics are appropriated but Asian people are nowhere to be found. Together, these works invite viewers not only to reflect on misrepresentations of the past and their many transmutations in the present, but to imagine a future that doesn’t replicate the past.
The artists have shared a list of recommended readings that have informed and inspired their work displayed in an online Bookshelf. The Bookshelf features the writings of poets, theorists, historians, and cultural critics who draw on the legacy of Black feminist thought, Asian American Studies, and decolonial theory. We hope that these recommendations offer additional insight into the ideas of the virtual screening.
Madness Remixed, directed by Rhea Storr, 2021, 16mm film converted to digital, 10 minutes
*Contains flashing images.
From Beyonce to Miley Cyrus to Diana Ross, all have worn Josephine Baker’s now infamous Banana Skirt, performed by Baker in 1926 in a show entitled La Folie Du Jour (The Madness of the Day). The Banana Skirt is an exoticization of the Black body, yet it continues to be worn in homage and appropriation. Madness Remixed examines the fetishization of Josephine Baker’s body through data moshing analogue film. Seen here in Siren of the Tropics (1927), washing the whiteface from her body in the bath, Josephine Baker is compared with a film fetish, a 16mm abstraction optically printed with latex and glitter. Cultural labour is contrasted with plantation labour; what unfolds is a questioning of which images of Black bodies should be reproduced and on what terms.
Siboney, directed by Joiri Minaya, 2014, HD video, 10 minutes
The first part of Siboney is compiled in a video that documents the process of copying the tropical pattern of a found piece of fabric on a museum wall, juxtaposed with subtitles that gather ideas around the piece. In the process, the collection of the museum (Centro León in Santiago, D.R.) was explored and a dialogue was formed between Siboney and a painting by Vela Zanetti, of a dancing mulatta, which appears in the video. Once the mural is finished after around a month of work, I wet my body and rub it against the wall, transforming the mural, while an adaptation of the song “Siboney” by Connie Francis is playing. This is documented in a second video, which is shown next to the first one, synchronised with it.
Silhouettes Remain, directed by Maya Jeffereis, 2022, HD video, 10 minutes
The video essay Silhouettes Remain draws on an assembled collection of images of European Orientalist paintings depicting Asian women, digital animation, filmed footage, archival footage, Hollywood films, and home videos in a critical examination of colonial fantasies and a speculation on liberatory possibilities. This video excavates the origins of misportrayals and stereotypes that continue to this day, including the greater political and social implications of these images. As contemporary viewers, how might we look at these paintings in ways that do not reinscribe and reify the same colonial power dynamics?
Virtually Asian, directed by Astria Suparak, 2021, video, 3:05 minutes
Virtually Asian is a short video essay that looks at how white science fiction filmmakers fill the backgrounds of their futuristic worlds with hollow Asian figures—in the form of video and holographic advertisements—while the main cast (if not the entirety of their fictional universe’s population) is devoid of actual Asian people.
About the artists:
Rhea Storr is an artist-filmmaker who explores the representation of Black and mixed-race cultures. Masquerade as a site of protest or subversion is an ongoing theme in her work. So, too, is the effect of place or space on cultural representation. On occasion she draws on her own rural upbringing and British Bahamian heritage. Storr often works in 16mm film; she considers that analogue film might be useful to Black artists, both in the aesthetics it creates and the production models it facilitates. She is currently undertaking a PhD entitled Towards a Black British Aesthetic: How is Black Radical Imagination realised through 16mm filmmaking practices? She is a co-director of not nowhere an artists’ film co-operative, London, that has a particular focus on analogue film. She is resident at Somerset House, London and occasionally programs at Alchemy Film and Moving Image Festival. She is the winner of the Aesthetica Art Prize 2020 and the inaugural Louis Le Prince Experimental Film Prize. She was educated at Oxford University and the Royal College of Art.
Joiri Minaya (b. 1990) is a NY-based Dominican-United Statesian multidisciplinary visual artist whose work destabilises historic and contemporary representations of an imagined tropical identity. She studied art at the ENAV (DR), the Chavón School of Design, and Parsons. Minaya has exhibited across the Caribbean, the U.S., and internationally. She recently received a NYSCA / NYFA Artist Fellowship, a Jerome Hill Fellowship, and a NY Artadia award, and has participated in residencies at Skowhegan, Smack Mellon, LES Printshop, Socrates Sculpture Park, Art Omi, ISCP, Vermont Studio Center, New Wave, Silver Art Projects, and Fountainhead, among others. Minaya’s work is in the collections of the Santo Domingo Museo de Arte Moderno, the Centro León Jiménes, the Kemper Museum, El Museo del Barrio, and several private collections.
Maya Jeffereis’s work has been shown in the United States and internationally, including at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Queens Museum, and A.I.R. Gallery, among others. Jeffereis is a recipient of the NYFA City Corps Artists Grant and Cisneros Initiative for Latin American Art. She has been a participant in Asia Art Archive in America and an artist-in-residence at Lower Manhattan Cultural Center (LMCC), NARS Foundation, Banff Centre for Arts & Creativity, Vermont Studio Center, Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts, and SOMA Mexico. She has taught art and art history at The Museum of Modern Art, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, The Shed, Parsons School of Design, and Hunter College (CUNY), among other institutions. Jeffereis received a MFA from Hunter College and BFA and BA from the University of Washington.
Astria Suparak is an artist, writer, and curator based in Oakland, California. Her cross-disciplinary projects address complex and urgent issues (like institutionalised racism, feminisms and gender, colonialism) made accessible through a popular culture lens, such as science fiction movies, rock music, and sports. Straddling creative and scholarly work, the projects often take the form of publicly available tools and databases, chronicling subcultures and omitted perspectives.
Over the last year, Suparak’s creative projects have been exhibited and performed at MoMA, ICA LA, the Walker Art Center, the Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts, and as part of the For Freedoms billboard series. She has curated exhibitions, screenings, and performances for art institutions and festivals including the Liverpool Biennial, Museo Rufino Tamayo, The Kitchen, Eyebeam, MoMA PS1, and Expo Chicago, as well as for unconventional spaces, such as roller-skating rinks, sports bars, and rock clubs. Suparak is the winner of the 2022 San Francisco Bay Area Artadia Award.