Meditations on the African, Andean & Asian Diasporas

Curated by artist William Cordova for Round 32 of Project Row Houses, eco, xiang, echo brings together a multigenerational group of artists from various backgrounds and geographic locations. Working in photography, performance, installation, drawing and sculpture, each artist presents work that addresses the often-overlooked connections between distinct cultures. These connections range from paralleling historical narratives to fantastical freedom dreamscapes. This project is a platform for a continued dialogue around the notions of collective consciousness in the Diasporas represented in this exhibition.

Participating Artists include Crystal Campbell, Albert Chong, Coco Fusco, Marina Gutierrez, Ayana V. Jackson, Minette Mangahas, Glexis Novoa, Mendi and Keith Obadike.

The exhibition is open and free to the public from March 27 through June 20, 2010:

Project Row Houses

2521 Holman Street

Houston, Texas

Artist/Community Talk

Thursday, March 25, 2010


Open Forum: Diaspora: Connections & Crossroads: a moderated conversation with local and national students, social activists, educators and artists.

Saturday, May 22, 2010


Also on view in conjunction with Fotofest, Project Row House presents new works by New York/ Philadelphia based artist Nsenga Knight

The Evidence
of Things Not Seen/Part 3

Crystal Z. Campbell works with materials and transforms them through labor-intensive processes or juxtaposition. Campbell’s African-American, Filipina and Chinese ancestry inform her ongoing interest in the narrative of absence. She works with photography, sculpture, drawing, video and site-specific installations.

In her installation at Project Row Houses, Passing: The Evidence of Things Not Seen/ Part 3 (2010) is a site-specific installation dedicated to Campbell’s recently deceased grandmother and uncle. The concept of death or that of “passing” extends beyond cultural boundaries and refers closely to moving from a physical existence to an immaterial or spirit existence. Both the interior and exterior of her installation are activated by simple yet powerful interventions. The installation is part memorial and part imaginary conversation with the spirit realm using tarnished earrings, bobby pins and yard tools from the departed. During the day, the house retains its original façade of chipped white paint. At night, the house’s exterior physically transforms into a supernatural façade that emits a curious glow.

Crystal Z. Campbell, originally from Oklahoma, is currently a third-year Master of Fine Arts (MFA) Candidate in Visual Arts at the University of California-San Diego. She was am artist-in-residence at the New Children’s Museum in San Diego, Vermont Studio Center and NES Artist Residency in Skagaströnd, Iceland. In 2003, She was a participant in the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture Residency.

Faces From My Past

Albert Chong is a contemporary artist working in the mediums of photography, installation, sculpture, and video. His work engages directly with personal mysticism, race, ethnicity and identity. Chong’s imagery is a visual celebration of beauty, ancestry and spirituality.

In his installation at Project Row Houses, Faces From My Past (2010) consists of complex photographic collages. The large-scale collages are a culmination of portraits pulled from Chong’s personal archived photographs of friends and strangers. He digitally removed the faces of the individuals from the original photographs and used them as the pixels or building blocks for the recreation of larger scaled photographs of various people. The faces depicted in the larger photographs are primarily people of African and Asian descent, but also include people of European descent. The layering effect in this work becomes symbolic of how generations and communities build upon the knowledge and existence of others.

Albert Chong was born in Kingston, Jamaica, W. I. He attended the School of Visual Arts in 
New York City where he received a BFA. Chong was awarded a 1992 Individual Artist Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts. In 1998 he was awarded the prestigious Guggenheim Fellowship in the field of photography and in the same year the Pollock Krasner Grant. He represented his country origin: Jamaica in four international 
biennials, including the 2001 Venice Benniale, the 1998 Sao Paulo 
Biennale and the seventh Havana Biennial in Cuba in 2000 and the 
first Johannesburg Biennial.

Dolores from 10 to 10

Coco Fusco’s work combines electronic media and performance in a variety of formats, from staged multi-media performances incorporating large scale projections and closed circuit television to live performances streamed to the internet that invite audiences to chart the course of action through chat interaction. Her most recent work deals with the role of female interrogators in the War on Terror. These works include Operation Atropos (a film about interrogation training), and A Room of One’s Own (a monologue about female interrogators).

For her installation at Project Row Houses, Dolores from 10 to 10 (1998) is installed in the two story building on Holman Street. In the summer of 1998, on a research trip to Tijuana, Mexico, Coco Fusco met Delfina Rodriguez, a maquiladora (factory assembly line) worker who had been accused by her employer of trying to start a union in the plant. To coerce her into resigning, her manager had locked her in a room without food, water, bathroom or phone for twelve hours. She had signed a letter of resignation under duress and then, once she was released, she sued her former employer for violation of her civil rights. Her boss told the judge that she was insane, that nothing had happened and that she had no proof. Rodriguez’s co-workers were afraid to testify on her behalf. Fusco was convinced that there must have been surveillance cameras recording what happened to her during her internment. Dolores from 10 to 10 is Fusco’s interpretation of what the cameras saw.

Coco Fusco is a New York-based interdisciplinary artist, writer and Chair of the Fine Art Department at Parsons/The New School for Design. She has performed, lectured, exhibited and curated around the world since 1988. She is a recipient of a 2003 Herb Alpert Award in the Arts. Fusco’s performances and videos have been included in such events as the Sydney Biennale, The Johannesburg Biennial, The Kwangju Biennale, The Shanghai Biennale, InSite O5, Transmediale, The London International Theatre Festival, VideoBrasil and Performa05. She is the author of English is Broken Here: Notes on Cultural Fusion in the Americas (1995) and The Bodies that Were Not Ours and Other Writings (2001), and A Field Guide for Female Interrogators (2008). She is also the editor of Corpus Delecti: Performance Art of the Americas (1999) and Only Skin Deep: Changing Visions of the American Self (2003). Fusco was also featured in the 2008 Whitney Biennial.

Persistence Of Site - Tupac/2pakeko*
with a sound installation by Charles Edward Fambro

Marina Gutierrez combines traditional folk art forms, using ‘pre’ and ‘post’ industrial materials, to create visual narratives, recounting themes of personal and cultural history, political events and ecological commentary. Whether sewing metal, choreographing video, or refashioning metal can fruits into dresses or tablecloths, each media is chosen as specific language for the story told.

For her installation at Project Row Houses, Persistence of Site – Tupac/2Pakeco (2010) combines drawing, sculpture and printmaking. In this layered installation, Guiterrez explores concepts of trade, travel, exploitation and global capitalism. She finds parallels between the icon of colonial resistance in South America: Tupac Amaru and that of the tragic contemporary global hip hop icon: Tupac Shakur. Accompanying her installation, Charles Edward Fambro’s sound piece uses a compositional technique that is pure hip-hop, though distinct from what is commercially recognizable as such. In his sound work, he explores similar concepts as Guiterrez, and explores them through musical roots that connect folk cultures through sound.

Active in Public and Community Arts, Marina Gutierrez received New York City Arts Commission Design Awards for the Imagination Playground, Prospect Park and sculpture in the Julia de Burgos Center. She directs a free arts program for City high-school students and co-authored ART/ VISION / VOICE Cultural Conversations in Community.

Charles Edward Fambro is a Sound Composer, free turntablist, and visual artist.

Commuter Vans and No Man’s Land:

Ayana V. Jackson explores global narratives through photographic essays. Often traveling to and with her subjects, Jackson explores the concept of diaspora with intimacy.

For her installation at Project Row Houses, Commuter Vans and No Man’s Land (2010) explores the role of migration (whether forced or voluntary). By challenging the significance of borders by encouraging alliances created along the lines of trade networks and cultural solidarity rather than geographic boundaries, Jackson’s photographs make connections. In addition, she has installed a selection from her series: African By Legacy, Mexican By Birth, inspired by the maroon Yanga of Mexico who valiantly fought for the liberation of his people and assured the continuing presence of Afro Mexicans as an integral part of the African legacy in the Americas.

Ayana V. Jackson received her BA from Spelman College and studied under Khaterina Sieverding at the University of Arts Berlin (Germany). She has exhibited her work in association with Gallery MOMO (RSA), Rush Arts Gallery, A Gathering of the Tribes, Galerie Peter Herrmann (Germany), San Francisco Mexican Museum, the Franklyn H. Williams CCC/African Diaspora Institute, and CulturesFrance (FR). She has received grants from the Inter
America Foundation and Puma Creative, the latter supporting her participation in the 2009 Bamako African Photography Biennial. Her photography can be found in publications including “Souls: A Critical Journal of Black Politics, Culture, and Society” (Columbia University) and Camera Austria. She has lectured and conducted workshops at university and arts institutions in the US, Colombia, Mexico, Venezuela, and Nicaragua.

Skin Script

Balat Pagsulat

magdala sa liwanag
sa tinta
sa balat
mga dantaon
tinuklas at niwala
mga tao
kaninong dila
sa pagtataanan
sa mga lupa
sa kabila nang dagat

Skin Script

bring to light
in ink
on skin
found and lost
whose tongues
in flight
to lands
across the sea

“When the Spaniards first arrived in Luzon, they found the Filipinos of the Manila Bay region so literate in an indigenous script called baybayin that the missionaries printed Juan de Plasencia’s Doctrina Christiana in the Philippine script with wood-blocks in Tagalog in 1593.”

-William Henry Scott, (Prehispanic Source Materials for the Study of Philippine History)

I am fascinated with letterforms and their capacity to tell stories—not just through words, but also in the meaning embodied in the gestures and marks themselves. Calligraphy is a platform for power and subversion. It is a vehicle for definition, a means of branding identity, and a spiritual path (New Day Publishers, Quezon City, 1984)

Despite its eminence amongst pre-colonial cultures, the indigenous script Baybayin (also known as Alibata) virtually disappeared from popular use in the Philippines. In the 1990’s, after over a hundred years in obscurity, a few artists in California discovered the script in obscure academic studies and brought it back to life by tattooing it on the skins of Filipinos in the US. Because of the Internet, it is now a global phenomenon.
What I find compelling in the story of Baybayin’s disappearance and resurrection is that it is a metaphor for people in diaspora everywhere. Baybayin today is a mark of defiance and self-determination. We discover and define ourselves through our symbols. In learning Baybayin myself and piecing together its story through research and interviews, I felt like I had the privilege of both peering back in time and looking into a mirror.

For her installation at Project Row Houses, Skin Script (2010) engages the Filipino and surrounding communities around Baybayin, an almost forgotten indigenous Filipino script that predates the Spanish colonization but was virtually eliminated by the end of 400 years of colonial rule. It has enjoyed a resurgence in the US in the form of tattoos as a way to mark and trace identity.

Lee Mangahas layers calligraphic painting, video, animation, and performance. Mangahas’ work has been featured at venues such as the Pacific Asia Museum in Los Angeles, the Euphrat Museum of Art, Museo de Arte y Diseño Contemporáneo Costa Rica, the Oakland Museum of California, the San Francisco Apature Festival, and the Arario Gallery in New York.

A.C.P.O.Z.T. (Afro-Cuban Party Orlando Zapata Tamayo)

Landscape of discourses.

Glexis Novoa Vian grew up as an active part of the Cuban socialist process--with the moral responsibility to be “the new man” inspired by the mythical figure of Ernesto “Che” Guevara, he focused his artistic investigations on studying aesthetic patterns that represented the socialist system’s ideology. Educated in a society of scientific materialist ideology and versed in Marxism and Leninism, he learned the essence of their ideology. Later, in practice, with the influence of perestroika and the fall of the Berlin Wall, he was able to deconstruct his own history.

His intention is to synthesize in a "unique" form the diverse subliminal resources of manipulation by ideological, religious, political, or financial systems, which define the appearance of cities, creating a discourse of landscapes.

The meticulous drawings aim to seduce the spectator with panoramas of the marvelous-terrible and provoke reflections not so drastic within the global context. His work is inspired by the future as the irrefutable terrain of today's politicians', theologists', and ideologists' promises.

Glexis Novoa Vian is a Cuban-born visual artist living and working in Miami and Havana since 1995. His work have been exhibited internationally in numerous institutions including: Henry Street Settlement/Abrons Art Center, New York; Nassau County Museum, Roslyn Harbor, New York; Museo de Arte Carrillo Gil, Mexico DF; El Museo del Barrio, New York; Instituto Tomie Ohtake,Sao Paulo, Brazil; Centro de Cultura Contemporania, Barcelona; Blaffer Gallery, University of Texas, Houston; Cheekwood Museum, Nashville, Tennessee; City Art Museum Ljublana, Ljublana, Slovenia; Bass Museum, Miami Beach; Massachusetts College of Art, Boston, Massachusetts; The Bronx Museum, New York; Mexic-Art, Austin, Texas; Nexus Contemporary Art Center, Atlanta; Miami Art Central, Miami; The University Art Museum, University of California, Santa Barbara; Fundación CAIXA, Palma de Mallorca; Centro de Arte Santa Mónica, Barcelona; Lowe Art Museum, University of Miami, Coral Gables; Miami Art Museum, Miami; Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, Havana; Porin Taide Museo, Pori, Finland; Mucsarnok Museum, Budapest, Hungary; Palffy Palace, Vienna; Centro Atlántico de Arte Moderno, Las Palmas, Canary Islands; Pittsburgh Center for the Art, Pittsburgh; The Snite Museum of Art, University of Notre Dame, Notre Dame, Indiana; Temple Bar Gallery, Dublin, Ireland; Weatherspoon Gallery, University of North Carolina, Greensboro, North Carolina; Worcester Art Museum Worcester, Massachusetts; Locust Project Miami, Florida; Espacio Aglutinador, Havana; Städtische Kunsthalle Düsseldorf, Dusseldorf, among others. Since 1987 he curates numerous exhibitions including Killing Time; a survey documentation of the Cuban performance Art of the 1980s (Exit Art, New York 2007). He was a recipient of The Cintas Fellowship Award, New York 2006.

Sonic Mbari
(Praise House)

Mendi + Keith Obadike make music, art and literature.

For their installation at Project Row Houses,
Sonic Mbari (Praise House) (2010) uses the Igbo (Nigerian) concept of the Mbari. An Mbari is a traditional Igbo community-commissioned gallery. Decorated with abstract patterns and filled with art objects, an Mbari is usually created by an artist for a specific community. It functions as a religious offering, and its purpose is to praise, thank, or appease the gods. At the center of an Mbari is a representation of Ala (the goddess of the Earth) and her husband, Amadi-Oha (the god of thunder). They are using this Sonic Mbari as a gallery for the Third Ward community in Houston, TX. The soundscape in this installation is a combination of original music and sounds combined with the sounds of the Third Ward community. Sonic Mbari is a companion piece to and contains narrative elements taken from their recent opera-masquerade, Four Electric Ghosts.

Mendi + Keith Obadike make music, art and literature. Their works include The Sour Thunder, an Internet opera; Crosstalk: American Speech Music; a suite of new media artworks, Black.Net.Art Actions; Big House / Disclosure, a 200 hour public sound installation (Northwestern University); Armor and Flesh: poems; and Four Electric Ghosts, an opera-masquerade commissioned by The Kitchen. Their intermedia work has been commissioned by, exhibited at, and performed at the New Museum, The NY African Film Festival and Electronic Arts Intermix, Whitechapel Art Gallery (London), The Gene Siskel Film Center, The Studio Museum in Harlem, and The Whitney Museum of Art.

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