Video, 3:05 minutes (available with or without English subtitles)
Commissioned by the Berkeley Art Center
*OFFICIAL RELEASE on February 2nd at: www.berkeleyartcenter.org/astria-suparak
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.
With examples from major sci-fi productions spanning four decades, the video reveals this trope as a poor attempt to mask white supremacist imagination and casting. This well-trodden shortcut is meant to create the appearance of a diverse world without hiring non-white people in any significant capacity (in front of or behind the camera).
Soundtracked by Vietnamese French beatmaker Onra, who deftly blends traditional and pop Chinese music from the 1960s with hip-hop, Virtually Asian is Thai American artist Astria Suparak’s first video work.
Virtually Asian is part of Suparak’s ongoing research project, Asian futures, without Asians, which is a typology of how white mainstream filmmakers depict future worlds that are Asian-inflected, while simultaneously sidelining or disappearing the progenitors of those diverse Asian cultures. The project, which draws from the histories of art, architecture, design, fashion, film, food, and weaponry, will be unveiled throughout 2021 in various forms, including digital projects, illustrated presentations, and visual essays, presented by contemporary art institutions, a science-fiction festival, a film journal, and other organizations.
View subtitled version here.
THE OPTION TO…
Berkeley Art Center, Berkeley, California
October 2020—February 2021
Artists: Kimberley Acebo Arteche, Adia Millett, Roya Ebtahaj, Feral Fabric, Dionne Lee, Astria Suparak
Berkeley Art Center presents a series of newly commissioned projects by artists working in video, animation, writing, textiles, photography, and interactive media. As part of its response to the pandemic, and inspired by the Feminist Art Coalition’s call to draw attention to works informed by various feminisms, Berkeley Art Center will unveil these projects every few weeks during the exhibition run.
Congratulations Pine Tree podcast
“This is the toast of the town! Astria Suparak has a new video essay called ‘Virtually Asian’ [….] that has been put out by the Berkeley Art Center. […] It is a video essay which 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 — oh weird! — while the main cast is devoid of actual Asian people. And we heard a lot about the making of this project, and it is very incisive. Interesting project, everyone should watch that. Maybe you should organize a viewing parting with your friends, Listeners. A little get-together. A virtual viewing party.” – Congratulations Pine Tree, February 9, 2021