I am absolutely honored to be part of “Love in the Time of War” traveling exhibit curated by Việt Lê and Jennifer Vanderpool.

http://loveinthetimeofwar.com

UC Santa Barbara Glass Box Gallery: August 4-25, 2016
SF Camerawork: September 1 – October 15, 2016

Opening Reception + Artist Talk:
Thursday, September 1 @ 6-8pm

Artivist Panel + Closing Reception:
Saturday, October 15 @ 6-8pm


UC Santa Barbara and SF Camerawork are pleased to present new lens- and body- based work addressing personal intimacies and political violence by transnational artists with ties to Southeast Asia, Europe, the U.S., and in-between. A website featuring special online-only artist projects and a full-color print catalogue accompanies the show.


What’s the relationship between war and intimacy, between politics and the personal, the body and the body politic? The artists in this group exhibition embody the contradictions of engaging love—its contingency and urgency— in a time of eternal wars.


ARTISTS:
Anida Yoeu Ali | Bo | Francisco Camacho Herrera | Nguyễn Quốc Thành | Amy Sanford | Trinh T Minh-ha | Delicious Taste | Studio Revolt | Vănguard | Lyno Vuth | Bruce Yonemoto

Here’s an interview I did with a press after Queer Comics Expo at SOMArts. My interview ended up not being included, so I’m sharing it with you here!

• How did you get your start in comics? What was it about the medium that attracted you (as both a creator and a reader)? What is it about the medium that makes it an effective form of storytelling for you?

I approached comics as a medium of self-determination, healing, and critical thinking. I was initially attracted to comics due to its accessibility and the possibilities that the relationship between words and images opens up for my memories. I want to remember things differently. I want to challenge our practices of recognition from ground up. I want to explore other life-affirming ways we can be in relationship with one another. I dwell on the nonlinearity of the medium and enjoy creating multiple entry points for others to engage with my content—maybe through character design, drawings, visual storytelling aesthetics, emotional resonance, etc. I use humor to establish a sense of agency, to decenter dominant narratives (immigration, trans embodiment, queer of color identity politics, community activism, etc), and most importantly to render the space of margins as inhabitable and empowering. I’m using comics to build community in tangible ways—drawing people into participating in my struggle and also for me to participate in theirs. This is how I imagine the healing process and stage a paradigm shift.

• How would you describe your work? What do you hope people take away from it? What is your goal with your work?

I consider most of my comics some form of graphic memoir, because I use my emotional truth as a starting point of exploration and engagement. I use visual storytelling as a platform to think critically. Also, my work is very much manga-inspired, since I’m drawn to the nonlinear visual storytelling of manga. There are many instances where I disrupt the normative left-to-right reading order by breaking panel borders and forcing the reader to move their eyes around the page. For Memory of an Avalanche particularly, the storytelling style is a bit choppy and works like an emotional rollercoaster. That’s because I use the concept of impossibility as an organizing principle of the entire graphic memoir, as a way to articulate the inarticulable violence, which is the lived reality of those inhabiting multiple margins. I’m using this storytelling style to disrupt romanticized narratives of survival (e.g., marriage, citizenship, graduation, etc) and disorient the reader from what they’re usually comfortable with. I’m strategically (and literally) opening up the “in-between” space, the spatiotemporal location between “before” and “after,” and to resignify what markers of “survival” and “success” mean via both form and content.

• What role do you think events like QCE play in the larger comic industry? How was your experience tabling at the event (what was the reception like from people who saw your work there)? Is this your first time at QCE?

This was my first time at QCE, but I’ve participated in other similar events such as APAture, craft fairs, and community panels. It’s always been very life-affirming to experience people interacting with my work—to pick up the comics and flip through them. That’s very meaningful for me. I feel that people are generally very supportive of my work, which I’m absolutely grateful for. There’s always an element of surprise when showing my work to the public, of finding unexpected readers and accomplices. I really dig that, especially when people laugh and get my humor.

Check this out! My essay on trans of color artistic production, Asian American racialization, and diasporic queer critiques of globalization was recently published in Critical Ethnic Studies: A Reader.
https://www.dukeupress.edu/critical-ethnic-studies

MEMORY OF AN AVALANCHE Q&A

Last month Aiden Gleisberg and Rebekah Edwards kindly invited me to present on Memory of an Avalanche in their Foundations in Critical Studies: Embodiment class at the California College of the Arts. I wanted to thank everybody for all the support and warm vibes! My wall is now full of fan letters and amazing sources of inspiration to keep drawing and pushing through :)

I wanted to share my responses to some of the questions from the class…

• WHY COMICS?
I found comics to be a good medium of connection due to its accessibility. I’m interested in the possibilities that the relationship between words and images opens up for this narrative. I want to create multiple entry points for others to engage with the content—maybe through character design, drawings, shojo manga aesthetics, emotional resonance, etc. I want to exploit humor to establish a sense of agency, to decenter dominant narratives (immigration, trans embodiment, queer of color identity politics, community activism, etc), and most importantly to render the space of margins as inhabitable and empowering. I’m using comics to build community in tangible ways and to draw people into participating in my struggle. This is how I imagine the healing process and initiate a paradigm shift.

• WHY GRAPHIC MEMOIR?
I’m using the illusion of truth often associated with the genre of graphic memoir to instigate discomfort and validate the existence of margins. However, while I’m categorizing my work as a graphic memoir for others to take this narrative seriously, at the same time I’m disrupting this very dichotomy of truth VS lies, questioning the significance of that distinction in processes of identity construction and relational practices. The content of my work challenges this truth-lie dichotomy by poking fun at the audience’s curiosity itself. If one is wondering whether or not any part of my narrative is true, they are, in the logic of the story, rendering themself a cultural authority—akin to the court clerk, the immigration officer, or the doctor who constantly questions the legitimacy of the protagonist’s identity and existence (i.e., “Is Bo a good or bad immigrant?”). So in a sense, I’m using the “graphic memoir” genre as a two-pronged approach—to normalize the existence of margins and to subvert the cultural conditions that create and maintain those very margins.

• MY STYLE
My work is very much manga-inspired. I’m drawn to the nonlinear modality of visual storytelling in manga. There are many instances where I disrupt the normative left-to-right reading order by breaking panel borders and forcing the reader to move their eyes around the page. That’s another way I’m enhancing this aspect of emotional truth. In terms of the drawing, I feel that comics is an art of abstraction. One rule I have for abstracting my characters is that they must in some way remain racially recognizable (or strategically unrecognizable) as well as legible in terms of gender embodiment. I spend a lot of time on background work, which is typical of most manga, since I want to build a world that’s comprehensible and relatable, to exaggerate the illusion of truth. In terms of the storytelling style, my comic is a bit choppy and works like an emotional rollercoaster. That’s because I use the concept of impossibility as an organizing principle of the entire graphic memoir, as a way to articulate the inarticulable violence, which is the lived reality of those inhabiting multiple margins. I’m using this storytelling style to disrupt romanticized narratives of survival (e.g., marriage, citizenship, graduation, etc) and disorient the reader from what they’re usually comfortable with. I’m strategically (and literally) opening up the “in-between” space, the spatiotemporal location between “before” and “after,” and to resignify what markers of “survival” and “success” mean via both form and content.

New sequence from Memory of an Avalanche.

Sketches of the Mirage Sequence! Continuing from Dissected.

Character references in this piece are from The Shadow Hero by Gene Luen Yang and Sonny Liew: http://geneyang.com/the-shadow-hero

First page in digital colors! This is pure magic. Super proud of my vacay from the technophobe land :)

FINALLY! Here's a closer look at the Dissected sequence I just finished. These pages, along with a few other illustrations from Memory of an Avalanche, will be featured in Glitter Bomb, the National Queer Arts Festival visual art exhibit--opens this Thursday June 4 at SOMArts (http://qcc2.org/glitter-bomb-exhibition). Please come by and check it out if you can :)

I literally finished half a semester's worth of work in less than two weeks....eek! All the art is hand drawn & inked, and the lettering is done in Photoshop. I decided to avoid pre-made screentones this time around and draw all the textures and emanatas (visual effects) by hand. Lots of work but worth it. I went back to manga how-to books from good old days and practiced lots of cross-hatching and speedlines. I also had to learn how to do digital lettering from scratch despite school computer lab nightmares and limited equipment access. Shout out to Grace for last min tech rescue!

Again, here's the recap of the scene:

This scene takes place exactly one year before DOMA was struck down, where only “opposite-sex” marriages were allowed in California and subsequently qualified for immigration benefits. The protagonist and his partner are trying to pass as an “opposite-sex” couple to get married—first step in the game of marriage petition for permanent residency.

Queer Affinities. A page from my graphic memoir done in Alison Bechdel style.

Here we go, my first post!! Thank you for visiting my web page and checking out my work! Putting stuff up online was sure an accomplishment for a technophobe :P but taking this first step was an empowering move, and I really appreciate your presence here.

I have been wanting to share the images of my work process. Here are some from Refractions, a potential back cover of my graphic memoir Memory of an Avalanche. It's a multi-step process--I generally do everything by hand up to the post-production stage. This piece was essentially made for a "compression" assignment, where the entire story must be told within the space of one page: 4 panels with 2 words of narration per each.

So I began by working out the concepts and compositions, heavily referencing the figures and backgrounds, doing a tight sketch, transferring the sketch onto a good comics paper (11 x 17"), then inking the whole thing by hand (brushes for large, organic areas and dip pen for details). Afterwards, I scanned the inked work and applied digital screentones, which are patterns of lines and dots commonly used in Japanese manga.

How can "invisible" forms of violence be visually represented? Is it even possible? My main challenge was to articulate the simultaneity of intersectional oppressions in a visually recognizable format. Of course representing the entire story, the inarticulable trauma, and the visceral effects of border enforcement within the structure of linear temporality was an impossible task. But reckoning with this condition of impossibility was a starting point to come up with my own ethics of representation.

Someone said they read the piece as the protagonist traversing (or falling through the cracks of) multiple institutional spaces, and that it is these very conditions of violence that precisely facilitate the possibilities of resistance, as can be seen from the interstice of accomplices in the bottom panel (protagonist's friend and partner). Some other folks mentioned reading the rectangular panels as tarot cards, particularly because of the curious narration. Here we have the dealing of cards, the uncertainty of the protagonist's fate, the irony of chance carefully calculated by the matrix of state and capital, like the idea of the diversity lottery visa.

Next time I'll upload work process photos from my first sequence, Dissected. But first I've gotta get it done! Please send me good vibes :)