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Imagine Otherwise: Solomon Enos, Abigail Romanchak, and John Hina (Prime) on Native Hawaiian Food Security

Imagine Otherwise: Solomon Enos, Abigail Romanchak, and John Hina (Prime) on Native Hawaiian Food Security

retro
June 28, 2017
John Hina wearing a blue shirt and lavender jacket, Abigail Romanchak wearing a black shirt and brown pants kneeling on the floor making art, and Solomon Enos wering a black shirt with a yellow fruit on his head

How can shared space drive artistic, healing collaborations? In what ways can art intervene in processes of consumerism, global warming, and the environmental effects of the toy market?

In episode 42 of the Imagine Otherwise podcast, host Cathy Hannabach interviews artists Solomon Enos, Abigail Romanchak, and John Hina (Prime), who share their experiences working with the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Museum’s innovative ‘Ae Kai Culture Lab exhibit in Honolulu, Hawai’i.

‘Ae Kai is organized by the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center (APAC). Following 2016’s transformational Culture Labs—CrossLines in Washington DC and CTRL+ALT in New York City—‘Ae Kai will continue APAC’s practice of community building through curated art making. ‘Ae Kai is the biggest Culture Lab to date, and most of ‘Ae Kai’s participants are based in or rooted in Hawai‘i, with the majority of artists identifying as Pacific Islanders.

Across the three episodes of this miniseries, Cathy talks with curators, artists, and scholars involved with ‘Ae Kai about the themes that this Culture Lab brings together, ranging from climate change and environmental activism in Hawai‘i, solidarities and activism across the Pacific archipelago, queer and trans Indigenous art, Hawaiian sovereignty and the ongoing fight against US colonialism in the region, and the way that the racial, gender, national, decolonial, and environmental convergences of Hawai‘i help us imagine and produce different worlds.

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Guests: Solomon Enos, Abigail Romanchak, and John Hina

Solomon Enos is a Native Hawaiian artist born and raised in the Makaha Valley in O‘ahu, Hawai‘i. A self-described “intelligent optimist,” Solomon’s art expresses his aspirational vision of the world at its best, which is, at times, deployed through poly-fantastic (science fiction) narratives. His work touches on themes of ancestry and identity, the human relationship with the Earth, and the future of Hawai‘i, its people, and its resources.

Abigail Romanchak is a visual artist and printmaker based in Hawai’i who uses her prints to empower and assert a Native Hawaiian sense of identity. As an artist she seeks to perpetuate traditional Hawaiian culture through contemporary means so that it may endure for generations to come.

John Hina (“Prime”) is an American graffiti artist who is based in Honolulu, Hawai’i. He is the founder of the 808 Urban Collective, which brings together community cultural workers, artists, organizers, and volunteers committed to improving the quality of life through arts programming. His unique method of youth development is rooted in the art of graffiti muralism, a visual vocabulary of the streets that he has harnessed as a cultural tool for positive social change.

Abigail Romanchak wearing a black shirt and olive pants. Quote reads: I want a world that is safe—not just safe from war and violence, but a world where it's safe to express yourself no matter what race, gender, political, or religious background you come from. In a way, the Smithsonian culture labs feel like a model for this.

We chatted about

  • How the three artists interpret ‘Ae Kai’s theme of convergence in their work (3:00)
  • Themes that emerge in the artists’ ‘Ae Kai projects and across their previous work (7:00)
  • The benefits of convening at ‘Ae Kai, mingling with fellow artists and local communities (9:00)
  • The collaborations involved in their art (12:45)
  • How the structure of a “Culture Lab” affects their work (16:00)
  • Imagining otherwise (20:00)

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Takeaways

How the three artists interpret ‘Ae Kai’s theme of convergence in their work

Abigail: I’m going to be interpreting the theme of ‘Ae Kai quite literally. I’m really interested in how the current volcanic activity of Puʻu ʻŌʻō crater on Hawai’i island affects existing costal landscapes. With my work I’m going to be looking at the convergence of land and sea and focusing on imagery from underground magma movement.

Prime: Thinking about our shorelines got me thinking about importing and exporting, because we import everything now. I wanted to take this opportunity instead of going with the visual arts as I usually do.

Solomon: What I decided to do was create a series of sculptures that look at one glance like the neatest, latest Japanese manga robot. But these are plant-based robots. They are robots that are farmed and have grown from the earth. And because of it, when they get deprogrammed, there’s nothing toxic about them, they just return to the earth again.

Prime (John Hina) wearing a blue shirt. Quote reads: What do we feed each other? Not just physical food but spiritual food. What do we grow, what do we cultivate? When I think about how do we change the world, it's really how do we feed each other.

Themes that emerge in the artists’ ‘Ae Kai projects and across their previous work:

Abigail: My grandfather, Agatin Abbott, was a geologist, and he was a professor at the University of Hawai’i, and published the book Volcanoes in the Sea. Growing up with that book in the house and knowing his work as a geologist in Hawai’i, I’m excited to continue on with the family tradition of researching geology in Hawai’i.

Prime: [I’m creating] something that’s out of my own personal box…designing a store where money has no value, only people and relationships carry value. Over here, if we go to someone’s house we’ll take a gift. But [at my ‘Ae Kai store], you come to a store and they’ll gift you. Come to the store with the wrong attitude, and you’ll get nothing. It’s that relationship-building that I wanted to establish here for my installation and for the people visiting.

Solomon Enos wearing a black shirt. Quote reads: If we can crawl out of the oceans, if we can lose our tails, if we can build rocket ships, then we can love each other.

The benefits of convening at ‘Ae Kai, mingling with fellow artists and locals

Prime: Anytime we have visitors come to the islands, we take pride in representing our culture, we take pride in showing them how many great things we have to offer here in Hawai’i. For such a small island, we have everything. I chose not to go into visual art, because I feel like this was the opportunity for [visitors] to come and experience my island, and I have to show them what we have.

Abigail: It really encouraged me to carry on with the vision I proposed, because I feel like I got such an enthusiastic response from my fellow ‘Ae Kai artists, and I definitely brought that back to my studio as I continued to carve and print these plates.

The value of collaboration

Prime: We’ve been working together, me and Sol, we’ve known each other for years, so this is another opportunity for us to get to share breath in the same space and then share it with everyone else.

Solomon: [‘Ae Kai is] providing a pop-up collective dream that collectively allows the community that dream manifests in to collectively dream for a little while around an idea. And then when it disappears, it stays. It’s a memory that people have about going to a show, being exposed to 50, 100 different kinds of ideas.

Abigail: This collaboration was rather serendipitous, because I asked [Charlie Cohan] if he would help me print these wood blocks, due to the size and the technical difficulty that’s involved with printing large. Once he realized the imagery I was working with and the plates I was carving, he couldn’t believe how similar it is to the current work he’s producing.

The Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center’s innovative approach

Prime: I really love the Smithsonian APAC approach. It’s different ideas from different cultures and different communities in one space. The interactions between artists, their display, and people for a short period of time in a really great location. I think that’s a really great formula that all museums should start looking into.

Solomon: If you’re exposed to 50 different radical ideas in such a condensed space, you’re going to walk out of there at least unlocking a little bit of who you are as an individual—the espresso shot of an experience. What these Culture Labs represent to me is so important.

Imagining otherwise

Abigail: I want a world that is safe—not just safe from war and violence, but a world where it’s safe to express yourself, no matter what race, gender, political, or religious background you come from.

Solomon: There’s a whole ecosystem of a family of idealists. I think when you talk about idealism, the further far out the idea is, the longer the lever. So the further you go, the more torque you can have. In other words, you need wacko, love-rage thinkers like myself, as well as you need folks like Prime who ask, what do we do about it now?

More from Solomon, Abigail, and Prime

Projects and people discussed

About Imagine Otherwise

Imagine Otherwise is a podcast about the people and projects bridging art, activism, and academia to build better worlds. Episodes offer in-depth interviews with creators who use culture for social justice, and explore the nitty-gritty work of imagining and creating more just worlds. Check out full podcast episodes and show notes at ideasonfire.net/imagine-otherwise-podcast. Imagine Otherwise is produced by Ideas on Fire, an academic editing and consulting agency helping progressive, interdisciplinary scholars write and publish awesome texts, enliven public conversations, and create more just worlds.

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    Transcript

    Cathy Hannabach [00:03]: [upbeat music in background] Welcome to Imagine Otherwise, the podcast about the people and projects bridging art, activism, and academia to build better worlds. Episodes offer in-depth interviews with creators who use culture for social justice and explore the nitty-gritty work of imagining otherwise. I’m your host, Cathy Hannabach. [music fadeout]

    [00:23] This is a special episode of the Imagine Otherwise podcast and is the last in our three part mini series, exploring the ‘Ae Kai Culture Lab coming up July 7–9 in Honolulu, Hawai‘i.

    ‘Ae Kai is organized by the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center, otherwise known as APAC. Most of its participants are based in or rooted in Hawai‘i with the majority of artists identifying as Pacific Islanders. Across the three episodes of this miniseries, I talk with curators, artists, and scholars involved with ‘Ae Kai about the themes that this culture lab brings together: ranging from climate change and environmental activism in Hawai‘i, solidarities and activism across the Pacific archipelago, queer and trans indigenous art, Hawaiian sovereignty and the ongoing fight against US colonialism in the region, and the way that racial, gender, national, decolonial, and environmental convergences in Hawai‘i help us imagine and produce different worlds.

    [01:21] In this episode, I talk with three of the artists participating in ‘Ae Kai: Solomon Enos, Abigal Romanchak, and John Hina, otherwise known as Prime.

    Solomon is a Native Hawaiian artist born and raised in the Makaha Valley in O‘ahu, Hawai‘i. A self-described “intelligent optimist,” Solomon’s art expresses his aspirational vision of the world at its best, which is, at times, deployed through poly-fantastic (science fiction) narratives. His work touches on themes of ancestry and identity, the human relationship with the Earth, and the future of Hawai‘i, its people, and its resources.

    Abigail is a visual artist and printmaker based in Hawai’i who uses her prints to empower and assert a Native Hawaiian sense of identity. As an artist she seeks to perpetuate traditional Hawaiian culture through contemporary means so that it may endure for generations to come.

    [02:20] Prime is an American graffiti artist who is based in Honolulu, Hawai’i. He is the founder of the 808 Urban Collective, which brings together community cultural workers, artists, organizers, and volunteers committed to improving the quality of life through arts programming. His unique method of youth development is rooted in the art of graffiti muralism, a visual vocabulary of the streets that he has harnessed as a cultural tool for positive social change

    In our interview, we chat about the personal and collective convergences that have shaped these artists’ lives, their visions for social change and community justice, and the pieces they are planning for the upcoming ‘Ae Kai Culture Lab.

    [To the guests] Thanks for being with us.

    Abigail Romanchak: Oh, thank you for creating this interview, Cathy. I really appreciate it.

    John Hina (Prime): Thank you.

    Solomon Enos: Mahalo.

    Cathy: So I’d love to talk about the theme of ‘Ae Kai, which is convergence. I’m curious how this is showing up in your work and how you’ve used it to approach the projects that you’re creating for the culture lab.

    Abigail [03:05]: I’m going to the interpreting that theme of ‘Ae Kai quite literally. I’m really interested in how the current volcanic activity of the Puʻu ʻŌʻō crater on Hawai‘i island affects existing coastal landscapes. So with my work, I’m going to be looking at the convergence of land and sea and focusing on imagery from underground magma movement. I’ll be carving five large-scale woodblocks. For the imagery that I’m sketching onto these woodblocks, I’ll be carving and printing our actual seismograph readings or harmonic tremors from Puʻu ʻŌʻō  crater. A seismograph or harmonic tremor is sort of like the continuous record of the underground movement of magma.

    Prime [03:53]: Thinking about our shorelines got me thinking about importing and exporting because we import everything. I wanted to take this opportunity, instead of going with the visual arts, which I usually do, to go with farming. So my idea is to take my space and create a store because [‘Ae Kai will be held on] an old store called Foodland that I remember going into many years ago. It’s an interesting place because it’s a shopping center and everyone goes there to do shopping.

    In my latest piece, I’m going to have plant food in Foodland, but your money’s no good. [I will be] bringing awareness [to the fact] that we don’t have to depend on the ship to get everything that we need. We can grow our own. If we want to change the world, we need to learn how to grow our own food and then we can start changing the way people see things.

    [I’ll be] taking Korean natural farming techniques and then using what we’re used to seeing everyday on the stores—the Pepsis and the Diet Pepsis and the [bottled] waters—and filling them up with plant food, putting it on shelves, and asking people what story do they have or what value do they have to share?

    [05:04] So it’s a few different angles that I’m going with this. I want to print out some pictures of the massive containers and all the ships that are coming in and posted them on the wall like, “Once upon a time, we used to import 95 percent of our food. And here’s where it came in, on these little vessels. But now we’re able to grow our own food.” So going back to the past, into the future, and telling people no, “You can grow your own food and you can live a much healthier life.”

    Solomon [05:33]: I love that because it’s talking about the nitty gritty. We’ve got to unpack it. What is food security, right? The nitty gritty of food security. It’s almost like we look at food security as a watch. We’ll open that up. Look at what all the gears are. Inside food security, what does it mean? I just love that. You’re breaking it down for people so that they will walk out of Foodland thinking, “Wow, yeah, I can totally transform my relationship with growing food.”

    I’m working on creating a series of these, almost like Kikaider-esque figures. [Prime laughs] When I used to go to [inaudible], I never could afford all these cool Kikaider and Kaman Rider characters. I used to just drool and look at them and be like, “Wow, I want to make my own toys.”

    [06:22] So I grew up making my own toys—Ultra Man and everything like that. So what I decided to do was create a series of sculptures that look like, at one glance, the neatest, latest Japanese Manga robot. It’s meant to be these figures which are plant-based robots. They are robots that I’ve grown from the earth. Because of it, when they get de-programed, there’s nothing toxic about them. They just returned back to the earth again. But it is basically plant-based robotics.

    Cathy [07:02]: Very cool. So are either Solomon or Abigail, are you exploring a theme that you’ve touched on in some of your earlier work? Or is this a new approach for you?

    Abigail [07:13]: I have used mapping in my past work. For the biennial at the Contemporary Museum, I use the mapping efforts of conservationists in the East Maui Watershed. I took all of their GPS tracking lines of the work they did and I carved large woodblocks and created this mosaic of prints recording the trails they created with their conservation efforts. So I’ve definitely mapped geological information before in my work. But this is new in the sense that I’ve never worked with a seismograph or harmonic imagery.

    I am interested in it not just because of the theme ‘Ae Kai and convergence and where land meets sea, but also because my grandfather Agatin Abbott was a geologist. He was a professor at the University of Hawai‘i and published the book Volcanos in the Sea. Growing up with that book in our house and knowing his work as a geologist in Hawai‘i, I am excited to continue on with the family tradition of research on geology in Hawai‘i.

    Cathy [08:26]: Several months ago, all of the artists and curators and scholars involved with ‘Ae Kai got to actually be in the same room and meet each other for the first time back in April in Honolulu. That was a very powerful experience for me and talking with other people, it seems like they had a similar reaction. I would love to hear from the three of you about that first artist’s convening, where we were all in the same space and discussing the themes that ‘Ae Kai raises. How is that first artist’s convening shaping how you’re approaching your projects?

    Prime [08:57]: Anytime we have visitors come to the islands, we take pride in representing our culture. We take pride in showing how much we have, how many great things we have to offer here in Hawai‘i for such a small island. We have everything. When people come experience the islands, they get a sense of the wonder, which why everyone likes to go to the islands. It’s not only beautiful, it’s magical and the magic is in the people. We take on that responsibility with pride and we want to give them the best of what we have. In turn, when we go to visit their space, they always make the time to give us the best that they have. So that’s the reciprocation that happens there.

    [09:50] As I was saying earlier, I chose not to go with the visual because I felt like this was the opportunity for them [visitors at the ‘Ae Kai Culture Lab] to come and experience my island and I have to show them what we have. What we have is we have so much fertility. We have a god named after the fertility that we have here. Instead of drawing a picture of what that looks like, fertility and everything that encompasses that, I wanted to take the opportunity to use the resources that we have here that I know of by going to the local farms.

    I’m currently making my production line over here for my installation and using it as a platform to display like how much Hawai‘i depends on tourism. It’s so heavy as far as consumerism. Hawai‘i, man, we’re horrible in that arena. Knowing that [the exhibit will be held at] our biggest shopping mall on the island, it just made sense for me to take this opportunity to go that route. Something that’s out of my own personal box.

    [10:54] I’m practicing it on a small scale, but I’m designing a store where money has no value, where only people and relationships carry value. Like over here, if we go to someone’s house we will take a gift. So [in my installation], if you come in to the store and bring gifts that come with the wrong attitude, you’ll get nothing. You could walk out of my store with nothing. It’s that kind of relationship building that I wanted to establish here for my installation and for the people visiting.

    Abigail [11:31 ]: I think, first of all, just to sit in a room with artists from all over the world and sharing ideas was so exciting to me to have that time to really listen to each other’s ideas about ‘Ae Kai and what convergence means to them in person. It was such a rare opportunity. So I love that.

    I personally came to the convening in April with a relatively clear vision of the work I wanted to create for ‘Ae Kai. So I don’t think that meeting with the other artists necessarily shaped my project, but rather it really encouraged me to carry on with the vision I proposed because I feel like I got such an enthusiastic response from my fellow artists. I definitely feel like I brought that energy and that enthusiasm back to my studio. And as I continue to carve and print these plates, I feel all of their excitement behind my project. I feel as if they’re here with me.

    Cathy [12:24]: Are any of you collaborating with other artists on your pieces?

    Abigail: I am. I’m going to actually be collaborating with a printmaking professor that I studied with many years ago. His name is Charlie Cohan and this collaboration was rather serendipitous because, I asked him, “Would you mind helping me print these woodblocks due to the scale, the size and the technical difficulty that’s involved with printing this large?”

    Once he realized the imagery I was working with and the plates I was carving, he couldn’t believe how similar they are to the current work he’s producing for a solo show at the Honolulu Museum of Art this December. He’s looking at the forces of geophysical change and I’m looking at what happens above and below the earth’s surfaces.

    The plates that he is creating relate perfectly to the work I’m doing. It’s this relationship between recorded and transcribed, carved imagery. Mine is from actual recordings of magma movement and his is more with his own hand, creating these strata-like lines of the earth’s surface.

    [13:42] The collaboration came about sort of midway through my process. When I proposed this to Adrian [Luis, one of the ‘Ae Kai curators], he said, “Sure, let’s, let’s bring Charlie on board and have him be a part of ‘Ae Kai.” He thinks that our print collaboration will be interesting and he can’t wait to see our prints hung side by side in the culture lab.

    Cathy: Prime and Solomon, how about you?

    Prime [14:04]: We’ve been working together and we’ve know each other for years, so it’s just another opportunity for us to get to share breath in the same space and then share with everyone else.

    Solomon [14:15]: And because we both participated in the last event [CTL+ALT Culture Lab] in New York in Manhattan, we both got a sense of what that was to create a conceptual village, a village full of concepts. [We learned how to] provide a pop-up dream, a pop-up collective dream, that collectively allows that community that the dream manifests in to collectively dream for a little while around an idea. And then when it disappears, it stays because it’s a memory that people had of going to a show, being exposed to 50 or 100 different kinds of ideas.

    It kind of makes me think about somebody who’s looking for a combination for their lock, somebody to unlock their own sense of who they are. If you go to this kind of event and are exposed to 50 radical, different kinds of ideas in such a condensed space, you’re going to walk out of there and unlock a little bit of who you are as an individual. That’s why I think the expressive shot of  an experience is what cultural labs represents to me [and why they] are so important. Not only do we want to provide a really important experience, a great experience for this event, we want these kinds of events to happen all the time.

    Cathy [15:40]: So you brought up a APAC’s culture lab model and I think this is a really fantastic example of an innovative approach to culture making and community making. How have you’ve experienced this and how has this model has helped you explore certain questions in your work?

    Prime [15:58]: The Smithsonian APAC approach is different ideas from different cultures and different communities in one space. The interaction is between artists, their displays, and people for a short period of time in a really, really great location. I think that’s a really good formula that all museums should start looking into.

    Abigail [16:20 ]: I think for me, knowing that my prints and all of the other artists’ work will be accessible to a diverse audience is what excites me most about my participation with ‘Ae Kai. I’m thrilled to know that the viewers who come to this year to the culture lab won’t feel intimidated to engage with the artists and their work. I think it’ll truly be a collaborative experience for artists and viewers, which feels way more community-minded and less exclusive. It’s such a wonderful opportunity for all of us with very different backgrounds to come together and not feel intimidated and share each other’s expertise and ideas. It’s not an opportunity I have very often as a visual artist, so I’m grateful for that.

    Solomon [17:05]: The reason why I also wanted to do good at this is that we want other institutions to fund culture labs also. So that’s what’s important. So not just the Smithsonian, but other institutions could be doing what the Smithsonian model is setting up. So it’s not only a success within the Smithsonian, but success as a role model for how other institutions can create an artistic, conceptual wing to how they communicate.

    Cathy [17:35]: So many of the artists involved with ‘Ae Kai—and you three are great examples of this—are producing work that pushes at the boundary or the relationship between humanity and the planet. Some people are approaching it through issues of climate change, some through issues of decolonization and the struggle for that in the Pacific. Some folks are approaching it through indigeneity and issues of land and identity. Are these are themes that you three have explored in your work before or is this a new opportunity with the ‘Ae Kai Culture Lab?

    Abigail [18:08 ]: You know, climate change is probably the most relevant term for my work, not so much specifically for the work that I’m creating for ‘Ae Kai, but my most recent body of work, which is now showing at the Landesmuseum in Hanover, Germany. It addresses climate change, specifically in Hawai‘i. For that exhibit, I created a series of prints that were microscopic images of diatoms. Diatoms are the skeletal wall of phytoplankton.

    I chose this image to work with because when I was thinking about climate change and ocean acidification in Hawai‘i, I thought about the diatom being this indicator of health and wellbeing in our marine ecosystems. Once our oceans become too acidic, the diatom is not able to form and, ultimately, our marine food chains collapse. I felt that these microscopic maps of wellness or destruction in our Hawaiian ocean waters had many parallels to the lives of Native Hawaiians. [They share] a similar struggle in that Hawaiians are trying to maintain and protect land and oceans. So like I said, it’s not so much present in the carvings that I’m doing for ‘Ae Kai, but it’s definitely been part of my subject matter in previous bodies of work.

    Cathy [19:25]: This brings me to my favorite and my final question, which gets at the heart of this podcast as well as what I think ‘Ae Kai is offering in terms of a model and a community. One of the things I get to talk to guests about is their version of a different world, that world that they’re working towards when they create their art, when they step in front of a classroom, when they write their novel, when they produce whatever it is that they produce magically in the universe. So I’ll ask you this big, sometimes scary question, but I think it’s a question that we don’t get enough opportunities to ask each other and we don’t get enough opportunities to answer. What kind of world are you working towards? What kind of world do you want?

    Abigail [20:07 ]: This is such a great question and I really want to thank you for asking such an important question. It’s interesting now that I’m a mother of two young children, I definitely think about the world I want that for my son and daughter to live in. This might sound trite, but I’m going to say it anyway. I want a world that is safe—not just safe from war and violence, but a world where it’s safe to express yourself no matter what race, gender, political or religious background you come from. In a way, I feel like these culture labs that the Smithsonian has created feel like a mini model for what I’m talking about it. It feels like a safe place for sharing ideas and expressing yourself, no matter how different your backgrounds may be.

    Cathy [20:48]: What about you Solomon? What kind of world are you working towards?

    Solomon: To love each other. To learn to love each other and put empathy as the most important source of power, the most important kind of power. And that we create systems which cultivate empathy.

    If we can crawl out of the oceans, if we can lose our tails, if we can build rocket ships, then we can love each other. It seems like we’ve evolved so many magical things and we’ve created so much amazing magic except we somewhere along this path we dropped the ring, the proverbial ring, that was supposed to be carrying to Mordor. We dropped it. That ring was loving to others.

    Prime [21:40]: You know, for me, it’s about what we as humans need. We need to eat. So what do we feed each other? Not just the physical food but the spiritual food. It’s about what do we grow, what do we cultivate? What kind of food do we feed each other? So creating things that our children love to eat and will continue to eat for many generations to come. Memories are considered food because we consume them. When I think about how do we change the world, it’s really how do we feed each other. You know, we’re so good at identifying the problems and the answer is just as obvious, but because of our nature, because of our habits that we grow up with, our environment, we cannot see the solution we can only see the problem

    [22:34] This goes back to a story that [inaudible] told me about crabs in a bucket. You know, any time a crab tries to crawl out of the bucket, you have ten more crabs pulling it down. And that’s kinda like how society works. The problem is not the crab. The problem is the bucket: the buckets of religion, the buckets of government, the buckets of education. These buckets need to be tipped over so that the crabs can be free. How do we do that? We need to paint a picture so people can see or be reminded.

    [When we] do murals on the wall, people are constantly reminded of our host culture because we’re a culture that’s been displaced on our own land. So our thing is to keep painting the pictures. While the kids are learning, they’re consuming this bit of information. And then as the general public passes by and they consistently see our work on the streets, they’re consuming bits of information and it makes them curious. It brings them together. That’s just our small part in the bigger picture and we contribute to society and make it a better place.

    Solomon [23:39]: I think what Prime was sharing was so important is because there’s a whole ecosystem of a family of idealists. I think when talking about idealism, the further far out the idea, the longer the lever. So the further you go, the more far out you go, the more torque you can have. So in other words, you need wacko thinkers like myself, just as you need folks—and I think that’s why what you really represent, Prime—[are those who ask,] so what do we do about it now? Here’s this big, lofty ideas, guys, what do we do about it right now in the store, in that culture lab.

    People are going to be offering in this event a whole range of different kinds of ideas about what to do about this now. Some people are going to be working on what do we do about this in a month? Some people are going to working on what do we do about this in a year? I’m shooting for 400,000 years. [laughs]

    Prime: [laughs] That’s a good way to put it. The farther back we can look, the farther forward. we can see.

    Solomon: There it is, right there.

    Cathy [24:44]: [upbeat music in background] Thanks for listening to this special episode of the Imagine Otherwise podcast. Be sure to check out the upcoming ‘Ae Kai Culture Lab, July 7–9 in Honolulu, Hawai‘i.

    ‘Ae Kai is organized by the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center, a migratory museum that brings Asian Pacific American history, art, and culture to you through innovative museum experiences both online and throughout the United States. To find out more about ‘Ae Kai and read about the amazing artists and scholars whose work ‘Ae Kai features, go to smithsonianapa.org/aekai.

    The Imagine Otherwise podcast is produced by Ideas on Fire, an academic editing and consulting agency that works with progressive interdisciplinary academics. You can view the show notes for this episode created by Priyanka Kaura on the ideas on fire website ideasonfire.net, as well as find links to the people, projects, and resources discussed.

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    Host Cathy Hannabach interviews poet and professor Alix Olson about career transitions, pedagogy, queer kinship, and the limits of resilience.

    Kiki Petrosino wearing a polka dot shirt and glasses
    November 6, 2019

    Imagine Otherwise: Kiki Petrosino on Writing from the Body

    Cathy Hannabach interviews Pushcart Prize–winning poet Kiki Petrosino about writing from and with the body, place-specific pedagogy, and history's ghosts.

    André Pérez wearing a grey suit, blue button-down shirt, and purple bow tie against a purple paisley wall
    November 2, 2016

    Imagine Otherwise: André Pérez on Transgender Oral History

    André Pérez shares his approach to multimedia projects, why he focuses on work that empowers marginalized communities, and how storytelling helps us imagine otherwise.

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