I. MUSEUM RESEARCH
At Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum, I discussed and documented visual strategies of some displays with my team members. Later, I chose one object at the museum and wrote an analysis of the display.
Object: A Very Large Nazuna Vase (2016)
This intricate vase is placed in the middle of a hallway, right next to the entrance of a small exhibit room. The text panel is in between the entrance and the piece, creating some room between them and making itself more accessible to be read. The short, concise description and the blank space on the panel makes it quite easy to be read as well. The seemingly accessible placement of the piece attracts more casual, frequent viewers, but on the other hand counters the elegance and its feeling of detachment. To show the delicate design of the inside, a very strong and narrow light comes from the ceiling. In a relatively darker hallway, the piece catches the viewer’s attention effectively. The mono, ivory color of the piece is less emphasized than the intricate crafting of the vase in the narrow, strong light in the otherwise dark hallway. Just as the art piece itself crosses an intersection between the casualness of an ordinary object, vase, and the unusualness of its skillful crafting, the display also tends towards a balance between two different endpoints. It is an interesting, unusual display of an extraordinary piece of art.
II. RESEARCH TOPIC
Starting with gender identity, queerness, and human rights as keywords, my team narrowed down the topic of the project. After some initial research and discussion, we decided to focus on transgender people’s rights, especially trans women of color’s rights.
American transgender activist Sylvia Rivera’s speech, “Y’all Better Quiet Down” (1973), became the center of our project. This historical speech from a gay pride points to all the important issues surrounding the rights of transgender people, particularly trans people of color, as well as the ongoing problems within queer communities.
After further research, our team decided to take Sylvia Rivera, a person, a figure, and herself an oppressed trans woman of color, as the focus of our project. Her life itself, just as shown in her speech, touches on all the vital issues of trans people’s rights. Sylvia Rivera has experienced most of the problems that stoke transgender people, and her life itself became a legacy for the queer people in the present and the future.
III. INFORMATION RESEARCH
Document with all collected information:
Map of the collected information:
Document with final information:
Trans:mission of Herstory
We’ve been told history is collective. But people, mostly people in power, choose what to be told or what not. History has always been selective about whose story it presents. We present a forgotten, or deliberately erased history, or herstory, of erased-thus-forgotten people. American transgender activist Sylvia Rivera’s life itself touches on many issues surrounding marginalized queer people, especially transgender people of color, whose existences are constantly threatened. Through Sylvia Rivera’s words, work, and legacy, we aim to inform the viewer of the severe oppression against queer and trans people, and the directions for change.
IV. VIDEO EDITING
I edited <Y’all Better Quiet Down> (1973) to be more coherent with the theme of the project, and combined it with other elements.
Sylvia Rivera’s speech ends and Quay Dash’s song <Squred Toe Leather Boot> from her EP <Transphobic> plays. Quay Dash is a 25 years Black trans femme rapper from NY. Just as Sylvia’s words connect to the words, melody, and rhythms of Quay, Sylvia’s legacy and shared queer existence have lived on.
As Quay Dash’s music plays, a white image fills in the screen, opening it up for the audience to read the information on the panels, while chewing on the message from the speech.
V. INSTALLATION BUILD
We purchased cardboard boxes and painted them all in white. We built the boxes and stacked them to create a coherent installation that is also fractured. My team member later added various colors to create tainted feelings on some of the boxes. The added colors could be considered as a symbol for the taintedness of cultural whiteness that is represented by the white boxes.
We projected the video on the installation to better shape the installation in relation to the video. The old, gray-toned footages of the speech, which reproaches a white, cisgender, trans-exclusive gay crowd, covered the tainted and fragmented white installation. These dynamics of the installation successfully represented the philosophy of the project. It was enthralling to have the conceptual meet the physical.
VI. PANELS WRITINGS & DESIGN
I made two big panels, one of which contains the project’s thesis statement and the transcript of Sylvia’s speech, another of which is an information map of issues that oppress transgender people.
VII. COMBINED FINAL
Video footages of the installation: