Initially, I wanted to start this project under the idea of being a “perpetual foreigner,” or the concept that regardless of me being an American citizen and having the tokens of what makes up an American (whatever that means… since the U.S. is a mix of cultures after all), I will always be perceived as “the other''.
As I was working on the project, I was led to a different and more general idea of the modernization of culture; sometimes it feels like culture is conflated with history (in that it is old and static) and we view it as a separate entity all together. I feel like knowledge of culture is often treated as a novelty or a parlor trick, like knowing how to dance tinikling or speak Tagalog, or even something as simple as eating a Filipino dish.
For some Filipino Americans, and for many other second generation immigrants, they aren’t given a choice of being able to celebrate their culture or not. And for many first generation immigrants, they leave behind a culture that continues to change even while they are away: there’s new slang, new pop culture trends, and maybe even a different political climate.
The debate between mainlanders versus the diaspora has been prevalent on social media but has been the worst on TikTok, I’ve found. The word “toxic” is commonly thrown around nowadays but that’s the best way to describe the lack of critical thinking, the apathy, and the refusal to take responsibility for and acknowledge mistakes. It’s difficult for me who sits on the fence of these two identities to be invalidated and for discussions to be halted because the desire to be correct outweighs the desire to learn… well that and the fact that I’ve seen arguments turn into ad hominem attacks. Thankfully I haven’t personally experienced any of this yet, but this is something I keep in the back of my mind that sometimes keeps me from putting my work out there (I’m slowly getting over it though).
To the main point of this work: culture is now. Thanks to the internet (as corny as it sounds), I can be 8,757 miles away from my hometown in the Philippines and still be caught up on the news, pop culture, and memes. But that can’t replace me physically being there and experiencing everything myself. Of course, I acknowledge that this comes from a place of privilege because I have the financial means to live comfortably. However, in a way, I feel lost. After taking a year off of my art and taking a step back, it would seem as though I was looking through my culture through that historical lens I mentioned earlier.
This work is a baby step for me. I think I’m moving in the direction I want my work to go in, both in terms of media and focus. I don’t know why it’s so hard for me to create work. Is it because I lack guidance? Or creativity? Materials? I know that I am an impulsive artist that creates work when the spark happens, but I wonder if there is a way for me to nurture that better…
Anyway, let’s talk about the process and ideas that come into this work. This is a continuation of my photo collaboration project that I did for my senior thesis. I decided to get rid of the square dimensions and go for an 8x10 inches size.
- I knew I wanted to wear the barong, so that was an easy choice.
- I decided to tuck my hair to mimic choking or the feeling of being overwhelmed or drowning (I think I’ll make another project for this).
I love my hair. It used to be down to butt. But I would use it as a femininity marker to compare myself to other women. I knew I did this and I knew it was wrong. I cut it to my chin when I was a sophomore in college. I can’t tell you enough how disgusted I am with myself that I was like that. And doing that did help.
- The typography stickers are slang that’s commonly used today (and some even I use). I had to ask my boyfriend any other terms he knew since I felt like the ones I knew were pretty outdated.
- If you’re familiar with Japan’s purikura, or photo sticker booth, I’m sure you can see the inspiration. Culture was formed hundreds of years ago, but we insert ourselves into it and shape it today.
I honestly didn’t know how to tastefully illustrate on top of this, not that it needed to be aesthetically pleasing, I just didn’t know how to combine the background and the foreground to make it look like a complete piece. I didn’t want to edit the original photo too much but I also didn’t want it to look like it was just a photo.
I’m satisfied with how this piece turned out. I will keep this written piece as raw as possible for genuity purposes (and it would be nice to see where my head was when I look back later).