Vol 35 | No 2 | Spring 17
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Southeast Asian Archive 30th Anniversary Exhibit Opening Drew Diverse Audiences

ImageThe UCI Libraries' spring exhibit celebrates an important milestone for the Libraries and communities we serve-the 30th anniversary of the Southeast Asian Archive (SEAA).

To honor this history and in the spirit of collaboration, Thuy Vo Dang, Ph.D., Archivist for the Southeast Asian Archive worked with Cécile Whiting, Ph.D., Chancellor's Professor of Art History, to curate an exhibit that centers on a new collection of Southeast Asian refugee artwork from Hong Kong. Professor Whiting, along with Professor Carol Burke, had convened a Mellon-funded Sawyer Seminar on "Documenting War," which presented a yearlong series of speakers and events exploring "the genres, rhetoric, and real effects of wartime documentation and postwar reflection, as carried out by journalists, soldiers, civilians, and artists in verbal, visual, and mixed media forms."

In Fall 2016, Professor Whiting's "U.S. Art and War" class chose 16 refugee paintings from the Saunier "Still Lives" Collection in the SEAA to carefully study and analyze. Of the 29 students, two continued on as interns, working with Thuy and Cécile to copyedit their peers' analyses, conduct additional archival research, and aid in the selection of potential exhibit materials. An art catalogue with all the student analyses is one of the unique features of this spring exhibit. Additionally, all 16 original pieces of artwork are on display. Through incorporating undergraduate instruction and refugee artwork and archival materials, the process of curating the exhibit shows clearly the commitment of the SEAA as both a repository of community memory and a space for research, teaching and learning.

ImageThe culmination of work from student and the exhibit curators took place on May 16, 2017 at the opening event. The attendance reflected the diversity of communities engaged with the work done in and around the SEAA , as well as the histories we preserve and make available. An insightful keynote presentation on the importance of "undocumented knowledge" for people whose lives have been ruptured by war and genocide was given by Professor Cathy Schlund-Vials, Ph.D., a SEAA Ambassador and professor at University of Connecticut, Storrs. She is also the current president of the national Association for Asian American Studies. Her talk provided an apt framing of the rap performance given by another SEAA Ambassador, praCh, a Cambodian-American musician from Long Beach, California. In 2001 he was the top selling Cambodian rapper in the country and he is Director of the Cambodia Town Film Festival opening in September in Long Beach. His work speaks most pointedly to a generation born after the war, but nevertheless hold a "postmemory" of war's ruptures.

The evening wrapped up with attendees flowing between Langson Library and the Orange County & Southeast Asian Archive Center to explore the complete exhibit. This exhibit will be up through September 2017. A companion digital exhibition has also gone live on Calisphere. Called "After-lives of the Vietnam War: The Art of Southeast Asian Refugees," this digital companion features all 16 of the artwork selected for the physical exhibit, but also includes additional items from the SEAA's digital collections.

Further, photos from the opening night event can be viewed on the Libraries FlicKr page and a video recording of the event will be available on our YouTube channel and the exhibits webpage in coming weeks.

For more information, contact Thuy Vo Dang at thuy.vodang@uci.edu.