What is the goal of socially engaged art? Since we cannot presume to be able to completely change society from singular gestures of aesthetic (albeit community-based) forms, what is the significance of poetic expressions? When deciding upon which communities to work with, is it most important to work with those who have some modicum of positional power? Or is it more important to work with those in a more precarious position? How important is co-creation in the process of developing socially engaged art forms? How important is the artist themself and their visual markers?
I have been submitting all of my efforts into engaging Aunty Kim and her employees at Tweedy's for Nails. Aunty Kim has some positional power; she owns her nail salon, she employs others in the Vietnamese and Latinx community. She is also older, wiser, and more proficient in English than most of her employees. In Free to Care / Care to be Free I want to bring together contemporary refugees from nations in West Asia (Middle East) and Latin and South America to build community with former refugees primarily from Vietnam. Doing this through the vehicle of "care" or "body labor" is significant in how refugees should be cared for on a human level, and how body labor is arguably inherently more intimate than other forms of labor.
Additionally, Chinese, Vietnamese, and Korean diasporic communities are known for their hui/kye loans, which essentially pool money to allocate to one community member's business or other financial objectives to provide a greater monetary impact in one swoop. I have this dynamic in mind when I wish to bring new refugees together with previous refugees. Without assuming that either party would be welcomed into hui/kye with the other, I do believe that your network--who you know--is how immigrant communities (and all communities for that matter) can succeed in the U.S.
I figured it would be the most manageable to work with communities who are already organized--in this case, previous refugees at nail salon hubs. Then, once trust was built, I could branch out to bring new refugees over to receive and partake in care work with the previous refugees. But now I'm wondering if I should have spent more time reaching out to the new refugees, building rapport, so that when the two groups are brought together they will be more open minded and trusting of a facilitated experience.
This thought has weighed me down as I reflect on how much time remains in my residency. I frequently oscillate between thinking that I need more time to wondering whether my objectives are actually able to be accomplished in a meaningful way that is impactful, ethical, and poetic.