On Asian Futurism, activism, and getting out of your social media bubble

Kathy Cho thinks about Asian Futurism, white-washing, and opportunities for activism with the Organizing for Action Fellowships. It's always good to step outside of our social media bubbles and work with people one-on-one!

Lamassu statue. Image: Morehshin Allahyari
Lamassu statue, as discussed in Xin Wang’s essay “Asian Futurism and the Non-Other.” Image: Morehshin Allahyari.

I came across this essay “Asian Futurism and the Non-Other” via social media, posted by a fellow Asian American artist who is based in New York. I had heard the ideas behind Afro-futurism and of course other sci-fi books, movies, and TV shows in popular American culture, but had never been introduced to Asian Futurism until this essay. This long-read on e-flux, written by Xin Wang seems like a timely response relating to call-outs of white-washing in feature films (i.e. The Ghost in the Shell and The Great Wall) and a good introduction to the ideas behind Asian Futurism and its crossover with technology and even Techno-Orientalism. It really made me think of the first time I encountered Mariko Mori’s Birth of a Star (1995) at the MCA Chicago back in undergrad.

I went to New York last month and heard readings at Artist Space by a few artists, including Rin Johnson. Rin wrote a humorous and poignant reflection that crosses between the movie Get Out (which you should definitely go see if you haven’t yet) and their own life experience as a black trans artist, in an article for Daddy.

Finally, and perhaps unrelated to the art world depending who you ask, I have had the pleasure of participating in Organizing for Action’s 2017 fellowship and could not recommend it highly enough to everyone. I came across OFA and applied around the time of the most recent election results. Like so many others, I was (and still am) in a place where I wanted to make real change and get more engaged.


The fellowship requires a weekly webinar where they teach you how to build communities through grassroots organizing (surprisingly a lot of overlap with skills you might already know if you organize art events) and ends with planning and executing an event of your choice–our Philly group chose to focus on educating around the Affordable Care Act. It’s been really eye-opening and heartwarming to meet other fellows in Philadelphia from different walks of life, those I might not normally meet, outside of my art world bubble here in Philly.

If you’re still feeling itchy about being active and doing something about the current political climate, instead of just sharing the occasional Facebook link (hey, we all do it), join their email list and keep an ear out for the next round of fellowship applications! It’s totally free and totally empowering.