Reflections on my pre- social distancing interview
On art, community building, and audience engagement
With Hayden Bui, Tori Hong, and Tim Komatsu
Check out the interview from 3/3/2020 with Tori, Hayden, Tim and myself here:
I cannot believe this interview was recorded only four weeks ago. Prior to the opening of Interstate at Mixed Blood Theatre, I had the opportunity to sit down with visual artists Tori Hong and Hayden Bui, along with MBT’s Audience Engagement Manager, Tim Komatsu, to talk about Tori and Hayden’s recent exhibition, Time Loss. The exhibit was installed inside the lobby of Mixed Blood Theatre just days before Interstate’s Preview Night. Time Loss was going to remain on display through the full run of Interstate until the end of March.
Of course, in the interest of public safety, Interstate at Mixed Blood Theatre closed to the public two weeks earlier than planned. Not only at MBT, but the show production, community outreach, general administration, and means of income for many of those in the theater and live performance industry recently came to an all but total standstill in the midst of a public health crisis. As we are all too aware. While the Twin Cities is certainly home to a few relatively endowed theater companies, the majority of smaller organizations do not have the resources to weather over one season’s worth of lost revenue. These organizations, and the people depending on them for income, face challenging and unprecedented questions about the future.
Second to basic needs and organization solvency…
I am wondering about the impact of the interrupting space creation for communities like those gathering at Mixed Blood Theatre. As a public historian, I am fascinated with performance in the first place for its potential, as a shared space of embodied knowledge, to radically foster and facilitate storytelling and history. Theater spaces during live performances, in particular, seem undervalued as sites of public history despite their immense power in bringing communities together in witness and in dialogue over political ideas. The audience engagement work planned around Interstate, including the installation of Time Loss as well as a series of Talk Backs with local queer, trans, and Asian groups, was a core part of the theater’s community praxis.
So, where to direct the impetus for audience engagement initiatives in the midst of crisis and need for social distancing? The role of creating community spaces, not to mention art’s potential to facilitate and to inspire these spaces, has not disappeared and in fact is more important now than ever. The interview we recorded at the beginning of March does not anticipate the extent of COVID-19’s impact on Interstate’s run at Mixed Blood Theatre, let alone its implications on the entire theater industry. Nevertheless, I hope Hayden, Tori, and Tim’s insights and our conversation can contribute to the growing pool of digital resources available for both archival and community building initiatives.
Andrea Manolov | Archival Intern for Interstate
Heritage Studies and Public History, MA Student
University of Minnesota
Time Loss Artist Statement and Bios kindly provided by Tori and Hayden
Weaving through space, time, and distance, TIME LOSS explores queer Asian diasporic love, intergenerational healing, and interdimensional growth. This exhibition features art from emerging artists and life partners Hayden Bui and Tori Hong.
Through our work, we constantly question: How do we think and move throughout the world? How do we express all of our identities as a whole? How do we take moments and people of the past and bring them into the present and to future generations?
Ultimately, we are chasing that sweetness that belongs in us all.
Hayden Bui is a full time student at the U of M, studying Art and Asian American Studies. He is an emerging queer and trans artist that is passionate about organizing and creating art for LGBTQ people of color, primarily trans and queer Asian individuals. Hayden’s work endeavors to build something unlike anything around us, expressed through paintings and sculptures that use color and movement.
Tori Hong is an independent illustrator, workshop/small group facilitator, community-driven curator, and public artist. Tori explores the connections between art and ancestors, using bold lines, vibrant colors, and deep trust in her work. Through her art, Tori centers communities of color & LGBTQ communities, particularly queer & trans Asian Americans.