When we conceptualized Yellow Peril: Queer Destiny (2019) and the film’s follow-up visual art exhibit, Yellow Peril; The Celestial Elements (2020), we wanted the Yellow Peril series to be a celebration of queer Chinese diasporic culture - using art and our imagination to combine into an endless possibility of queer East Asian re/presentation. However, none of us could have predicted the global pandemic that would soon hit our tiny exhibit, forcing us to truly contend with the harsh realities of “yellow peril” and a heightened sense of globalized fear. At the opening of Yellow Peril; The Celestial Elements in February 2020, we celebrated the auspicious moment with a lion dance performance and a last-minute artistic intervention on the surge of anti-Asian racism, led by non-binary lion dancer and friend, Dora Ng. Dora’s performance underlined the rising xenophobic stigma against Asian communities at the time and exposed the harmful myths and racial stereotypes surrounding the coronavirus.
Weeks later, we would soon witness increasing incidents of anti-Asian violence throughout our communities, compelling us to adapt our closing “event” to a virtual live-stream panel aptly titled, Queerantine in Covid19: Responding to the Yellow Peril Mutation. During the panel we discussed how the notion of the “Yellow Peril” has mutated, and how xenophobic racism against Asians has never truly gone away. One theme that we talked through was how we can use art to imagine futurity for queer Asian communities, when this idea of imagining futures is now forever altered in light of COVID-19’s devastating mark upon our world. How do we not only deal with the symptoms of colonial white supremacy, and make meaningful change? What role does art have in imagining new, just, worlds?
The exhibition run, in tandem with several “activation” events, sparked deep conversations within our communities and across others, about cultural ownership and issues that people in the Asian diaspora face regarding their cultures. The workshop with Kai Cheng Thom on themes of transformative justice and community building brought together community members to find relational, and generative ways to hold active accountability, but build communities instead of building barriers. We hope that the exhibit was able to spark dialogues on these themes, away from solely intellectualizing the politics, into our hearts. As Love Intersections continues to evolve in our artistic journey, we hope that our practice can be a way for us to search for strategies to resist and transform systemic asymmetries, and also a way that we hold onto moments of love and celebration.