They said perception is everything, I think — if they haven’t what are “they” still waiting for?
I’m always looking for different ways to experience NYC, and after watching the documentary Maya Lin: Strong Clear Vision, I figured I’d do a Maya-Lin-inspired tour of the city. First stop, the Museum of Chinese in America (MOCA).
I walked in with my curiosity. Nothing else. Surprisingly, I hadn’t even tried to imagine what I would find in there.
FUN FACT: It’s free on Thursdays, which I didn’t know until I pulled out my wallet and the sweet (what do you call people who work at the receptionist desk of a museum) basically told me to put it away. Only thing better than finding money in your pockets that you forgot about is being told you don’t need to spend any that you had budgeted to spend.
I’m talking too much…
IMAGINED OTHERS: Arnold Genthe, an emigre German artist, began his celebrated career as a street photographer of San Francisco’s Chinese American community (1895-1906). Seeking to achieve an exotic pictorial effect, he regularly eliminated European American figures from his glass plate negatives.
Artists, writers, and photographers who ventured into Chinese quarters effectively created “Chinatowns” in the American imagination. As elite slummers, they sought to make these settlements more exotic and different than in actuality. Chinatown became their usable curiosity — an Oriental “other” within. Their frequent focus on this community in the national print media fabricated a false perceptual intimacy with little real knowledge of the real lives and real people.
Hmmm… “Artists, writers and photographers who ventured into Chinese quarters effectively created ‘Chinatowns’ in the American imagination.” Why does this sound so familiar…?
[INSERT FLASHBACK SEQUENCE]
August 11, 2011:
Canal St. Chinatown, NY. July 2010. New York Chinatown was a slight disappointment. My mate and I went there expecting the Chinatown of Hollywood. I guess a trip to San Francisco is in order.
I actually said those words! lol! “expecting the Chinatown of Hollywood.”
It’s interesting, how we don’t even realize how much we buy into other people’s depiction of other places (And I’ve experienced the other end of this as an African). Maybe I will write another post about the lessons I learned. I mostly wanted to share this one about the “othering” of people we are afraid to get to know and manufactured realities we believe to be real. Again, perception is everything, no?